Welcome to the Ecommerce Marketing Podcast, everyone.  I am your host, Arlen Robinson, and today we have a very special guest Dan McGaw who is an award-winning entrepreneur and speaker. He is also the Founder and CEO of McGaw.io, an analytics and marketing technology consultancy. Coined as one of the original growth hackers, he has led the teams at Kissmetrics.com, CodeSchool.com, UTM.io and more.

In 2015, Dan was selected to be a United States Ambassador of Entrepreneurship by the United States Department of State, where he had the privilege to advise the government, universities, and private corporations on how to build entrepreneur ecosystems. Welcome to the podcast, Dan.

Hey, thanks so much for having me it’s a pleasure to be here.

Yeah. Not a problem, man. I’m super excited. I guess our listeners and viewers probably don’t know, but we kind of go back several years, so we’re both in the Orlando area, and we did originally meet up when you were doing some meetup groups and kind of getting the tech community here in Orlando together. And that’s how we recently met.

It’s been some time since I’ve seen you in person. So great to see you again.

Yeah, definitely. Likewise. Likewise. Yeah. A lot of people don’t really realize and I didn’t really know it came to Orlando how much of a tech community we have here in Orlando. You know, people think of Orlando, they just think of Disney. That’s it. But it does have a threatening and definitely still growing tech community, which is awesome.

Yeah, for sure. We definitely have some cool companies here.

Yeah, for sure. Well, today we’re going to be talking about something that you’re starting to dig into these days, which is personalization and how that is related to SMS marketing. And because it is huge these days, as a lot of people know, I’m steadily getting marketing blurbs and post some via my cell phone, different companies. And these days it’s where it’s at, because I don’t know, too many people that don’t have a smartphone don’t have the ability to get SMS message. So it’s definitely a great way to reach people.

So we’re gonna dive deep into that, and you’re gonna let us know a little bit more about how you personalize it for people that you know, you’re doing it for. But before we do get into all that, why don’t you tell us a little bit more about your background and specifically how you did get into what you’re doing today?

Wow. Big question there. Right. I’ve been in the marketing, technology and marketing analytics space for over 20 years. So I got my start in 1998, sending mass email since before the receive in mass email. Right. So at that time, there wasn’t tools like MailChimp and all the things around. So I’ve just been at this a really, really long time. That being said, I mean, I got my start at four years old, learning how to code messed off just to be able to play games. Honestly, I learned computers out of a need just to want to be able to play Tetris and stuff like that on computers.

So really, that’s how technology all started for me. So I’ve always been on a computer. I’ve always been fascinated by the Internet, so that’s always been a lot of fun for me. But I started my first company when I was 13 years old, was fairly successful in that business, sold that company when I was 19. So I’ve always just been an entrepreneur. I would have to say that I make an okay employee. Don’t get me wrong. At Kiss Metrics, I crushed it, and I had a lot of fun.

But at the same time, I always love to poke the bear and say I don’t like this and disagree with people. Some companies like that, some companies don’t. So I’ve always made a better CEO and founder that I maybe have as the head of marketing. But every company luckily, that I’ve been the head of marketing, I’ve done some really amazing metrics and crushed it. So it’s been a lot of fun.

That’s good. That’s awesome. Yeah, definitely. I think we’re both kind of, I guess you could say veterans in this industry. I’ve been around for 20 years in running our business, also affiliate software and various aspects of that. And so it’s a record, a journey.


I know you’ve testified to the fact that we’ve seen a lot of changes in technology these days. It’s good to be able to keep abreast of everything.

Yeah, for sure. Yeah.

So as I mentioned, of course, at the top of the recording here, we’re going to be talking about as marketing and personalization. As I mentioned, I alluded to I think most people that are listening are familiar with being marketed to via SMS, getting the text messages from the various maybe the retailers that they do business with or just any other establishment. And it’s civilly exploded. And I guess the initial question is really because we know it’s done and it’s done really kind of at mass these days.

What are some kind of ways that if a business wants to really get into it, you know, how do they set themselves apart and really dig into personalizing these messages so people don’t just glaze over them and this delete them?

Yeah, I think text messages is really, really hard. It’s a different medium, and people try to use text message in the same way that they maybe would use email. But when you think about it, like, do you check your text messages in the same exact way that you respond to emails? No, it’s a completely different medium. It’s treated entirely different. The way people respond to it is different. And I think that’s a common problem. We see people they try to treat text just as if it was email.

