We caught up with the CEO of Estonia’s biggest newsletter sending service Smaily to ask him about how they reached a 70% market share and what’s the secret to winning a client.
Hi Erkki! Can you please tell us about your platform and what you do?
Erkki Markus: Smaily came from the idea that email marketing is easy. But all those [email marketing] platforms are getting more and more complicated. Our target client is small to medium business, so the people who are used to doing things by themselves – they don’t have agencies and they don’t have much money.
So Smaily is intentionally simple – we do one thing. We know how to do great and beautiful newsletters, we know how to send them out and we know how to track them. For everything else we have integrations. We don’t know how to do SMS or Facebook Ads, but we do what we are good at.
It all comes from word of mouth. When you have satisfied users, they will tell about you to their friends at other companies.
And how big is Smaily in Estonia right now?
EM: In Estonia our market share is about 70%.
EM: Yeah! We’re good at what we do! But it all comes from word of mouth. When you have satisfied users, they will tell about you to their friends at other companies. We are currently in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, and Finland but we want to be everywhere so that’s why we’re here [at Web Summit]! [Laughs]
But how did you achieve that, how did you become #1?
EM: Luck! [Laughs] No, actually it’s hard work, sweat and blood. But mainly I think it’s the focus. We focused on a particular market, on those particular companies. And we’re really flexible, so if a client comes in and asks if they can perform certain things through the API – they can! If they want to trigger automation from their own software, they can. Usually, such platforms are really restricted – the templates all look the same. But our approach is a little bit different.
How many users do you have right now?
EM: At the moment we have about 10,000 users.
And with that number, what’s your MRR?
EM: Our monthly revenue is at around $50,000-60,000.
Collect email addresses. This is your number one asset online. It’s a goldmine.
What advice would you give to someone who’s just thinking about starting a business? What’s your #1 advice for a startup?
EM: Collect email addresses. This is your number one asset online.
Building a big Facebook page is good too, but you don’t know those contacts. If one day Facebook goes offline, you’ll be left with nothing. But if you build your own newsletter subscriber base, you can send them relevant information at any time. It’s a goldmine.
You’ve mentioned that you’re now looking to expand outside of Estonia. How are you planning to do that?
EM: This is a difficult question. Word of mouth, of course, but we’ll also use our blog, and we’ll be organizing meetups and free seminars to teach people about email marketing, why it’s important, how to target and personalize more, and why you need to segment.
And which countries are next?
The whole world?
EM: Yeah! No, at the moment we want to concentrate on Finland, Sweden, and Norway. Because these countries are similar, but they have a very fragmented market and a lot of local providers. But we can kick their ass! [Laughs] Sorry, I shouldn’t say that on camera!
Do you think you can become the next unicorn from Estonia?
EM: Well, we certainly hope so!
Best of luck to you!
EM: Thank you!
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.