After such a complicated year in which email has once again shown its invaluable role for businesses, to acknowledge that it deserves a seat at the table is even more glaringly obvious now than it was in the past.
Today’s interview is with Chris Byrne, Founder, and CEO at Sensorpro. Chris shared his thoughts on the importance of email, the future of email marketing, how to select the right email platform, and building communities. He also told us how his business has been affected by the pandemic and why today is the best time to start a business in tech.
Apart from running his company, Chris loves to run, swim and sail. He has also founded Dingle Coderdojo, a global network of free, volunteer-led, community-based programming clubs for young people.
Chris, with such a solid background and achievements, how did you get to work in email marketing?
After our exit, I wanted to build a CRM, but with a smaller team. We grew to 50+ people and had a desire to get back to making products. Early success with our first partner Epicor led us to focus on email. Customers teach you so much!
It’s been quite the journey with email, hasn’t it? I remember getting a phone call from a tech industry friend who said, “Hey Chris, get out of email; Google Wave will kill you guys”. Remember Google Wave, anyone?
Email proved to be the most stable communication channel for such a long time. What do you think about the impact this pandemic has had on email marketing? And what were the most critical challenges your company faced during this period?
Email is part of the internet DNA, invented by Tom Van Vleck in 1965 and it is so necessary for internet freedom.
The pandemic forced many to rethink how to do business. Anyone on the fence about email before the pandemic is in no doubt today that email is the No 1 channel. It also brings a challenge with many new senders not familiar with best practice. Luckily there is a great email community that is open and friendly.
For our firm, the pandemic hurt our hospitality senders but saw solid growth with e-commerce platforms like Shopify. We witnessed an increased sensitivity to Send server locations. As an EU-made and EU-hosted platform, we welcomed many switching from US and UK vendors.
Building a community around copywriting, for example, helps senders improve engagement. We think Copy is the next challenge ahead for all email senders.
Sensorpro goes beyond email sending, working with platforms that connect businesses. It sounds like a community there. What can you tell us about this?
Many years ago, it was thought a single platform like SAP could run your entire business. The reality is a firm will use many tools & it is now expected they should all connect. Tools like Zapier, webhooks and a robust API ecosystem make that easier. We love tools like Zapier and Integromat because they democratise integration, no more developer-hostile platforms!
Words matter and we see that email marketers need help with copywriting. Building a community around copywriting, for example, helps senders improve engagement. We think Copy is the next challenge ahead for all email senders.
Tools like RFM can signal customers likely to buy or customers that may be at risk. It’s a technique used by catalogue marketers since the 1930s. Now email marketers can use RFM when their email platform works with eCommerce tools like Shopify and Shopware.
Businesses that use email as the primary communication channel work with top email platforms to provide seamless customer experiences. But how to select what’s best for your needs from a plethora of options?
Measure twice, cut once is an old saying worth remembering with vendor selection. Who wants to pay the price of an unexpected consulting charge, or worse, a legal compliance blunder?
Taking the time to evaluate vendors is worth doing and you might pick up fresh ideas too! With the recent ruling by Bavarian DPA that the use of the newsletter tool Mailchimp by a German company was unlawful, it’s worth noting the Send server locations for your ESP.
Since last year, the vast majority of brands started to (re)consider email as the best channel to communicate with their audiences. Do you think this shift would have happened anyway, or it was an effect of the pandemic as well?
It was inevitable once social media put the squeeze on brands looking to engage with their audience. With email, brand and subscriber are the only ones in the relationship, with no third-party between. And since Chrome shut-down third-party cookies, first-party data like email is front and central.
What’s your opinion about the opportunity email publishers have nowadays to generate a new revenue stream by placing native ads in their newsletters?
Now that we know first-party data like email is more valuable, newsletter advertising is an option publishers should consider. With Twitter buying newsletter-maker Revue, the value of the email audience is evident.
In a world where new tools are constantly being invented, what do you think email marketing will look like in the future?
We will see more AI options for content makers. Right now, we can do things like sentiment analysis on content. But I expect this will become much more clever in the future. Something we have plans for at Sensorpro!
Recently, you’ve started a movement to promote European email professionals. I’m happy I was among those interviewed in the first edition. How did you come up with the idea?
Tom Blijleven from Flowmailer and I noticed that many expert voices in the email industry were undiscovered. So we resolved to provide a platform and it worked so well. Everyone was very kind and pleased with the outcome. So many honest & easy tips by email experts who do this every day! Stay tuned for more voices on sensorpro.net/dayinthelife.
You couldn’t have picked a better time to start. With coding democratised, it’s no longer needed to be in the cool places like Austin or Dublin; work from anywhere is here to stay.
You were a tech entrepreneur long before these kinds of companies became trendy. What advice would you give to young startup founders in email marketing?
First thing to know, age is not a barrier. Arianna Huffington founded Thrive Global, age 66. For younger founders, I would say most of your challenges will not be product-related; I am guessing you got that.
Many will have never hired or fired, so get help with this. Read books like Margaret Brennan (Wilful Blindness) and April Dunford (Obviously Awesome).
And you couldn’t have picked a better time to start. With coding democratised, it’s no longer needed to be in the cool places like Austin or Dublin; work from anywhere is here to stay.
I live this dream on the very edge of Europe in Dingle, Ireland. With the wild atlantic at my door, I swim almost every day of the year!
Closing on a funny note, could you share with us what was the most unexpected request you received from your customers so far?
Client pressed send on 5m emails later followed with a panicked phone call “Can you recall that send?”