But with text, what you have to remember is that, like, it has nearly open rate. It’s a channel which is meant to be for instant communication in many cases. And people get really annoyed when they get stupid text that they don’t need to be a part of. I mean, don’t go wrong. There’s a lot of spam text going on out there, so you really have to kind of focus on how am I delivering value to my customer? How am I making this a better customer experience compared to servicing myself?

And if you’re just the retailer or the vendor that’s going to send out, hey, here’s off your next order, like at the end of the day, that’s delivering value for yourself. You’re saying, hey, we’re going to give you off if you do something for us, which is buy something. It’s not necessarily the best way to deliver your customer value. So you really have to focus on, hey, how am I making this channel, which I can have a two way communication. I can collect information and as well as give information, but I have to first focus on delivering value to the customer.

And that’s usually started in the way that you initially add somebody to your text message service. I think a lot of people just add people to the text message service and just do it and then start spamming them. So an easy way is like when you collect somebody’s phone number. As an example, if you’re an ecommerce vendor and you collect their phone number part of shipping, you should ask them, hey, would you like to get shipping updates from us over text message? And a lot of people are going to reply yes.

And if you update them about their shipping, you’re providing them value. Well, you’ve built some report, you’ve warmed them up, you provided them value. You really have to sync with text messages, not spray and pray you really have got to warm up that channel. You really got to make sure that you’re delivering in value and then use it tactically in the future for other tasks. So it’s really, really important to deliver value, make it so it’s a good channel where you can have good communication.

All right. That’s good stuff. Yeah. I can definitely testify to the fact where a lot of companies that are doing this will kind of pull people in rather quickly. Well, I’ve got no messages where from different retailers where you opt in, and then it’s just an immediate blast where it’s like they’re throwing you a sale, they’re telling you about some new products, and it can be a little off putting, I think is a little bit aggressive. So I think you have to really, like you said, you have to be strategic about your approach with it and figure out.

I think timing also is a good thing to note with regards to it as well. As far as we need to deliver those messages.

I think the technology has come so far compared to when it was ten years ago, 15 years ago. I remember using a platform called Text Tub, which would only allow you to basically spray and pray. And I was in nightclub promotions for a long time, and text message was our primary way of communicating with people. If you’re trying to get 20 year olds to come to the club. Right. The best way to do is via text. Right.


I definitely have my history and text. But nowadays with technology, whether you’re using Twilio or connecting Twilio to a product like Auto Pilot, I mean, Auto Pilots, what we use for marketing automation to communicate, they have a texting bot, so I can actually ask people questions. They can reply back, and then I can change the journey of that texting. And there’s other platforms out there, like Emotive and all kinds of other stuff. But what you should be trying to do is, hey, I want to send you text messages.

What type of day would be best for me to send you messages or hey, we want to be respectful of our relationship. We know text is valuable or an important channel is one text a week. Okay. Is one text a month? Okay, reply back with one if one, one a week is good, or two if once a month is okay. You have this unique opportunity with text really have this two way conversation. I mean, that’s what text is used for. It’s a two way conversation, and we have bots that enable that.

So if you ask smart questions that you can get a good answer back from, you can really have an engaging conversation, and you can really build that out. And to kind of put proof to the putting here, are you okay if I have a small text test for your listeners to help them see what this actually looks like?

Yeah, definitely. Sure.

So I speak at a lot of conferences is when you’re at a conference, you don’t get access to the thousands of people in the crowd. You don’t get their email, you don’t get a good way to talk to them, but you want to deliver value to all those people outside of the conversation and create a new line of communication. I have a book called Build Cool Shit, right? It’s the book on how to build the marketing tech stack. And I’ve got to figure out a way, how do I get people to go to my book without just saying, hey, go to Bitly Ly, Build Cool Shit.

That’s not informative. That’s not helpful. So we created a text bot system that has a two way conversation with people to collect their information, collect all the details to shift them a free copy of the book for your listeners. And you’re welcome to try this now if you want as well. If you pull out your phone and you go to messages, and then you type in the number 415-915-9011, and I’ll say that again, 415-915-9011. And then you text the word Marte S-M-A-R-T-E-C-H to that number. You’re going to meet our texting bot, which is going to help you get a free copy of my book.

