November 22, 2014

Phil Hill of Flashissue: Turning Gmail into an Email Marketing Platform

Sending emails and doing email marketing campaigns are two completely different things. But with many small businesses living in Gmail today, being able to do full blown email campaigns right from within the popular app may be just what many entrepreneurs need to efficiently execute more successful marketing interactions.

Phil Hill, CEO and Founder of Flashissue, a service that turns Gmail into an email marketing tool, shares how this approach can cut upwards of 80% of time off your email marketing effort, and simplify the process as well. (This transcript has been edited for publication. To hear audio of the full interview, click on the audio player at the end of this article.)

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email marketing platformSmall Business Trends: Can you tell us a little bit about your personal background?

Phil Hill: I’ve had a number of Internet startups going back to the first bubble. With Flashissue, my goal now is to fix the pain small business owners and entrepreneurs have around email marketing.

Small Business Trends: You looked at creating something that can do email marketing from within their Gmail application. Can you talk about why you decided to tackle that one?

Phil Hill: I was a user of Gmail myself and was working with a non-profit at the time. I wanted to be able to take some blog content and very quickly put it together into an email digest to send to the board members. It proved to be very, very difficult.

I was jumping in and out of other applications like MailChimp and Constant Contact, and really for speed and ease of use, I wanted to do it from a venue I was familiar with, and that was Gmail. So that was my premise for starting it.

Then having talked to countless small business owners, I found a lot of people were wanting to actually market from a product like Gmail where they were comfortable. So that’s the real genesis of the product and now 40,000 businesses later, we’re going strong.

Small Business Trends: What’s the big draw for them?

Phil Hill: I was talking to a doggie daycare small business owner just yesterday, and her need was to get something out quickly. She hadn’t been doing email marketing before, so it was very much an entry-level product for her. She knew she should be doing it, but wanted a very low barrier and quick way of doing it. That’s why she used FlashIssue.

The other half of the picture is with people who’ve already tried it or are doing it, but find a lot of big products out there are overkill for what they need.

The other big request we got was a lot of small business people, entrepreneurs, don’t have a big formal mailing list. So we took your Google address book, and allowed you to break that up into mailing lists. You got all your standard email features of being able to break up lists, track open rates, track clicks and so on. But it’s a very different paradigm.

Small Business Trends: So this could be used as a replacement for some of the bigger email marketing solutions that have a whole bunch of functionality?

Phil Hill: Very much. As soon as you’re inside Gmail, if you’ve got mailing lists of 10,000, 15,000 people, it’s not really a good fit for what we’re doing. We’re really looking at the small business person, entrepreneur, teacher, the person who wants to do an internal newsletter in a larger organization, who has 2,000 names, 1,000, even down to 250, 100.

It’s more a scenario where you’ve got a smaller audience, and there wasn’t really a product that allowed you to address that quickly. So this is a very quick way of doing that.

Small Business Trends: What kind of analytics can you get by using Flashissue to do email marketing?

Phil Hill: It’s very similar to the analytics you get from the fully-fledged email marketing platforms. Most of them, at their essence, just really offer the ability to see how many people are clicking on content in your email, who’s opening it, what emails are bouncing in your email list.

Those are the main metrics people really want to use. Those are the main metrics we feedback to the user.

Small Business Trends: Do you have templates to help folks get started with some of their email marketing campaigns?

Phil Hill: Yeah, an extensive video library in our support area that helps you into that. The product was also designed to be very intuitive to follow, to allow someone to actually take the steps to get up and running very simply.

Small Business Trends: If you have customers that have been used to using something like Constant Contact or MailChimp, they can use this in conjunction with those services too?

Phil Hill: Yeah, there are a lot scenarios where you don’t necessarily want to use a MailChimp-type product to send out a mini campaign. But you don’t want to give it up ‘cause you might have your big mailing list of 10,000, 15,000. But by the same count, you might also have a more defined audience that you want to fire something out to. So it does have that dual-use scenario.

Small Business Trends: Where can people learn more about the service?

Phil Hill: You can go to our website Flashissue.com. That pretty much will give you a full-feature run-through of what the product can do for you.




This interview on turning Gmail into an email marketing platform is part of the One on One interview series with thought-provoking entrepreneurs, authors and experts in business today. This transcript has been edited for publication. To hear audio of the full interview, click on the player above. 

7 Comments ▼

Brent Leary


Brent Leary Brent Leary is a Partner at CRM Essentials and organizer of the Social Business Atlanta conference. Brent serves on the advisory board of The University of Toronto CRM Center of Excellence, writes the Social CRM column for Inc.com's technology site, and blogs at Brent's Social CRM Blog.

7 Reactions

  1. This is great for an entry level business. I’ve shared it with a few web entrepreneurs of mine. Great job on the development of this application. The one thing that would be great (but I cannot find in the app) is a scheduler and CRM auto responder, which would be fantastic. Cheers

  2. Unfortunately there was nothing in this article to help a small business owner turn your Gmail account into an e-mail marketing platform other than steering the reader to Mr. Hill’s company. In essence, this is nothing more than a not too veiled promotional piece for his company.

    Would small business trends consider doing a free promotional piece for our company as well?

    • Hi Enviro-Equipment,

      Thanks for checking out this week’s conversation. I’m sorry you didn’t find it too helpful. But if you look over the many interviews we’ve posted during the 3+ years of the series, you will see we have spoken with many technology company executives. And as with this week’s interview, many of these conversations are used to introduce concepts and services many small businesses might not be aware of, but we think they’d benefit from knowing they are available.

      Gmail is a service that 500 million people use to interact with customers and prospects – and many of those users are small business people. With so many people spending so much time in Gmail, I thought it would be appropriate to bring to their attention the concept of being able to execute email marketing campaigns directly from within the application – especially since it was not built for that purpose.

      So when a friend suggested I check out FlashIssue and its ability to let users design and execute full-blown email campaigns without having to use a service like MailChimp or Constant Contact, I thought it would be of interest to the small business community here.

      As with the other interviews in the series, our guests typically discuss why the given subject is important and provide illustrations of how it could impact a small business. In doing this, they typically use their services/apps to help illustrate how the concept being discussed can be implemented. This allows readers to have more information which we hope allows them to determine if they’d like to learn more, or if this particular concept is not for them.

      Although guests use their offerings to tell the story, we don’t endorse them. And since it would be difficult to tell a story about using Gmail to do real email marketing – as it doesn’t do it on its own – we felt it would be helpful to see how you could execute email campaigns, and Phil illustrated it with Flashissue.

      There is no paid relationship between Flashissue and me, or between Flashissue and Small Business Trends. But with so many small businesses using Gmail, we wanted our readers and listeners to be aware that you could actually do email marketing from within an application they depend on so heavily.

      Thanks again for you interest in the series.

    • Ken,

      For the past eleven years I have plowed nearly 4 million dollars into this site. We have written about many MANY thousands of products. We are an online news and information magazine. That is our mission.

      Bringing news of products and companies provides valuable information for readers who may be looking for new products to try to help them solve problems.

      You can certainly get written about — not as free promotion (because I am offended by that kind of comment) but because your business or what you’ve learned “may” be of interest to other readers. All you need to do is go fill out our Spotlight questionnaire and we will evaluate how interesting your business or lessons learned may or may not be to others. If we think it is interesting, I will pay money of MY pocket to pay a writer and the rest of my staff to write about YOUR business. And I won’t expect or even ask for a single penny from you.

      Not because I want to provide you with a “free promotional piece” but because it’s part of our mission to share with readers what other business owners are going through, the ideas they have, the lessons learned, their business models, their successes, their failures.

      – Anita

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