Behind The Tool: Jimmy from Sendlane
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Email & SMS

Sendlane

Unified email, SMS, and reviews for eCommerce.
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Behind The Tool: Jimmy from Sendlane

RC Williams
Author: RC Williams
CEO of 1-800-D2C
Published on Nov 20, 2023

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. 

What are some of the things the top Sendlane customers are doing to win on email and SMS? 

Jimmy: I think my number one thing that I'm so bullish about is that people are using communities in a very unique way to create action and behavior.  What I mean by that is they're training their audience that when they get an email or SMS, they're not getting the answer when they click on it. They need to be part of the community to be able to see it and that’s creating changes in behavior.

First, brands are creating a central place where they can constantly encourage customers to join their community. If they're willing to click on your community and join your community then you've got a much more engaged user than a typical opt-in. Another thing I've seen used really well lately that I don't see many people do is hyper audience management.

I was working with Braxley Bands recently. I think it's really interesting that when you have a simple product that's just a band, what people really care about is often not what you think they care about. They don't care about the quality or the fitment of the band. They care about the speed of shipment and support. 

We identified that by embedding tags in our email, tagging every link, and starting to quickly realize what people did and didn’t care about. We started targeting the messaging accordingly. 

We also understood that they have two separate lines of products. They have a bag and a belt in addition  to the bands, and we quickly realized that the cross sell wasn't there for the bag and belt due to an identification problem. So, those are things that occur that people use in our tool but I'm seeing people using behavior and data better in the market lately. 

You’ve been vocal about the upcoming privacy changes in 2024. Tell us a bit about what’s coming, why it matters and what brands need to do? 

Jimmy: So in February 2024 I worry that we are about to get something that is as big as what iOS 14 did to media buying. I know that's a big, impactful statement, but I don't think people really recognize what's about to happen. There are three very simple things that are going to be happening.

Authentication is no longer an option. It's a standard. You will have to identify yourself with your domain and be clear that not only at the top level this is you, but at the authority level, and the ownership level, and the permission level. 

The second thing is subscribing and unsubscribing. What Gmail and Yahoo! want is that when customers want to unsubscribe, they're off your list with one click.They want to give user behavior the action they're asking for. So, now I'm working behind the scenes on how to make the unsubscribe page better.

The third thing is the harshest one in my opinion. They're now trying to put an end to spam. Basically, the golden standard should be .1% spam. That means that if just two out of a thousand people complain about your email, they will stop sending them. Two people out of 1000 is not very many. They have not only lowered the threshold of spam complaints but put a hard ceiling on there. If you send more than 5,000 emails a day from one single domain and you have over a 0.1%, they will stop delivering your emails. It doesn't get much harsher than that.

How is your active voice with these privacy changes related to Sendlane’s CX commitment?

Jimmy: We work with our customer base to help them move forward and grow their businesses. We understand that applying strategy and best practices is what's going to help you move business forward. The growth and education of the business and its values is no longer felt through a tool alone. You have to humanize it, so it's an authentic experience. 

If you ask most people who have been with Klaviyo for seven years, for example, they've been on a platform for a long time and they don't leave very often. How do we encourage them to be an even longer customer? By teaching, training, and educating them, and being valuable.

I want to partner with the customer and be a part of their business and journey. However, I can do this directly, or indirectly with some of my customers that I don't talk to as much. I know that a lot of our customers follow me and they look at the things that I do talk about.

It has always been my mantra to lead the market with education. I pitch what you should be doing because it’s great if I can help you on another platform. When that need and power comes into the market where you had a bad customer service experience, or you just aren't happy with your platform, then Sendlane is hopefully the first solution you think about. 

Who is your dream customer for Sendlane?

Jimmy: I mean, we're working with all them right now. I love my customers. But I really love those guys over at The Operators, all of them. The Ridge,  Hexclad,  Simple Modern, Lomi — they're all very much dream customers.

We are actively working with them and by this time next year we hope that they're all customers of ours.

If Jimmy Kim had to build a tech stack, what three other tools must you include?

Jimmy: Okay. So I’ve already got my email, SMS and reviews tools all tied up already with Sendlane. I’d probably go over and start a membership type of program, so I’d look to Inveterate because I believe in what they’re doing over there.

For CX, I’d be looking towards Gorgias. And then I’d be looking to add subscriptions to my brand, so I’d want to check out Skio. There’s a ton of really awesome subscription companies out there. I like what Skio is doing. So – Sendlane, Inveterate, Gorgias and Skio for the Jimmy Kim Tech Stack.