And you’re going to have a bi directional communication where it’s going to say, hey, tell us your address and listen to what it tells you to do, and it saves that information, and then it actually automates the rest of your experience. It wasn’t rocket science, right? Like it was pretty straightforward to build. And I think companies need to take a much more Pragmatic approach to this. Think about what the customer’s expecting and create that twoway response cause that’s what text was built for. It wasn’t built for spray and pray.

So if we can change that direction, it’s gonna make it much more better for your performance in the future. And this is the reason why our webinars have such high turnouts, because we text people. We have a conversation with them over text about, hey, are you still coming to the webinar tomorrow? Yes or no? We just want to make sure we know to send you the recording or not. But we’re always focused on delivering value. And that’s what’s most important. Don’t service just yourself, because that’s how you’re going to get stop, which is the international sign of all companies to turn off your phone number.

So you have to prevent getting that stop, because once that happens, you can never text them again.

Wow. Okay, good to know. Really good to know. And you brought up a couple of really cheap points as well. Also, thank you for sharing that the free download for your book will definitely have the number and that information in the show notes and on the transcript.

For sure.

I will encourage our listeners to check it out. But yeah, you brought up some key points. The difference between the Masters text communication is like you said it’s a conversation. A lot of times people are shooting it more of, like the email or email. Like you said, it’s more of, you know, spray and pray. Like you said, where you’re just blasting out this list and you’re just hoping people will come through and they convert on your website, or they do whatever you want them to do. So it’s a big difference.

You know, with email, you can engage. You can collect information. You can do the surveys where everybody is familiar with that. But the beauty of the texting is it’s right there. Usually when people get something, if you’re telling them to do something, they typically are gonna do it right then. And there there responsive than with text messages, for sure. And so, yeah, I’m glad you mentioned that. It’s definitely different. You also mentioned something else that I haven’t really thought about, and I haven’t seen utilized too much.

And it’s asking people their preferences as far as receiving those messages, because you do have to be respectful, especially a text messages. Since it’s on someone’s phone. People typically have it with them everywhere. They put it on the nightstand when they sleep. Not everybody puts on do not Disturb at night. And so you don’t want to blast somebody at 02:00 a.m. Or 03:00 a.m. In the morning with your text blast. It’s different in emails, so you have to be respectful. So I’m glad you mentioned that.

And I don’t see a lot of businesses doing that.

The best text message I got was at 237 in the morning about a week and a half ago from Sticker Mule telling me that my stickers had shipped, and I woke up because I heard my phone vibrate. And I know that if somebody’s texted me at 230 in the morning, something’s important. And I leaned over and I checked my phone, and I was like, Are you serious right now? You’re gonna tell me my sticks have shipped at 230 in the morning? You couldn’t have timed that out and had a delay to have it sent in the morning.

And that’s where you really don’t go wrong. We all make mistakes. Things go wrong. But you’d be surprised that’s not the only time I’ve gotten stupid messages like that. And text isn’t only about sending out information, right? A common practice that we try to tell companies for loyalty programs. So let’s just imagine you are. You live in Orlando. So have you ever seen those Twisty treat ice cream places? Or, like, the Shape, like an ice cream town, super cool ice cream place in Florida. They crush it right there dozens of locations now.

Well, we talked to them at one point about creating a loyalty program, and they were struggling. Do we give cards? Do we do all these things? And I was like, just have them text the word Twisty treat to a number and then sign them up to your loyalty program. And any time they come back, they just give you their phone number and they have access to that. That’s the easiest way to leverage text messages. Have somebody text you a word like I did earlier, they started the conversation over text.

We now know this person is comfortable text messages because they reached out to us via text message. Right. So you really do have to change the format entirely when thinking about text. And it’s unfortunate that most companies just use the same old tactics. But, you know, I think with the technology that’s out there now, I think it’s going to become more and more easier over the next few years. And, of course, if people get into artificial intelligence and all that crazy group, it’ll make it even easier for him.

Yeah, for sure. You’re right about having the customer do the initiate the engagement is a little bit different, because with that, when you’re doing that, you know, they’re comfortable with it. You know, you’re telling them to text you that particular phrase, their company name, whatever it is. And so they’re starting it off, and then you can just kind of go from there rather than getting their phone number, and then you as a company initiating it. So that makes a lot of sense for sure. You know, now, since, you know, I mentioned earlier when I was reading your intro, you’re definitely you have a huge background in not only marketing, but the analytics side of it, which really I think these days has to go hand in hand to it.

