When and how do you change from a free service to a paid service? Ajay Goel is the founder of GMass, a free Gmail app that attracted a huge user base and converted them to paid users. In this episode he tells us how.
→ Free Gmail app that attracted a huge user base and converted them to paid users
→ He is the founder of GMass
→ GMass is an email marketing system built into a Gmail account
→ Are there sending limits since using your own Gmail
→ How did he change from a free service to a paid service
→ What does it look like to use his product
→ The primary benefit of using a system like Gmail, as opposed to a traditional email marketing service like a MailChimp
→ The big advantage of using his product over a MailChimp
→ And a whole lot more
Bronson: Welcome to another episode of Growth Hacker TV, Bronson Taylor. And today I have AJ Goyo with us. AJ, thanks for coming on the program.
Ajay: Thanks, Bronson. I’m excited to be here.
Bronson: Absolutely. We’re going to talk about some stuff that the people need to know today.
Ajay: All right.
Bronson: You’re the founder. I guess I could say there was a you’re founder of a couple products that I think will forever change how people use their Gmail. When I saw that you were the man behind both of these, like you really revolutionized Gmail in two very different ways. And for the people watching this show that are interested in marketing, they’re interested in sales. They’re interesting in growth, customer acquisition. They really need to pay attention to what you’ve done in Gmail here. So let’s start with the first one. Your first product is called GMAC. Is that right?
Bronson: All right. So so what is GMAC?
Ajay: So GMAC is an email marketing system built into your Gmail account. So it allows you to use your Gmail or your Google Maps account to send out your email campaigns.
Bronson: All right. So when you say send out my email campaign, it’s like, walk me through that. What does it actually look like to use your product?
Ajay: Sure. So most people are familiar with the Gmail interface. You know, you hit the compose button, you compose your message, you hit the send button. So what my product does is we just add a button next to the normal Gmail send button and the button says gas on it. And basically what happens is if you click my button, my mouse button instead of the normal send button, then an individual personalized email will go out to everybody in the to field rather than like one group email going out to everybody. So if you like 100 addresses and that two field and then hit the gas button, each of those 200 people will get an individual personalized email that is then tracked. So, you know, now if one of those people opens that email, clicks the email replies to the email.
Bronson: No, that’s awesome. And so let’s break it down to make sure people know why that’s actually important. So if you get an email and you know you’re keyed on it or BCD on it, and you know that you and a bunch of other people got it instantly, you know that somebody is marketing to you. You instantly know that it wasn’t handcrafted, it wasn’t for you, that you were just a part of a list. But when you get an email that’s really to you and nobody else, yeah, you’re going to open it. More likely you’re going to read it, more likely you’re going to respond to it. More likely. All that, right?
Bronson: Yes. That’s awesome. Yes. Does it allow you to actually put any personalized touches in it? Like if you want to put their name in it or something like that, is it allowed.
Ajay: To share the stuff? Yeah. So any data that you have along with an email address. So Glass integrates with Google Sheets, which is Google Docs is a spreadsheet program. So what you do is you put all your data in a Google Docs spreadsheet and then Gmail will connect to it and allow you to use any of those columns as merge fields in your subject and your message.
Bronson: I gotcha. So not only do people get a personalized message, they get their name in it or any other data you have about.
Ajay: Their favorite fruit, whatever you like.
Bronson: Whatever data you have.
Ajay: Now, I should like I should just mention that that in itself is nothing revolutionary. You know, email marketing has been around for 20 plus years, and that’s just a very basic feature of email marketing is that that kind of mail merge personal email.
Bronson: Tell us some of the other stuff you do because I was looking at your home page and it kind of lists out some of the some of the things that you guys do. Walk us through some of those. Like what are some of the things that you can get out of gyms beyond just, you know, a mail merge kind of thing? Sure.
Ajay: Sure. Well, so the primary benefit of using a system like Gmail, as opposed to a traditional email marketing service, like a MailChimp or a constant contact, is that. Your email marketing is integrated with your inbox. This way. So for example, one of the things you can do with gas is thread your email campaigns into your existing conversations with people. So for example, Bronson, you and I have been chatting just about setting up this interview. Yeah. So if I added you to my list for my next email campaign about whatever I could make it so that my newsletter goes out as a reply to our last conversation.
