Sureshot is a new email marketing platform set to upstage established players in the market by making it easier than ever for businesses to create and send e-newsletters. With in-built content libraries, users can select articles, videos and graphics to send out to their databases with just mere taps on their smartphones.
Husband and wife team Jacquie Baker and Chris Shaw spotted a gap in the market for an affordable ‘easy fix’ way to do email marketing – leaving businesses with complex options. They noticed a few key issues with traditional email-marketing platforms: email send out software isn’t easy to use, with many people struggling to format content correctly; finding new content to engage clients is tough for the average small business owner juggling many tasks at once; and unless you’re a graphic design expert, marketing copyrighter, or a computer whiz, preparing a newsletter can be very time-consuming.
Now with Sureshot ready to launch on the 1st of October, businesses can prepare e-newsletters with no stress. The app combines a magazine model with an email platform to ensure professional, visually appealing newsletters.
Jacquie says that while people perceive email marketing as old-fashioned, in reality it is a growing industry, with figures looking to grow ten-fold between 2010 and 2017 to make it a $15 billion industry.
After the Global Financial Crisis, Jacquie started helping business owners who were struggling to keep afloat, by writing and formatting monthly email newsletters for them with huge success.
“The results were phenomenal. One business owner got 30 pre-approved mortgages just from asking his clients if they were planning on buying in the next six months. Another rental company upsold to their clients, by mentioning the other services they provided. I was soon very busy writing monthly newsletters for businesses,” says Jacquie.
She realised she had a good formula; but because she’d encourage her clients to put their own stamp on the send-outs, the approval time was long and meant there wasn’t any scalability to the business. No other major email send out tools offered an easy solution to this.
Her husband decided it was time to build a tool so users themselves can add graphics and written content to their account, and quickly select what they want to send out to their database.
“Basically, it’s a “no stuff up” email tool with content supplied, videos supplied, images supplied, send out supplied. When we tested it on over 50 year old insurance brokers who were able to make up an html newsletter without help within 10 minutes, we knew they had cracked it,” says Jacquie.
Eight months ago, Jacquie and Chris started reshaping the app to include a variety of to save business owners time on day-to-day emails as well as new client emails, vouchers, coupons, broadcast emails and newsletters.
While the venture was expensive, they won the Rackspace Start-Up Programme recently and now receive considerable credit every month. They’ve also had paying customers since its soft launch earlier in the year, which has helped them progress through the development phase.
After they tested Sureshot on clients, they noticed a 27 percent uptake from trials to paying customers. International businesses have also expressed interest in the app.
“New customers have come on board with enthusiasm and the results have been astounding. One client attributed $30,000 of additional sales from the first 4 newsletters he sent out, and another ended up wrangling 20 mortgage pre-approvals,” says Jacquie.
“A lot customers are saying they’re saving 5-10 hours a month on their email correspondence and seeing a direct relationship between their sales increasing, referrals and customer retention rates from their improved email send outs.”
Winning the Rackspace Startup-Programme also helped Sureshot gain international recognition.
“People from around the world hounding us to hurry up and go live!” says Jacquie.
Given mobile open rates have hit 47 percent this month and expected to grow; they’ve been cautious not to rush the development process. They want to afford people the ability to put together an email campaign entirely on their smartphones.
“We have also spent a lot of time making sure the emails are responsive when they are delivered. People don’t need to be looking at horrible html emails on their smartphones anymore,” says Jacquie.
Sureshot is targeting VSEs & SMEs who have small email databases – usually up to 1000 people. Jacquie explains that they’re likely to know each of their customers intimately and don’t want to spend hours writing and trying to layout their content.
“They want professional writers and designers to do 90 percent of the work, so they can bask in the glory of fantastic, engaging email marketing,” says Jacquie.
“The larger email marketing platforms really cater to organisations with very large databases. Those organisations can afford to pay people for cool graphics, and content writers. We are focusing on VSEs & SMEs who can barely allocate 5 to10 minutes a week to focus on their marketing.”
The email marketing industry is currently competitive with players like Mailchimp and Awebber taking the top spot. The market is currently worth $2 billion a year; and Mailchimp alone generates around 6000 new sign-ups a day.
“We are hoping to get a big slice of that pie, and genuinely help the businesses that are too busy or inexperienced, to write or plan their email marketing,” says Jacquie.
“At the moment, Mailchimp is having trouble with their Australian deliverability. So we hope to offer better deliverability rates for Australia, and get people to make the switch from that cute funny monkey to our personalised service.”
The biggest challenge for the Sureshot team was finding someone who wanted to help with bulk-email send out builds. Jacquie says people “automatically think you are trying to be a spammer.”
While this slowed down the development process, the positive was that they were able to tick off one by one all the major ISPs around the world excepting their emails.
Also, like many other startups, managing stress and being patient throughout the development phase has been a challenge.
“Personally, it’s been really hard for me not to freak out every time something took longer than the arbitrary timeframe I had assigned to it. So patience is something that I have had to have a lot of, as well as a lot of vitamin B, D and magnesium, to help my nerves!” says Jacquie.
Their plan for the next 12 months is to focus on educating Australian small businesses on the benefits of email marketing, and “providing them with exceptional content”.
“When everyone is trying to figure out how to make social media effective, and most businesses getting lack-lustre results from a lot of trial and error, email marketing is making a comeback,” says Jacquie.
“Now Sureshot has made it even more attractive. Our clients usually experience open rates and click through rates double than industry benchmarks. We are not focusing on bums on seats, we are wanting to fine tune our service, so everyone feels confident and hopefully a little inspired to stay in touch with the people in their database and keep their relationships strong.”
Sureshot currently has a sales representative in New Zealand and a pool of 10 writers based in New Zealand, Australia and the US who are regularly supplying content. They are currently looking to hire a specialist in business development, and will be recruiting other graphic designers and writers over the next five months.
“We have been really lucky to work with really great people, to help us address one of the problems that small business have, and to be able to offer a solution that ticks the boxes,” says Jacquie.
“We want to continue to work with small businesses because we genuinely believe that small businesses build strong communities; and we want our kids to grow up in a world where personal relationships matter.”
For more information on Sureshot, visit www.sureshot.net.au.