Sawaram Suthar / January 21, 2023 | 17 Mins Read
Updated: January 24, 2023
Today my guest is Ajay. Ajay is one of the prominent leaders and CEOs at GMass, a cold email marketing company that focuses on delivering the highest open rates for Gmail. He holds 20+ years of experience in software development.
He will mainly discuss how email personalization can wonder and grow your business, especially during the holiday season.
Let's learn more from him
So, hey Ajay. Uh, welcome to the call and interview officer. We will discuss more about, uh, how, uh, personal in the email can wonder your business, especially in, in the holiday season. So, uh, welcome to the, so, uh, Mr. Aj. Uh, please go through your yourself and talk more about your company and then, you know, your growth, everything.
Sure, sure. Uh, I've been in the email software development business for more than 20 years now. Uh, this is my second major email platform that I've, uh, built and ran. The first one I started in 2002, so about 20 years ago, and grew that for 10 years and then sold it to a private equity. I never thought I would end up back in the email marketing platform business again, but something happened in 2014 that pulled me back into the industry and Okay.
What that thing that happened is that I was paying attention to just what was going on in software development and API development. Yeah. And that was the year that Gmail came out with an p i for the first time. So I just felt this like pull towards wanting to build. An integrated solution for Gmail. Uh, I had been experimenting with building chrome extensions, and then this API was released, and so I just felt this like burning desire to build what is now GMass, which is a way to send email campaigns inside Gmail.
Okay. So it's, it's a very d. Kind of methodology for sending your email campaigns than your traditional tools like, like MailChimp and Constant Contact and Eye Contact, and some of the original email marketing platforms. You know, when I first built GMass, I didn't even. ? No. Or I'm not even sure the concept of cold email really existed, which is the idea of sending this sequence of sequence emails to a, a warm list of contacts, hoping to get a response or hoping to get some kind of engagement with, with the recipient.
Mm-hmm. So, mm-hmm. , that feature set wa wasn't the original concept of gmas, but it's kind of what beca, what GM a s became because of mm-hmm. , the user demand, because that's what users really wanted, and that was. The, that is now our biggest segment of customers is, uh, people doing usually sales outreach.
Yeah. Uh, any kind of prospecting.
Yeah. It, it play me a role in the, in the, in the, any sales process.
Uh, but my, you know, I, I'm a technical person mostly. I'm a, I have a software development background, so, um, I understand from, you know, A 360 degree perspective, how platforms work and, and the tricks they use to get emails delivered.
And, uh, uh, uh, so yeah, that's, uh, that's. That's kind of, oh,
That's, I understand. I completely understand. I completely understand. So, uh, you know, for non-tech people like me, so what we understand, email is something that, okay, you are just sending email and then, someone is receiving. So that's only two people or two elements that play an important role. But at the backend, there are plenty of things going on.
For example, like, you know, going from email sender to the server and then, the distribute from there and then checking, whether that should the email is validated or not. You know, it's going through a lot of processes and then it is delivered to them.
I have certain, uh, ideas on those things, but not in detail. Because currently, I'm learning those things as well, but how the email will be delivered to the inbox? Right. So, that's one of the biggest problems in the industry. Like, uh, everyone wants to send an email, but that goes to the right? No, it's not, it's not into, uh, I don't go to the inbox.
So that's the biggest challenge for everyone. Right. So do you have any promotions I'm curious to know about, like, you know, more about you? , what are, what is the best way to get an email inbox?
Sure, sure. Well, so first, I wanna say that landing in the promotions folder isn't actually so bad. And the reason it's not so bad is that one, uh, a lot of Gmail users don't even have that segmentation turned on where their inbox is broken down into inbox promotions and social.
Uh, that's an option, especially if you're using email for your organization, which is Google Workspace. Uh mm-hmm. , your administrator decides whether your inbox has that organization or system or not. So landing and promotions are not a death sentence. Lots of people will still see your email, even if you land on promotions.
However, landing in spam is sort of a death sentence. Uh, so that's truly what you want to avoid. Um, It takes, it actually takes some effort to land, in spam. I mean, your email will only land in spam if you've done something egregious. So if your domain, if you're sending domain has a particularly poor reputation, you might land in spam.
