Interview with Simon Grabowski, CEO/Founder of GetResponse

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Simon GrabowskiGetResponse is one of our go-to email marketing platforms. In fact, it’s our number one pick! CEO Simon Grabowski founded the business in 1999 with only $200 while he was still in college. Flash forward 16 years and his company is now one of the largest email marketing services in the world. We’re so impressed with his entrepreneurial spirit and were thrilled when we got the opportunity to interview him for our “People Who Rock the Web” series. We ask Simon about how he get got his start in email marketing, what he’s learned over the years and how GetResopnse continues to strive to improve and focus on its customers. We also discussed success stories and the future of the industry. Read on to learn more about Mr. Grabowski and GetResponse.

Visit Website – GetResponse

1. What was your vision when you started GetResponse in your Dad’s attic at age 17?

To be completely honest, I was very much a kid then. I wasn’t really planning world domination at the time, but I was focused on fixing my own problem. Before GetResponse, I had a prior business, an online travel site called Travel Poland which I set up in 1996. With that site, I had been looking for a way to build a mailing list and send automated emails at preset time intervals. Unfortunately, there was no such solution on the market. So having a bit of coding experience and a stunning startup capital of not much more than 1000 Polish zlotys (an equivalent of $200 at the time), I set out to build GetResponse.

2. What most surprises you about what it has become today?

I’d say that nothing surprises me anymore (said with a laugh). I think the growth itself has been dazzling. These days, we sign up well over 1,000 customers per day. I can’t help but notice how busy we’ve become, and it’s nothing short of amazing! On a good day, we’re sending 100,000,000 emails for our 350,000+ customers. And we love helping our customers. For instance, recently our Customer Service helped over 2,000 customers via live chat, email and phone. I can remember when I was a one-man operation back in 1998 and was handling customer service all by myself. So we’ve definitely traveled a long road so far.

3. How did you come up with/decide on the name GetResponse?

I was looking for a name that would sound cool, dynamic and focused on customers’ results, yet descriptive at the same time. No small feat, but I think we nailed it with GetResponse.

4. What is the biggest industry change since you founded the company?

Many people would say that the birth of Facebook and Twitter was a huge change for the email industry. I don’t think that’s necessarily accurate. Social media hasn’t really changed email, and it definitely hasn’t replaced email. Both channels complement each other. I believe that marketing automation is the wave of the future in marketing, but I think that most solutions on the market today are very complex and too difficult to use. We’ve got a grand plan to change it.

Simon Grabowski Video Speaking about Get Response’s Marketing Automation

5. What has been your proudest moment as an entrepreneur and why?

I recall a situation a couple of years ago when a friend asked my son (then 4 years old) “Who do you want to be in the future?” My son replied that he wanted to build a business just like his dad. That aside, I’m always proud when I hear success stories from our customers. There’s something magical about building a software product and interacting with a person on the other side of the world who is using your product and using it successfully.

6. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned and what did you learn from it?

I have learned that focusing on a product’s design, simplicity and user experience pays huge dividends. In the early years, GetResponse was purely IT driven, with little focus on user experience and design. These days, we are not just about what our customers can do with the product, but also how elegant and easy it is for them to pull off the things they want to do. “Beautiful things work better” may sound like a cliché, but it’s so true.

7. If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?

First, I’d build a marketing team faster. We now have a talented team, with everyone bringing their own experience and expertise to their work. This has enabled us to expand rapidly into new markets in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean, and we’ve increased market share in North America and throughout Europe. Our technical team was always a well-oiled machine. Now our marketing is too.

Second, I’d focus earlier on user experience. We’ve learned that small adjustments make our platform more enjoyable for customers and lead us to refine our positioning and message. As a result, we’ve seen gains in generating free trial accounts and better conversion rates from free trials to long-term customers.

Third, we recently built a powerful, automated anti-abuse system to prevent spam and increase deliverability. It’s a proprietary system we call Hydra. We built it out of necessity, and if I could do it again, we’d be more proactive and get it done before it became a necessity.

8. What brands do you think are most successful with email marketing?

Neil Patel is a GetResponse customer who has had phenomenal success with KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg, businesses he founded. He is an advocate of email marketing and calls GetResponse his email marketing secret weapon. We’re also proud to have other progressive customers, including Peep Laja of conversionXL.com, Kenneth Hart of Thirsty Swagman, and Ram Shengale of Gyantastic.

Our enterprise customers are doing a fantastic job with their email marketing programs — companies such as International Hotels, Marriott, Carrefour and Pure Jatomi Fitness. Their programs are creative, and they use A/B testing to zero in on what works best. They use our automation tools to reduce their labor costs and improve ROI.

9. Who has been your mentor or inspiration in business and/or email marketing?

A book that got me into business was Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich”. It was a huge inspiration for me at the age of 15 or 16 when I first read it. That, and playing Monopoly. I’d always beat the heck out of my friends till they defaulted. Ha!

10. What are 3 apps that rock the web for you?

  1. Balsamiq for producing quick mockups (I use it all the time).
  2. Visual Website Optimizer for running A/B tests (I love A/B testing).
  3. Glui for making and annotating screenshots (We use it company wide).

And there you have it! Pretty smart and interesting guy, right? We think so. Let us know what you think! And do you know someone who rocks the web? We’re always looking to interview interesting business people and profile them on WeRockYourWeb.

About The Author:

Sadie has acted as the email marketing coordinator and web designer for one of the world's largest travel companies and managed social media for dozens of major brands. She has a breadth and depth of web and marketing knowledge that reaches far and wide. She loves all things Mac and keeping up with all the latest web trends.

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