SMS for ROI | Brandon O’Halloran at ReplyBuy

One of the great promises of the internet was the ability for companies to quickly and easily engage with an enormous range of potential customers. And yet, while the population has fully embraced the swiftness and efficiency of SMS, sales teams are too often still tied to the antiquity of email and phones to close the deal.

On this episode of UpTech Report, I talk with Brandon O’Halloran of ReplyBuy, about his efforts to offer a text messaging solution for sales teams at scale. Brian believes that text messaging will be a major mode of business communication in the future—and he offers some intriguing numbers to back up the claim.

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Brandon O’Halloran is a proud native of Omaha, NE. Husband to Shannon and father to Brooks. He grew up in a family running a small business so has had entrepreneurship ambitions since a young age. During college, he worked for the men’s basketball team at the University of Nebraska, which enabled him to land a Grad Assistant job at Benedictine College where he completed his MBA.

Post college, he worked his way up the ranks quickly to a senior sales executive at Infogroup where he spent two years learning the ins and outs of enterprise sales. This led him to joining the founding team at ReplyBuy in 2014. Brandon’s primary focus has been on revenue generation where he’s spearheaded the company’s breakthrough in sports, entertainment and higher ed securing customers such as the New York Yankees, Chicago Blackhawks and University of Southern California. He now leads ReplyBuy’s day to day operation as the CEO where he has overseen a 177% YoY increase in gross profit in the last 12 months.

DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!

Brandon O’Halloran 0:00
Last year, the average effectiveness rate of a cold call is 1.26%, which means that they’re wasting 98 and a half percent of their time, effort and money, right. And so, you know, we’re helping them be more effective, frankly than the way they sell you know, with with phone calls.

Alexander Ferguson 0:24
One of the great promises of the internet was the ability for companies to quickly and easily engage with an enormous range of potential customers. And yet, while the population has fully embraced the swiftness and efficiency of SMS, sales teams are too often still tied to the antiquity of email and phones to close the deal. On this episode of UpTech Report, I talked with Brandon O’Halloran of reply by about his effort to offer text messaging solution for sales teams at scale. Brian believes that text messaging will be a major mode of business communication in the near future. And he offers some intriguing numbers to back up that claim. Brandon, thanks so much for joining us. Let’s dig into learning more about reply by and the problem that you guys are solving. To start us off, describe your company in five seconds.

Brandon O’Halloran 1:15
We are the easiest way for a business to start a conversation and close the sale.

Alexander Ferguson 1:21
I love it easiest way to start a conversation and close a sale, which is kind of important closing the sale. Now, how long has as the business been in existence?

Brandon O’Halloran 1:31
Yes, so the company was actually founded in 2010, we originally got it to God’s market in 2014 was when we you know, a lot of years spent developing the developing the product, kind of figuring out product market fit and broke into the sports entertainment industry is our first market in 2014.

Alexander Ferguson 1:50
Gotcha. And then you you joined on pretty early on 2014. Right at the beginning.

Brandon O’Halloran 1:58
2014 Yeah, so at that point, there was just three of us, you know, basically taking the taking the idea to the market, right? So, conceptually speaking, we had the product, it was unlock a transaction in our simple response to a text. And, you know, my role was drive revenue and partnerships. And so there was three of us in a small office and No, no customers.

Alexander Ferguson 2:24
What were all good startup stories begin, and now hear today’s as CEO, being able to lead this going forward. Tell me how has the problem you’re solving evolved over time? And where is it today?