Or if you, if your email fails, the basic authentication checks, uh, and there are three of those. Spf. F D Kim and Dmar. Yeah. Then you land in spam. Okay. Um, and you know, Gmail, which is, and I keep referring to Gmail because it's, it's the biggest email platform
in the world. Yeah. Cause more than, more than 80% of people are using.
So yeah. It, it's
Gmail that will even tell you why your email landed in spam because they'll put a message at the. Now, sometimes that message is very general. Mm-hmm. , and sometimes it's more specific. And in the cases where it's more specific, you can actually figure out what to do to get out of the spam folder.
So, for example, it might say, it might say messages from this domain. It might say this message is classified as spam because other messages from this domain, uh, were classified as spam. And so then, you know, you have a reputation problem with your domain. Um, Uh, so anyway, the first step is just to pay attention if you're stuck in the spam folders to pay attention to that, that message.
Um, but then really a lot of times it comes down to performing some trial and error, to figure out how to get, uh, into the inbox. Um, I've, you know, I've been. Testing emails for 20 years, and sometimes it can come down to like one word in the subject line. Mm-hmm. . Um, there's actually, some really good content about how Google uses these deep learning machine learning systems that analyze over a million data points in your email message to make that determination of where the email falls inbox promotions, social.
Spam updates and uh, and so, you know, there's so much that's analyzed to ultimately make what's a really simple decision, you know, where do I place this email? Um, and so there's no silver bullet, there's no, like, there's, uh, I've found that there's a lot of email platforms that will publish content on their blog where they'll give you 10 steps, 10 guaranteed steps to stay out of the spam folder, or 10 guaranteed steps to get to the inbox.
It's all BS because, because nothing is so simple. No, no anti-spam filter algorithm these days in 2022 is that simple. Any modern email platform is, is doing stuff. Algorithmically is so complex that it's unlikely that any email platform has truly cracked the code of, of what determines an email's placement.
It's like kind of a combination of, art and science you have to. Uh, you know, play with your text-to-image ratio. You have to play with your actual, uh, written content, you know, so sometimes it could be, uh, an issue with, with your H T M L, something that, that is never even exposed to the user because your message can be rendered.
The same message can be rendered in HTML in multiple ways. Uh, yes. So, um, So one, don't send spam. You know, oftentimes we'll get a user who says, Hey, uh, my emails are landing in spam. What's wrong? And I'll go into their account and I'll look at the content they're sending and they're truly sending spam.
Of course, as, uh, as the CEO of an email platform, it puts me in a difficult position because I can't say, well, I looked at your account and you're sending spam. So I think Google's doing it right because what everyone ultimately wants to do is to try to trick Google. They want to trick Gmail. Um, and that's getting harder and harder to do.
Yeah, I completely got it. Got it. Alright, fine. So, Now I'm curious about the email in decentralized apps, you know because that's something that is going to be booming in the coming years, right? I have some friend, uh, know, I don't know whether you know, but like there is some platform like skiff.com, which is a very new platform, and they build, the kind of email system where, It's like kind of Gmail, but it's, it's completely different than others.
And they're based, they created, based on the decentralized app. Like, you know, the, so let's say if you want to, maybe it's completely encrypted, end to end, encrypted, right? So I'm sure like even Google is also encrypted, but they are doing something different than like know what Google is doing. And it's, it's doing, doing really great, uh, nowadays.
So, if you're coming to the sequencing email. The second part is about sequencing, right? So email sequencing is really great, but do you think that the putting automation will again, will send emails to the spam or maybe, you know, on the promotion, because that's something that we are using templates, right?
Similar kind of words, similar kind of, you know, the format that people are using in the sequences, right? , do you think that will be a good idea to put everything with the sequence rather than customizing, you know, or manually sending emails?
Yeah. Um, uh, I was just looking, at the skiff. I hadn't heard of that before.
Um, I actually thought you were going to mention something else when you mentioned, um, uh, end-to-end encrypted email. I thought you were going to mention, uh, the, the bigger player in that space, which is a proton.
