Today, it’s all about digital alternatives, part of the larger seismic shift from offline to online. Hustle, a pioneering peer-to-peer text messaging platform that enables personal conversations at scale, bridges the gap between these two realms by utilizing the channel with the proven highest response rate — the ubiquitous text message.
Founded in 2014, Hustle recently secured $30 million in Series B funding, led by Insight Venture Partners. The fast-growing company had only 12 employees at the beginning of 2017; now it’s got over 200 in San Francisco, where it started, as well as in New York and Washington, DC.
Hustle facilitates trackable digital engagement, breathing life into data and sowing the seeds of better communication that blossom into more fruitful relationships. The old email model, in contrast, lacks conversational depth. People just aren’t very likely to open prospecting emails and it’s very difficult to build meaningful relationships when there’s no feedback. It’s no surprise that email response rates are abysmal. SMS open rates, by comparison, run as high as 80 percent, with roughly a 15 percent response and the highest CTR of any medium. According to Cellit, a marketing and advertising firm, SMS has eight times the response rate of email. Texting is also much more personally engaging than email. Hustle harnesses the power of text messaging to build better relationships. The company calls these textationships.
Marketing used to basically be one-way mass-monologuing via emails, branding and more recently, social media advertising. A company might blast out to 10,000 prospects in the hope of converting a relative handful. Such tepid response is to be expected when the tool being used is bereft of conversational depth. Hustle asks, “do you want to be ignored (or worse; the dreaded ‘unsubscribe’ ominously looms a click away from your next annoying email) or do you want to reap the benefits of an 80 percent open rate?” The company takes those 10,000 contacts and after defining client goals, starts texting them to spark conversations and build textationships that deepen as the back-and-forth ensues.
“Textationship” is more than just a proprietary buzzword. The way in which businesses communicate with their audiences today is inherently flawed, the channels they use are saturated or ignored. That translates to lost revenue and lost opportunities because marketers can’t convert or even adequately engage leads. This also makes it harder to grow existing accounts because people simply aren’t paying enough attention to the channels being used.
While text messaging boasts the highest engagement rate, even SMS can function one-way when it’s used the way most businesses utilize it, especially given regulations requiring opt-ins and other barriers to better communication and relationship-building. Transactional texting is also not campaign-based, making it difficult to measure how a given text campaign is performing against an email marketing one. Hustle asked what happens when organizations actually set out to have two-way conversations via text messaging.
“The best companies today are the ones that are willing to invest in one-to-one, personal conversations with customers,” says David Cancel, CEO of the San Francisco-based conversational marketing platform Drift.
Nonprofit organizations, progressive political campaigns (Hustle was a favorite tool of the Bernie Sanders campaign) and advocacy groups comprise a significant slice of Hustle’s proverbial pie. These types of groups are all about bringing people together, whether through organizing protests, launching events or getting out the vote. This unifying capacity is sorely needed, for in a world of increasingly isolated individuals, there are less shared experiences and less trust. Industry-watchers have noted the paradox of trust-based communities like Yelp, Uber and Airbnb rising to such prominence even as general societal trust has declined. Hustle aims to reduce isolation and build trust by engaging people in conversations using the medium with the highest actual engagement rate.
Hustle is also betting that as more sales and marketing communication is powered by bots, humans will prefer to talk to other humans. Few things are less personal than email blasted out to tens of thousands of “targets.” Few are more personal than text messaging. While robots can and do text, they’re still a very long way from being able to do so in a way that’s sufficiently personal to build meaningful relations with people.
“In a relationship driven business, humans should not be replaced by AI, because that human to human connection can’t be transferred or replicated by bots or otherwise,” stresses Hustle CEO Roddy Lindsay.
Yet ultimately, Hustle isn’t really about texting. It’s about rebuilding trust in an age of increasing tech-induced isolation. It doesn’t have to be this way — technology has long been touted as, and at its best can certainly be, a unifying, not isolating force. Hustle leverages text messaging, with its unbeatable engagement and personal touch, to bring people together and foster trust. That, says Hustle, is the power of textationships.