Brandon O’Halloran 2:37
Yeah, it really good question. So I mean, you know, ultimately, you know, the problem initially was removing friction in the buying experience for consumer, right? So we looked for an industry that just had a lot of friction, right? Where, you know, you think about buying a ticket, it’s a little bit of a pain in the butt, right, you got to click a link, download a map, prove you’re not a robot, zoom in on seat, man. So there’s all these different steps you have to take. And so we just streamline that process and really proved out the technology. And what we found was, it’s an amazing conversion platform, right? You know, compared to other traditional channels, like email, app, push notifications, phone calls, that type of thing. And so, you know, we proved that out, really broke into the industry, as we started to do that. We’re super fortunate to have a lot of customers, you know, across pro sports, entertainment, higher education, who, you know, we kind of had a nice glimpse into their world, right, and understanding kind of the challenges that they’re facing. And so it became really clear to us in terms of like, how its evolved over the over the years, that the concept of one to one messaging from somebody’s landline, and then tracking that in CRM was going to be something that everyone is doing right, as the whole world moves towards using text messaging for sales, marketing and support. And so, you know, we looked around the landscape, and, you know, people look at messaging and think, Hey, this is a crowded industry. There’s a lot out there. And, you know, there is to an extent, but it’s like, you know, the same way everybody uses email today, right? Every business has an email. We believe that’s going to be the same with text messaging. And so, you know, we saw an opportunity to introduce a new fully SaaS based platform for one to one personalized conversations at scale. And that’s, that’s really taken off over the last, you know, 1516 months, we’ve been able to add about 95 new organizations who are using that platform though, we started sports entertainment, so on on that side, right? Every single sales and service rep at the New York Yankees, for example, uses our platform to text enable their landlines and communicate with fans in a one to one fashion and all the while it’s all you know, tracked back into CRMs like Mike Stop Dynamics and Salesforce and HubSpot. And so, you know, they’re using it, for all the same reason they’re using phone calls and emails, right? It’s just as a more efficient, effective way to set meetings, to do renewals, to allow people to text you as an inbound form of reaching out, right? Because a lot of people these days, right, you know, these organizations are built with these large inside sales organizations that, you know, frankly, sell in a in a little bit of an old school fashion, right, like, you know, if you walked in, you might, you might think of it as like a, you know, it’s like, Hey, here’s 60 people on an open floor, here’s your script, here’s your people to call. And, you know, it’s a lot of, you know, picking up the phone and smiling and dialing and more and more that’s becoming, you know, just an ineffective way. I mean, you know, last year, the average effectiveness rate of a cold call is 1.26%, which means that they’re wasting 98 and a half percent of their time, effort and money, right. And so, you know, we’re helping them be more effective, frankly, than the way they sell, you know, with with phone calls today. And so that was really the starting point, we expanded it into higher education, a number of the different departments there. So it started with ticket sales, expanded into fundraising and development, offices, alumni associations, University Advancement, you know, ultimately, different purposes, right for what they’re trying to communicate, but they’re trying to do the same thing. They’re trying to engage your consumer on the other end, and get them to attend an event to donate to, you know, engage and give them feedback, just customer service, checking in building relationships, right, like, so, you know, really, we want it to fall in with the organization’s strategy, right? So it’s not, we’re not pushing a thing and saying, Hey, you got to use it this way. We do believe that if you make it personalized, authentic, your response and engagement is going to be a lot better. But we really want to fall in with whatever your strategy is for the organization. Same way, you’re going to have a pillar for email, social media, etc. We believe we can be that solution to fit in from a text perspective.

Alexander Ferguson 7:12
What is your closest competitor? And how are you different from them?

Brandon O’Halloran 7:17
Yeah, good question. So there’s, there’s definitely a handful, handful out there. On the sports entertainment side, a company called Zip whip is who we run into the most on that side, they do text enabled landline, if you’ve ever gotten a text from like your dentist office, reminding you about an appointment or something from their landline, that very well may have been them. So they’re big, they’re big company, they’re a big company, they have probably 10 or 20,000, you know, customers. So they really they’ve been they’ve been around since about 2007. So they do a great job. What we found out though, and where we feel like we’re serving a great niche is, you know, and where people frankly, are going to win is it’s more pull off the shelf more generic, right? Because you’re trying to serve a lot of different styles of customers. So we saw an opportunity to introduce a platform that’s really built more specific to the type of workflows right that sports entertainment higher ed are operating in, in terms of being a little bit more campaign driven, more revenue, focused in mindset, deeper integrations right with the right partners, and then structuring the right partnerships as well, just in the space. So it’s really comes down to our focus, right, which layers into the product and integrations that we have, which has allowed us to stand out,

Alexander Ferguson 8:37
digging into them even more you say like your connections and API’s, the fact that you already hooked into a bunch of other CRMs show me share more about how that technology works, both of the connections there, and the the underlying difference of your technology itself.