Yeah, I know, I know.
Yes. Uh, but anyways, I, yeah, I, I, I'll check out skiff. So you brought up an interesting point because in the beginning, in the early days of, cold email, when the reason sequences were so powerful was because, from the recipient's end, it gives the impression that the sender is actually like manually following.
Um, very few people knew that there were platforms that were automating the sequence. So when you get an original email asking you a question or asking you to engage, you might think that that was sent by some mass email software. But when you get that follow-up, which is usually a reply to that original email, then you think, oh man, this person really wants to get in touch with me.
There's a real live person behind this. Now I'll. , but because everybody gets pitched by cold email now that magic touch, that feeling that it's a real person is, is fading away and so yeah. Your best chances of success with cold emails are to pitch someone that doesn't receive a lot of cold emails. Now, I'm on the opposite.
I'm on the opposite end of that spectrum just because of the nature of what I do. I get cold emails all day, all night, every single day, and so I know, I know that not a single person is actually hand-typing These follow-ups to me now, In terms of how that relates to filtering. So here's what we've seen, uh, in recent, in, in, in recent months.
So I have not seen filters, aggressively punish sequences, just the fact that they're sequences. But what we are seeing is that. people are now conditioned to see these sequences that are all threaded in the same conversation. And because people are becoming attuned to realizing that that's sent by software, we're seeing people send their sequences in separate threads instead of the same thread.
And yeah. What I mean by that is if I send a list of prospects and email and in my first email I say, Hey, I have this hot new software that I think your company should buy. Can we set up a demo? Please respond if we can set up a demo. And then traditionally, my second email would be a reply to that email saying, Hey, how come I haven't heard from you?
And then my next follow-up email would be like, Hey, if I'm bothering you, let me know. Now, people will send those in separate threads with separate subject lines because of it. Creates more intrigue because now, now the recipient thinks, oh, do I know this person? Have I heard from them before? And they might actually go and search their inbox for that sender to see what their prior communication has been.
Um, so that, that's one thing we've seen, but we have not seen spam filters, um, uh, punish emails for being sent in sequences. Um, one thing that has happened just in the last couple of weeks is, mm. Google has clamped down on this concept of email warmup. So there's this concept of email warm-up, which is big in the cold email community where people, uh, using some sort of warmup automation tool send emails back and forth between accounts in order to make it look like that account.
Uh, is sending and receiving natural emails because people w want to, uh, build up the reputation of an account quickly so that they can get their emails sent quickly from a particular Google account. Mm-hmm. , uh, warmup has been going on for a couple of years in the industry, and Google just sent a notice to all the email warmup platforms, uh, threatening to take away their access to users' Gmail accounts if they don't shut their warmup systems.
Okay, so, I, the idea of the warmup system was to try to game the spam filter, to try to trick the spam filter into thinking that an account has a higher reputation than it does. Okay. Okay. Are you got it? Were you, are you familiar with that?
Yeah, I heard about it. And even in the past my last startup. So we did a quiet, good cold email and a lot of things together. So, and even ABM, if you talk about ABM, like account-based marketing. So it's definitely not a cold email, but, uh, We know the person to whom we are sending emails. So, uh, even we connect with them before we send an email, like on LinkedIn or maybe some other platform.
And, so we mainly send detailed information by email, not just called email. Okay. Hi. Hello. That's nothing like that. So. I'm sure I like the analytics and which play very well, especially in the customization. Right. So, how do you think that what will be the future?
Of ai, like, the use of AI in email. Like, because, everyone wants to use AI, even in Google, right? So Google started using AI machine learning in the email where they recommend a lot of things. A lot of automation can be done, like, you know, just one click reply. Like they or you don't have to type anything, right?
So, I don't think that's a big AI thing working there. Uh, if you look at a larger scale, what do you think, like what will be the future of AI in email?
Well, uh, yeah, so as you said, I think you, you're probably referring to like them, their email composition features where with their smart reply, they'll try to figure out what your, what you're intending to type before you type it.
