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Joshua Anderton on Bootstrapping Upscribe – a simple, easy to use ESP

  Patrick Sande     May 13, 2021    

@joshuaanderton

Joshua, thank you for taking this time to talk to us. It's always exciting to meet and learn about members of the email marketing community. To get us started today, let's start with some of the basics. Tell us who you are, where you live, and how you got started in email.

Of course! I really appreciate being a part of this. My name is Joshua Anderton. I live in Langley, Canada, and I run Upscribe, a simple, no-bloat email marketing solution.

Upscribe was initially a tool for building embeddable opt-in forms for Medium.com but it's recently shifted toward being a full-on ESP. But my start in email was back 7-10 years ago designing custom email templates for clients.

That's excellent. So you've built your own ESP, Upscribe, which is fantastic. Before we talk about the platform, tell us how you decided to take on this venture.

Thanks Patrick! I first decided to focus on email marketing because it was clear that almost all of my existing users (who were using the form builder) were also sending email newsletters or email courses. Another thing that most of them had in common was that they were rather unhappy with their ESP.

The common feedback I was getting was that MailChimp (and many of the other ESPs out there) has become quite feature-bloated and difficult to use. So beside Upscribe's form builder, I've added a simple newsletter tool, as well as email sequences.

Upscribe is easy to navigate and easy to use with all the email features that you need. I've left out the ad managers, website builders, and ecommerce features that other ESP's seem to be adding lately - there are other companies like Shopify, Carrd, etc. who will always do a better job at those features. So I'll continue to focus on email and integrate with tools that are great at the other stuff.

That's awesome. I love the approach of keeping Upscribe super focused and simple. So, I'm curious to hear more about that transition from webform builder to ESP. That's no small feat. What was that process like, deciding to build an ESP and then diving in to make it happen?

It's been a long process (that's still not over). Honestly, building the features is the easiest part. What has been hard is the marketing, and repositioning the product in people's minds to being an email marketing tool instead of just forms.

And where have you been finding your success with repositioning Upscribe? what's the feedback been?

So far it's been a combination of rephrasing marketing copy, redesigning the dashboard to make email features more prominent, and constantly asking people "have you tried our email marketing features yet?". There are a ton of blog posts out there about how to collect email subscribers from Medium. A lot of those blog posts are still advertising Upscribe as just embeddable forms for Medium. So there are still people coming in every day that I need to re-educate.

Any tips or advice for others out there looking to build and launch a tool of their own?

Find people who are already spending money in (or have budgets for) a certain category and get on calls with them. Lots of calls! (if you don't like getting on calls then partner with someone who does) You'll most likely find that the idea you have isn't actually as important to your ideal customer as you thought. But you'll find out what is that important to them. I wish I had learned this part earlier.

I think that's great advise. Thanks, Josh. So let me shift gears just a bit. What opportunities do you see for email marketers today?

Email has blown up again this last year-or-so. Just like podcasting has seen a resurgence. This means that there are a ton of other options for people. Which means more competition. That can be a bad thing. But what it really does is forces out the truly great content and creators. I think if you know your audience well and serve them in a unique way, you have a better chance of seeing success.

I couldn't agree more. Solid, authentic content is key. Anyone out there that you think is doing an amazing job from the email creation standpoint? Or anyone out there you draw your inspiration from?

My favorite email newsletter design-wise is probably Musicbed's. Content-wise though, a few of my favorites are Henry's Marketing Examples, Chase Diamond's Weekly Email Marketing Newsletter and Exploding Topics.

With that, I want to thank you so much for taking the time to chat and share more about what you've got going on at Upscribe!

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