Lisbon (ViaNews) – Erkki Markus is the founder and CEO at Estonian startup Smaily. They focus on allowing their clients to create beautiful email newsletters. They describe themselves as “intentionally simple” with the “best drag and drop [newsletter] editor on the planet.”
We met with Markus, at Web Summit, the largest tech conference in Europe.
Smaily CEO interview
Rodrigo Perez-Vega: I’m here with Erkki Markus, CEO and founder at Smaily. How are you doing?
Erkki Markus: Hi, I’m good. How are you?
Good, is this your first Web Summit?
Yes, this is our first ever such a big event and it’s astonishing.
How do you find it?
Well, it’s really crowded and overwhelming. There’s so much interesting stuff going on that you can’t grasp everything at once.
Yes, I understand there are so many people and so many things happening at the same time. This is my third Web Summit and it’s huge. What are you hoping to get from Web Summit? Why is Smaily here today?
We’re a small startup, this is a sales and marketing event for us. We’re doing pretty well in Scandinavia already. Since this is a scalable business, we thought why not? We should get customers everywhere.
Can you tell us more about why companies should be using email marketing? Many people receive tons of emails. Why should companies be using it?
When we started developing the software, not many competitors were on the market. It was a new thing, everyone was doing everything. Today, they have all specialized: there are really big cloud systems that do everything.
There isn’t much for small to medium businesses focusing only on email marketing such as how to create beautiful newsletters that are easy to build and that work in every device. That’s one of the reasons we created Smaily.
From what I understand, your platform allows companies to customize things and make it look nice in an easy way.
Yes. Besides, all our competitors have all those features that you’re not going to use. You just want to send an email out and want it to be personalized as well. So we have made our platform simple and easy to use.
You mentioned something quite important about personalization. How should companies approach this? What does personalization mean in email marketing?
Going back in time, email marketing is really important by itself. They said a few years back that email marketing was going to die because of social media such as Facebook or Snapchat. They say people talk in different channels today, that email might be outdated, and young people don’t have email accounts anymore. I think they’re wrong because, on Facebook and Snapchat, you don’t know the data. They own it for you and you can use it when you pay.
I think it’s really important to focus on building your own email list from day one. If you’re starting a business, start collecting addresses. Also, don’t send everything to everyone at the same time because this is uninteresting. It’s true that email marketing can be a lot like spam. To prevent that, ask a few more questions when collecting email addresses. Are you a man or a woman? Are you speaking English or some other language? Are we interested in this or another topic? When you segment, email open rates will go up.
You mentioned two very important things about email marketing with starting to collect the data on day one. If you have a website ask for subscriptions to collect the customers’ email data. Also, you mentioned about segmenting; knowing who they are, what they have bought, etc. The more rich data they have, the more customization you can provide.
Yes, you can integrate software like Smaily with other systems like your sales system, CRM, and e-commerce software to see what they have bought. This is marketing automation.
Let’s be honest, Smaily is not the only business offering this kind of services, right? It’s a competitive market. When I was preparing for this interview, at the top of my mind was Mail Chimp. So what’s different about Smaily versus Mail Chimp?
Well, Smaily is small and MailChimp is larger than this room. We’re more flexible. We develop with the client in mind. We provide support for the software but we also help you clean lists. We don’t ban you if you do something wrong. We’re all people, there are false positives everywhere. We help you AB test and interface with different systems. I think this is important because small and medium businesses do everything mostly by themselves and hiring a large marketing agency is costly for them. Doing it with the help of sites or forums is also very complicated. I want to do my business so having a lot of features is okay, but sometimes it’s a pain. We’re building software that’s intentional simple.
I saw on your website that one of the keywords is “easy to use” and you’re trying to facilitate for small and medium companies as well. What if I’m a large company? Can I also have advanced features?
Yes, for this we have integrations. For example, we don’t know how to send good SMS and there are a lot of service providers for that. We don’t know how to do good Facebook advertising or how to optimize for those advertising markets. We have integrations for that so we don’t have to have those in our email marketing tool. When you use Smaily you can set up one of our plugins with those extended features.
Are there any promotions that you are doing for Web Summit?
Yes, for Web Summiteers we have a promotion. Just sign up, even after Web Summit, go to smaily.com/ws to get your free consultation, free template, and one year minus 50 percent off your monthly fee.
Final question: Do you think email marketing will die in the next 5 to 10 years?
No. It will go one-to-one probably. Large newsletters will die and spam will probably die because of filters. But one-to-one transactional emails will keep on thriving.