MarTech Interview with Sarah Schmidt, Vice President Marketing and Communications at Subtext

Find out how marketing trends and developments are redefining the creator's economy in the latest interview covered by MarTech cube
MarTech Interview

Sarah, could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? How did you get your start in the marketing industry?

I knew I was interested in marketing from a young age. I took an Intro to Entrepreneurship class at University of Maryland when I was in high school and I quickly learned that I loved the combination of creativity and analysis that goes into marketing.

I started my career at Time Inc. working in subscriber acquisition for Travel & Leisure and Food & Wine magazines. Throughout my time there, I learned the importance of testing, iterating and testing again. Following Time Inc., I joined the Alpha Group, a tech and media incubator within Advance, where I was responsible for running all marketing efforts for their first project, The Tylt. In my role at The Tylt, I provided results like millions of UMVs, direct engagement from the public, new business deals with 15+ companies, and grew The Tylt’s social following by over 493%, amassing over 1.3M followers. In 2020, I transitioned to heading the marketing department for Subtext, the fourth startup born from the Alpha Group. Currently, I serve as the VP of Marketing and Communications.

In my career, I’ve been fortunate to focus my time, energy and attention on my passion. As a marketer, I find it particularly rewarding to be involved in business decisions across all departments.

Sarah, throughout your career, you’ve achieved remarkable success in the field of marketing and communications. Could you share some of your most notable achievements that you are particularly proud of?

I was incredibly proud when Subtext was named the “Best Subscription Platform” at the Digiday Tech Awards, last year. In 2020, Subtext was honored in the same category for the Digiday Media Awards. At the time, I had recently joined the team, so it was important to showcase how Subtext’s platform evolved since our last win. To have our team’s hard work recognized always feels like success to me.

Most recently, Fast Company recognized Subtext as one of the Most Innovative Companies in Music. This was an exciting win because it focused on Subtext’s platform innovation for artists and creators. Throughout the past year, our team remained dedicated to empowering artists in reclaiming audience ownership and monetizing their followings. We proudly welcomed some of the most notable musicians ranging from Miley Cyrus to Elvis Presley. Additionally, we introduced new artist features such as voicemails, which allowed artists like Maggie Rogers to offer fans an exclusive first listen to new songs and collect voicemails from fans to create user-generated content for album promotion. This achievement was a testament of our commitment to supporting and elevating the creative community.

The creator economy has been rapidly evolving. What marketing trends or developments are you most optimistic about, and how do you see them shaping the industry’s future?

Increasingly, creators are recognizing the risks of building their entire business on social media platforms due to their inherent unreliability. They are adapting by finding new and reliable revenue streams, such as creating their own paid communities, selling merchandise or hosting events. This shift is ultimately reducing the dependence on social media platforms for both creators and consumers. The evolution of this trend is likely to continue as creators seek greater control over their businesses. We can expect to see more creators diversify their revenue streams and find innovative and meaningful ways to connect with their biggest supporters. This will involve the continued rise of paid subscriptions and exclusive content offerings. Ultimately, this evolution is driven by the desire for sustainability and autonomy in the creator economy, leading to a less centralized reliance on social media platforms and more emphasis on direct connections with their fans.

SMS marketing is gaining traction as a powerful engagement channel. How does Subtext empower brands to leverage SMS as a means of connecting with their audiences in a meaningful way? What advantages does SMS offer over other communication channels?

As social media platforms evolve, it has become increasingly difficult for brands to cut through the noise and engage their audiences in a meaningful way. Subtext solves this challenge by connecting brands with their audiences in the same unfiltered way one would communicate with friends or family. With communication via SMS, a medium where ample time is spent by consumers, brands can have engaging and intimate conversations with their audiences at scale. It also creates a space where companies can personify their brand, source valuable and direct feedback, and build brand loyalty.

SMS is a powerful marketing channel with several distinct advantages. First off, SMS has a 98% open rate compared to 20% for emails. Not only that, but customer engagement rates for SMS are nearly 20% compared to social media at 4%. Another key benefit is its independence from an internet connection, making it highly accessible to a broad audience. SMS, as an opt-in marketing tool, also provides brands a way to stay compliant with local and federal privacy laws. Unlike other mediums, brands can source zero-party audience data and use it to inform their brand strategies. All in all, texting is a powerful and effective channel for brands to engage audiences and foster brand loyalty.

