EmailOctopus was founded in 2014 to help anyone with an audience grow. Their mission is to provide email marketing that’s simpler, more intuitive, and better value. We talk with Jonathan Bull, co-founder and CEO of EmailOctopus, about the origin of their brand name, why they picked EmailOctopus.com as a domain, and what is new and exciting in their future plans.
Why EmailOctopus? What do you do and how does your brand name fit into it?
We’re a platform that makes email marketing easier and more affordable for everyone. Lots of people use us, from artists to nonprofits to large corporations. We’ve been running since 2014 and have 50,000 users around the world.
Our name fits our brand personality: it’s fun and friendly and, because our user base is so broad, doesn’t align with any particular industry.
What was the process of selecting a brand name like? When did you know this was the one?
I founded the company with my brother Gareth, and we spent weeks brainstorming names. Our original product connected with Amazon SES, so we wanted to come up with a name that tied to SES. But many of these ideas sounded overly techy and clunky. I can’t remember exactly where EmailOctopus came from, but we loved the silly imagery of an octopus sending lots of emails with its many arms. And once I saw the .com domain was available, I knew it was the one.
What was the reason to get the domain name EmailOctopus.com for your brand?
We were lucky it was available – it’s obviously difficult to get a .com domain for a name you really like. For me, having .com was really important. I agree with the consensus that alternative TLDs like .io don’t have a negative SEO impact, but I think there’s still a degree of trust and memorability with .com. Especially as some of our audiences, like self-published authors, may be less familiar with newer TLDs.
How has owning EmailOctopus.com affected your business? Do you own any other domain names?
EmailOctopus.com is our main customer-facing domain, but we own around 20 different domains related to our infrastructure. We recently bought eo.page for our landing pages that our users create through our platform. It’s not cheap at $500 a year, but we like that it’s short and snappy.
We also have lookatthatsaas.com, which is a side project highlighting great SaaS websites. We collect examples as inspiration for other SaaS companies. It’s a great way to connect to the wider industry and build our networks.
If you could have any domain name in the world, would you still pick EmailOctopus.com?
How has EmailOctopus evolved as a brand since you launched?
It’s matured a huge amount since we launched. The business started as a side project in my spare time, and beyond the name and logo, branding wasn’t something I gave a huge amount of thought to. That original logo (Otto the Octopus is our mascot!) was a quick doodle I sketched out on a piece of paper – I got it converted to an image for $5 on Upwork.
The brand kind of evolved organically from there. We came up with a brand palette, a tone of voice, and started to execute this through all of our content and marketing. Then last year, we redesigned the site with a fantastic agency in London (Vector Digital) and revamped the whole brand as part of that project. It all looks and feels much more professional now. And I hope it conveys who we are: approachable, accessible, and easy-to-use.
How do you value your brand?
I think it’s almost impossible to really quantify brand value, especially for a smaller team like ourselves. We look at acquisition and loyalty metrics, as well as customer feedback, to ensure we’re on the right track with our branding. It’s hard to truly know how much of our success is related to the product versus the brand versus the customer service, but they’re all intrinsically linked and equally important in my mind.
Has the pandemic affected your company in any way? What has changed since?
Many of our customers are small businesses, so sadly, we saw account cancellations at the beginning of the pandemic from loyal users who had to reduce their costs and pull back on marketing. We did as much as we could to support them and offered significant discounts, but it was obviously a really difficult time for so many industries.
As a business, I’d say we were extremely lucky overall. We saw an increase in acquisition as many people doubled down on digital marketing and started using email as a channel to keep audiences engaged. For example, musicians kept in touch with listeners while tours were canceled.
From an operations perspective, we were already a fully remote team, but the pandemic encouraged us to really embrace that and hire more outside the UK. Our amazing customer support team is entirely based in Poland.
What do you do to make sure your marketing is effective?
We’ve got a larger marketing budget than when we started out, but it’s still tiny compared to some of our competitors like Mailchimp. Entering a crowded market means that advertising is competitive and expensive. So instead, we invest a lot of time and energy into making sure our product is a pleasure to use – most of our business comes through word of mouth and positive reviews. This includes customer support – we’re one of the only email marketing platforms offering 24/7 support for all customers, including free users.
What would your advice be to entrepreneurs who are just starting out, in general, and when it comes to branding and naming?
Many people get hung up on the idea that you need a groundbreaking idea to get started. Entrepreneurs with new ideas tend to get the most coverage, so it’s not surprising that a lot of people think you need to do something revolutionary.
EmailOctopus wasn’t a fresh idea – there were already loads of email marketing platforms out there. But that meant we knew the idea had already been validated, and we had a large pool of potential users. We just needed a USP, which in our case was a lower price point and a much simpler platform. We knew that we only needed to carve out a small percentage of this $1bn industry to build a sustainable business.
When it comes to branding, keep things simple and know who your customers are. Make sure your brand and name are easy to remember, easy to recognize, and feel relevant to the people you want to use your product.
Jonathan Bull, EmailOctopus
What is next for EmailOctopus?
We’re doing what we’re always doing – building and adding new features. We listen closely to feedback from customers and keep adapting and adding to the platform to make sure we’re giving them the tools they need to engage their audiences. Watch this space!