How StoryAthlete Converts Cold Facebook Ad Traffic Using SMS as a Sales and Support Tool
Ryan Fletcher is a serial entrepreneur, podcaster, and author who’s constantly juggling multiple projects. He’s the founder of StoryAthlete and Impact Club, among other ventures.
In a recent interview, Chris Brisson, co-founder and CEO of Salesmsg asked Ryan about how he got started in business and how he’s using SMS to engage new leads, boost response rates, and speed up the sales cycle at StoryAthlete.
As Ryan puts it, “I was the classic case. I got into entrepreneurship because I had failed at everything else. At first, I became a real estate agent but didn't know how to get clients and deals, so I learned copywriting. Although I did start getting more clients, I quickly realized that I hated the real estate business but loved copywriting and direct response marketing.”
When launching StoryAthlete, Ryan knew that the best way he could learn about and engage prospective customers was to speak with them directly. “I just decided to reach out to people and ask them if they had any questions,” he says, “We have different classes and products, so we added one short line of copy at the bottom of the page that said, “Still Skeptical?”
Ryan continued, “We didn't want to have massive built-out sequences where we're punishing people with text message after text message, so we wrote “Still Skeptical? Text me your question. Followed by my Salesmsg number.”
“Yes, that is my real phone number on the page,” adds Ryan, “Please respect it. So, we asked people to text us their questions. That's it. Generally, all you have to do is answer their question honestly, and probably 95% of those people will go on to buy. That was the first way we used Salesmsg.”
“Originally, I let people send a text to my personal cell phone number, but I quickly realized that messaging on a cell phone is not set up to scale. I had all these people texting me and didn't know their names. I saw their phone numbers but no name, so I couldn’t create contact profiles or put them in my phone address book.”
“We didn't want to have massive built-out sequences where we're punishing people with text message after text message, so we wrote “Still Skeptical? Text me your question. Followed by my Salesmsg number.”
Ryan Fletcher, Founder - StoryAthlete
Automating conversations at scale
“Anyway, in all the back and forth with prospective customers, I realized that 90% of the people ask the same questions. I was answering the same questions over and over,” recalls Ryan, “so I’d go back through 14 text conversations and find a previous response. Then, I’d go back to the new conversation and paste the answer. It was an inefficient way to do it, so one day, I thought, let me check out Salesmsg.”
“For a long time, Chris had been suggesting that I use Salesmsg to manage my SMS, and I was like, no, no, no, no, no,” he says laughingly, “I just didn't see a use for it in my business. And I think that's what happens with a lot of people.”
“Until you truly have a problem, which for me was having to go back and copy and paste over and over again. When I discovered that Salesmsg lets you create canned responses, I was excited,” says Ryan, “I knew that feature would save me 3 or 4 hours a week. Now, when I see that I've dealt with the same question before, I can send people a canned response.”
“When I discovered that Salesmsg lets you create canned responses, I was excited. I knew that feature would save me 3 or 4 hours a week. When I see that I've dealt with the same question before, I can send people a canned response.”
Ryan Fletcher, Founder - StoryAthlete
How Ryan uses SMS to improve his products and offers
“So, that's the inbound piece of the puzzle and how you can respond to people's questions,” explains Ryan, “but I also think about SMS from a product development standpoint. When people can send you a text directly, you immediately know what’s stopping them from buying from you.”
“With a shorter feedback loop, you can do things like; quickly updating your sales copy and messaging. Create a follow-up sequence that answers the most common questions people ask or find out if there’s a fundamental problem with your product and make the necessary changes.”
Accelerating the sales cycle
As Ryan puts it, “Just having that kind of feedback and an open conversation that says, I trust you with my cell phone number is key. They’ll ask me a question, and I’ll give them an answer. If they're not a good fit for the program, I tell them right away. And very often they’ll say, “I appreciate it.” and thank me.”
“Last month, we spent thirty grand on Facebook ads,” explains Ryan, “Those ads go out into the world and say, Hey, we have this product or service that'll solve this problem, then people click through and see me. Not just in the ad on Facebook, but actually on the sales page.”
“And people are like, I don't know who the hell this guy is, so they'll text me,” he adds, “One of the common questions I get is, “Is this really Ryan Fletcher?” So, I'll take a picture of myself with my phone and immediately send it back to them with a text saying, “Yes. It’s me; what’s your question?”
“The fact is, most people don’t believe you're really there to help them. So, when you give them a phone number and reply without making them wait years to get an answer or for you to send them a dozen follow-up emails, they appreciate it,” says Ryan.
“People will say, thanks for responding; I’m going to sign up now. That's the whole pitch, and I’d say that probably 80% of the people that text us come through that route.”
