A great deal of innovation has happened in our humble and quietly thriving industry.
There is an interesting history of the email service providers and that itself is worthy of a column. The ESP market was quite interesting 15 years ago and since I was on the buy side I can say it looks really different now. Want to read the Forrester Wave from 10 years ago? Here you go. Progress is a good thing and typical of any industry.
The email technology platform/ESP side is very mature and has clear leaders. Most RFPs I see and hear about have the same cast of characters almost every time, at least in the enterprise market. There are an enormous amount of ESPs that cover all niches and frankly I don’t know how many are still around.
So to answer the title of this article I went right to the source. Jeremy Swift of brand new Cordial and Dan Roy of relatively new email platform MessageGears were apt to answer my question and their responses show promise and continued evolution in the email tech world—not stagnation as many have complained about for the past few years. Speed and data were the two key themes plus one company is betting big that the Internet of Things presents a new opportunity for email marketers.
- Why in the world do we need another email technology company?
Dan Roy/MessageGears: Email technology providers have become complacent. Customers are demanding new solutions that allow them to fully leverage their ever-expanding marketing data in real-time. I’m sure most enterprise email marketers would agree that vendors are not adequately addressing the big data challenge, and this presents a massive opportunity for new entrants in the space.
Jeremy Swift/Cordial: There hasn’t been real innovation by the industry leaders in a long time. With the recent acquisitions and their visions of a perfect marketing stack, we knew that the next real innovations would come from modern platforms using progressive approaches to managing data, content and user experiences. We knew that reporting would evolve to greater Business Intelligence, that you’ll need very robust APIs since so many companies have multiple platforms/systems that are so interdependent and that content needed to be managed in a more agile manner. This along with the changing consumer landscape and the Internet of Things would require new platforms to connect data, devices and experiences at a pace, many aren’t setup for.
- In a buzzword free sentence, tell me why your company is needed in the marketplace?
Swift/Cordial: To provide CMO’s and CTO’s with a technology experience they’ll love—one that involves less friction and more opportunity to execute on their shared vision for delivering a killer customer experience.
Roy/MessageGears: MessageGears’ software gives marketers direct, real-time, and secure access to their marketing data while leveraging the MessageGears Cloud for expertly managed email delivery and tracking.
- Not sure if we avoided the buzzword bingo there, but what’s the most unique thing about your company and platform?
Roy/MessageGears: We’re the only hybrid solution in a crowded ESP space. Our software connects marketers directly and securely to their internal databases while providing world-class email delivery and tracking in the cloud.
Swift/Cordial: We have a treasure trove (and hiring more!) of folks that have bought into the vision and share a passion for what marketers demand today and where the space is heading with the Internet of Things. Ultimately, our teams think differently, and approached problems from a different angle by first asking, “How can we create an elegant software experience our customers will love?” We then used that approach to answer some of the biggest data challenges and how those apply to content and personalization that will scale.
- How will you compete against the Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Silverpop/IBM, Oracle/Responsys juggernauts?
Swift/Cordial: I think these giants are striving to build a perfect marketing stack. That’s a very hard thing to do and simultaneously justify the financial investment. Remember, these giants need to make a return off their M&A events, which marketers are asked to pay for. All the while, the speed of innovation slows to a crawl with these providers. Those mergers are part of the reason we decided to do this now, we see a shift in the industry where providers like Cordial can thrive—it’s not the big that eat the small, it’s the fast that eat the slow.
Roy/MessageGears: We compete by empowering marketers with real-time access to all of their data, something that is simply not possible with these solutions. These email companies are now a part of slow moving mega-companies further distancing themselves from their customers.
- How important is pricing?
Swift/Cordial: I’ve lived this for the past 15 years, 10 of those through the lens of a public company. Plain and simple, pricing is flawed. We need to be simple and agile, like the technology should be. Try, Like, Buy, and that repeats over and over. Marketers deserve simpler pricing and flexible contract terms that align with the capabilities they expect and not about how many messages they send. As technology solution providers, we should be so confident in the offerings we provide that we worry less about locking in long term contracts and worry more about the customer experience we provide.
