Interview with Simon Grabowski (GetResponse)
GetResponse is a email marketing platform for the SMB sector.
I interviewed Simon Grabowski, GetResponse founder and CEO to find out more. This is the hundred and seventy second in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Simon!
How would you describe GetResponse in under 50 words?
GetResponse is the world’s easiest email marketing software. I realize that’s a big claim, but with our Email Creator you’ll find it a breeze to design awesome email campaigns, autoresponders and landing pages. Once you’re done with the design process, you click “Send” and track results as they pour in!
You first created GetResponse when you were just 17 with only $200 to invest. Two years later in 1999, you established Implix in an effort to give SOHO and SMB owners a suite of online tools to promote their products like large companies, without the hassle and cost of infrastructure. What were the main influences that led you to start up at such a young age?
Growing up in Poland, I’ve always been sort of a rebel. I never really saw myself working for someone else, so I turned to entrepreneurship as my only salvation. During my high school years I immersed myself in reading. I’d devour any book about business and personal development that I could get my hands on. When I was about 17, I read Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich” (cliché, I know…) and tried to set up my “circle of influence” with friends. Everybody thought I was nuts, or part of a religious sect… or both.
My first online venture was a travel website, and it had a nagging problem — one I badly needed to fix: I needed software that would automatically email my subscribers then “drip” more marketing content to them over time. There wasn’t a product like that on the market at the time, so I started coding it myself. Somewhere along the way, lightning struck, and I thought, hey, what if other people have similar problems? As it turns out, my hunch was right.
What sets GetResponse apart from other autoresponder services?
We pour our efforts into several areas. Consumers expect great design, so we make it easy for our customers to deliver an email marketing campaign that enhances their image. In fact, any new improvements have to be easy to use, because busy people lack the time to learn complex software and want to see immediate results. Our philosophy of “easy-to-use” was the driver of our conceptual re-design of our major feature rolling out soon and our Developer Zone, which has produced 88 API integrations within the past year.
So new customers are attracted to us because of all of these innovations but stay with us for two main reasons: first, we treat deliverability as a mission-critical responsibility, having achieved a consistent track record of 99.5%, tops in the industry; and second, our support system, which includes an array of self-help resources and a customer service department that has been retooled and retrained as a Customer Success Team.
You’ve been travelling a lot recently to ad:tech Sydney and ad:tech San Francisco. What did you get out of each of the events?
We’ve seen a great response to our marketing in those two markets: North America and Australia. So this was a chance to meet new clients face to face and to tell our marketing story to new prospects. We learned that our message resonates and spreads in these markets for the reasons I mentioned: ease of use, design capabilities, marketing automation, unparalleled deliverability and world-class support.
You recently launched website versions specifically to serve the UK and German markets with new domains and sites. Any plans for other markets?
We now have customers in 183 countries, and we want to make sure we provide the support they need and deserve. As soon as the economics in of our markets begin to make sense, we begin rolling out programs to provide local support. As far as specific plans, I’ll only reveal one thing — it’s a big world, with lots of opportunities.
Has your initial vision changed since launch 14 years ago?
The original vision is still relevant: bringing big-company capabilities to small business operators. Of course, we’ve refined the vision in many ways, thanks to feedback from our user community and great efforts by our team of talented technology, design and marketing professionals. Because of the pace of change, we constantly invent new ideas about how to deliver on that vision. But the original vision will continue to be our North Star for a long time to come.
What was technically the most challenging part of developing GetResponse?
GetResponse is a work in progress. We released a ton of innovations recently and have big projects in the works right now. Our challenge is to put ourselves in the shoes of our users and ask, “How can we make it easy for users to implement quickly, and how can we deliver a big benefit to our users right away?”
How long did it take to put together GetResponse?
I completed the first release in about one year. After that, we paid attention to business trends and innovations in technology and we responded to the needs of our user community. Along the way, we designed improvements to solve user problems, make their email marketing more effective, and make GetResponse easier to use. We’re still doing those things today.
