Revolutionizing Business Communication: A Dive into Text Request's Marketing Excellence
Kenneth Burke, VP of Marketing at Text Request
Join Harshit Gupta, Director of Business Alliances at Wytlabs, in an engaging episode of Wytpod as he interviews Kenneth Burke, The VP of Marketing at Text Request Embark on a riveting journey through the dynamic landscape of marketing as we unravel the success story of Text Request’s Vice President of Marketing. Delve into the strategies, challenges, and triumphs that shaped the company’s three-year evolution. Gain valuable insights into the ever-evolving world of SaaS marketing and discover the unique tactics that propelled Text Request to the forefront of customer engagement and business communication.
Text Request is designed to scale with you, from one person handling a few conversations, to thousands of employees sending millions of messages, to custom solutions built on our API.
Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of Wytpod. My name is Harshit, and I’m the Director of Business Alliances, at Wytlabs. We are a digital agency specializing in SaaS and E-commerce SEO. I’ve got Kenneth Burke with me today. He’s a VP of Marketing at Text Request, which is a business texting platform built to ignite customer engagement. A big welcome to you, Kenneth. I’m so happy to have you with me today.
Thank you for having me. I appreciate it. I’m excited to be here.
Let’s start with sharing your journey within the organization. You’re pretty interesting and you’ve been in this organization for so many years. And please tell us a bit more about your role as VP of Marketing at Text Request.
Yeah, I typically say I got here through serendipity. I was in sales and looking for a switch, and a good friend of mine was hoping to start the company, and he said, join us. And so I started at Text Request as an entry-level business development rep, cold-calling people. The company had just launched six or eight weeks before I started, so we were very new. I got burned out on cold calling, and nobody in the company was doing marketing yet. So four or five months into the role, they let me pivot and start trying this marketing thing. I started as Basically, just blogging and doing some social media for us and some email. Anything that revolves around copywriting. Made a ton of mistakes, but we had a few victories, had a few wins, and then just grew and developed from there and worked my way up. I’ve been VP of marketing here for the last… Oh, has it been three years? Oh, man. Okay. For three years now, I’ve been VP here. The day-to-day involves managing our marketing strategy and contributing to the company’s overall strategy and goals. I think splitting time between project management is related to our strategy and production.
I’m still a contributor. I’ll still write content. We have our podcast like this. We focus more on franchises for that one. There’s still a lot that I’m creating day to day, but we’ve got a team who’s pretty good as well now.
That’s awesome. Can you please provide a quick overview of the text request and some of its unique value propositions in this space here?
Yeah, I would love to. So text request, we’re a business text messaging software, and our stick is that we add texting to your business phone numbers so that you can text your customers and employees from your computer or any other device that you would use. So you can stop making phone calls that nobody answers and start getting responses from people. Especially whenever we were getting going, we saw one of the biggest points of friction for most businesses, especially service-related businesses, was that you had to communicate with customers in order to book an appointment arrive at their house, or get paid. Because nobody was answering phone calls and emails could take 6, 24, or 100 hours before anybody Would see them, there were a lot of opportunities falling through the cracks, and it was just creating a lot of friction for companies. We created this conversational messaging platform for those businesses to use. It has been pretty well tailored to small businesses over the years, but we’ve, like most companies, increasingly got up the market, and it’s worked out pretty well so far. That’s us.
Can you tell us a bit more about your target ICP?
There are three that we work with, but our bread and butter is a small business owner or office administrator. It’s essentially somebody who, let’s say, they’re going to have fewer than 50 employees, but more importantly, just about everything runs through them. They’re going to have the final say on sales and marketing initiatives. They’re going to be managing and tracking the budget for all departments. They’re going to be working with customers directly. They’re going to be fielding customer service complaints or compliments. For these people, they’re looking to minimize the number of things they have to do every day. I’ll stick with phone calls. If somebody doesn’t answer a phone call, that means you have to then call them again later, put in more effort to reach them, and get a response. That just adds to their to-do list, and they don’t like that. And so if we can add texting as a channel solution for payments, for sales, for marketing, for earning online reviews, for scheduling appointments, whatever it is, that makes their life way easier. They can make more money, they can spend more time with their kids and their families.
Then it just goes well.
Now, let’s talk marketing. I would love to know any key marketing strategies that have been particularly successful for you and have done well with respect to the revenue numbers and your overall company goals.