Ajay: And so that’s another way to like it’s a way to dramatically increase the response rate because you’re going, I think I like copied and pasted my newsletter into a reply, emailed to you and sent it.
Bronson: Yep. No, no, that’s a huge one. I mean, often and this is a tip for people that don’t know it. Don’t start a fresh thread if you have one already going. Yeah. If there’s a history there, it’s social proof between the two of you. Exactly. I have already talked to this person and like them. So a new email is welcome. A fresh thread is not going to be opened, is likely or read as carefully. Now that’s really smart. Are there any other things like that? I didn’t know it did that, actually.
Ajay: Yeah. And then so the other like big advantage of using my product over a MailChimp or a constant contact is that when you send an email campaign with gas and Gmail, your emails are being sent from like the world’s best email servers in terms of deliverability because they’re, they’re gmail’s email server. So your emails are being sent through your Gmail account. And really, nobody, almost nobody is going to block Gmail or Google. So. People that switch from a traditional email marketing service to GMAC find that they’re getting the highest open rates, the highest click rates, the highest response rates that they’ve ever gotten from any email platform ever. Well, that’s awesome. And it’s just the advantage of using Gmail to your advantage.
Bronson: Yeah. Are there sending limits since you’re using your own Gmail? There’s got to be some limits kind of built.
Ajay: Yeah, there are. So. So the disadvantage of using my system is that it’s not for a high volume campaign. So if you need to send out 100,000 person campaign, you Gmail champ or something. Yeah. So.
Bronson: So does that mean that the kind of system you build, it really is kind of perfect for sales and it’s perfect for marketing if it’s a high cost, low volume kind of email send. Is that true?
Ajay: Yeah. So, right. So it’s, um, if you’re sending to like a super targeted list for sales prospecting. Yeah. Like you have 100 leads that are really concentrated leads for what you’re pitching, then this is the perfect system. Yeah. And especially when you add to that. So like one of the hot trends or one of the new kind of things going on in email marketing is this whole concept of auto follow ups, which is when you’re trying to get a reply out of somebody, which again is useful in sales prospecting, you can have a series of emails sent until that person replies, Yeah. And as you were talking earlier about sending your email as part of an existing thread rather than creating a new thread, when you use that auto follow up technique, that’s what happens as each subsequent email goes out on top of the original email in the same conversation.
Bronson: Yeah, no, that’s also I mean, that alone is great right there. How many? This is kind of not about your product, but about tactics. Yeah. Do you recommend kind of the multi follow up sequence? And if so, how many do you think somebody should send? I’ve kind of seen numbers range from 5 to 10, you know.
Ajay: Yeah. So, you know, that’s a really interesting question. So. In terms of how many people should send. So right now in G.M., you can send up to three follow ups after the original email. Yeah, but in my in my competitor’s products, you can send in some of them. You can actually send up to ten follow up sequences afterwards. In my experience, and I’ve used the auto follow ups extensively for my own purposes and my experience, if I’m trying to get a response out of someone, I’ll get it within the first or the second follow up. But I’ve had other users report that sometimes it’s the seventh or the eighth follow up, like when you’re really trying to sell. It can be advantageous to send more than three follow ups, and that’s something I’ll probably add into the product later on.
Bronson: Yeah, I was just wondering because I mean, you’re in deep on this, you know, like this is what you do, you know, kind of ins and outs. Now it makes sense that you get most of the response in the first couple. If they’re arrested, they know it.
Ajay: Well, yeah, but what’s what’s interesting is that you usually don’t get a response in the original. It’s the first follow up that really drives home the response.
Bronson: So it’s the second email that’s the the money one.
Ajay: Yeah. And it’s I think there’s an interesting psychology behind it in that, you know, when you first somebody first send somebody an email saying, hey, can I set up a demo of my product for you? A lot of people can assume that, oh, even even though it’s personalized, it’s still sent in mass.
Ajay: But when they get that follow up that says, hey, just making sure you saw my email, you know, I’d really love if you just get back to me whether it’s a yes or a no.
Ajay: Then they’re like, Oh, man, this it’s really important to this person if I that I respond. So it compels people to respond.