And so I know what a lot of our listeners are wondering now is. All right. So let’s I do this. I’m starting to ease my customers into it. I’m setting up some different campaigns, however, I’m doing it. How do I know where to go once I started? As far as what are the best ways to measure the success of this, and how do they know what’s really working or their particular tools, then somebody should utilize to measure the an old analytics of this.

Yeah. You know, it depends on the tool that you’re going to use for texting in general. I mean, texting has an extremely high delivery rate. And when you do send a text message to mostly platforms, it will let you know if it bounces or if it was delivered. They can also sometimes let you know whether it was replied with stop. So that way you can see your unsubscribe. And a lot of these platforms will also like to know, like, what is your reply rate? So I think the reply rate.

Of course, if you’re running a campaign where the user has to reply back to be able to get access to something, you will be able to track that, which is Super, super helpful. Another part that I think is really good, though, is that if you have a coupon or something that you’re sending somebody most of the time, you can attach UTM parameters to that link. So if you have a URL, attach UTM parameters to it. For those who might not know what a UTM is, it’s just a little bit of code you add to the back of the URL.

So that way you can see where the person clicked on the link. So UTM source would probably be something. Whatever the tool you sent it from, maybe autopilot medium would be SMS, things like that campaign, summer savings, whatever. If you’re not familiar with Utms, go to UTM IO. It’s a UTM management product which can really help you understand how to leverage Utms. But if you have links in those text messages and they click on one of them, you’re going to want a UTM on that probably going to want to shorten the link.

So that way, when they go to your website, Google Analytics or Amplitude Mixpanel, whatever tool you’re using is able to track where that traffic came from. And then also, if there’s any conversions and you have conversion tracking set up Google Analytics, you can also track those conversions back to those campaign if you get really, really custom. So as an example, like what we would do whenever we send somebody those campaign links as well, let’s say that I’m an e commerce customer. One of my clients is a company called Hydro, the Peloton of Rowing.

Right. So the really, really high end rowers, let’s say if they were sending an SMS campaign and somebody was a click on that link, we would attach a unique Identifier to that URL that would tell us who the user was, also where they came from. So when they click on that link from their mobile device and they go to the Hydro website, when that user hits the website, we would immediately know that, hey, this is John at AOL com. John at AOL dot com clicked from this SMS campaign, we would see that in the UTM.

So that way, when the user goes through the site and purchases something, it’s all automatically attached to John’s profile and Amplitude in our CRM and all connected. Those things aren’t. I don’t want to say that they’re hard to set up. They’re also not reveal. Sometimes in many cases, it’s just attaching a URL parameter of, like, question Mark. Email equals whatever the email address is. When they click on the link, your website identifies them. There’s definitely ways to do that we’re always focused on. How do we do a one to one match, right of the time, and you’re in the affiliate space.

So you probably are used to having affiliate ID. So that way you can connect everything together. So having UTM parameters, having that cross the device Identifier is always going to be what really, really helps you.

Okay. Got you. So those UTM parameters, that’s something that within a mobile device that stuff can carry over with. So if they’re clicking on the link within the message, and they’re going to, you know, say they have an iphone, but their Safari comes up that’s gonna carry over wherever they go from there.

Yeah. And let’s say that you have a mobile app. Utms will carry over to the App Store as well. So you can definitely track UTM through. That just depends on how it gets loaded. But there’s other technologies. If you have a mobile app as an example, technologies like Branch or Apps Flyer, and they specialize in mobile attribution. So, like, if you have a mobile app, I would say you want to go get a provider. And a lot of those companies like Branch or even Brave as an example, have a lot of that built in for the mobile app companies and stuff like that.

But when you think about text message to open up a website, UM, once they click on it, Safari will load it, and it will all work out of the box. And I know a lot of people are a little creeped out with Apple. Ios 14 has removed a lot of the intelligent tracking, but that they’re really saying to Google and Facebook and Twitter, we’re not going to let you make money anymore. I mean, it is less to do with your company Privacy, and it more has to do with dominating the market.