Yeah, it’s been really interesting to see how it shifts over the years. Not quite whenever we were just starting, but after we’d gotten a little bit of traction and we’d gotten product-market fit, we started leaning heavily into blogging and SEO. That took a while for us to grow. It followed the typical recommendations. It took six months before we saw much traction there, and then it was another six months before it was a significant revenue producer. In the meantime, A lot of content was helpful for the sales process because reps could just share it with somebody they were talking to as a proof of concept or to validate the sales pitch. But it was a good year more before it was a revenue, a pure inbound revenue producer. But then we ended up having almost a fully inbound pipeline, which was pretty awesome. That was one. Cold outreach has always been valuable for us and a pretty prominent part of our marketing and our sales. It’s balanced back and forth between who’s managing it, whether marketing is managing it or sales is. At the moment, it’s primarily under sales.
Is it like phone calls? Are you leveraging emails as well? Linkedin? What?
I was going to go into that. We started with phone calls, and then it was just a numbers game. We had a small team, so we turned to emails, and we would look up… We would take an industry that we worked with. Let’s say it was HVAC service companies, and we would look up every HVAC company in a certain city, and then email them, and then just do that for every city and every state, and then move on to another industry like pest control or cleaning services. We had emails going very strong. Then at some point, that method tapped out. We put it to rest for a while. Then we picked up cold calling again, and we hired a team of BDRs, and that’s been working well. We’re looking at adding email back into it again. There are so many other marketing tactics I can go into, but I don’t want to just keep rambling. So let me know what you’re interested in.
No, no, no. Cold email, specifically, has become tough now compared to what it used to be. There are so many new changes coming along. Gmail launched a date. They’re coming up with another, especially for the bulk emailers launching 1st of February. The same goes with Yahoo in Bing. So yeah, that’s very tricky now compared to cold calling. Again, cold calling, in my experience, I’ve seen ups and downs. A few years back, it used to be one of the biggest channels, specifically for the services sector, for generating new leads and stuff and business. But yeah, then again, it’s now, again, I’m seeing a lot of people doing well with respect to cold calling. I think the trend comes and goes. Good to see you. You put one channel on rest instead of exploiting it all the way and crowding new things. That’s brilliant, to be honest.
I agree that Things come in cycles. I think one thing that’s been helpful for us is just how well we’ve defined our target customer and who we’re going after. That’s an ever-evolving process, but we’re in a good place with it now.
Because you mentioned SEO as well, I would love to know any specific strategies around SEO that worked. Is it link-building or just putting tons of content around your space and building the authority? What worked for you?
I’ll say one thing that worked well or two things that worked well, and then one thing that didn’t work like we thought it was going to. First, what worked well was creating content for other writers to use. Early on, it was just me who was doing the writing of the content creation. I’m just one person. I can’t do everything. I thought, what is something that we can create that’s related to text messaging that other people who are trying to create content would also want to reference? What we came up with was not necessarily a series, but multiple pieces of content that were statistics and research-related. For the longest time, if you searched anything about how many texts people send every day, or how many emails, or when’s the best time to send a message, we were going to be the first people who showed up in search. The way we did it is we picked a topic like that, a stat that lots of writers are going to need who are talking about digital marketing or channels, created something good and useful around it, cited our sources, looked trustworthy, and all that.
Then the content was decent enough that it would rank. Then the top 10, and then people who are looking to write articles, would do a Google search and then just click on the first 10 or 15 pages to just look for, to start filtering through what’s going to be good, what’s going to have a good nugget I can use. We had a few nuggets. Then we started earning backlinks that way. It was a self-perpetuating cycle where the more backlinks we got, the higher we ranked, the more backlinks we got, the greater our authority. We did that again and again, and it worked well. The second thing that worked was teaching people how to write good text messages. This is tech-specific, but you see it commonly across industries. It’s essentially people looking for a template or a checklist for something. We had a guide on—we still have this, and it still gets good traffic—how to write professional text messages that customers will like. It has a bunch of samples and a bunch of how-to. It walks you through how to create your content again and again in text campaigns.
Then we had a bunch of pages that were just templates of SMS templates for sales follow-ups, for marketing and promotions, for hiring and recruiting, et cetera. That got a lot of good traffic. Then the thing that didn’t work like we thought it was going to was allowing contributed content on our website. It worked for volume because everybody wanted to contribute, enter the backlink, and get a buy-line and all those things. But it was tough to manage the writers. It was tough to have their writing fit within our brand guidelines.
