Can you give us some background on the company name?
The name originated from Automated Web Assistant and later got shortened to AWeber. Since automated and web were two words, when we shortened the name, we kept the capital ‘W’. It also just looks better from a graphic design point of view.
Originally Automated Web Assistant started in 1997 and we sold wireless modems for connecting to the internet. I would go to computer shows where I represented the products and would get sales leads from there.
As all salespeople do, you need to follow up with those folks. I was doing that a lot manually via phone, postal mail, and email. In the process of just trying to make some of that more efficient, I developed an automated email process and automated email follow up that would send a series of email messages out over time- it worked well, and I shared it with several other people that were selling the same product with the same company. We collaborated on what copy to use based on the messages that worked best and the questions that customers asked etc.
I was in college at the time, and I ended up leaving that company to focus on college. People continued to use my automated email process and I had people approaching me asking if they could buy it from me. One thing led to another, and I started AWeber as a side thing in between semesters of college. 23 odd years or so later, I still haven’t finished school. So, it’s worked out pretty well.
What is the main problem that you solve for your customers?
The main problem that we’re solving is connecting people. I think that many people look at email marketing as a sale-only tool, and it’s so much more than that.
If you chop off the word ‘marketing’ and just leave ‘email’ there- There are so many diverse use cases that go beyond selling stuff. As an example, it can be used for education:
Imagine you have just bought a new set of golf clubs from somewhere. You can get an email series that teaches you about how to best utilize those golf clubs. Along with the side elements that come with your new purchase- where to buy accessories and where you can go to play etc.
Another example is that of doctors/surgeons. They might use email to help prepare a patient for their procedure- let them know what to expect and what they need to do in the lead up to their appointment.
So, there are lots of use cases that go beyond just selling things. It’s often the stuff that happens after the sale that’s the most valuable use of email. These emails educate your customer on how your product/ business works and allows you to build a relationship with your customers and provide them with support which ultimately encourages future sales.
What is one of the major benefits of email marketing?
The uncontrolled social media algorithms are probably one of the bigger ones that you see.
When posting something to Facebook you are lucky if 10% of your audience sees it. It is similar for YouTube subscribers- only a small percentage of your audience is ever going to have your videos show up in their feed.
Whereas with email, if we only sent 10% of your emails to the inbox, we’d be quickly out of business. With email, the relationship is much more direct. As a YouTuber, if you get people to sign for your email list to hear about your new videos- they are going to hear about every single new video.
So, it can be great tools for connecting with that audience and getting them in front of your videos, which can help spur the activity that the social algorithms need to display your video to more people. If your email subscribers click on your link and drive traffic to YouTube, it creates more organic traffic on the YouTube algorithm. So, there’s a lot of additional connections that people can make by using email in ways that you might not initially think about.
I think that these days when businesses think about getting their business in front of consumers they think social which is a big cost with a relatively small payback. The stats on email payback are that you get $20 – $30 per dollar spent -which makes it extremely cost-effective.
How has email marketing evolved since you started in the MarTech industry?
Well, when I started out you could only send plain text messages. Meaning no bold, italics, images, hyperlinks, etc. Now you can send a nicely formatted message that looks like a picture-perfect brochure, and this is constantly evolving.
Email now has a new spec out called AMP for email. Basically, when you send an email now you can send it as plain text, HTML, or AMP for email.
AMP for email is a protocol that came out of Google, and it essentially turns email into a webpage inside of your email client. It is only supported by certain email platforms right now. Gmail, Yahoo, mail.ru, and a bunch of other smaller ones. A lot of people don’t know about it yet and a lot of email platforms don’t support it. AWeber does support it, we were one of the first to do so and it has some really, interesting use cases, such as:
If I send out a stock market newsletter. Normally I would write the numbers into the email, and they are static. With AMP for email, I can query a server and have the up-to-date stock prices shown directly in the email.
Another example is something that we set up where an Etsy store owner can list what their current inventory is in their email newsletter. As the customer sells these products the numbers in the email will change.
You might have experienced the final example for yourself. If you have used Google Docs or Google Spreadsheets, when someone comments in the sheet, you get an email where you can type in the email and reply and hit Submit directly in the email. That is an AMP email, it basically turns that email in your email reader, into an interactive webpage.
Another element of email that has evolved significantly is things around automation of what you’re sending out. Originally when I started AWeber, you signed up, and you got a series of messages. Every person that signed up, would get the same series of messages. Now with marketing automation, based on what you click, or what you open, or what you don’t click or what you don’t open, you will receive different messages. So, what might start out as one message at the top might turn into a funnel of 10 or 15 different sequences of messages that you can potentially receive.