And I wish that wasn’t true. But the reason why everybody’s against the cookie is to ultimately own more of the pie. And with the death of the cookie right now, that’s going on. Unfortunately, the people who actually lose out are all the small businesses, all the medium sized businesses that are dependent upon cookies, Google, Facebook, Apple, they have nothing to worry about. They’ve got billions of dollars to throw at the problem, and they all have their own solutions. So UTM luckily are staying around. So you’ll still be able to use that for SMS, email all the other things.

Okay. That is definitely good to know, because, of course, in my space, men in affiliate space, we heard so much about the death of the cookie. And like you said, all of these platforms are doing things under the cover of protecting people’s Privacy. But, you know, obviously they have ulterior motives, and it’s not going to affect them that much. But, you know, it’s something that they’re using to I guess you could say, get on the side of the customer to say, oh, yeah, we’re really concerned about your Privacy, your data, which is important.

But you gotta look at whose expense is it them removing from these things as far as marketing is concerned, because, you know, people that have listeners, podcasts and other podcasts know that they are million and one different marketing strategies going, you know, that you can implement for your business or ecommerce business or any business, rather. And so where do you see this whole SMS marketing going in the future? Because, you know, technology is changing the light speed you know, mobile devices, who knows how the next mobile device is going to be or what are going to be the method of communication.

But since you’re kind of really heavily into it now, what do you see some things on the horizon with regards to SMS and how things are changing?

Honestly, the biggest things that are changing in SMS right now and over the next couple of years is simply the ability to be able to kind of reply in line, to be able to like people’s SMS. Sms is not going to massively change over the next few years. I mean, Apple’s been able to make some changes with I message and things like that. So I mean, I think those are some of the big evolutions that we’ve seen this far. People are trying to create new channels, whether that be through messenger or WhatsApp.

You’re going to continue to see apps like WhatsApp and Telegram and social media channels that enable for this different type of communication just because SMS isn’t available everywhere the same way it’s available here. So you’re definitely going to have a lot of these different platforms. But I think you’re going to continue to see what app grow. Sms is going to continue to grow. More and more people are using Telegram as well. So you’ll see more of these proprietary chat apps than anything. But in the true way of SMS, I don’t think SMS itself as a technology is going to grow.

I think the way that we are able to engage with folks over SMS with, whether that be boss or artificial intelligence or being able to have better support, I think it’s going to happen through chat or excuse me through SMS. And I’ll use an example. I just did around the country tour to go visit all of my team members where they’re at. We can’t get everybody all in one location because a COVID. So I just did a cross country tour to go see everybody. And I was having an issue with one of the Airlines that I was flying on Alaska Air.

And they said, hey, you can text us on their support. And I texted them and they got back to me within two minutes. And that was a much more convenient support channel than getting on a phone waiting for somebody better than email because I get instant response. So, you know, I think the way that companies leverage SMS is going to change and the fact that we could actually have a two way conversation, there’s a lot more integrations in it. I think Twilio I mean, there are juggernaut of a company that just bought segment for 3.2 billion.

I think the abilities that we have to communicate with our customers over text is going to change. But the true aspect of SMS and the fact of the way that we use it, I don’t think that’s going to change for the consumer. I just think the way that businesses can actually send text messages and respond to text messages is going to change a lot.

Okay. Gotcha. Yeah. It makes sense because the basis of it is pretty straightforward. It’s pretty simple. You’re just communicating with you in the customer via their mobile device. But yeah, the innovations you’re right. It’s definitely going to see a lot more on the business side of things. How are they engaging? What are the tools and integrations? Are they going to tie into that? And then, like you said, in your example of the Alaska Air, more and more companies are going to open up support channels with it.

And that’s really good to know, because it’s a lot more efficient only for the customer, but for them as well. So that’s good to know. Well, let’s get ready to wrap things up. I am always a huge advocate of learning some companies that do things well. You did mention some examples of one company that you were working with here locally in Orlando, the Twisty Twisty, Twisty treat. Twisty Treats on Twisty Treat. They’re doing some things well. You’ve got them going. What are some other examples of some companies that you’ve either worked with that you’re knowledgeable about that have been really successful with SMS marketing.

What are some unique things that they’ve done? Yeah.

