Behind The Tool: Jimmy from Sendlane
RC: In this interview, I had the privilege of sitting down and speaking with JImmy Kim, founder and CEO of Sendlane, about all things email marketing, privacy changes, tech stacks and more. Sendlane is a rapidly growing, unified retention marketing tool (email, SMS and reviews) for D2C brands and Jimmy is their fealess leader.
It was such an awesome interview and Jimmy is without a doubt one of the most knowledgeable, passionate and kind folks in our D2C world. He is constantly sharing knowledge and lending his brain power when it comes to eCommerce to educate brands and help them grow their businesses.
Even while I was interviewing Jimmy, I learned so much. We go through the evolution of the email marketing playbook, why unification matters for D2C brands, the major privacy changes coming to email soon and more.
Let's get started.
Tell us a bit about the founding story of Sendlane and how it started as an internal tool.
Jimmy: The story of Sendlane starts almost a decade ago. I was sitting at a table with two other co-founders and we were looking at our own independent businesses at that time. I had just invested in this retail/ecom brand. I had a content creator company. My two partners had an agency and one had his own learning education company. We all looked at each other and realized we all had the same pain that we could not find an email provider that could do the things we wanted to do.
We wanted Bronto but could only afford MailChimp, so we were in this weird place where we looked at each other and said, “why don't we all invest in and build this little product the way that we want to do it” and we all agreed that we’d put our money in together so that we could start building this product. So that's exactly how Sendlane started.
For four years, we essentially used it between the three of us and generated over a hundred and fifty million dollars of revenue using this tool. In 2017, I decided that I was going to sell my other software company. I was exiting my partnership and wondering what I could build next in my entrepreneurial journey.
I looked at Stanley and said, “we obviously generate a lot of money. We've got something going on here, but I don't want to start another ESP that's not going to solve a problem because that's already out there.” So that’s exactly how we landed on Sendlane and decided to start building it from the ground up.
We are trying to unify the retention marketing stack into one single product that is going to solve three unique problems at once. I always say it saves you time because you're not logging into every application. We save you money. You pay less to acquire all three and you get more technology and differentiation by unifying tech that you could not otherwise get.
So it's less stack and that's really where we came up with the tagline because our vision has always been how we can do more for the merchant without charging them more money. That's always been the initial mission and is still the case today.
Why does it actually matter for D2C brands to have unified customer messaging tools?
Jimmy: I talk about this all the time. Why should you be unified? First, for your customer experience. No matter how good the conversation piece is, having two separate flows is always going to have a disconnect. Then you've got attribution. That's also a problem when you're not unified.
Say you’re walking on the street and you get an SMS that you click on. Then you get tied up and distracted when you walk into your neighbor.
There should be an ability to be able to come back to you and go into another channel like email and message you? It is a much cheaper channel to send a message the second time and say, “hey don't forget about the thing that you clicked on a few minutes ago!”
That simple story is one of the main reasons why I believe in unification. You also get better attribution. People think SMS provides so much revenue because when you have two separate attribution channels, it’s not always obvious that there's a strong overlap.
From when you started Sendlane to now, what matters to brands when it comes to tech tools that didn’t as much a few years back?
Jimmy: What's really funny about email versus acquisition marketing is that we're changing the way our playbook is running. Everyday things are changing.
But, if you look at retention, we've essentially been running this 20-year-old playbook. It's batch and blast. You send some emails; you send some follow-ups or flows. We've gotten better with intent, events, and other things, but the data we now can collect is so much more contextual and targeted that you can actually get beyond that playbook.
What Sendlane is solving means you could continue using the old playbook and that's all you ever want to use, but if you want to evolve into the next generation of playbook, you’ll see a noticeable jump as Sendlane helps to modernize your playbook. I'm talking about how you leverage the contextual data occurring every day inside your email and SMS.
There’s a specific reason why people are clicking on things. You can leverage that just like you do in acquisition marketing where you can retarget effectively and tell those people because they've told you their intent to have it right now.
If you send an email about red shoes tomorrow, and then you send follow-up emails about blue shoes, what about all those people who were interested in the red shoes? By unifying a product you can execute on those modern playbooks and that's really where you need more technology.
Technology is not supposed to do your job for you. Technology is supposed to be able to take that job and strategy and apply it to make it easier.
The biggest problem is data delays. Nothing is in sync. Being able to take real-time segments, real-time action, and behavior, and applying it is going to create a much better experience.
It's not about being sold to anymore. It's about buying with and that's a big change in mentality that's occurred in this market and something I continue to see. The buying trends are different.