Ryan Fletcher, Founder - StoryAthlete
Creating an easy-to-manage, delegable system
Ryan continued detailing how he uses his text interactions with prospects to streamline the sales process. “Anytime I take on something labor-intensive, I see it as building out a job position. First, I’ll take people's text messages, and figure out how the market responds to our offer. I’ll ask myself questions like, What are the objections? What are the questions? and then I’ll craft canned responses to use in Salesmsg.”
“Eventually, we can hire somebody into the position to take over the role I’ve created,” he says, “Most new hires aren’t going to know how to respond from the standpoint of building trust, authority, credibility, and proof.”
“Most people don’t know how to create an analogy that gets prospects to shift their thinking. So, if I create all those canned responses first, I can train my team on why I’m saying those things,” explains Ryan, “It’s simpler and more effective than throwing somebody inexperienced in there and expecting them to understand what needs to happen.”
Building rapport with prospects and customers
Savvy marketers and sales professionals know that to achieve their objectives, they need to meet prospects where they are, establish affinity or rapport and then move them to the next step in the buying process.
That's why Ryan and his team developed a way to use text messaging to establish rapport and nudge prospects towards clicking the buy button. “We added a two-step order form that asks people for their name, email address, and phone numbers,” he says.
“Our Asset Control Specialist page gets a 12 to 13% opt-in rate, so we have Zapier creating contacts inside of Salesmsg. Then, we send people a text message that says, “Hey, Bob, this is Ryan. Thanks for checking out our Asset Control Specialist class. If you have any questions, let me know, I’m happy to help.”
“If they answer, I’ll send them a sketch of the business model we use in the class, so they have something tangible they can look at, like a flow chart. It needs to be something of value to them.”
Ryan continued, “I’ll tell them that I'm a visual learner. Of course, I know that about 80% of people are visual learners, so, in most cases, they’ll respond with, “Thanks. I'm a visual learner, too.” Doing this, lets me create affinity right off the bat, and build trust by giving them something valuable without asking them to buy anything.”
Text messaging = Frictionless communication
While Ryan and his team use email and other channels, most of their sales conversations happen via SMS and Salesmsg. They know that texting greatly increases their chances of getting to that next phone call. Plus, it helps them avoid playing phone tag and the delays that can happen when people don’t check their email.
As Ryan puts it, “I see text messaging as frictionless communication. When I text you, 98% of the time, you're going to see my message. Chances are, you're going to open it, but it's not like a phone call where people expect you to answer it right at that moment. You can look at the message and get back to the sender when you have a chance.”
“In other words, you don't have any obligation to respond immediately, and there's nothing that's trying to filter out my messages, like with email and phone calls,” he explains.
“We have much higher response rates with SMS than we do with email. After all, it’s hard to get emails delivered, or they get lost in people's inboxes. And then, of course, phone calls. Lots of people don’t answer phone calls from numbers they don't recognize.”
“That’s why we also started using text messages on the support side. We currently use Intercom as our support platform. People can go in there and ask a question, but half the time, the email response from Intercom hits their spam folder.”
“In those cases, we’ll show them a copy of the email, but they didn't get it because it went to spam. Anyway, that’s why we started using text messages to some extent because it’s more likely customers will get them. Half the battle of customer service is letting people know that there’s somebody who’s going above and beyond to answer their questions or help them resolve their issue.”
"Sometimes, I'll film a quick personalized Loom video with a step-by-step explanation and send them a text that says, “Watch the video and let us know if you have any questions. They'll open it up and feel like they're getting the best service ever because I went out of my way to help them.”
“I see text messaging as frictionless communication. When I text you, 98% of the time, you're going to see my message. Chances are, you're going to open it, but it's not like a phone call where people expect you to answer it right at that moment. You can look at the message and get back to the sender when you have a chance.”
Ryan Fletcher, Founder - StoryAthlete
Modeling other people's success to grow your business
Okay. Now, you’ve seen how Ryan Fletcher and his company StoryAthlete uses SMS to engage new leads, boost response rates, and accelerate the sales cycle.
You’ve learned how Ryan uses canned messages to automate most of his sales conversations. And you've seen how he uses SMS to optimize his products and offers while building an easy-to-manage, delegable system that allows him to scale his business and generate more revenue.
Now that you know how Ryan uses text messaging to grow his business, start thinking of ways you can model Ryan’s success and implement some of his tactics in your business.
We hope you enjoyed this story about Ryan and StoryAthlete. Feel free to share it with your friends and colleagues. And if you’re not already using Salesmsg to speed up your sales cycle, try it out for 14 days free.
This case study was written and published in collaboration with StoryOps.