And even to have it to be particularly on topic because it would be something like, I don’t know, it might be how to run an HVAC business, but it would have nothing to do with texting. It might be how to manage the contractors within that business. It was just a little bit off. We could edit it to make it work, but all of that together became more work than it was worth.
I think most of the people who look for such opportunities, just want to place their backlink on your site. They try to even align the content with whatever business they want to promote on that specific piece of content. I understand the payment. I used to run a blog in the past. Yeah, I get that. Can you tell me one thing? How was the experience business-wise and your growth-wise during the COVID What marketing opportunity gave working for you? How was the traffic? How was the lead generation?
Yeah, it was a wild time. Whenever COVID hit in the States. In Tennessee, in particular, I remember it was March 13th, 2020, and everybody had to close their businesses and go home. We all went home. We were in office. We had flexible work schedules and things like that, but we were all in the office. Most everybody was based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where we’re still based. We had to figure out, not necessarily how we do the work, but how we manage people in a remote environment. That was interesting. But lead funnel-wise, things blew up for us in a good way because all of a sudden, everybody was having to figure out, how do I connect with customers? The word that was the time was contactless. How do I have contactless interactions with my customers? If you are in, a lot of our customers were in-home service, how do you collect payments if you’re at somebody’s house, but you can’t see them when you have to be separate or outside? The text could be a function there. Or How do you send reminders if you don’t see people if they don’t come to your checkout counter?
There are all these little things like that. We just had a boom that entire spring. We got into text messaging in the political space and also blew up the second half of 2020, for better or worse. We did benefit from that at the time. Then a lot, I hate to use the term new normal because it was so overly used. A lot of these businesses got into a habit where they realized they didn’t need to be face-to-face with their customers all the time. That customers liked or maybe even preferred digital communications instead. That was helpful for… All of that helped accelerate our pipeline and then accelerate referrals and all the extra things that come from just having more customers. So it was complete chaos behind the scenes. The bottom line looked nice.
Can you tell me one more thing? Because your experience in copywriting, specifically, has been so many years. I would love to understand the approach or process that you take when generating a new content piece. What exactly does that workflow look like for you?
Yeah, it can vary a lot, but the framework I most commonly use and that I would have taught to our team is to find a question that our customers are asking. We can do that in three ways. We say, one is customer complaints we get. What are people confused about unsure of or just upset about? They didn’t understand X, Y, Z. There’s one. Number two is talking to the sales team. What are people asking once they’re on the phone? Is there anything we can create around that to answer their questions before they get here? Or to clarify something? Three, looking at any of the SEO tools out there, the search tools. Google Trends, SCM Rush, or Simrush. Now, Ahrefs, there are so many of them that will give you a feel for what people are searching for and how often. For a lot of our blog content, we mostly focused on informational intent searches, so how to do this, why is this important, things along those lines, the questions. Then for our landing pages and our money makers, we were looking for buying intent searches. Things like business texting services or texting for a particular industry.
That was the framework we used to start with to see what was worth writing about. Then it was, Okay, if we need to explain, I don’t know, how to write a professional text message, can we do a few things? One, Can we start a story to get people interested as opposed to just giving them quick bullet points? Can we put it into a framework that’s easy to replicate? Here are five steps you can follow every time you need to do this. Then can we have some accompanying visuals that are going to, one, catch your eye as you’re scrolling through the page, but two, also add to the explanations we’re making? Maybe we have a graphic that’s the anatomy of an SMS promotion content, and we call out the different pieces that go into it, the excitement, the urgency, the actual offer, the call to action. That’s typically our process for creating content.
That’s fair. Because you’re working with basically so many channels, I would love to understand, what are the common challenges businesses face in implementing effective multi-channel marketing strategies. How exactly do you overcome those challenges on your own?
I would start with challenge number one is most people don’t understand their customers well enough. If you don’t understand your customers and their journey, the path they’re going through to buy something, it’s going to be tough to create a multi-channel marketing strategy that meets them every step of the way of that journey. That’s what you’ve got to do in marketing. You have to meet your customers where they are again and again. If you do that, then when the time is right, they’ll work with you. That’s the main challenge. Then I think challenge two is understanding what people need at each stage. Then challenge three is executing on giving it to them. You may know what you need to give them at each stage, and it may just be an actual logistical problem, or you need your development team to build something out for a feature or a landing page or a lead capture, or you need a new feature to meet. For us, we use a combo of basically Google Analytics and some other analytics tools. Google Analytics, we used Microsoft Clarity for heat mapping and user tracking or session tracking, and we used customer conversations with our sales team, but also dealt with one or loss notes.
