First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID19 times?
Aleksey Danchenko: These are really challenging times for all members of our family. Being self-isolated in an apartment with three small children for several months is a nightmare. Yet we have adapted, changed our habits, made stricter rules for all of us. There are some upsides as well: walking a dog is now an honor for any of us, unlike before COVID, when it had been a duty.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or joined eSputnik
Aleksey Danchenko: I started my career in consulting, developing strategies for different businesses, with main focus on financial planning and risk analysis. Next, I switched to operations and became a top manager at one of the largest Ukrainian eCommerce companies at that time. That shift has completely changed my view of marketing: unlike traditional brick-and-mortar businesses, in eCommerce you can track cause and effect relationships between every transaction or user conversion and every cent spent on marketing campaigns.
After a while, together with my friends I co- founded an email marketing company eSputnik.
How does eSputnik innovate?
Aleksey Danchenko: The company soon became the industry leader appreciated by major national and international brands: 19 of 26 biggest Ukrainian companies grant us their trust. Every year, eSputnik sends more than 6 billion messages, with over 15,000 registrations in the system. The current company’s ARR is $3 million, and it’s steadily growing.
Two years ago, we created Stripo, an online email template editor designed to create professional and responsive emails without any HTML skills. This new product teams up marketing and technology solutions, transforming the way we use email today. It makes email campaigns more dynamic and functional, being at the same time easy to use by any marketers, regardless of their skills.
Since its founding, Stripo has been growing by 40% monthly, and is recognized as the best editor by over 70,000 of users worldwide. This year, we were selected to StartupBootcamp Commerce Acceleration Program in Amsterdam, where we met great mentors and people from the startup community. It was an awesome experience of working with international teams: we found the right go-to-market strategy that helped us nearly double our revenue over these four months.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Aleksey Danchenko: As a marketing automation platform that enables repetitive sales via digital channels, at the beginning, we’ve received a huge wave of interest from offline retailers and businesses. But not all of them managed to rebuild and go online; tourism and transportation had the hardest times. We significantly reduced prices and offered free service options to all customers, and most of them found it really supportive. We did everything we could to be in the situation together with our clients.
One of the most important steps was to prolong the usage of our platform for the most affected industries because it was vital to keep their audiences engaged and informed. So, for instance, transportation companies that had to freeze all their processes extended their subscription plans for two months for free, so that they didn’t lose contact with their customers and would be able to drive them back faster after reopening.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Aleksey Danchenko: When first figuring out how to react to the COVID19 challenges, I was really scared of many arising issues. Will we have to cut our staff? How to pay office rent? Will our business survive? Will we have enough support from our partners? So I just had a sincere talk with our co-founders, asking if they’re ready to risk their investments but stay loyal to customers to the very end, or they want to reduce risks, cutting jobs, etc. The answer was unanimous: “We’ll support our brand and customers under any circumstances.” So we doubled the effort to monitor our finance and implemented all steps to avoid fluctuations, keeping operations on the same level even when our revenue dropped. And we succeeded!
The lesson learned is that complete support of your team enables you to move mountains.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and eSputnik in the future ?
Aleksey Danchenko: Careful planning of possible scenarios and what-if analysis help you face challenges with confidence. You just know what to do next.
This tough period enabled eSputnik to focus on effectiveness and inner processes. We managed to develop and offer the market two absolutely new solutions (event-driven strategies for SaaS businesses, on-site personalization for e-commerce) that immediately brought us new customers.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Aleksey Danchenko: There are a lot of big competitors on the market: MailChimp, GetResponse, UniSender, Constant Contact etc. You always should look after your competitors and their product updates. Your brand should definitely have unique offers, but there is nothing bad in mimicking someone else’s best practices and learning from mistakes. Fair competition is what drives the progress.
Your final thoughts
Aleksey Danchenko: At eSputnik, we don’t forget about constant self-education. With technologies developing at so high speed, there is always something to learn and adapt. Marketing conferences, webinars, classes by leading experts – the more knowledge, the better decisions.
We believe that the best way to deliver value to our customers is to foresee their evolving needs and design the right solution in advance.