Yes. So, yes,
that's, that's small. Yeah, that's just small things that Google has done. But, you know, there are a lot of things that need to be done, I think. No. Cause AI is not something that, what's going on right now, there is a lot of research that can be done and a lot of things can be done in the AI side.
Right. So, uh, what are the next few things that you supposed, like okay, this would be, you know, should be done in a, in an email? Yeah. Yeah.
So you, you know, um, I feel like the term AI is often thrown around as a marketing angle to claim that software is using AI to do something when it's not actually ai.
Um, yeah. But yes, but one of, you know, the areas where it's the most relevant and it could have the most impact for email marketers is in the realm of personalization. So, you know, personalization and email have been around, you know, since the beginning of email marketing. You know, at the most basic level, personalization is sticking your first, your prospect's first name in the body of the email, but, got it.
Where AI can be used is, is, is. And probably the best, email marketer that is the best at personalization is Amazon. And Amazon is likely using like their, their own, their own constructed AI algorithms to determine what content to send to each recipient. And you know, the protocols of email are pretty established, like how email works on the technical backend are established.
And that's not going to change for email. So there's really nothing. To do AI wise in terms of, uh, of an email marketing, sending email, an email marketer sends email. Um, now Google is certainly using AI and machine learning for filtering email. Um, so that's been going on for years. But, from the email marketer standpoint, their best chance of taking advantage of AI to improve their own results is using AI too.
Determine what content to send each prospect based on that prospect's entire history based on that prospect's relationship with the organization. So what they've purchased in the past, what they've considered purchasing in the past, what they've left in their shopping cart, and using the entire data set of their history that can be found online.
Um, you know, I. It's not a very commonly used thing right now because it's, it's pretty complex, and I haven't seen a lot of platforms that, that do all of this pretty well. Um, but that, that would be like, like if, if, if AI were to be taken advantage of an email in, in email marketing, that that's, that's how it would be used.
Okay. Do you use AI in your Zmass?
No, so I cannot claim that we're using AI to do anything inside GMass. Um, But interestingly enough, you know, some of the things that we wouldn't apply the label AI to, uh, you might find that others that have a similar feature set are saying that they're AI based, and that's just because of the abuse of that term.
Yeah. Um, you know, GMass is a gmas started out as a low-volume email campaign-sending tool. So because we're integrated with email, you can only send a certain number of emails, uh, per day and sometimes even per. Uh, so it, it, it has evolved, though, into a full-blown platform where you could send a campaign to a million people.
Um, but, but no, I mean, we've, like, our focus technologically has been, I mean, we've, I guess, uh, I feel like we've invented like certain features, but, but I, I, I don't want to claim ai uh, uh, into anything we've done recently.
Okay. Do we have an analytics tool in place?
Yeah, sure, sure.
Yeah. I mean, you know, with email, there's, you know, a basic set of analytics for any campaign that involves, uh, that includes, uh, open tracking, click tracking, unsubscribe tracking, bounce tracking, um, reply tracking and block blocking tracking. And then, uh, really, what differentiates one platform from the other.
How well that information is presented and how. Much of that information can be used to your advantage. Mm-hmm. . So can you then take that information and segment your list based on the past behavior of your prospect? So I wanna send a follow-up email to just the people that clicked a link in my last email, or I wanna send a follow-up email to just the people that replied to an email in my last email.
And then the better platforms, not only will they allow you to do that, but they'll allow you to build a complex rule set based on someone's prospect's entire history with you. So, you know, send an email to the people. I have overall been the most engaged in the last year with my, with my content.
And that can be across, uh, uh, the open reply and click tracking metrics. Um, it's worth noting, however, that the metric that email marketers have relied on the longest to gauge their deliverability and success. Is going away and that's open tracking. Uh, open tracking is becoming less and less reliable because more and more email platforms are figuring out how to either block open tracking altogether or send so much fake data to it that it can't be used.
So, the biggest news in the world recently was when Apple released its mail privacy protection feature over a year. And what that basically did is it triggers an open for every single email. So now the email marketer doesn't know what's a real email, what's a real open versus a fake open voice correct?
That's correct. Alright, great. So how many people are working in Gmass and how big team is?
