Today’s Growth Case Study takes a scientific look at the explosion that happens when you layer SMS marketing on top of a growing ecommerce business. Big thanks to Neeharika and Matt at Sonar, who authored this case study with their client, Bohemian Guitars.

Let’s talk about Bohemian Guitars: beautiful, resonant, unconventionally artistic guitars made of oil cans that are one of Indiegogo’s hottest campaigns right now. Born three years ago as Adam and Shaun‘s basement project, the company has become a full-scale manufacturing operation. Behind this growth is strong demand and behind the amazing sales conversion metrics is SMS.



Last week, I spoke to Shaun Lee, co-founder and Chief Manufacturing Officer of Bohemian Guitars. I asked him what inspired the idea of closing sales over text.shaun_pic_2

“We took a look at our analytics (Google Analytics and Jirafe) and noticed that a lot of purchases were coming directly from mobile.

We threw Sonar’s Ping Widget into our website so that every time someone visited our site on mobile, they were given an option to send us a text.

We thought it’d be a great way to connect with customers, and indeed, it seems to help them a lot.”

“It’s super easy on people,” said Shaun. “They text us and typically we get back to them immediately.

We help customers decide on which product, answer all their questions, and get feedback from them. Texting is progressive, it hasn’t been done before in our industry. With Sonar, it was easy for us to start doing it, too. That’s what’s most appealing.”

SMS interactions have directly increased sales for Shaun and his team. More specifically, texting with customers through Sonar has led to ~98% growth in number of sales, and that’s just since April of this year.

When Shaun told me about this dramatic increase in sales, I probed a little. What exactly about SMS (vs other channels of communication) made it easier for someone to make a decision to buy a guitar (or anything)?

“I don’t know what it is, but it’s almost like you know the person.” said Shaun. “How many people do you text who you don’t know? As you respond to a customer on text, you’re much more informal. You instantly make a personal connection. When you make that personal connection, people are much more inclined to follow through with a purchase.”

Customers ask the Bohemian team all kinds of questions over text.

Most of the time they’re regarding which guitars are best for them–the team helps them understand what will work for their playing styles. Sometimes the team helps customers through the checkout process: making a coupon code work or setting delivery expectations.

With the most recent Indiegogo campaign, customers have had questions on materials used and shipping.

Incoming inquiries almost always involve the one or two questions to which customers need immediate answers in order to push them over the line to make the purchase.

For Shaun and Adam, the priority is clear: helping customers have all the information they need for their potential purchase:

“It’s kind of necessary for us and hasn’t been a burden at all. I think for companies selling hardware or a physical product of any kind, it’s hugely valuable to be able to connect with customers. It’s a really big deal.”

Bohemian Guitars has reached over 300% of its fundraising goal with almost 900 backers in just 13 days. If you haven’t backed it already, back them and get your Bohemian Guitar!

As a bonus, we’ve included below some common questions we receive from clients on how to best leverage SMS and some ways in which Bohemian Guitars addresses them.

What are some specific scripts that are good to use in SMS?

Trick question.

The best thing would be to not have scripts! The beauty of SMS is that it feels personal, but to feel truly like a “friend” to your customer, you have to talk naturally.

Introduce yourself when someone messages in, or if they ask you a question, quickly get to the response. They should think they are speaking with a person, not a machine.

Here’s an example of a real text that was sent to Bohemian Guitars and personable first response from Shaun –

Screenshot 2015-08-14 11.28.52

What are some ways to ‘break the ice’ over SMS, when sending the first one?

Try sending the first text just as customers sign up for your service, at that point the context is clear and someone knows why they are receiving a text.

2015-08-14 11.44.43For example, a sample text one could send: “Hey {CUSTOMER_NAME} this is Neeharika from Sonar. I really appreciate you signing up for our service. Shoot me a text if there’s anything I can help you with.”

If that’s difficult or you’re still not sure how to start, I recommend not initiating the conversation at all. Yup, just be quiet.

It sounds counter-intuitive but SMS is most effective when your customers opt-in and the best opt-in is them texting you first.

That’s Shaun’s approach–Shaun actually doesn’t text customers first. Instead, he displays his Sonar phone number on the Bohemian Guitars website and on mobile, he uses one of our features, the Ping Widget, to have a button pop up after a customer has spent 10 seconds on the website telling them that they can send a text (image at right).


How should one get people’s phone numbers, and what’s the best way to acquire customers and have them give their phone numbers?

You can ask for your customers’ phone numbers as they sign up or go through onboarding.

Be sure to have a little note that tells them that your company offers support over SMS or that you might send them a text so they’re mentally prepared for you to reach out. If you are initiating the conversation, it is best to explicitly point out what kinds of messages you’ll be sending, how frequently you will be sending them, and how to opt-out.

But once again, if that’s tough, have your customers text you first.

Simply display your phone number on your website and use Sonar’s quick & easy Ping Widget feature to have a “text us” button pop up to customers on mobile devices. You can display your Sonar number anywhere. For example, Shaun has Bohemian Guitar’s phone number listed on their indiegogo page 3 separate times.

What’s a rule of thumb about frequency?

This is no different to a normal text conversation!

If you’re answering a question someone has asked, reply in any number of texts necessary to answer the question. If reaching out first to customers, try not to blast them with multiple messages if they’ve never replied. It’s best is to wait for them to reply before sending another text. We recommend no more than 2 consecutive texts if someone has never replied.

What are some suggestions for engagement marketing campaigns separate from the customer service use case?

Responding to questions a customer has before making a purchase seems like “support”, but the use case here is actually sales!

In Bohemian Guitar’s case, customers reach out with questions that would have otherwise prevented them from buying a guitar. In Mayvenn’s case the questions often ask about the quality of hair a customer is thinking of purchasing.

Some other innovative use cases with examples are:

1. Funnel abandonment

    • “We noticed you were about to buy X but didn’t end up making the purchase. Do you have any questions or concerns I can address?”
    • “Hey Amanda, I’m Neeharika from Sonar. I gave you a call but never heard back…Sonar can really help you make strong relationships with your customers, would you be interested?”

2. Referrals

    • “Hey Caroline, It seems like you’re using our product quite a bit! We’re so happy to see that. If you’d like a $10 discount on your monthly bill, invite a friend to try it out too. We’ll even give them $10 in credit! Just pass my phone number along to them or share this link:

3. Status updates

    • “Hey there, we just shipped your order to 25 Taylor Street, it should get there in just a few days. Here’s the tracking link:

4. Notes of encouragement

    • “Hey Jenna, it’s so great to see you make the most of our product. You’ve already become an Insiders Club member and have a 20% discount! You can get even more discounts with time!”

5. Marketing (for engaged customers only)

    • “Caroline, we’re giving our best customers an extra 40% off on purchases made through this Saturday. Use the code YOUROCK814 to get your discount!”

6. Feedback

    • “Jenna, what did you think of Sonar’s customer service? Would you please rate it on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the best?”
    • Net Promoter Score: “Hey there, I was wondering, how likely are you to recommend a friend to Sonar on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 is best).”

7. MMS (image texts)

    • Especially if you are the type of company to offer a personal stylist or restaurant recommendations, use MMS to send images to make the activity or product even more visceral! It will be much more effective than links in emails!

A final word of reminder.

For these types of messages — as for all remarketing — it is extremely important that you don’t abuse your texting-relationship with your customers. Don’t be too aggressive with sending engagement campaigns. If you find people complaining frequently, scale back the number of messages you’re sending as soon as possible.