Things we could see whenever people came to our website, we could see they first wanted to look around at the homepage to see, Hey, what exactly is that you do? Then they wanted to look at the pricing page to see if it was in budget or if is it even worth talking about. They were spending time researching. Then they wanted to go to our demo page and see if they could just see what the product looks like. They go back to pricing to check a question, then they go to a product page to look at a particular feature. Pretty much most people followed that same five-step process over and over again. We saw that for our website. We said, Okay, we can lean into this, and we can improve things along that path. We saw in due diligence in our sales notes that we were creating a ton of opportunities that were coming in through Google search, whether it was organic or paid. Then we would lose out to a competitor. We did some research and talked to some customers, like where do you go to make decisions or how are you vetting things? We found most of those that we were losing out on, it was because our competitors look stronger on review platforms and in places like social media accounts and their PR trail.
We leaned more toward asking for online reviews on G2 Capterra and a couple of other platforms. We put more effort into social media and growing a respectable audience there. We put a lot of effort into PR and sharing, I’ll say press releases for lack of a better term, but just important updates and getting our story told in outlets, whether it was about the product or from the founder’s perspective. There are all these things that we did, and then it was for different stages of the funnel. Yeah, There’s a stage. There are also different channels, but then you’ve got to make sure people across channels and devices can still have the same experience. Let’s say they search text request reviews and they land on one platform, you make sure you’re on all the platforms there. That they can land on. You have to make sure it works well on mobile and desktop. A lot of what now I feel like basic best practices, you just have to check all those boxes and then make sure you look a little bit better than competitors.
That’s That’s a brilliant approach. You currently mentioned that looking better than converted, especially in the SaaS sector, is way too important, not just in SaaS, but in general, nowadays, anything. To be honest, in fact, PR, again, is one of the biggest strategies that people have, not just for good branding efforts, but because many of your competitors are spending too heavily on that area altogether, that you’re going to increase your visibility on as many channels as possible. Try to get that. Even, to be honest, whenever I even take care of a homepage or a link-building strategy, for a specific keyword, I do look into those ranking pages, how much better they’re doing concerning their on-page, how good they are with their content, what content they’re putting, how many links they’ve got, and that makes their strategic decision, whether we should be chasing this or what should be the strategy around so that we can out beat buying those competitors. It does make That makes a lot of sense. Because we just talked about branding PR, those things, you have pretty great branded traffic on your site. What does strategy help you have such a great percentage of branded traffic on your website?
Okay. One, and this is an ever-evolving process as well, but one, a few years ago, we went through a pretty robust period of approaching where there was a messaging agency that we were working with to help us figure out, Okay, how do we, as Text Request stand out uniquely in a pretty crowded market? We all have the same value prop at the end of the day. Its, text is a great channel. Ours is a great easy-to-use platform for you to leverage that. How do we stand out? We went through a lot of soul searching, I guess you would say, to figure out what our core pillars are, which are customer service, ease of use, and expertise. We’re just so more… We’re so much more casual or laid back and helpful as a software company, as opposed to the typical enterprise businesses where we’re going to make you walk through a 10-step process before you can schedule a demo, and then we’re not going to talk to you when you need customer service unless you pay us extra.
We went in a different direction, and that works for us. Anyway, we went through all of this. We happened to have a very good designer on our team already who was responsible for leading the charge on our brand appearance. We worked with some other contractors to help along the way, and then we made some significant improvements. Since that’s been the process, and then pulling it all together has been understanding what messaging, what value prop can we share that we know our target audience will resonate with, which in our case, it’s text from your office phone number so you can send text instead of making calls and get responses now. Then how can we helpfully visualize that? If you look at the text request. Com or anything we have on our LinkedIn profile, you see what that looks like. It’s a combo of showing the, I guess, the emotions a customer would feel as they’re going through the process and also showing what the product looks like and how it works. Then, yeah, now we’ve got a team of designers who help us with whatever we need.
Got you. Can you tell me one more thing? You have received some very notable awards in the past. Technology Company of the Year. How exactly has your marketing strategy contributed to this industry recognition? Then what impact did it bring to your brand’s image? Did you measure it like any other? I would even love to know, is there a process for how you measure the brand value? Or how exactly does that happen within the organization?
