We all hate when small tasks require big effort. You wouldn’t grow a cacao tree to get a KitKat. So why should email marketers go out of their way to create attractive email copies?
This is exactly why Stripo exists. Helping create fantastic HTML templates, Stripo has already caught the attention of a couple major accelerators and, of course, email marketers. We spoke to Stripo CEO and founder Dmitry Kudrenko about the secret ins and outs of creating a startup and the recipe to a perfect email template.
Hi Dmitry. Сould you explain exactly what you do for those who have not heard of Stripo before?
Dmitry Kudrenko: Stripo helps you build emails two times faster than you used to! We are more sophisticated than the editor you use in your ESP, and currently, the only email builder that allows using both drag-n-drop and HTML code editor at once. You can make changes to the code and in the WYSIWYG editor see those changes in real time.
When developing Stripo, we, first of all, wanted to give a helping hand to marketers. And we succeeded — Stripo reduces email production time by up to 60%. We offer 300 ready-to-use email templates, let clients store individual modules and use our embedded micro-tools to build interactive emails right in the editor.
Due to the open HTML code editor, designers create totally unique emails in no time. Stripo now supports AMP-powered emails, which is the last word in email marketing. All the emails that you build with Stripo are fully responsive, and you can export them to your ESP or email client in one click.
Relevant content and relevant offer make a perfect email – a good structure and perfect design just complement the offer.
Let’s talk a bit about email marketing! I’m 100% sure that if we ask your opinion on the plaintext vs HTML template emails debate, you would stand behind HTML templates. So I’m just going to ask what do you think makes image-based, thoroughly designed emails so successful?
DK: A number of investigations have been conducted on this topic. Some say that it does not matter whether we send out plain-text or HTML-based emails. However, most prove that HTML-based emails win.
You see, the point is that the main goal of all promo emails is to appeal to emotions, to evoke a desire to buy from you. That’s pretty difficult to do with plain-text emails, considering you can’t add images to them. I mean, we all know the proverb “Better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times”. So, the first advantage of HTML emails is imagery.
The second one is easier navigation. By adding respective hyperlinks to product items, you make it much easier for customers to get to the necessary page.
The third one is embedding interactive elements. They increase user engagement, hence have a positive impact on conversion. With interactive elements, you can create teaser campaigns, which are easier to do it with appealing imagery, than with copy — no matter how compelling it is.
And last but not least — today you can build AMP-powered emails. AMP emails let us select, add to cart and proceed to check out right in emails. We already have a drag-n-drop AMP-carousel. In the nearest future, we are also planning to implement more AMP elements. You can update preferences right in emails and even choose a convenient time and confirm meetings directly in emails. This makes HTML emails functional. They save recipients a lot of time.
But I must confess, I myself keep sending plain-text emails in my personal correspondence. [Laughs]
What do you think is the key ingredient to a perfect email template?
DK: Ohh, there are hundreds of articles dedicated to this topic, but there are so many nuances.
In a nutshell, a perfect email should be:
- responsive — to render correctly on all devices;
- reusable — marketers need to be able to edit email template they used for a previous campaign and adapt it to a new campaign with a few clicks. Email production automation is one of the hottest trends for 2019;
- up-to-date — make sure it contains interactive elements that you can easily customize for your future newsletters;
- accessible — more and more people use screen readers. Some do it for visual impairments they experience, while others do it because they are quite busy and check their incoming correspondence on the go, typically, in the car while driving;
- easy to export to any of the world’s top ESPs.
What designing advice would you give to people who have no idea how to create a perfect email? What are the no-no’s and what are the must-dos?
DK: Relevant content and relevant offer make a perfect email — a good structure and perfect design just complement the offer. So, first of all, pay close attention to your value proposition, segment contact base accordingly. To do this, learn more about your subscribers’ preferences and behavior.
Always be honest with recipients. If your email subject says, “50% off sitewide”, or “Here’s a universal tool that will…”, make sure this is something recipients will actually find in the email!
