Think about it — you may not always have your laptop, and you may not want to get email to your mobile phone, but when was the last time you didn’t read a text? Marketers are wising up to this fact, and, while email still remains the mainstay of mass marketing communications (though average email open rates are only 18 percent), text messages (read 99 percent of the time) are quickly gaining ground.
Text Request, a startup based in Chattanooga, wants to help businesses switch over to that more productive marketing channel. Founded in 2014 by husband-and-wife team Brian and Jamey Elrod, who also own a successful retail business, along with CTO Rob Reagan, Text Request allows users to send a text message to all of their customers at once, from any device — computer, tablet, etc.
Not only does it help businesses, but according to the company’s research, consumers want to be communicated to by businesses through text — 90 percent of them. That focused customer need has helped the entirely-bootstrapped company hit $1 million ARR and eight full-time team members — and they want to double that revenue in even less time.
Text Request gave Hypepotamus a look into the features of their two-way business texting platform, why they choose to remain bootstrapped, and how they went from “zero to one” in an area that formerly was a wide-open frontier.
What’s the elevator pitch?
Text Request is an online texting service for businesses. Users log in to our dashboard from any device to send and receive texts using their current office numbers.
Text Request will help your business schedule and keep more appointments, fill open positions faster, get more online reviews and create promotions that bring you high returns. We even have features and integrations to help you generate more inbound leads from your website, Google listing, ads, and more.
With Text Request, you can finally reach who you need to reach, when you need to reach them.
What problem are you solving?
People have been searching for a way to manage texts professionally. They know texting works, but doing it just with their personal cell phones is cumbersome
Text Request solves a common problem for lots of businesses in various industries. A business has to communicate with employees and customers to make money, run smoothly and beat the competition. But emails, phone calls and voicemail don’t work like they used to.
Text Request solves this problem by providing a professional platform for teams to text with each other and their customers. People read and respond to texts almost instantly, and all messages are permanently recorded in Text Request.
We also solve a problem for consumers. About 90 percent of people want to text with a business, and would rather text than call. For them, being able to text a business for sales and service is a breath of fresh air (and saves them from waiting on hold).
Businesses are able to reach their customers, and customers get what they want. It’s a win-win.
Who is your ideal target customer?
This applies particularly to small- and medium-sized businesses, but enterprise companies have been making the transition, too. For a market that’s still emerging, the reception has been great, and it’s helping businesses reach their goals much more easily.
How do you charge users?
SaaS pricing, where plans are based on number of texts used. All plans come with all features and integrations, unlimited users and contacts and full support.
Have you taken outside funding?
Text Request has been self-funded, and is currently not seeking investment. We’ve enjoyed the flexibility that comes from bootstrapping, and want to keep as much control as we can for the time being.
How have you changed since your inception?
We haven’t pivoted like Burbn did into Instagram, but our target and product has changed a lot since the company launched.
Text Request started as a consumer-first customer service tool for hospitality. The idea was that, as a customer, I would rather text your hotel or restaurant than call, and it’d be great if I could do that for any little thing I wanted.
But we found a much better fit as a sales and marketing tool. Businesses of all sizes needed a better way to reach people, bring in new customers, and keep their calendars full. We found we could help them do that well and bring a great ROI. So that’s where we shifted our attention.
Who are your competitors and why do you stand out?
There are a lot of players in SMS software, but the only two we hear much about are Zipwhip and TextUs.
Zipwhip has a nice website, but we’ve gotten a lot of customers from them who say our product is easier and more enjoyable to use. We’ve also been able to offer more features. TextUs has a good product, but they’re priced for enterprise users. We offer a similar experience, but a much higher ROI. Customers like our group messaging better than theirs, too. You can send more messages faster while keeping delivery rates the same.
Our number one differentiator, though, is our customer service and support. Just take a look at our Google or Capterra reviews! Unless it’s the middle of the night, you can always reach a real person, and we’ll break our backs to help you out.
What has been your biggest obstacle or challenge thus far?
There have been lots of challenges, but the biggest has been figuring out how to go from zero to one. Text Request was bootstrapped, and when we started there was no other two-way business texting software of significance that we could point to and say “That’s a good framework.” We had to figure it out.
We tried dozens of marketing channels and talked to thousands of customers and potential customers. That took a lot of time! It wasn’t like we could hand over $50,000 and say “Give me the answers.”
Some of the things we’ve learned and done have taken years to play out. In a way we were making bets every day, and anxiously waiting to see if they’d pay off. Thankfully, most of them have, so we’ve got the big things figured out. Now we have to grow and build on them.
What are your next steps?
Well, we just hit $1 million ARR, so the next goal is to get to $2 million ARR in less time than it took us to get to $1 million, while putting us in a good position for sustainable long-term growth. Large partnerships and custom integrations will be big pieces to accomplishing that goal, and they’re already in the works.
We will soon be hiring for dev and sales (beginning in October). We’re not actively seeking funding or formal mentors, but we do love cultivating those relationships.
Additional development by Holly Beilin