Graduate entrepreneur: Tink Taylor, founder of dotmailer
This article is one of a series of interviews with graduate entrepreneurs. beepurple is the university’s entrepreneurship support service.
Name: Tink Taylor
Subject studied: BA Computing & Information Systems
Year of graduation: 1997
Business name: dotmailer
Describe your business
dotmailer has been empowering marketers for more than 17 years with its best-of-breed email marketing software. The dotmailer platform enables customers in 150 countries to use transactional and behavioural data to design, test and send powerful multichannel campaigns.
While many other ESPs have been acquired by all-in-one marketing cloud solutions, dotmailer has remained proudly independent and has focused on developing a best-in-class platform that plays well with other leading business systems; some of those include Dynamics CRM, Magento, Salesforce, Shopify, BigCommerce and WooCommerce.
How did you get your idea?
We initially started as a web design and development agency. Early on it became clear that simply building marketing sites was not enough for our customer base. We had initially built a content management system (CMS) called dotEditor for our clients to use to update their websites. Clients like the BBC came to us to ask whether we could help them market the websites we had built for their publishing brands like Top Gear, The Radio Times, Gardeners World etc. We took the ease of use of our CMS and put this into an email marketing tool that enabled our customers to track their consumers’ engagements and therefore amend future communications based on this, thus dotmailer was born!
How is your business unique?
We may not be unique when comparing a set of features side by side with many of our competitors. However, what we do that is different is really empower our end users to be able to make use of the sophisticated functionality set we and others can offer. We termed a phase a long time ago which sums up our approach. Put simply, we wanted to offer ‘Nasa’ technology but with a ‘Fisher Price’ user interface.
We find that many marketers even today find that the products that they buy are not as easy to use as the slick salesman from our competitors have made them believe. Hence, this is where our ethos really makes us stand out.
How do you market your business?
We carry out a variety of marketing activities now that we are a mature business. Ranging from a lot of content marketing and thought leadership through internally hosted events, external trade shows, social media, PR and activities with partners. Not forgetting the obvious digital channels, of course: email marketing supports our lead nurture and retention.
What has been your biggest business challenge and how have you overcome it?
A big challenge is always prioritisation. Being in a fast-paced and fast-growing company full of people passionate about what you do – from top to bottom – will mean that there is a desire to try and do everything at once. This of course if not always possible in terms of marketing and recruitment budgets, feature development and platform scalability and so on.
Therefore, it’s fundamental to pick the biggest and quickest wins whilst also working on items of longer term strategic importance. The key is have a plan! More importantly, to communicate the plan as to why certainly things have been agreed now and to acknowledge that those items not currently being working on are still on the list, where they sit in the pecking order and why.
To what do you attribute your business success?
Pure and simply, the team. We refer to our staff community as the dotfamily, as they truly are. They work hard and play hard together. Building a quality team with the right skills is challenging, as you do this it’s imperative to keep them happy, motivated and driven.
What are your business plans for the future?
Continued growth! We are now the largest provider of what we do in the UK. We don’t want to stop there: we wish to continue to increase our local market share of course. With this we are also seeking to increase our international footprint. In recent years we successfully set up our North American operation which is head quartered in NYC. We now also have offices in Belarus, South Africa and Australia. All areas have seen great growth and this is something we will be looking to continue whilst also using these bases to further our partner network and lead generation activity in South America, the far East, more of mainland Europe and Nordics and also further penetration in the APAC region.
We are also looking at our platform: we never stand still on looking at feature enhancements that will broaden the strength and depth of our technology to meet the needs, opportunities and requirements of the modern day marketer.
What one piece of advice would you offer to someone starting up?
Have a plan… but be flexible. In this day and age it is really simple to be able to test an idea. You are never going to get everything right and/or things will change. Make sure you are tracking everything, don’t be afraid of doing more of what is working (we have often said marketing budget is unlimited if you can prove it works!). Most importantly, don’t be afraid to plug the plug and adapt things that are not working as quickly as you can, don’t just plough on regardless. This sounds simple but I have seen so many businesses fail to do this effectively.
What three skills are the most important for an entrepreneur to develop?
Passion, flexibility and the ability to let go. Far too often I see entrepreneurs not allow someone else take the reins of key specialist aspects of the business; this ultimately stifles growth. There are plenty of activities where folk with specialist dedicated skillsets can work on a certain area. You don’t have to ‘do everything’. This is so important so you end up working on the business strategically looking at ways to grow the business and your time is not sucked up in working on the business operationally. Again, this sounds easy but with passion projects an entrepreneur is likely to have a skill in a certain area that they enjoy and they can find it hard to give this task over to someone else.
Any tools, resources or books you recommend?
I always recommend that people read Malcolm Galdwell’s ‘Tipping Point’. Other than that, I think you can get too hung up on reading other people’s stories and methodologies which may not apply to your circumstances. Tool-wise I would be helpless without the numerous apps on my iPhone that allow me to track activities, communications in multiple time zones. If anyone has a particular problem, I can probably recommend an app for that!