Also, emails should stay consistent through all campaigns. In other words, you should use the same colors, same fonts, same logo placement, etc. It builds brand awareness and it is a gesture of politeness: people do not have to search for the buttons in emails to buy something, and they will know for sure where the “contact us” link is.
Emails should stay consistent through all campaigns. In other words, you should use the same colors, same fonts, same logo placement, etc.
Do you have a favorite template in your Stripo collection?
DK: Oh no, I love them all…I think they’re all important because they are meant for different occasions and fulfill a variety of goals and missions. But, of course, we have a compilation of email templates that are popular among our users.
How did you create Stripo?
DK: When asked this, a joke comes to mind – I have nothing to read, I should probably write a book. This is exactly how we developed Stripo. It’s my second SaaS product, eSputnik is the first one. Emailing is at the center of both of them.
Back then, we used to send around 50 million emails a day. Which is why we, of all people, were well aware of the difficulties email marketers and designers faced when building email campaigns. And we wanted to develop a tool that would help us avoid these complexities.
At first, we thought it would be for internal use only, but then we decided to make it public. Now we’re proud to know that a hundred of other SaaS products have embedded Stripo into their ESPs and CRMs.
We’ve briefly met at Web Summit last year. How was the conference for you?
DK: Oh yes, we really enjoyed the event. It was a valuable experience – we learned from some mistakes that we’d made, met a number of potential partners. But it did not bring as many new clients as we expected. What made us really happy there is our existing users who would come up to us to say how much they like our product. It calmed us down a little. We finally felt like we are going in the right direction. We also met SBC there and got a chance to participate in their program.
I know you’ve been to multiple conferences with eSputnik as well. From your experience, do conferences pay off in terms of brand recognition and sales? How did Web Summit help in that matter?
DK: We met some potential clients for our plugin at the Summit, with some of them, we are still in touch. But selling cannot be the only reason for going to events like these. Meeting new people, learning something new is why you should go.
Stripo is available in 7 languages. That’s quite a lot. Did that affect conversions? And how did you choose the languages to translate into?
DK: At first, our website was available in 4 languages – English, Ukrainian, Russian and German. For users’ convenience, we wanted to translate Stripo to a few other languages, after all, we are an international email builder. We analyzed which countries, apart from the US, Ukraine, Russia, and Germany, we had the most traffic from. Those were France, Spain, and Italy, so we translated our website and some blog posts to these three languages and, unexpectedly, it drove additional conversions and traffic.
60% of the money we spend on development, marketing and sales take 25%, and operating activities and support take only 15%.
Do you concentrate more on sales, marketing, or development?
DK: We are focused on development. We are constantly working on improving our tool, our services. 60% of the money we spend on development, marketing and sales take 25%, and operating activities and support take only 15%.
What’s your current MRR?
Our monthly growth is about 20% and our MRR is $30k a month.
How many people do you have on the team?
DK: There are 23 of us: three CxOs, eight devs, and the rest in the marketing and support departments.
We’ve interviewed dozens of startups, from Taxify’s Martin Villig to Grammarly’s Igor Karpets, and we often hear that hiring new people is an issue that usually splits people’s opinions in half – some believe giving a young inexperienced, but eager person a chance is the way to go, others have told us they’ve once conducted 49 interviews to fill a position. What are the key points you pay attention to when hiring a new person? Is it better to hire a postgraduate with no experience or an established professional? How do you hire?
DK: We prefer hiring only experienced professionals. But we do fill some positions with inexperienced but enthusiastic workers who want to enter this field, and teach them.
Like any startup, you had to overcome a number of difficulties to make it. What was the best, most influential advice you’ve received when you were starting out?
DK: I was lucky enough to meet a number of influential people when we were starting out and they all were ready to share their experience with me. They told me, “If we had known all the difficulties that would come up on our way, we would not have started”. So, the most important and priceless piece of advice I’ve ever received is “Do it! Be ready to change yourself, but do it! A mistake made is better than a perfect step that was not taken!”
What’s a piece of advice you yourself would give someone who wants to start a business/startup?