Yeah, the team is about 15 people.
Okay. and I would like to ask one very interesting question, how did you get your first hundred customers? What are the strategies that you use to acquire those customers?
Sure. So you're taking me back seven years now. So there were two things that I did that brought in our first batch of users.
One, I posted what I had built on Reddit. There was a subreddit called “startup”.
Yeah, sure. So I posted what I had built there and, it ended up being the number one thread on the page for about 48 hours. So, that got me one batch of users. And then, within a few days of that, I had also posted GMass on Product Hunt, a site where software developers post what they've built.
And I didn't end up number one on the ProductHunt, but I think I ended up number three. And that brought in a lot of traffic too. And both of those things happened within a couple of weeks. And so that's where my first hundred users came from.
I got it. I read somewhere like I already read it about the edit, uh, Like Gmass story on Reddit or something.
I don’t know ProductHunt. Okay, great. Alright. And what is your like future plan? Where do you want to go?
There is two big initiatives I'm working on right now. Um, one is, uh, building integrations with external platforms. So, okay. That means, uh, um, Targeting users of CR r m platforms like Salesforce and HubSpot so that you can use Gmass and connect to those other platforms in, in a native fashion.
Um, right now there's all these, uh, um, like, like, uh, API kind of middleman tools like, like Zapier and Integr Map that will connect two applications together. But we're building native integrations so that you. Uh, be a GMass user and a Salesforce force user and use GMass to pull your leads and contacts from Salesforce without using any third-party middleman tool.
Mm-hmm. . Um, uh, and then the next, uh, the next area that I'm kind of excited too, to, to, to dive into is to, um, you know, we have, because. Had our platform for seven years. We've collected lots and lots of data, like a treasure trove of data on what people are sending, and what kind of emails result in the most replies and clicks.
And one of my initiatives for 2023 is to mine that data and, to have a data scientist go through terabytes and terabytes of data to arrive. Conclusions or to find patterns and trends and then publish those patterns and trends, uh, to help other email marketers.
Oh, wow. That's a lot of. Send me as well
Yeah. Right. And actually that, that, that ties back into your question about how AI can be used in email. Yeah. Oh, yes, That's my next, again, my, the same questions that I was supposed to ask, but Okay. You can continue with, yeah. So AI will play a very important role in this.
Yeah. Yeah. Um, I, yeah, initially, I was thinking about more singularly from the end, the email marketer's role. Uh, but, but, um, yeah. This is probably a good application of AI for email marketers as well.
Yeah. Data is the fuel, you know?
Now I have a few questions, which are like, just one-line questions, and you just need to answer maybe in one sentence or maybe one line, whatever you want.
Oh, great. Great. So, who inspires? Who inspire you?
So growing up, it was my, it was my father because he was also a software developer.
Great. Alright. And when you are not at work, what do you do?
I play tennis.
How do you celebrate your success?
I rarely celebrate success. Um, I have this mentality that, that I don't want to rest on my laurels and that I want to keep looking forward.
I just, I don't, I don't.
Interesting. And what are your top five suggestions for beginners who are really wanted to either start an email market team? Because, uh, on or flip form, there are people who are beginners. Some people are at mid. And there are the business decision-makers, right? So, uh, most of time, like people who are beginners, they wanted to understand how these things work.
And what I knew is that Gmass plays a very important role. At the beginning, when you start something, let's say if you want to automate certain things, if you want to verify the email, you want to try something. So it, it plays very important, and you have plenty of features, uh, to, to support those, uh, activities, right?
So what is your key, maybe three to five points, which, which can, you know, help beginners,
Okay, great. Got it. And last questions, uh, if somebody wanted to connect with you, what are the best ways to connect?
Twitter, email, LinkedIn? Um, my email address is my first name, firstname.lastname@example.org. W o r d z e N. Okay. And, uh, on Twitter, um, part-time snob. Uh, those are the two easiest ways.
Okay. great. Alright, So, Ajay nice talking to you and thanks for joining us today. Really nice talking to you.
You too, Sam. Sure. Thank you so much, Sam, I appreciate it. Thanks.