Entrepreneur Interview: Dmitry Kudrenko, CEO of eSputnik
eSputnik is a marketing automation system trusted by more than 30 thousand loyal customers worldwide to send more than a billion emails every month. We sat down with the company’s CEO, Dmitry Kudrenko, to find out more about the company’s journey to becoming a regional leader among direct marketing providers.
What is the background to your company, and what challenges motivated you when you started the business?
Dmitry Kudrenko: eSputnik was founded back in 2012. Back then, the ESP (email service provider) market was very different from what it is now.
Email marketing used to mean merely sending as many promotional emails as possible. Most emails were essentially SPAM, with email lists bought and sold. There were few to no professionals who could leverage data to personalize customer interactions. In fact, personalization and marketing automation wasn’t even on the table.
In this context, the future founders of eSputnik started with helping several business owners develop and manage multi-channel communications with their customers.
We developers had to become marketing experts ourselves. New email marketing objectives called for a fundamental shift in approach, and a fundamentally new email marketing service.
We envisioned a comprehensive system that would enable users to zero in on what matters. That is, communicating with their customers and maximizing the efficiency of their marketing campaigns, instead of having to solve technical configuration issues or code HTML emails.
Nowadays, we’re proud to have created a product that is efficient, easy to use, and continuously evolving. We’re always working to apply the best marketing practices and to invent effective email marketing solutions ourselves. Every day we’re adding new features, and every week we let our clients test these features in action.
What features set your service apart from others in the industry?
Dmitry Kudrenko: The main difference is not about the features; it’s about the approach we take. At eSputnik, we’re helping marketing professionals to focus on their marketing tasks and to achieve their business goals without having to spend time on mundane operational chores.
In my personal opinion, the majority of today’s marketing automation systems can be roughly grouped into two major categories.
- Systems for small and growing businesses. They’re relatively easy to use, come at a reasonable price, and allow users to accomplish their basic tasks in a couple of clicks.However, these are ‘off the shelf’ solutions with a generic set of functions. As for abandoned cart emails, there’s usually a limited set of options based on the website’s cart abandonment data. As for product recommendations, the logic is predetermined by the system, with no customization options. As for analytics, it’s mostly focused on email campaign performance. As for segmentation, the options are limited to subscribers’ contact data and their in-email behavior. In other words, ‘off the shelf’ systems are well and good up until you have an unusual challenge to tackle.
Such systems would suit businesses in their early stages, or businesses that don’t put much effort into personalized marketing communications. They’re best suited for sending bulk emails and simple automated series.
- Enterprise-level systems are expensive and complicated products with a number of customization options. They are behemoths with numerous integrations and applications, mostly available only to large-scale enterprises with large contact databases.We’re doing our best to make such professional tools simple for businesses that have already outgrown the basic email marketing capabilities but aren’t ready to invest exorbitant amounts of money into further growth.
We bring value to our clients with a comprehensive set of features, balanced with ease of use and reasonable pricing options. The list of features includes multi-channel interactions, complex communication workflows, and dynamic product recommendations, as well as analytics reports on subscriber behavior, such as RFM analysis, cohort analysis, cluster analysis, performance reports for each particular segment, and much more. In addition to that, we offer more than a dozen AI-powered features to streamline marketing processes.
All the features we implement are designed to meet the real needs of our clients, to name a few:
- to create automated marketing messages without having to seek help from the IT department,
- to take advantage of multiple marketing channels targeting specific customers,
- to back up decisions with actionable automated reports.
We discover and invent something new every day in aim to bring businesses and their customers even closer together. Thanks to the Lean development approach, we’re among the first to introduce the best marketing inventions, such as an integrated banner editor, a click heat map, and a one-click integration with Google BigQuery. All that and much more was created from scratch. At the same time, eSputnik remains an easy-to-use tool providing a fast and reliable way to deliver messages to your customers’ Inbox.
We focus our efforts on helping clients reach the primary objectives of direct marketing: the right and relevant message, delivered to the right people, at the right time, and through the right channel.
What are the mission, values, and strategies that helped your company grow?
Dmitry Kudrenko: Our mission is To make professional marketing simple.
We strive to make complicated things easy for marketing professionals, and this applies to all the features in eSputnik: from creating templates to segmentation, analytics, and marketing automation.
To date, our target audience is any business looking to use vast amounts of data to communicate with their customers. Such as marketplaces, eCommerce businesses, travel/tourism and media portals, banks and financial institutions.
That said, we strictly abide by the rules of permission-based email marketing and have a zero-tolerance spam policy.
Our strategic vision for email marketing is based on the three-stage concept of Shu-Ha-Ri: “Obey the rule. Break the rule. Become the rule.” In terms of marketing, this translates to “Start with adopting best practices. Move ahead with testing new ideas. Finally, become a trendsetter yourself.”
At eSputnik, we have adopted the Shu-Ha-Ri strategy ourselves. The concept complies with the Lean production methodology, that is, to avoid damages of any kind.
- We start with the best practices that require minimum resources and can be easily applied.
- We focus on what really works.
- As a result, we have enough time to search for insights which break new grounds, not just for marketing departments but also for businesses as a whole.
We aim to help our clients develop their own expertise in direct marketing. That’s why we regularly share email marketing tips and insights in our blog. eSputnik annually co-organizes the only conference in Ukraine solely focused on email marketing and related topics.
What email marketing advice would you give to growing businesses?
- Overcome your perfectionism and start with adopting best practices from experts and your competition’s experience.
- Don’t leave your email marketing too late. Engage with your subscribers starting from the very first email address in your database.
- From the outset onwards, pay attention to email list hygiene. Implement double opt-in and email authentication methods, such as SPF, DKIM, and DMARC.
- Don’t get wrapped up with the latest trends until you’ve implemented all the basics.
- Write in simple language. Avoid long texts and wordy sentences. Minimize officialese terms, buzzwords and specific jargon.
- In the beginning, start with monitoring the simple, tactical KPIs, such as the open rate, click rate, bounce rate, and the number of spam complaints. As you progress, add monitoring of strategic performance indicators: engagement rate, churn rate, LTV, and revenue per channel.
- Implement a multi-channel communication strategy rather than focusing all your efforts on email marketing.
- Always test any new idea. Start by finding which option works better, and evolve into answering why people do or don’t what you want them to.
- Avoid all things that are superficial and unnecessary in your work processes. Automate your routine tasks. That’s the only way you’ll save time for implementing ideas that really work.
- Follow the four Do’s of direct marketing: Segment, Personalize, Test, Automate.
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