Bronson: Okay. A little bit of pressure there. A little bit of like this wasn’t just a one off email. They needed me to take some action here.
Ajay: It’s social proof and social pressure.
Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. No, it’s we’re wired to, you know, kind of obey those kinds of things as people. So, you know, I guess if I’m if I understand correctly, you used to be a free product and you actually kind of turned on the paywall. When did you turn on the paywall for this?
Ajay: So I actually just turned the paywall on 36 hours ago.
Bronson: 36 hours ago. Wow. Okay, that’s incredible. So. All right, I thought it I didn’t know it was that soon. Yeah. So first, why was that always the plan? You know, get a bunch of free users and then turn the paywall on.
Ajay: Yeah, yeah. That was always the plan. And, you know, I’ve been upfront with that in my communication to users that the day would come when I would charge. Yeah. So the main reasons why there’s really two main reasons. One is I’ve been spending 98% of my time on the product and my my costs for the whole company right now are about 20 K a month that I’ve been burning just on my own cash. And I just I was getting to the point where I just really needed to recover some of that.
Ajay: So one was just a financial thing. Like I really wanted to start generating revenues to offset costs here. But another really important reason is that as you can imagine, any like email marketing product that is free, I’m attracted tons and tons of spammers and abuse. And so another reason is just to get the spammers to go away.
Bronson: Okay. It makes sense.
Ajay: Because they were wreaking havoc on my network and on some of our reputation. And so this was a good way to nip that in the bud.
Bronson: Absolutely. So what’s the reaction been? I mean, 36 hours in, if you don’t mind.
Ajay: Sharing, are.
Bronson: They happy they find new deals?
Ajay: Really interesting. When I first sent an email out saying that I was about to start charging, I got three, three responses back that said, F you. Wow. Okay. Apparently people don’t like to start paying for something that they’ve been using for free for so long, which I can understand. Yeah. And then I got a probably about 50 emails, so my lowest price point is about $7 a month. I got about 50 emails from people around the world saying. Can you please just let us keep using it for free? We don’t have the budget for this. We really love the product, but we can’t pay for it. And, you know, I’m thinking like, man, come on. Who can’t. Who can’t pay seven bucks a month? Mm hmm. And, I mean, I just. I can’t really I don’t want to put myself in a position to judge whether somebody can afford that or not. So, you know, but then I got a lot of responses saying, A.J., we’ve been waiting for you to monetize this product. I would have paid for this a year ago. We wish you the best of luck.
Ajay: So let me share some numbers with what’s happening.
Bronson: Yeah, please. I was going to ask, if you don’t mind. Like what? What’s this? Yeah.
Ajay: So prior to introducing the paywall, about 36 hours ago, about ten days even before that, I was allowing people to pre subscribe, even though you could have still used it for free. Mm hmm. So in the press, in the pre sale process, I had 225 people sign up for a paid account. Mm hmm. And then, since I turn the paywall on my to have a piece of paper where I’ve lost my numbers. So right now, I’m at 402, so. So I. 225 before the paywall, and then I turned the paywall on. And then in the last 36 hours, I’ve added 177.
Bronson: Yeah, that’s also congrats. I mean, that’s the goal.
Ajay: My goal. So on September 15th, it’ll be 30 days of forcing people to pay. So my goal is to have 2000 paid accounts by September.
Bronson: But yeah, I mean, that would be great. And you said how much is it again? A month.
Ajay: It ranges from about $7 to $20 a month. Yeah, the average comes in at around like 11 or $12. Yeah. So basically my goal is.
Ajay: Higher to generate $20,000 a month.
Bronson: They say. Now, that makes it makes total sense also. So how are you how are people learning about this? How is it growing? How they learn about the free one? How do you know what what marketing did you do, if any? Or is it just word of mouth?
Ajay: So it’s word of mouth and people just searching for an email marketing solution or a Gmail mass email solution. So our search engine positioning is pretty good for key terms that are important to us, like mass email through Gmail or email marketing in Gmail or mail merge in Gmail. Another big source of users is just being listed on the Chrome Web store. So a lot of people are familiar with the the Android play store, which is for for apps on on Android Mobile. But people are not as familiar with the Chrome Web store, which is where you go to search for extensions for Chrome extensions, many of which are also Gmail add ons. Mm hmm. So we have pretty good positioning with the Chrome Web store where if you search for anything, mail, merge, mass email marketing related, we’re pretty much number one. Yeah. Just as we’ve kind of we’ve kind of become like the gold standard for a mass email through your Gmail account.
