How do you effectively market to people in 2021? There are countless forms of communication at our fingertips at all times, and therein lies the problem, as ads and sales pitches risk becoming so much noise amidst the deluge we experience on the internet and social media. In moving forward, perhaps marketers need to step back to one of the more relatively basic functions of our mobile devices: text messages.
I recently interviewed Matt Baglia, CEO and founder of SlickText, a text marketing firm out of Jamestown, New York and Nashville, Tennessee, about this particular marketing challenge, as well as the similar issue he and every other founder faces: differentiating yourself in a crowded and noisy marketplace.
Mary Juetten: When did you start?
Matt Baglia: I started SlickText from my Jamestown apartment in 2012 as a recent college grad. I enlisted the help of fellow developer, Ryan Kinal, to help write the first lines of code, dreaming of what this could be. We continued to work out of my apartment through SlickText’s evolution from concept to company, hiring our first sales representative in 2014. We started as a side hustle on a server in my apartment and have grown to the company we are today, proudly serving more than 177,000 customers.
Juetten: What problem are you solving?
Baglia: SlickText solves the challenges of other communication methods, especially in an era where people are overwhelmed by their email inboxes and are deafened by the noise in their newsfeeds. Text messaging caught my eye because of the ability to send a message from a device and instantly reach 98% of your audience is unparalleled. However, nine years ago, nobody did text message marketing well. They either had a good process but a bad interface that lacked features or vice versa. We realized there was an opportunity to provide a text message marketing solution built on a solid interface with outstanding out of the box features and flexible martech integrations.
Juetten: Who are your customers and how do you find them?
Baglia: We work with organizations across all industries— from small business to large enterprises, from chain locations to major non profits.
In the beginning, finding clients was a matter of cold calling and showcasing our product— we knew if potential customers could get a chance to see our product and experience the results from text message communications, they’d be hooked. Even though we’ve grown exponentially larger since our humble beginnings in my apartment, our approach to finding customers has remained the same. We’re a product-lead company and constantly innovating our platform based on customer feedback, and we feel this sets us apart from much of our industry competitors. Once potential customers see how easy our platform is to use (and how much we truly care about their success) they’re enthusiastic to try us out, and become some of our greatest supporters, in turn referring other customers.
Juetten: How did past projects and/or experience help with this new project?
Baglia: When I was researching non-traditional marketing channels I was quick to realize how rigid and subpar my options were in the market. The technologies available to me were lacking the performance I expected for the return on my investment. I was quick to realize the potential power of text message marketing and the fact that I could pioneer a way to professionalize it, taking it from a fringe marketing channel to a powerhouse tactic.
Juetten: Did you raise money?
Baglia: SlickText started as a bootstrapped start-up and obtained product-market fit quickly and without external financing. In 2018 the company was recapitalized by an investment group led by Iron Creek Partners, LLC that included Main Street Capital Corporation along with the SlickText management team. This provided SlickText with additional capital to fuel product innovation, thought leadership and a stable foundation for continued success. Thanks to vibrant growth over the past 24 months, we’re profitable with a strong financial position and are focused on accelerating growth and delivering lasting value for our customers, employees and stakeholders.
Juetten: Startups are an adventure — what’s your favorite startup story?
Baglia: I identify strongly with stories of other founders who have grown their startups by bootstrapping before recognizing massive success. I recently learned that Under Armour began in the founder’s basement when he was just 23 years old. He had a simple idea— create better clothing for athletes. That resonates deeply with me, not just because of the obvious parallels (we were both young and living in less-than-posh surroundings) but because, like SlickText, Under Armour had a clear focus: increase performance for their customers. I completely identify with the single-minded pursuit of improving your product to benefit your customers. Under Armour has created a perfect case study to follow, and I hope one day a young founder can say the same about SlickText.
Juetten: How do you measure success and what is your favorite success story?
Baglia: Personal success can be measured by happiness. Leading a company I started, with a product I developed, makes me very happy. But the truth is, nothing makes me happier than knowing I play a role in the success our customers experience on a daily basis. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about. Knowing I get to be part of the success of so many different organizations is incredibly rewarding.
It reminds me of the story of Victor Kiam, who liked his Remington razor so much he bought the company in 1979. At the time, Remington had lost almost $30 million in just five years. He quickly turned it around and into the success that it is today by focusing on creating something his customers would love. Since he used the product himself, he knew exactly how to create value. Helping your customers find success— whether it’s a great shave or helping them seamlessly communicate with their audience— is how to be truly successful.
Juetten: Any tips to add for early-stage founders or CEOs in growth mode?
Baglia: When you identify an opportunity to solve a problem in the marketplace, you should go for it full steam, even if it means squeezing in your side hustle around your full-time job and family life. But, while you’re doing that, remember to keep your ego on the floor. Even if you are the best at something, don’t get too comfortable because that’s when complacency sets in. When you’re in growth mode, becoming complacent is deadly to your momentum. Staying close to your customer will always help you find the path to success.
Juetten: And of course, any IP challenges or horror stories to share? They can be anonymous.
Baglia: One of the funniest examples of someone using our IP is when we found a competitor was marketing their product with my custom images of sample text messages that I integrated into the design of our website. However, they didn’t even go take the time to download the images and upload them to their own server before putting them on their website, they were just using them directly from our servers. When I found out, I replaced the images with graphics that were totally irrelevant to text marketing and our competitor ended up with completely nonsensical images on their website.
Juetten: What’s the long-term vision for your company?
Baglia: Our long-term mission is to lead the industry when it comes to innovating mobile messaging. We believe that we’ve only seen the beginning of how mobile can transform marketing and communications for organizations of all sizes. We’re focused on providing cutting edge automation tools that continue to help our customers adapt to the way communication and marketing is changing.
Thanks to Matt for his time and insight – it’s worth repeating that keeping your ego on the floor is paramount. Also, his points about commitment to your company’s goal and the drive to keep improving towards that end are good advice for any entrepreneur. #onwards.