DK: Think globally and build global projects. Of course, at the very beginning, you find it easier to build projects for local needs. But when you decide to expand your business to the western market, you need to make a number of changes, and that takes time and effort. Which is why I’d strongly recommend building a business that meets global needs from the start, even if today you think you’ll be covering only the local market.
Another issue opinions usually split on in the startup world is freemiums. Some argue it’s a great way to grow your user base, others think it devalues the product and slows conversions. What’s your opinion and experience?
DK: Difficult to say. It depends…
For us, at this point, freemium is a good solution. We’re a growing product, hence, the more users we have, the better. Freelancers and designers who use us for personal needs use us for free. But they recommend us to their friends, they help us detect our weaknesses and strengths.
Professional email designers and agencies pay for our services. So currently we have 70k users, 2.5k of them are active payers, and 20% of those are agencies.
Do you agree that nowadays a good genuine customer review is more effective than thousands of dollars worth of ads?
DK: Absolutely. Everything we do now, all our developments, new features, and options are triggered by users’ requests. I mean, integrations with multiple ESPs, integration with Outlook, and many other options were developed solely upon users’ requests.
Your main competitors are MailChimp, MailStyler, and Campaign Monitor. What would you say makes you better than them?
DK: Mailchimp and Campaign Monitor are the world’s top ESPs. Every marketer knows them. They are really cool. But their focus is not on developing new features. Their focus is on delivering emails, on senders’ reputation, on adding new channels to communicate with customers. Which is why the email builders they have are not as strong, they only offer general functions.
Our tool is focused specifically on building emails. Besides, we do have enough data that we process and analyze to understand what marketers need right now and what direction to develop our tool in. We were one of the first email builders to support interactive elements in emails, and now we are one of the few editors which support AMP4Emails.
Not only do we want to be the pioneers in email marketing by supporting innovation, but we also want to help email marketers save time on email production. We really do automate many processes, and our invention — a library of over 10,000 modules — is of great use here. You just need to drag it into your template and make slight changes to it. It significantly reduces time on email production.
And besides, we’ve actually integrated with the aforementioned ESPs, which allows our clients to send emails they build with us through these ESPs. So, about 25% of exports from Stripo are done to these systems.
As for MailStyler, it is a desktop application. We cannot compare it to online tools, it’s way behind. We can easily add new options to the online product and endlessly improve it, which you cannot do with the offline app.
Our mission is to become the standard of email marketing production.
What are your plans for the near future?
DK: Ohh, we have a bunch of plans for the nearest future.
This April, we integrated with Email on Acid — it enables our users to test/preview emails across 77 emails clients prior to sending out to recipients. The other day, we released the AMP image carousel block. Not only can our users add this block in their templates, but they can also insert the AMP HTML code into the email. Now we are planning on building our own marketplace. Our mission is to become the standard of email marketing production (as there is none today) and we want to make all emails anticipated.
What’s the Stripo achievement you’re proud of the most?
DK: I can’t say we are proud of anything. Too soon to get proud. But we do have some achievements we are happy about. We’re happy we’ve been selected for Startupbootcamp 2019, all the reviews you find on the web about us are real, we never pay for the reviews — yet, they are all positive. This means we’ve developed a product that people really need.
Our NPS is 9.0. We keep on receiving invitations to other accelerators. We are happy to be growing this fast. About 100 companies use our plugin — they embed Stripo in their SaaS products, like CRMs and ESPs.
I guess the one thing we are really proud of is our users’ trust. We are glad that the world’s prominent companies, whose names we cannot say here, obviously, chose Stripo.email and have been with us for quite a long time.
My final question – what would you advise anyone trying to run a start-up?
DK: It’s quite trivial, and you must’ve heard it many times. But this is my motto: be useful to people. Never think of how much money you can earn — think about how useful you can be to people. If you see a problem people really suffer from and you have a solution — share your skills and teach them how to solve this problem easily.
Read more interviews about the experiences and secrets of CEOs, founders, and team members of the world’s leading startups.