Bronson: Yeah. Are you doing any like app store optimization where you’re putting in the right keywords in the description, in your Chrome kind of profile? Is that. Yeah, sure. You get up as well.
Ajay: Yeah. In your Chrome Web store profile, you can you can write as much descriptive text as you want about your product. So yeah, we’re using that to our advantage. And there really are, you know, there really isn’t a whole lot of competition right now in this area. There’s probably under five less fewer than five tools that are email marketing solutions integrated into Gmail.
Bronson: Yeah. Yeah. So I mean, is there a lesson there about, you know, going into a market where there’s already a lot of demand, even if there’s already a few competitors, even if they’re already doing something similar, there’s enough demand to kind of pull all of you guys forward. Is that right?
Ajay: Yeah, I think so. You know, this is definitely a pretty niche space. I mean, it’s it’s kind of on it’s kind of a mental leap to kind of think, oh, you know, I’ve been there, you know, marketing for 15 years through, you know, eye contact or constant contact. Now you want to switch platforms and do it from my Gmail account. Like, whoa, that doesn’t that doesn’t make sense. What are you talking about? So, yeah, it’s it’s a niche area, but I think it’s one that once people kind of experience are like, whoa, this is this is so much easier.
Bronson: Yeah. No, absolutely. And so, you know, I said at the beginning, you have a couple of products inside Gmail, so it seems like you’re going to continue rolling out these Gmail products. And as Bill builds your suite of tools here. But the other one you have, which is really interesting, it’s called Words In. Yeah. And this one, I don’t know if you have competitors for it. I think this might actually be one that’s pretty readable.
Ajay: Nobody’s really doing what words and yeah.
Bronson: You know, we’re Gmail is it’s a market that exists and you’re taking your share of it words and you’re pioneering something here. So tell us, what is it?
Ajay: So words in is also a plug in for Gmail that allows my team of editors to write and respond to your emails for you. And so the idea is that anybody that gets a lot of email that. Needs to respond to a lot of e-mail and wants to do it faster than the way they’re currently doing it. Words end is a good tool for you.
Ajay: And so the way we do that is you can either when you’re typing an email or applying to an email, you can either put in shorthand notes and then my editors will turn your shorthand notes into a professionally crafted 100% perfect English written email. Or you can record yourself talking in free form, and my editors will then listen to what you’ve said and not transcribe your words from word to word, from what you said to the text, but actually listen to what you’re saying and then draft an email based on what you’re trying to communicate.
Ajay: And they’ll make sure that their written email is uses as few words as possible to communicate exactly what you’re saying.
Bronson: Yeah. No, that’s awesome. Let me ask you this. I’m interested in your tactic of doing things inside of Gmail. You know, if you think about building a startup from the ground up, it’s a lot of development, a lot of time, a lot of cost. You’re building your own little universe. Is it.
Bronson: To do something inside of Gmail like what you’re doing in terms of time and cost? I’m sure.
Ajay: So there’s a couple upsides and downsides. The upside of doing it is that Gmail is a platform that already has a billion users. So if you build a plug in for Gmail, you get to tap into that.
Ajay: The downside is that it’s actually it. Well, it used to be really difficult to build an app on top of Gmail. But two things that happened in the software development world that actually make it significantly easier now. I don’t mean to tell you what those two things are.
Bronson: Please do.
Bronson: Yeah, that’s really interesting. Do you think you’ll always stay kind of as a plug in inside a Gmail or as that user number gets up? Do you think you’ll develop, you know, a SAS product outside of Gmail or is that just not even of interest to you?
Ajay: Well, that’s a really interesting question. So, you know, one of the reasons that I love what I do and love writing this kind of software is because I hate designing interfaces. And that’s just that’s a function of me being a crappy designer. I’m a programmer and I can certainly hire a designer, but I like to keep the software and things as simple as possible. Yeah. And so I don’t want my users to have to learn my interface. So I don’t want to have an interface because then they have to learn something.
