With clients including Nike, eBay, Technorati and Apple, Sydney-based software developer Freshview has hit a bullseye with its simple-to-use email marketing software and its relentless, obsessive approach to customer service. BY EMILY ROSS.
By Emily Ross
“Refreshingly simple software” is the write-off on the Freshview logo, and the way to that maxim has been careful listening to customer feedback.
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Friends since they were toddlers, David Greiner, 29, and Ben Richardson, 28, started their first business Switch IT in 1999 while still IT students in Wollongong. Working for themselves was more appealing that a job placement in a bank or Woolworths, says Greiner.
The business started at Richardson’s family home, building websites for clients including the City of Wollongong. They used a home base to kept overheads low until the pair moved to a business incubator (Sutherland Shire Hub for Economic Development) in 2001. The move created new business networks for the pair with people who would become powerful mentors, including Mobile Messenger CEO Steve Taylor.
The idea for Campaign Monitor, a software product for web designers, creatives and marketers to help design great emails, was hatched in May 2004. The package offers design templates as well as reporting elements and subscriber email management to create more stylish, functional and easy-to-use emails.
“There was no great formula,” says Greiner. “We had to make sure it was something people need and was worth paying for. Then it would sell itself.”
In a nutshell, the software allows people to create and send emails for clients and make money from it. Five months later, the product was ready to market. Within weeks hundreds of people were already using the software.
Greiner and Richardson had built up a network of designers around the world through the internet and were involved in ongoing online discussions. They sent out emails to key industry people and word-of-mouth quickly spread about the software. People gave it rave reviews on their blogs.
A steady stream of articles followed and their company Freshview launched its own Campaign Monitor blog. “That has been our driving force,” says Greiner. The blog, a fresh mix of industry talk, wacky YouTube videos, showcases of great work using Freshview software, the goings on at Freshview and customer feedback, has had two million unique visitors in the past months.
Campaign Monitor was followed with MailBuild in 2006, which helps designers’ clients manage their own email newsletters. This found an immediate customer base. Both products have a beautifully simple pricing model.
The designer pays a simple fee to Freshview based on the number of emails that will be sent out ($US5, plus 1 cent per recipient for Campaign Monitor). This is seen as a wholesale price, with the designer typically using the software to create the product and charging a mark-up to the client. Campaign Monitor and MailBuild are the core products of Freshview and between them help create more than one million emails their clients send out each day.
Freshview is taking on 500 new customers each week with sales increasing 15% each month. Greiner will not reveal figures on the business, which he half owns with Richardson in a partnership. Growth is being funded by profits. Freshview is so busy, the original Switch IT business now has separate management.
Rather than traditional banner advertising, or offline advertising, Freshview is focused on the spaces that its customers – including web designers, designers and marketers – hang out in on the web, in blogs, forums and newsletters. “Our philosophy is promotion through education,” says Greiner.
There are even galleries of finished work created by Freshview clients, a very useful resource for people wanting to design new campaigns. This customer engagement solicits a healthy stream of fresh customer information. Greiner and Richardson pour over the 50-100 customer emails that arrive each day from the pool of 30,000 customers with comments going directly to their in-boxes. “Every single feature we add to the products is customer driven,” says Greiner.
In the short-term, Freshview is working on new purpose-built office space in Sutherland in Sydney’s southern suburbs. Greiner is convinced the open-plan office concept is not the right one for software developers, and the architect is working on more compartmentalised space for staff. The founders are keen to create a great workspace (including ping pong and pool tables), with civilised 9am-5pm working hours and interesting work to attract the right staff in a tight employment market.
By the end of 2007, Greiner expects to employ 10 staff, up from three in 2006. Says Greiner: “We’re having the time of our lives.”
- Leap on every bit of customer feedback.
- Continuously improve software product based on customer feedback.
- Highly personalised response to customers through emails, blogs.
- Avoids “robotic” interaction with clients through intelligent, personalised email programs.
- Sell products that make your customers look good.
- Cultivate word of mouth, mine testimonials.
- Use blogs and newsletters to drum up interest in products.
- Write great content for the web, including interesting, practical articles that fit with customer’s needs.
For more Hot Innovator stories, see our Growth Resources section.