MarTech Interview with Tom Kulzer, CEO at AWeber

MarTech Interview with Tom Kulzer, CEO, Aweber
MarTech Interview with Tom Kulzer, CEO, Aweber

“Businesses that recognize the need to build relationships with their customers are generally the fastest to adopt email marketing technology.”

Tell us about your role and journey into Technology. What inspired you to start at AWeber?

My journey into Technology began while I was working at a computer hardware firm selling wireless modems in the late-1990s. As a Salesperson, I noticed that Sales were falling through the cracks because of a lack of proper follow-up. So, I coded a program that automated the delivery of personalized follow-up emails to Sales prospects. As a result of this email automation, the company’s Sales Associates were able to spend more time pursuing prospects and building relationships with current customers.

It wasn’t until some time after I left the hardware firm that I realized I could turn this program into a viable business. My former associates began to ask me for access to the program so they could send a series of follow up emails to their contacts. They say “necessity is the mother of invention,” and that’s how AWeber was born.

Today, I serve as Founder and CEO of AWeber, where I remain actively involved in the company’s strategic direction, growth, and evolution. Over the years, we’ve grown from a small startup to a robust organization that has served more than 1 million customers worldwide throughout our 20-year history. We operate on the cutting edge of innovation to make sure our customers have all the support they need to grow their businesses and spend time on their passions.

 What is AWeber and how does it fit into a modern Marketing Technology stack?

AWeber is a leader in Email Marketing and Automation for small businesses. Along with our award-winning customer support, we make it easy for small businesses to connect with their audiences and rapidly grow their businesses. We believe Email Marketing helps connect people in remarkable ways, and it should be a core element of any business’s Marketing Technology stack, especially as action-based automation allows marketers to be efficient with their time while growing customer engagement and Sales.

We recognize that our customers are passionate about their businesses, first and foremost. So, it is our job is to make Email Marketing easy, affordable, and simple to allow them to get back to growing their businesses and relationships with their customers.

Which businesses are the fastest to adopt Email Marketing Technology? How does it impact digital campaigns across channels for B2B, B2B2C and e-commerce businesses?

Businesses that recognize the need to build relationships with their customers are generally the fastest to adopt Email Marketing Technology. Whether they’re selling a product or service, companies that use email to disseminate their content, educate their audience, and create two-way conversations will have the most success with Email Marketing. It isn’t about constantly pushing your product or service via email, but it should work in harmony with your other Digital Marketing channels to unify your messaging, educate your audience, and provide valuable content.

For instance, many online marketers see great value in connecting with their following on social media. While social platforms are a great place to raise awareness and build community, algorithms often get in the way of ensuring everyone sees your content. Likewise, you don’t “own” your list of followers on social media, but you do with email. Use email to drive your audience to your website, blog, and social channels, encourage engagement and two-way communication and provide valuable content.

How much has the Email Marketing landscape evolved since you first started in the MarTech industry?

The MarTech landscape has consistently become more and more crowded over the years. Since 1998, dozens upon dozens of competitors have come and gone. The one thing that remains constant is change: customers’ demands are constantly changing, technology is changing, and email is changing. The email service providers that listen to their customers and adapt are the ones that remain relevant over time. That’s why we’re still a leader in the space, more than 20 years later.

Tell us how you stay relevant to the current Email Marketing and Automation trends. How do you see new Automation tools impacting Mobile-focused Marketing in the coming months?

We keep a constant finger on the pulse of our customers’ needs and wants. The best way we’ve added features has been by listening to what our customers ask for, what problems they’re trying to solve. On top of that, I stay up-to-date on industry trends and moves that our competitors are making to make sure we stay competitive.

One key trend that drives our strategy is the emphasis on mobile. Mobile will continue to play a prominent role in Email Marketing in the future. Mobile email opens an account for 46% of all email opens, and 35% of business professionals check email on a mobile device. Those numbers are going to continue to grow. We’re in an environment where people are used to being able to access everything from their phones. If you own a small business, you’re likely managing a lot of your business and marketing needs from your phone, so you’d want to be able to manage email marketing from your phone as well.

We’re constantly seeking ways to create incredible mobile experiences for our customers. For instance, our award-winning Curate app is the first content curation app of its kind that lets users curate content from around the web, including their own content, share it into an email newsletter, and send it to their audience directly from a mobile device. No other email service provider has an app like Curate that creates a unique mobile-first experience for their customers.

What’s the current line of distinction between Email Marketing and Email Automation? How do you cater to your customers seeking Automation?