Ajay: And everybody already knows the Gmail interface, so you don’t have to learn anything new. And I like the simplicity of being able to use my product without having to learn a new interface.
Bronson: Now, it makes total sense. I mean, I’ve been I do things the hard way and I make people learn new interfaces and, you know, all that stuff. And it’s very difficult. It takes a lot. Yeah. And so I like the idea that here’s Gmail a billion users known interface.
Bronson: SDK APIs. Yeah. Let’s let’s grease the wheels and make things a little easier on ourselves.
Ajay: Yeah. And it gets even a little better because. To sign up for either my product. You don’t have to type anything. You don’t have to fill out any forms. It’s a matter of two clicks to integrate your Gmail account into the product because you.
Bronson: Already log Gmail.
Ajay: So you’re given log additional. You don’t log into my product. Yeah.
Bronson: So how does the billing work? Because I’ve never built a, you know, a chrome extension. I’ve never built something and you know, like that. Is the billing something that is separate than the Gmail interface? Where does that happen? You know?
Ajay: Yeah, you got you got me there. That’s the one.
Bronson: That’s the one third.
Ajay: Floor in the Matrix here.
Ajay: Is that when it comes time to actually put on your credit card to subscribe, it does actually launch like a separate browser window. It’s the one screen, the wallet only.
Bronson: You know, if you have a product and the one screen of it is taken the visa. Yeah, that’s pretty good. You know, we’ll take that. Yeah, that’s awesome. Well, you know, it’s just so interesting because, you know, you’ve gone about things differently than a lot of the guests on this show. You’re obviously having a lot of success doing it. And so I’m just you know, I wanted to trying to figure out how you kind of built these tools and why you did it the way you did. So I think this is going to be really inspiring for one, people that want to use the tools. All right. I think Gmail is a great tool for marketers then. I think it’s a great tool specifically for people in like an SDR kind of role. There are sales development rep. They’re trying to figure out what cold leads can become, warm leads so they can pass them on to a sales team. I think something like Mars is brilliant for those kind of situations and a book I would recommend to people is Predictable Revenue. It’s from the guy that built the Salesforce engine and I think Glass would integrate with his tactics really well. And so I wanted people to know about the tool. I think words in isn’t necessarily marketing centric, but it’s really clever and interesting to know about. But then the second thing was I wanted to know how you built these things. You know, they get inspired to build their own startups. But so I got two final questions for you here. And these are the questions and every interview with that kind of fun. So the first one is, what are you working on as soon as this interview is over and it can be, you know, walking the dog like I’m watching the Olympics, like whatever you’re actually going to be doing when this is over.
Ajay: Yeah. Now, I’ve been pretty swamped the last couple of days with introducing billing and answering support tickets. So what I’m going to be working on is I have a complex support issue from one of our users that’s actually an employee of Uber who uses gas. And it’s an issue involving auto follow ups and some emails that went out that he didn’t think should have gone out. So I have to kind of dig into that and see what happened and give them an answer.
Bronson: All right. So doing some customer support, I do not envy you there. And I left. My last question is, what is the best advice you have for any startup that is trying to grow?
Ajay: Yeah. Yeah. So my advice is to experiment like crazy with ideas to grow. So there’s a lot of things that I’ve done that I found that work that I never would have thought had worked until I actually did them. And I find that there’s a lot of things that are almost like counterintuitive when it comes to the psychology of what makes people want to sign up for your product. So and we’re all like kind of condition based on our own biases and our own life experiences to think like, okay, well, I know how I would want to be. Do I know what would make me sign up for a product? And it’s easy. So, so for me, I often assume like, oh, I know what would make you sign up for a product? And I’m always wrong. I’m always well, okay. So that’s why, that’s why experimentation is so important to see what resonates with people now.
Bronson: That’s awesome. I love it. What? This has been an incredible episode of Growth. A.B., thank you again just for taking time out your busy schedule. And we know it’s busy because you literally just launched the paywall. So I know your inbox is ticking up as we talk with things that you have to go and tend to. So thank you for taking time out your busy schedule and coming on the show.
Ajay: Yeah, thanks, Bronson. This was awesome.
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