Management & Finance

Turn Off Your Phone, Says Agency Founder

Most entrepreneurs in 2020 are uber connected: phone, text, email, Slack — you name it. But to Arri Bagah, the founder of Conversmart, an ecommerce agency, always-on connections means non-stop interruptions.

“It’s a matter of taking control of my time — trying to be less reactive and more active,” he told me. “Receiving all of those notifications prompts you to react. So turning off all my notifications got me to become less reactive. Adopting this mindset has become a way of life, not only personally, but with my business, too.”

Being less reactive and more active has worked for Bagah. Conversmart has grown dramatically since he founded it in 2018. He and I recently spoke about the launch of the business, SMS marketing, and, yes, turning off his phone.

What follows is our entire audio conversation as well as a transcript, which has been edited for clarity and length.

Eric Bandholz: What’s going on at Conversmart?

Arri Bagah: This is the best time to be alive. Lots of things are going on at Conversmart. Our team is growing. We’re a marketing agency, helping a lot of direct-to-consumer brands prepare for Black Friday, Cyber Monday. That’s what we’re up to.

Bandholz: I agree. There’s never been a better time to be alive than right now, despite all the challenges that face us worldwide. All the things we can do on a smartphone, computer, and travel. It’s pretty great. When did you launch Conversmart?

Bagah: In early 2018. We’re now close to 20 team members.

I realized early on that, to grow, I needed to hire people. Working alone in the agency means you’re wearing all the hats. You’re the salesperson, the implementer — you’re doing everything. I realized I couldn’t grow the company without employees.

So I started hiring people full-time. I quickly realized, “Hiring people is pretty cool. I don’t have to do all this stuff that I really don’t like.” So I just kept hiring more people to take on more responsibilities and help our clients. I focused on growing the company. So that shift enabled our growth.

And we’re completely bootstrapped, by the way. I had my own Shopify store when I was 17 or 18. That’s when I really got into ecommerce.

Bandholz: Many brands are getting into SMS marketing. Thoughts?

Bagah: There are two types of marketers in the SMS space: those that love it and those that hate it, claiming it’s invasive. My view is that it makes sense for brands to reach their customers via text. After all, everyone has a smartphone. All of the features in email marketing can be implemented on text, from campaigns to automated flows.

The first step is to get folks to opt-in with their phone number and then confirm that opt-in, such as, “Reply yes to confirm your subscription.” After that, it’s about engaging them in a meaningful way so they’ll visit your website.

We’ve vetted many SMS platforms. My top three recommendations are Attentive, Postscript, and Yotpo. Postscript has a great integration with Shopify. With Yotpo, you can do conversational flows, like asking users questions and then having them respond with products that they’re interested in. Our agency is platform agnostic. We don’t have a single favorite. But you can’t go wrong with any of those three.

Bandholz: Speaking of text, you told me before this interview that you sometimes put your phone on “do not disturb” mode. How does that work from a productivity standpoint and staying connected?

Bagah: It’s a matter of taking control of my time — trying to be less reactive and more active. Receiving all of those notifications prompts you to react. So turning off all my notifications got me to become less reactive. Now, even when I turn my notifications on, I don’t have the urge to look at my phone when it vibrates.

I started doing this at the end of 2018. I don’t think my mom knows, incidentally. I typically don’t talk about it much.

Also, my computer is always on “do not disturb.” No Slack notifications. It’s hard to work if you have Slack popping up every second.

I like to control what I have in my thoughts. I don’t want to be doing things solely because they pop up in my head. That’s what happens when you become reactive. You’re doing this, something pops up, and then your attention goes there.  Adopting this mindset has become a way of life, not only personally but also with my business.

To take it a step further, I try not to post my phone number publicly because people start calling. I really don’t like to talk on the phone. If someone wants to reach me, just use text or email. I don’t even have my voicemail set up. I haven’t listened to a voicemail for probably five years.

Bandholz: Where can people follow you and learn more about Conversmart?

Bagah: I’m on Twitter: @ArriBagah. The agency is at Conversmart.com.

Eric Bandholz

Eric Bandholz

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