McMullan has built business that now serves 135 countries
Jackson resident and former WAPT anchor Brand McMullan is the co-founder and now full-time president of Buy From A Christian, LLC, the parent company of faith-based e-commerce site bfac.com. The site, which now has visitors from 135 countries and 50 states, ranks No. 1 out of 500 million results in Google searches for “buy from a Christian.” The debt-free company has expanded to include business texting services through Texting Leader, LLC and ranks first on Google out of 6.5 million for “business texting companies.”
Q — Bfac.com is doing really well on Google. Do y’all invest a lot of effort in search engine optimization?
A — Here’s the cool thing: We don’t. We haven’t done an SEO platform yet. We’ve been really blessed. On the e-commerce side, we started the company with very little money and had a lot of people who volunteered their work. We filed for our LLC in Mississippi in October 2006 – five years ago last month. We didn’t have any money to build a website. People came from all over the country to work and build it for free. They felt called by God to create something unique. We wanted to be something different. If someone buys or sells something on our site, they’re supporting a nonprofit organization in the sense that it costs a dollar to list a product on our site, and 10 cents of that dollar goes to their favorite charity. We want people to have a safe, clean buying experience, so we created that on Feb. 15, 2007. We had about 500 users in the first month – so not very many. And then it just started slowly but surely growing. (Several media outlets did stories on us, and) by the end of year one we had users in all 50 states. By the end of year three we had visitors from over 100 countries. In August 2010, I resigned from WAPT in Jackson.
Q — Tell us about bfac.com’s business texting services.
A — I think the key for a company to grow is communication. … We commissioned a marketing research study through Millsaps master’s business program and also one through Mississippi State, and they concluded pretty much the same thing: The world is online, and the world is texting.
According to the New York Times, there are three and a half billion text messages sent every day — (which is) three times as many text messages as compared to telephone calls made in our country.
We teamed up with a company called Mobile Inspirations that sends texts out across the country every day with daily Bible verses. Our mind set was, at the end of the week, we could send out a text message that says, “This week’s Bible verse was sponsored by bfac.com, your website with a purpose.” In January, it hit me: We have missed the boat. We don’t need to be selling sponsorships on our text messages. We need to be selling text messaging to businesses.
Q — What are the problems you saw in business texting plans that were available?
A — So we started originally with a short code platform, which is what most people out there have. If you’re not familiar with short code and you’ve seen “American Idol” where they say, “Text Carrie Underwood to 90210,” that’s that five- to six-digit number. But we found out quickly, there’s a lot of problems with short code. It doesn’t work on every network, and it doesn’t work on every phone.
The next big problem we had is that is wasn’t local. Every marketing research study you could ever find said local, local, local. Win that local footprint.
The other problem with short code is that it’s shared. So you might be a restaurant and have a 90210 (short code), and a competitive restaurant also has the 90210 number. So what we saw as a big problem was, if I’m spending money, time and energy promoting my business, I don’t want to promote a number that somebody else has. That’s almost foolish.
The next problem was the key word. I was speaking in Las Vegas at Caesar’s Palace (recently) and they had a sign outside that said, “For local Vegas deals and shows, text LCVEGAS” to a short code. That key word was so messed up because, “local,” or “Vegas,” or “show” or “fun” or “deals” was already taken, because this shared short code was being sold everywhere. The key word itself was hard to understand, and the number wasn’t local. And if they wanted two to three key words, they would have to pay between $200 to $600 per word, so that’s very expensive for a business. We wanted the business to have the ability to have as many key words as they wanted so they could break up the different segments of their business.
The next problem is people don’t want to learn technology.
Q — So what do you offer now with Texting Leader?
A — When we go to a business, we give them their own local number that nobody else will have that works on all the cell phones and cellular networks. We give them unlimited key words so they can talk to different groups. And we also added a new spice of technology: The QR code. You see QR codes everywhere, but most of the QR codes you see just push you to a website. Ours captures your cell phone numbers.
We developed a package that said, unlimited texting, unlimited key words, unlimited QR codes, your own number that’s not shared, and we’ll manage the entire system for you for $1,900 a year.
(Some customers are) the (Mississippi) Braves organization, to Ozarka water, to Baptist Hospital, to the Salvation Army, to the United Way. Political candidates like Jim Hood and Phil Bryant are all advertising on bfac.com. It’s like the Fox News channel demographic all online. It just gives people that ability – when they’re looking for a car or home, they want to go to a place they can trust.
Q — Did you worry you wouldn’t be able to find the technology you wanted?
A — Here’s the great thing about the way the world works: If you can think of something, you can probably find somebody who can do it, or is already working on it, or has done it. We went around the world and found people who had special technology and tried to pull them together to one product to bring to the market.
When you’re small, you’ve got to be smart. You don’t have to invest $100 million into something if somebody else has already done it.
More on McMullan:
Favorite movies: “The Dark Knight” and “Facing The Giants”
Favorite Foods: Bread (any kind) and Italian food
Favorite book: Bible
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