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  • Writer's pictureGreat Companies

Erkki Markus, Founder and CEO at Smaily


Great Companies: How did you get your idea or concept for the business?

Erkki: We saw that personalized marketing is going to be the next big thing. We already knew that email is the best marketing tool to drive new sales, as it is the most valuable owned media channel and probably the only channel that you can track 1:1 and build additional business or marketing logic on. Thus, we started a small spin-off as an experiment next to a web agency we were running at that time. The experiment gradually grew bigger than the parent company, and we decided to split with it and started Smaily. Thanks to good timing, a great team, and keeping an eye on the market and listening to our clients, we have grown into one of the biggest service providers in Scandinavia.


We saw that personalized marketing is going to be the next big thing. We already knew that email is the best marketing tool to drive new sales, as it is the most valuable owned media channel and probably the only channel that you can track 1:1 and build



Great Companies: What makes Smaily different from hundreds of other similar service providers?

Erkki: What differentiates us from the competition is truly focusing on the client. We provide software that is intentionally easy to use yet, thanks to flexible architecture, not lacking any of the more advanced functionalities that other such software has. We have live chat, Skype, and phone support even for our Freemium clients. We have simple pricing, and our free users can also enjoy all of our features. At the beginning of next year, we are going to launch a unique Apps feature that takes away the burden of integrating systems with each other – everything will be handled automatically under the hood of Smaily.


Great Companies: What are the various services provided by Smaily?

Erkki: In addition to an email marketing tool, we also offer agency services (which make up about 20% of our revenue). This is targeted at those customers who can’t or do not want to be marketing directors, specialists, and template wizards themselves but want to focus on their own job and let the pros do all the heavy lifting. With these services, we offer them everything from strategy and integrations to content and design, etc. And on top of that, we are also a great technical partner for web, advertising, and online agencies.


Great Companies: What were the struggles and challenges you faced, and how did you overcome them?

Erkki: Staff. It takes a lot of effort to find people who drive through their everyday challenges passionately and who really want to make a difference. Such people are usually not motivated by perks but rather by leadership, their teammates, and the results of their efforts. If you want to create something big, it is inevitable to find people with the same mindset as you. Otherwise, you will fail hard. Fortunately, over the years, these like-minded people have joined Smaily, and today we have a strong team of 18 people, working dedicatedly towards a common goal and otherwise enjoying the company (of colleagues).


Great Companies: How do you plan to grow in the future? What do the next 5 years along the line look like for Smaily?

Erkki: Our main effort has been to get more export revenue. Today we are in the top 3 in Scandinavia, then again, this is a small market. Currently, we are focusing on getting more inbound traffic from all over the world while also launching some long-time-in-the-makes kick-a$$ features. In 5 years, we strive to be one of the biggest ESPs in the EU market focused on SMEs.


Great Companies: If you had one piece of advice for someone just starting out, what would it be?

Erkki: Do what you love, and you cannot fail.

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