It’s been a while since we’ve done interviews, but we’re picking it up again! This time with Simon Grabowski, the CEO of GetResponse, an email marketing service provider. Simon was kind enough to take out time to answer the questions I asked in this email interview.
Here’s the interview:
Remy: Please introduce yourself and your company GetResponse briefly so our readers get to know you a bit.
Simon: I’m Simon Grabowski, CEO of GetResponse. I founded the company in 1998 with startup capital of only $200. My goal was to develop technology that would enable small businesses to compete with their larger rivals.
The result was GetResponse, the world’s easiest email marketing. Today our team includes more than 150 technology and marketing experts, serving a growing client base of 300,000 customers in 188 countries.
Remy: Is there a certain type of businesses (a niche or a certain size of businesses) as clients that GetResponse is focusing on?
Simon: Yes, we continue to focus on the small business (SMB) market: individuals and small groups bringing great products and services to their market. They work at their own risk, often with scant resources, and with no guarantee of success — the very definition of an entrepreneur.
I’ve been in their shoes, so I know the terrain and understand what they’re up against.
As far as niche markets, we found that when we created API integrations with popular programs — such as e-commere, CRM, CMS, social media, mobile devices — each one opened brand-new niches where we could spread our marketing story.
Remy: When it comes to email marketing, do you believe in a certain way companies should execute on it, regardless of their type of size?
Simon: Yes. Subscribers want more than a steady stream of sales pitches; they want the experience of having a relationship with your business. And they expect excellent design, whether it’s on a landing page or an email.
When you get design and customer experience right, your message spreads organically and conversion improves dramatically. So we spent most of 2012 re-engineering our platform with those factors in mind.
Email Creator was developed during that process: a design interface that’s full-featured enough for design pros but easy enough for fledgling email designers. It was so well-received that we used the same technology in our new Landing Page Creator, which automatically integrates with email campaigns for higher conversions.
We also revamped our analytics, adding a segmentation tool that enables you to zero-in on subgroups with similar characteristics and behavior. Then you can customize campaigns for specific groups to create a great customer experience, so they’ll respond to offers and share your email with their friends.
Remy: Every year there’s a certain hype in the land of online marketing. At first it was SEO. Then it was social media. Now it’s big data. What’s next?
Simon: Maybe the next hype will involve computer-based mathematical models to predict how customers will behave, like hedge fund managers predicting the stock market fluctuations. Media companies like to hype ideas that involve a macro solution, where everything is controlled from on high.
There’s always a grain of truth in the hype, along with some important lessons. We’ve learned a lot from the SEO and social media movements.
But don’t get distracted by the macro view. What’s really happening is on the micro level. Small entrepreneurs by the millions are customizing products and services for their local markets or worldwide niche markets.
That’s why we focus on the needs of entrepreneurs — providing easy ways to customize their marketing approach and optimize how they deliver their customer experience.
Remy: What’s your vision on the role and importance of email marketing in the broader spectrum of online marketing channels?
Simon: Email marketing fills an important gap between brand message and your one-on-one communications.
Social media is a great example. It lets you expose your brand message to broader audiences. And you can communicate one-on-one with consumers. But between the two, there’s a gap that is best filled by communicating over a period of time. That requires automation, and email marketing is the ideal tool.
Likewise, an e-commerce site can attract visitors to your brand, and they may buy something, but that won’t create brand loyalty. Unless you grab those first-time buyers, build a relationship, and give them incentives to return, you may never see them again. Email marketing lets you automatically assign those buyers to a drip campaign, where you can explain your value message fully.
The same holds true for banner advertising and pay-per-click. A click and a sale are great; then maximize the value of each customer using email marketing.
Even in-bound call centers are a great place to capture new subscribers and continue the relationship.
Remy: When it comes to marketing automation, how do you think it will develop in the future, both from a technology and from a personal perspective?
Simon: That’s a great question: automation technology versus the personal touch. The challenge is in balancing those two needs.
The answer lies in getting to know your audience, so you can group those with similar profiles then communicate with them about their hot-button topics.
We’re actually working on something that I believe will be a game changer for email marketers when it comes to automation – but I don’t want to say too much at this point. 😉 It will certainly allow marketers customize the customer experience to make it feel like one-to-one communication.
Remy: Any tips for marketers out there struggling with getting their email marketing campaigns on the road? Where should they start and focus?
Simon: It’s a numbers game . . . but it’s not a numbers game. Let me explain.
When I started GetResponse, I dreamed of having thousands of customers. But I started out with just one. I can’t even describe how exciting it was to sign up that first customer. And I treated them like gold.
My suggestion is to do the same with your email marketing. Treat every subscriber like gold, even if you start with just one.
Build a relationship. Serve a need. Ask for the sale. If you do a great job, that relationship leads to the next and the next — the numbers come.
And if you start your email marketing program with a database of your existing customers, you’ve got a great head start. But it’s the same one-at-a-time mindset: communicate, serve, sell.
You can’t go wrong.
Thanks to Simon for his time!