Do you have any new features in the pipeline?
Yes! Relationships thrive on kept promises and nice surprises. So our plans include plenty of both. But we’re not releasing any details. After all, it’s only fair to give our competitors an opportunity to think of their own ideas ;)
What do you wish you’d have known 14 years ago that you know now?
If I could hop into the Delorean time machine with Doc and Marty, I’d go “back to the future” to 1998 and whisper three words to my younger self: Google, Facebook and Apple. Wouldn’t we all? But seriously, I can’t say that we were missing any key parts of the puzzle. After all, we were helping chart the course in the evolution of online marketing, as we still do today.
So the email continues to live on even though it has been pronounced dead many times! Where do you see GetResponse in another 14 years time?
Think of the “funnel” model for marketing. Tools such as search and social media feed the widest part of the funnel; you can broadcast your marketing story to unbelievably wide, diverse audiences. But at some point, you must build a relationship with those at the narrow end of the funnel. I don’t know about 14 years from now, but for the foreseeable future, email marketing is the ideal tool for building those relationships. And we intend to be at the forefront.
Has GetResponse got the feedback and growth you expected since launch?
Entrepreneurs always start with impossibly huge dreams, and I was no different. But I was also realistic about the time it would take, so I committed to the long term.
From the very beginning, we built strong marketing into the company and we took great care of our Customers. As our user community grew, it gave us more and more credibility, which made our marketing more effective.
So I’m pleased with our feedback and growth and feel we’re poised for even more.
Who would you say is your biggest competitor?
We don’t position ourselves against any specific competitors. Instead, we focus on executing our basics: taking care of customers, opening new markets, and creating innovative technologies.
However, we do face stiff competition in hiring; there’s a demand for the caliber of people we need for programming, design, marketing and customer service. So I would say the technology industry itself might be our biggest competitor. But as our reputation grows, we’re finding it easier to attract the right people.
What in your opinion is the biggest mistake email marketers make?
The biggest mistake I see is the failure to make email marketing the centerpiece of your overall marketing plan. You should use search, advertising and social media to attract fresh prospects then nurture those relationships with your email marketing program.
Your sales funnel needs to close business, and it can start with an autoresponder series to do the heavy lifting of educating the prospect, explaining the value, answering objections and even closing the sales.
And every sale creates more opportunities to serve the same customer with up-sells, add-ons and additional products and services; email marketing can do that too. Even your customer service department can use email marketing to educate and build stronger relationships.
What is the biggest hurdle you, personally, have faced or are still facing?
Time management. I’m totally involved with the day-to-day operation of my business. I’m a family man and enjoy spending time at home. And I stay involved in my community. Balancing all of that is a challenge, but I wouldn’t give up any of it.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone starting up?
Entrepreneurs are changing the world like never before. And the pace of change makes fast rewards possible. But don’t be tempted to act like a fast-buck operator. Take the time to build relationships with your audience. As you figure out ways to be of service, the business will come.
What other projects are you currently working on?
As you know, Implix is the parent company of GetResponse and three other businesses.
ClickMeeting is our videoconferencing solution, the most advanced and affordable on the market.
GetResponse Enterprise is a high-volume email marketing solution using the GetResponse platform and enhanced with consulting and advisory services.
What are you most excited about at the moment?
We’re gratified by our success with expanding into the U.S. and Canada, so we’re excited about becoming a greater presence in those markets . . . and others. And I’m excited about some of the amazing enhancements our developers are working on right now.
Can you convince the reader to start using GetResponse in under 50 words?
GetResponse puts the world’s most powerful marketing method, email marketing, at your fingertips in the most user-friendly format. We make it affordable enough for any organization and give you a risk-free way to try it for 30 days, no credit card. You’ll love what it does for your business.
Finished reading? Check out GetResponse!