While Email Marketing alone is a powerful tool for marketers, Email Automation allows businesses to create and cultivate relationships while spending time on other important tasks in their business. That can allow a business to create deeper, more impactful connections, and drive business around the clock. With Email Automation, businesses can set up a series of emails that send automatically to subscribers at specific times and based on specific criteria.

Automation is and always has been a core feature of our platform – after all, we were the first to market with this powerful technology. Email Automation can increase leads, conversions, and revenue and save marketers significant time. In fact, automated email messages average 70.5% higher open click rates and 152% higher click-through rates than other marketing messages, according to Epsilon Email Institute.

However, Email Marketing Automation isn’t about setting it and forgetting it. An automated Email Marketing campaign needs to be well thought out and should allow marketers to provide more personalized content to subscribers. Taking it one step further, action-based automation can help you tailor your content based on subscriber preferences. More personalized content makes it more likely for your subscribers to engage with your content.

How can businesses maximize their ROI from investing in your Email Marketing platform for Digital Customer Experiences?

Email Marketing has one of the highest ROIs of any marketing channel. For every $1 spent on Email Marketing, you typically receive $38 back, when done correctly.

The best way to maximize ROI through Email Marketing is to work on building an engaged audience of email subscribers. Quality is more important than quantity. Embedded sign up forms on your website are a great step to helping ensure that people who want your content are receiving your content. Additionally, list segmentation based on demographic information or where subscribers fall in the Sales cycle helps to send more relevant and meaningful messages to each individual. Automation, diversified content, and testing email messages also maximize Email Marketing return on investment.

Tell us about your technology integrations with other Technology platforms such as Website Analytics, Video, Contacts, Contracts, Email and Customer Service.

We integrate with over 700 different technology platforms. We encourage our small business customers to connect their AWeber accounts to social media, landing pages, shopping carts and whatever other business tools they use to get the most out of their Email Marketing campaigns.

Which Marketing and Sales Automation tools and technologies do you currently use?

We practice what we preach; we use AWeber for all of our Email Marketing and Automation. We also use Salesforce, WordPress and Sprout Social for other Digital Marketing needs, in addition to a number of other Marketing and Sales Automation technologies.

What are your predictions on the most impactful disruptions in AI and Machine Learning technology for 2019-2020?

Dynamic content will continue to have a larger place in our industry. It’s another step toward deeper personalization and connection with your audience. Over time, it’s going to completely change the paradigm of Email Marketing since it will allow senders to change what readers see in their emails, depending on when they open it. For example, in the past, if a business sent an email promoting a Fourth of July sale, but a subscriber didn’t open it until after the holiday Sale ended, the original content would have been irrelevant to that subscriber. Now, with AI and dynamic content, if a subscriber goes to open a Promotional Sales email after the sale has ended, they will see different content and calls-to-action.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a Business Leader?

AI will continue to have a more prominent place in business but that makes the human element more important than ever. Other email service providers have made customer support a premium offering, but we feel that it’s critical for small businesses to feel like AWeber is their partner, available anytime to help them do business on their time. Of course, AI and Machine Learning will continue to influence how our technology evolves, but we will never lose sight of the human element.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?

Technology is at the core of what we do. But the inspiration for the evolution of our technology comes from real conversations with people. I encourage our team members in every department to listen to what our customers have to say.

One word that best describes how you work.

Systematically.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Omnifocus, 1Password, Jira, Confluence, Chrome, Grafana, and Google Sheets.

What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?

Some people are better at certain things than you are. Let them take the reigns and focus on the impact you can make.

What are you currently reading?

When it comes to staying on top of trends, I find email newsletters to be the quickest, most digestible way to consume relevant information. Some examples are Venture Pulse Morning Briefing, Crunchbase Daily, Wharton @ Work, Word to the Wise, Openview, and many others.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Ideas are free, execution is priceless.

Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?

I execute with passion and massive action.

Thank you, Tom! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

Tom Kulzer is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer at AWeber, the leading Email Marketing and Automation platform for small businesses, where he is actively involved in the company’s strategic direction, growth and evolution. Over the company’s 20-year history, Tom has nurtured AWeber from a small start-up to a robust organization, that has enabled over 1 million customers to grow their businesses, all without public or venture funding.

aweber logo

AWeber has helped more than 1 million small businesses, entrepreneurs and nonprofits succeed with its powerful Email Marketing and Automation tools and award-winning expert support. AWeber works with more than 450 partner software solutions, allowing customers to seamlessly integrate with the apps and services they rely on to operate and grow.

AWeber’s signature customer solutions team has garnered multiple awards, including Stevie Awards for Customer Service in 2019, 2018, 2017 and 2016. The privately held company was founded in 1998.

The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.

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