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 That pretty much will give you a full-feature run-through of what the product can do for you.

This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.

Brent Leary Brent Leary is the host of the Small Business Trends One-on-One interview series and co-founder of CRM Essentials LLC, an Atlanta-based CRM advisory firm covering tools and strategies for improving business relationships. Brent is a CRM industry analyst, advisor, author, speaker and award-winning blogger.