And I just want to make sure we actually do not work with Twisty treat. This is a conversation that we had with our leadership team a long time ago was just a friendly conversation. Some companies that are doing really, really well with text messages, you know, the only person I can really point to out of the blue would be Alaska Air. I was really impressed by their ability to handle support over text messages. I thought that was really good. We don’t see a lot of companies really using text bots as much as we think that they could.

It’s really not that hard, but I think marketing technology and marketing analytics operations professionals are really hard to get your hands on. So it’s hard for companies to do that. I don’t want to say that we do text message pretty good, but I do think we definitely do it pretty well. We try to make sure that we have a text bot. We always are delivering value. But I can’t really point my finger. Unfortunately, in a lot of companies that are crushing it in text right now, I haven’t experienced anybody really all that well.

I definitely know that Alaska Air would be the best one that I’ve experienced so far.


And I think the Airlines are probably some of the best at it just because they’re dealing with computers all the time. So usually the Airlines are the best. But I wish I had a better example.

Oh, yeah. No problem. I thank you for sharing. And I think you’re right about the Airlines. They’ve been doing it for quite a while because with the notification that’s why? Whenever you purchase a ticket, they’re always asking for your cell phone. They want to find out how you want to be communicated with, especially when you’re in an airport. And you’ve got last minute changes on, let’s say, a connecting flight. If you do, let’s say have your email handy on your phone or you don’t even have a laptop with you.

And, you know, you’re not disclosing for them or allowing for them to call you, then, you know, you’re kind of out of luck. I mean, you gotta listen, look at the board, so it’s definitely really convenient for them to be able to utilize. And I see why they’ve been have kind of they jumped onto it early, you know, to be more efficient with their customer handling. Well, that it’s been awesome talking to you. And it’s definitely been great reconnecting. I’ve definitely learned a lot about SMS.

I see that it’s definitely something that a lot of companies are adopting these days. And I think the key takeaway that I’ve learned is that you have to be smart about it. You’ve got to be timely about it, and you got to think of it as a direct communication with your customer. It’s not a spray and pray, as you mentioned. And so you have to think of it that way and be respectful of those customers a little bit differently than your email communications and correspondence. So it’s good to know.

And so definitely I learned a lot with that. And so last thing before we let you go, I always like to switch gears here with their final closing. Fun fact question. If you don’t mind sharing one closing fun fact, you think our audience would be interested to know about yourself?

Oh, about me? Yeah. Interesting. Fun fact to know about me. I’m covered in tattoos, right? Like people never noticed that about me. I have two full sleeves. I have my half of my right leg covered. I don’t have anything on my body, but that’s always a a fun fact. And then another stupid fat or I should say stupid. But fun fact is that my grandfather was the obstacle engineer on the Hubble Space Telescope.

Oh, wow.

So he is not the reason why the photos were blurry. That had more to do with the mirrors and some other things, but those of you two random. Fun fact. Thank you. Hang up.

Then again, okay.


Thank you for sharing that. You’ve got tattoos. You had two sleeves, which are awesome, man. I’ve seen them in person, and I always got a kick when I see people with those sleeves in the back of my mind. I’m debating on my pen. Is that’s something I would eventually do? I’ve thought about tattoos, but I don’t know.

Just go do it.

Yeah, I guess.

Got a good one.


You just kind of can hurt a little.

Just a little. Well, you all think about it. Don’t think about it. Definitely. And thank you for sharing. That an interesting fact about your grandfather who contributed to the Hubble Telescope. That’s some good stuff, man. Well, great, Dan, thanks for sharing that again. And, you know, lastly, before we let you go, if any of our listeners want to reach out to you and pick your brain anymore about SMS marketing or any type of marketing technology, what is the best way for them to get in touch with you?

Yeah, just go to LinkedIn and look for Dan McGaugh. You’ll be able to find me on there. I’m always very, very active on LinkedIn, so that’s the best way to reach out to me really easily.

Okay, that sounds good. Well, thank you for sharing that. And again, we will definitely have the information for people to access and the book that you’re giving away via the texting in to that number. We’ll have that in the show notes. So I definitely encourage people to check that out. And thank you again. Damn for joining us today in the Ecommerce Marketing Podcast.

Oh, thanks for having me. I look forward to seeing you again soon.

All right.

I thank you for listening to Ecommerce Marketing podcast. 

Podcast Guest Info

Dan McGaw
Founder and CEO of McGaw.io