Roy/MessageGears: We provide more core value while also offering a more cost-effective solution. Most enterprises spend millions each year to manage their big data. Duplicating that data to a SaaS provider is expensive and complex for the customer and even more so for the vendor. We’ve eliminated this unnecessary cost.
- Scalability, security, segmentation capabilities and ease of integration with other systems are 4 areas that are not sexy but seem to be among the most important for email platforms. How do you stand out on these?
Roy/MessageGears: We’re extremely scalable because we leverage the Amazon Cloud for the heavy lifting of message assembly, delivery and tracking. Our on-premise software provides secure, real-time access to any/all internal data to be used for segmentation. We integrate with all major relational databases, and provide a comprehensive set of powerful APIs. We believe that MessageGears stands out extremely well in these areas.
Swift/Cordial: We all come from some of the biggest Email, Data and eCommerce companies where security, privacy and scale are ingrained in everything we do. That said though, we’ve been able to leverage the cloud to create real-time scale of our infrastructure based on customer demand. Ease of Integration and Segmentation are improvements all generated by the marketers need for speed. As solution providers, we have to be faster for you to be faster, which we are constantly pushing limits on at Cordial by leveraging some of the most innovative technology capabilities available. Lastly, Cordial is moving onboarding from a month or two conversation to a “how many days” conversations.
- How do enable email marketing program strategy and brand needs to align with your platform?
Swift/Cordial: You must match strategy to execution and this is where a lot of companies miss. The platform is an enabler and doesn’t help you figure out brand or engagement problems it gives you more time to focus on those things , vs. spending so much of your time in the weeds figuring how to make the tools work for you.
Roy/MessageGears: Customers are able to tap into and utilize all of their internal data for email marketing. This enables marketers to create and optimize comprehensive email programs with timely and relevant communications. These personalized, targeted messages increase customer engagement and brand loyalty.
- How important are services to email marketers in the technology space and what’s your offering related to this?
Roy/MessageGears: Services are extremely important to email marketers. We are a technology company that offers deliverability and technology and services, which we are expertly qualified to provide. For customers that need email marketing strategy or creative services, we choose to partner with an agency that is expertly qualified to provide those services.
Swift/Cordial: Services have historically been incredibly meaningful within the category for years, which I don’t see that changing. However, the types of services will change dramatically. We see a clear path for services to be rendered more to support tighter integrations across technology and infrastructure systems, better message mapping across all consumer touch points (IoT), and strategies for messaging across devices/environments.
- What’s the best thing going on in the email marketing universe?
Swift/Cordial: Email is the top performing channel, and it’s proven to be somewhat recession proof. When you have that combination, it’s a fantastic foundation for what’s coming. The Internet of Things will completely change how we think about the consumer, messaging and engagement. Email’s measurement maturity will play a key role in solving new challenges that IoT brings in proving the value of these engagements. When you have 43/1 return to investment ratios, it’s a solid place to continue to build.
Roy/MessageGears: The best thing going on in email is integration. It breaks down technology silos and allows marketers to engage with their audience consistently and relevantly across all channels.
- We’ve talked a lot in this column about the past and future of email? What will your company be doing in 5 years and what does success look like from your view?
Swift/Cordial: It’s an exciting time to be building new technology, as the capabilities and opportunities are limitless compared to 15 years ago. First and foremost we are building an environment for uniquely talented people to thrive and grow in. We are a people first organization that will have a massive trickle down effect on the experiences our customers have with Cordial. From there, we’ll drive hard to have Cordial at the forefront of a new generation of marketing optimization platforms that take us beyond email and creates incredible experiences for consumers with each of the devices they interact with.
Roy/MessageGears: MessageGears will remain focused on providing data integration and secure, multi-channel digital messaging technologies to data-centric marketers across the globe. Our goal is to empower enterprise marketers to conduct personalized, relevant and timely conversations with their customers.
Will these companies be able to compete and thrive? Time will tell, but I for one am continually encouraged by our industry’s innovation across all sectors and it will be interesting to David vs. Goliath shake out in the email platform side of the email world.