I generally use the example of an animal shelter to explain this. You might subscribe to the mailing list and receive an email containing all the available dogs and cats. You are only looking to adopt a cat, so you click on the link to view all the available cats. Based on this the shelter can send their next email out with conditional content which will display information about their cats. Essentially the shelter is only sending one email out but the content that is displayed will be specific to your preferences. Someone who is interested in adopting a dog will receive the same email, but their content will include information about dogs.
Why do you think there are companies that have not adopted AMP for email?
I think like any new technology it takes time for it to get into all the different companies, product development plans, and to prioritize the support for it.
On one hand, businesses don’t want to send it, because not as many platforms support it. On the other hand, platforms don’t want to support it, because businesses aren’t sending it – it is sort of like the chicken/ egg scenario: Do you build tools to send the email first/ do you build the tools to receive the email?
Someone has got to do it first. Right now, there is a huge chunk of most businesses’ consumer mailing lists that already support AMP. 30-60% of these are Gmail addresses and you usually get another 10 to 20%, just from the Yahoo Verizon conglomerate. So, AMP already has support from around 50% of consumer inboxes. Now it is just a matter of businesses learning about it, utilizing the tools, and benefiting from it.
The businesses that are sending AMP emails now are getting substantially higher engagement. Meaning a lot more people open and click those emails because they are more interactive and relevant to people.
What makes your company stand out from other companies that offer a similar product?
Ultimately it comes down to how you solve the business problems. A lot of email marketing platforms out there have the tools, but they don’t necessarily have the whole package of being able to solve the user’s problem.
As a small business owner, when a customer has a problem, I want to find you a solution–and that is not necessarily a problem with their platform. Such as you, I need to figure out how to send cat emails and dog emails. As a business owner, I might not know how to do that, because a lot of small businesses that we work with are Owner Operated with a very small team of people. These businesses are not experts in email marketing, but we are, and we can support and coach them towards reaching their goals in the most efficient way.
That is really where our support and our support team come in, we have 24/7 support. It doesn’t matter where in the world you are, and where in the world our team is, we can help you around the clock. We also do phone support for all levels of our users, including our free users. A lot of other companies do not offer phone support, or they only offer phone support to their enterprise-level plans.
I also know we have pretty good ease of use overall, our solution is quick as well as our page load speed. We have several big competitors that have grown a lot in the last couple of years, but their tech stacks haven’t kept up and their platform is slow to load. When you are clicking around it is painful when things take a long time to load. Those aren’t the sort of things that you shop for upfront, they are things that you just kind of expect as gravy, but it is not always the case, and you don’t often realize it until you get in there.
What does support look like for your customers?
We have 24/7 email chat and phone support across all plans. We also do free migrations. If you are with MailChimp and you want to move to a better platform. We have a team of experts that do migrations all day, every day. They are familiar with our platform, and they’re really familiar with a lot of other platforms. Whereas most business owners probably only move platforms every couple of years. Our team moves platforms multiple times a day. So, we can make it easy for people to get on a better platform.
We also have all the gravy stuff such as webinars for onboarding, you can, and we can help you if you want to move things over/ get some feedback on the best way to implement stuff/ have us look at your landing page, etc. We also have an active YouTube channel and a Facebook community where users can speak to one another and share ideas, suggestions, and best practices.
What can we expect to see from AWeber in the future?
We are going to continue to push AMP for email and dynamic email overall. We have a big push right now for increasing the usability of things which we call App-magic internally. These are the things that just kind of happen, magically. For example, you paste in a link, and it automatically turns into the text preview/ image preview that you linked into. We are focusing on making that kind of content creation faster, and easier for users of all ability levels.
Most of our customers don’t have designers on staff to be able to make pretty emails. So, we have great looking templates that you can then merge your content with and make it look beautiful. This is the kind of stuff that we refer to as App-magic, the stuff that you might take for granted because it just magically works. On a lot of platforms, it does not work and that makes it very difficult for the customers.
Another cool example of App Magic that we have is when you send out an email with a bad link in it. We have something behind the scenes that when you paste in a link, and it goes to a bad destination, we will flag that in the editor before you send it. It’s little things like that you don’t run into on an everyday basis, but when you do it makes a difference.
Karen has studied psychology and business management, and has spent the majority of her career in online retail focusing on people management and development in a virtual environment. In her free time, you can find her in the garden planting vegetables, practicing lawn bowling, or relaxing at home with her partner and four beautiful cats.