Send Some Love

Roland Pokornyik on building and evolving one of the great email template builders, Chamaileon

  Patrick Sande     Jun 24, 2021    

Hey, Roland.  Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us. To kick things off, can you share a bit about your background and how you got into email marketing?

Hey, Patrick. My story with email marketing started in 2008 when I worked for Aegon, a large insurance company in Hungary, as an online marketing expert. I had to use a clumsy email marketing tool and mess in the email HTML to be able to update previous templates that usually broke for one reason or another. It was a pretty tedious and painful process to create emails back then

Once we thought that the email is “done” we sent it for review and approval to the product and legal teams at least and they typically came back with change requests all the time, that prolonged the overall process to over two weeks. 

After a few years in this role, I decided to switch to project management and worked for a software developer company and then an agency before I returned to the email marketing space again. 

With two co-founders we decided to build an email editor product known as EDMdesigner in 2014 to help designers and marketers create nice looking responsive emails without writing a single line of code. 

So you saw the need more than a decade ago. How did you go from seeing that pain point to starting and eventually running one of the most successful email builders in EDM and then Chamaileon

It was a quite rocky road we went through until we managed to break even and grow the company using our own revenues. Between 2014 and 2018 I had hundreds of conversations with email teams (marketers, designers, developers, stakeholders) and realized that many of them still face the very same issues I faced back in 2008. That’s when the idea for Chamaileon was born, especially after having conversations with companies like Spotify, Tesco, Mammas & Pappas. 

We decided to focus all our resources to build EDMdesigner on “steroids” and launch a new brand: Chamaileon.io. We launched the site and started blogging and doing customer interviews even before the product existed, so by the time we launched we had 1,000+ prospects lined up to become our beta users. 

You touched on this, but give us a quick overview of Chamaileon.

Chamaileon helps small-to-large teams speed up their email production process from weeks to days or even less. We do it by providing an email design platform that’s prepared for real-time collaboration and simultaneous editing (like Google Docs) combined with user roles, access levels and a built-in review and approval process that all help reduce the time spent with each and every stage of the email workflow.

All this wouldn’t be possible without the powerful email generator engine that we built over the last 8 years that produces the best quality email HTML code in the industry. 

Speaking from experience it’s really a fantastic tool that I think more email marketers would benefit from. And with that, it looks like you have some big changes in the works?

Yes, indeed. We recently launched our new site that better communicates the benefits email teams get after replacing their hand-coding-driven email workflow with our agile, no-code email production process. Since it’s a fresh concept, we hold a weekly webinar where we discuss the challenges with traditional email workflows and highlight the upsides of the no-code email workflow which is clearly the future of email production. 

To be able to live up to our promise, we are working on major improvements in our email editor interface as well that will enable Chamaileon users to set up their email design system in the software from A to Z, as if they were using a tool like Webflow, Figma or Sketch.

On top of this, in the last year or so we received interest from a series of SaaS providers for white-labeling the Chamaileon editor and other components of the product as well. That’s why we decided to offer the whole product as a white-label SDK. We have several years of experience in the white-label space with the EDMdesigner API product, so it feels like going back to our roots :) but as a more experienced team that is ready to do things differently. 

What are the results you’re seeing for teams who use Chamaileon?

Thanks to the flexibility of the email builder interface, the real-time collaboration aspect, the built-in access control and sophisticated user roles teams can easily produce 5-10x more emails than before.

As a result, team members can spend 80% of their time with creative work and produce better emails, create more A/B tests, seasonal email designs, etc and have the time to actually experiment with their emails to reach better results. 

This all translates to better email metrics, starting from open rates, click-through rates and finally ROI. Some of our customers say that the software helped them to increase email ROI 2-3x over a course of 6-12 months. 

Talk a bit more on what you’re seeing in the email space today. What are some of the biggest opportunities you think email marketers have?

I think the email channel will strengthen even further in the upcoming years, especially since this is the only channel where you “own” your list and have the right to message them at any time, without paying for views or clicks. Especially if we take into account that Google is on a crusade against 3rd party cookies, and it’s still unsure how paid advertising and remarketing will work after 3rd party cookies are retired. 

Another really interesting trend that I kept a close eye on is the rise of the creator industry and in connection with this trend the rise of paid newsletters. I did a quick survey on Linkedin recently and based on this (of course not representative survey) over 10% are willing to pay for newsletters already, and this number will surely increase in the following years. 

If I had some time for a sidegig, I would definitely jump on the “paid newsletter” train, and figure out what sort of content fellow marketers or SaaS founders are so interested in that they would consider becoming a paid member on my email list. 

Knowing what you know, if you were starting over, would you recommend folks take the SaaS route like you did with EDM/Chamaileon or give some serious thought to the paid newsletter approach first?  

Generally speaking I would discourage a fellow entrepreneur from starting their own start-up in the email space :). Mostly because it’s a really competitive field with huge players and limited space for innovation. 

I would encourage them to explore the paid newsletter route for several reasons:

  • Both the audience and the topic can be validated in various online communities. 
  • Requires little to no technical knowledge, since there are so many tools that help you launch a paid newsletter and site (including for example Ghost.org). 
  • This is something you can start as a side gig, and as a worst case scenario you will get to know a bunch of people, who might be interested in related services or maybe even a SaaS software that you would be able to build for them. 

If I had to start over from scratch, at the beginning I would focus my efforts on audience building and definitely not on the software solution itself. Always start with an audience and once you can easily reach a couple thousand people on a regular basis, it will be super easy for you to come up and validate any start-up idea you might have. 

A question I love to ask, but any inspirations that you can share? Who’s out there doing great things in the email space?

It would be hard to highlight an actual person who I would be inspired by. I think excellent email marketing after a certain scale requires a team of experts, who are extraordinary in their own fields, let it be design, copywriting, ESP configuration or analytics. 

On the other hand there are of course a series of email geeks who I follow though, including Mark Robbins, Parry Malm, Paul Airy, Remi Parmentier, and many others. 

Thanks for that, Roland, and thanks for taking the time to chat with us. It was great to connect with you and sharing your insights and what's been happening at Chamaileon.

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