Privacy and consent are significant concerns in the digital age. How does Subtext ensure that brands and creators maintain a respectful and compliant approach while using SMS to engage their audiences?

Subtext has clients all over the world so we’ve worked hard to ensure our clients are fully compliant with local regulations. Subtext is an opt-in only tool, meaning all subscribers have asked to hear from the brand or creator they are receiving messages from. All data collected is first-party data, owned by our clients and not Subtext.

In addition, our customer service team are experts in SMS compliance. We offer white-glove service managing all aspects of compliance, including handling TCR (The Campaign Registration) for every client. In addition, we help our customers maintain compliance with GDPR, CAN-SPAM, CCPA, and other regulations.

Values and principles often guide professionals in their career journey. What are some core values that have been instrumental in shaping your approach to marketing and communication? How do these values align with Subtext’s overall mission and vision?

I believe that all consumers are looking to be personally involved with the brands and creators that they love. Whether it’s joining a community to discuss their favorite work out class or voting on what city their favorite artist should visit, consumers want to be involved and heard. Subtext was founded on the idea of empowering brands, creators and media companies to own their relationship with their audience, not rent them from social platforms. Subtext is more than just selling products, it’s about building a brand. We stress the importance of two-way communication because we know that consumers want to not just hear from the brands they love but also be heard by them.

Subtext has collaborated with an impressive roster of 800+ brands and creators, including notable names like Miley Cyrus, USA Today, and Ross Creations. How do you identify and forge partnerships with such influential figures, and what do you believe attracts them to choose Subtext as their platform for engaging with their audiences through SMS?

We’ve been able to attract such great talent by focusing on a critical pain point – there is no direct way to have a conversation with your most loyal fans. SMS has a 98% open rate, with over 80% of people reading your text within three minutes. That stat alone is incredibly powerful when compared to alternatives like social media and email. Whether you have a tour coming up or want to cover a live event like the Olympics, SMS allows you to effectively reach your audience and learn more about them. In addition, with third-party cookies being threatened and privacy laws making customer data hard to collect, Subtext’s first-party data collection has been a big selling point as well.

Many brands are exploring different avenues to engage their audiences. What unique benefits does SMS marketing provide, and how can brands effectively integrate it into their overall marketing strategy?

SMS with Subtext provides immediate and direct two-way communication at scale. I mentioned above the 98% open rate and clients are seeing an average engagement and CTR of over 20%. Having an ownable marketing channel that allows you to reach your audience 98% of the time is unparalleled and we can see that reflected in the engagement numbers. In addition, there are many ways to monetize an SMS community whether it’s through a paid subscriber, advertiser or affiliate links.

There are a lot of ways to integrate SMS into a brand’s overall strategy. We’ve worked with partners who utilize it for events, breaking news, to promote albums and tours or engage exclusive fan communities. Ultimately, it is an ownable marketing channel that can be integrated seamlessly into larger marketing initiatives that are looking to promote or engage with audience members.

As a seasoned marketing professional, what advice do you have for brands looking to establish a strong presence in the creator economy and effectively connect with their audiences through innovative channels like SMS?

Brands should test out new ways to build meaningful, effective and healthy communities. The creator economy was founded on the concept of community, and brands can draw inspiration from that idea. Possessing an owned marketing channel, one you can depend on for major initiatives, proves to be invaluable in the long run.

Looking ahead, what exciting developments or projects does Subtext have in store, and how do you envision the company contributing to the growth and evolution of the creator economy?

Subtext is constantly innovating and releasing new features to support the creator community. Our goal is to empower creators to own their relationship to their audience and ultimately, own their business. When creators are empowered, they can produce stronger content and earn the revenue they deserve.

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Sarah Schmidt, Vice President Marketing and Communications at Subtext

Sarah Schmidt is the VP of Marketing and Communications at Subtext, an award-winning conversation platform that connects creators and subscribers through text messaging. In her role, she is responsible for leading all marketing efforts to attract a diverse range of creators to the platform, including artists, musicians, athletes, writers, influencers, podcasters, thought leaders, and more. Prior to joining Subtext, she served as the Director of Marketing for The Tylt, a digital media company and social polling platform, where she secured new business deals with 15+ companies and grew The Tylt’s social following by over 493%, amassing over 1.3M followers. Prior to that, she held top marketing roles at Time Inc. and generated incremental revenue through the activation of strategic media campaigns for Food & Wine and Travel & Leisure. Sarah has a B.S. in Business Administration and Management from Boston University. LinkedIn.
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