I’ll start with our approach to it. Our approach is to pick a consistent story or to pick a that we can tell consistently. We have one that we tell customers, which is text so you can get responses and stop having to make phone calls all the time. Then we have more of our brand story or our coming-of-age story, which is We’re a high-growth bootstrap SaaS company based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where people love to work. To do any of those things or to back that up, to tell that story, we have to, one, create a place where people love to work. That starts with culture. We do We do things like celebrating the small victories. We do things like giving people autonomy in their work to own their roles, their unit, their tasks, their successes, and their mistakes. But that autonomy helps a lot. We’re very flexible with people as far as life, and things that come up. You need to take your kids to the doctor or pick them up from school, or you’ve got a family thing, or there’s an opportunity to do something like this, or you need to go to a networking event.
We work in software. There aren’t that many hard deadlines that we have to follow, and so we can look to leverage that to create a better work culture. We do all these things, clear communication, vision casting, all that. That’s one piece. Two is we have to be able to back up the high growth part. We’re very metrics-driven. We follow the, or at least on our marketing team, the OKRs framework where we define an objective, a key objective for the quarter. We define three to five key results we have to hit along the way to hit that objective. Then we pick a metric that we’re going to measure it by so we can say, did we accomplish this, yes or no? We do that. We’ve done that for years. When you put the culture together, the execution to hit high growth together, and then a consistent story that you can tell, all of a sudden, things start to build for you. We’ve been doing that for a while, and then we’ve been able to parlay that into award applications, whether it’s tech company of the year or it’s being on the Inc.
5,000 for the last three years like we have been, or being recognized as the best place to work. We’re telling that story constantly, and we’ve gotten pretty good at it. Then sometimes it’s a numbers game. If you have to apply to enough things or you’ve got to be nominated enough times to win. But we’ve gotten, I don’t know, 10 or 12 notable company awards that have been pretty good. But it’s a result of those three things.
Awesome. Now on the customer retention side, what are things, and what strategies have been really useful for you? How exactly is the channel in the company?
Retention-wise, I’ll say one thing we do that’s It’s fairly atypical is we don’t require contracts. We rarely have a contract set up. It’s usually a larger account, a mid-market enterprise company, that’s just part of their standard operating agreement, which is fine. But for everybody else, it’s month to month. We did that initially for two reasons. One, because we just needed a revenue, and so we took out any objection we could find. That was early on, and it stuck from that. But part of it, or Our product is that we’ve had to prove our worth. Each month, we’ve had to get people to onboard very quickly and effectively. We’ve had to improve the time to launch, so how quickly somebody can use the value from it is really important. I think it’s really important because it’s really what we’re looking for. We’re looking for value from it. We didn’t necessarily set out to do that. It wasn’t part of the grand scheme from the beginning, but that’s played pretty heavily into where we are. Our retention for a small business-focused company is very good. Which is great. A lot of it comes down to our people treating our customers the way they would want to be treated.
One thing about a small business customer is they have very close relationships with all their customers, and so they want the same close relationships with their vendors. We’re unique in the tech space, I would say, in that we can build those close connections time and time again. That helps with the retention. But then you still have to have a good product. It’s got to be reliable. You have to be quick to respond and be helpful, all these things. We’ve We do that. It’s been a continual building process, and it all just works together.
That’s awesome, man. Now we’re coming to an, and I would love to have a quick rapid fire with you while ready for that.
Okay. If given a superpower, what would you choose? Would you rather be able to speak any language in the world or be able to talk to animals?
I’m going to say talk to animals. That would be fascinating. Growing up for a while, I thought I was going to be a biologist. I’m pretty interested in that.
Do you have any pets?
I have one dog now. She’s a golden retriever named Luna. She is delightful and very fluffy.
Yeah, they’re lovely. All right. If you could travel back in time, what period would you go?
Okay. What’s the fastest speed you have ever driven?
Oh, 65 miles an hour. That’s what I’m going with.
Okay. How many hours of sleep do you need?
How many hours of sleep? I typically get 6-7.
Does your goal be within the box?
Sometimes. Not as much anymore. Now, it’s mostly all of life is just on my mind, and trying to go to sleep is a little more challenging than it used to be. And then accordingly, I wake up a little earlier, too.
Now, coming to my very last question, what’s your last Google search?
I don’t even know. I was trying to see how to get around a paywall so I could read a gated article. For anybody in content marketing, great little tidbit, people will try to find a way around your gated content or they will just not consume it.
All right. Thank you so much, Kenneth, for sharing all your interesting lessons from the past and your experiences. I appreciate your time with me here. Thank you so much.
Thank you. I enjoyed.
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