Brandon O’Halloran 8:55
For sure, yeah. So you know, ultimately, in terms of the integration, I mean, we basically understand like, again, their, their workflow, right? So, you know, the two areas, I mean, we try and keep it fairly simple to the end users. So for for the team, right, or the organization that we work with, you know, literally it’s just, you know, what’s your username and password, you know, activate the integration API’s talk to each other. So super simple, right on their end is, is the idea. And then what we basically allow them to do is, think of it like text based CRM, we’re hooking in with somebody like Salesforce where they can import all of their data the same way you would do with an email marketing platform, you’d import your data. So that way you can segment and target target your audience, you can build profiles for individuals, create these custom scripts that are super personalized to the end user. So we’re getting all their data in there. We have a two way auto sync, essentially updating that information on the fly. So stuff updates in CRM, it’s also updating on our sides. They’re working off live information. And then one of the biggest pieces, and people see this all the time, it’s like, right now what a typical sales rep, right? If you’re sending a text message, right from your cell phone, you actually have to go back in to Salesforce, write a note, hey, you know, I called Alex today, left him a voicemail, and then set a follow up and all this stuff, right? We basically automate all of that. So the rep doesn’t have to do kind of wasted busy work. So if I send a text Alex, it knows that Brandon send this text Alex at this time this day, and here’s the message, it all goes back in there without the rest having to do anything. So super simple on their end, right? Making their lives easier, saving them time. So efficiency and effectiveness is really what we’re focused on how many

Alexander Ferguson 10:44
speaking some numbers in in the customers that you’re working with? How many customers are you seeing working with and able to use your platform? Just the metrics that you’d like? How many text messages are being sent on your platform these days?

Brandon O’Halloran 10:57
Yeah, for sure. So we do a little over a million messages a month, we’ve got about 150 or so organizations, mostly, I’d say, you know, 80 90% is pro sports, entertainment, and then higher education, you know, kind of split in between that, for the for the most part. And so, you know, I think the biggest piece that we see is response rate, right? Like everybody knows, you know, the typical, if you’re judging email campaigns, right, you’re like, hey, what was the what was the open rates? And hey, I got 30%, open, awesome, right? And then, you know, okay, our response rate was 2%, or something, you know, with text, it’s pretty much a given, it’s like, 97% of texts are open and read. So you know, I mean, everyone can just think about themselves, right? You know, do you not read your text messages, right? When somebody messages you, everybody reads their text message. For us, it’s really about response and engagement, we’re seeing on average, about 30%, which has been just eye opening compared to what people see through other channels, right?

Alexander Ferguson 11:58
What’s the the future that you see both near term? And long term? So in the next year, or so? Where do you see the businesses going? And then in the long term, 510 years from now?

Brandon O’Halloran 12:09
Yeah, so, you know, for the next year or so, I mean, we’re laser focused on, you know, really dominating the the industry that we’re in and continuing to gain market share. So, you know, we’ve been growing, you know, about 13% month over month, you know, over the last handful of months. And so, you know, we have a good business, it’s actually become even more important during all this COVID-19 Craziness right now, and people staying at home, not quite to the level of slack and zoom, and, you know, you’ve seen those stock prices go to the moon, but, you know, people have to have a way to communicate, right, and we have a, you know, web application that allows them to do that on their mobile phone on their laptop and engage people, you know, where they are, right, meeting them where they are. So we’re laser focused on continuing to lean in, you know, more partnerships and integrations that makes the product more valuable in our space, and continuing to gain market share, what we’re building towards, and what we’re huge believers in is really the time being right for conversational commerce. And so the idea of marrying commerce with just conversational communication, right, which, you know, obviously, we’re big believers in messaging. And so I mentioned at the beginning, you know, firm believers that businesses are going to see the light, right, they’re going to want to take advantage of the easiest way to be able to start a conversation and close a sale. And so it was look at it in terms of, you know, usage, right, from the consumer standpoint. I mean, people are using text messaging, right. It’s like 78% of consumers prefer text messaging as their primary form of communication. And so we feel like we’re at a great intersection. This

Alexander Ferguson 13:51
has been fascinating to hear kind of the the evolution and the focus that you guys have, where can people go to learn more? And what’s a good first step for them to take?

Brandon O’Halloran 14:01
Yeah, for sure. So they can either go to reply, obviously, which we have plenty of information there for people to check out. I always offer it up. People can text me directly, if they want as well at 402-659-8921. So we’re believers in conversations, and so you can shoot me a text direct, or you can go to go to our website and check out the information. There’ll be some plugs to get set up with with somebody on our team.

Alexander Ferguson 14:32
Be sure to check out part two of my conversation with Brandon, in which he explains why it’s so important to let go of your ideas. Now he’s able to accomplish so much with such a small team



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