How much is an email signature worth? How about contracts with two pro sports teams? When the Indiana Pacers needed help renewing major sponsor Kroger, Dan Hanrahan, founder and president of Sigstr, challenged his team to find a solution. They came up with a clickable banner image and embedded it into the email signatures of 175 Pacers employees. The results:
- 53,000 impressions in six days, tracked and reported.
- Renewed support for the Pacers by sponsor Kroger.
- A case study about Sigstr’s success with the Pacers.
- Coverage in outlets such as Mobile Marketer (with help from BLASTmedia).
- Demo requests from multiple pro and NCAA sports programs.
- An annual contract between Sigstr and the LA Galaxy.
“Sigstr is the first time I’ve been in a market where literally any company in the world could be a customer,” says Hanrahan. “And there’s no dominant category leader. We’re really creating a brand new market. When you’re in a really big space and you can be the category leader, that means there is tremendous opportunity to go fast.”
How Dan Hanrahan and Sigstr tap the potential of email signature marketing
Marketing tech (aka martech) is a gargantuan industry—and growing. According to a report by firms Moore Stephens and WARC, the UK and North American martech markets combined for a total value of $34.3 billion in 2017. Of the brands surveyed:
- 16 percent of their marketing budgets went to marketing technology.
- Nearly half expect their martech spends to increase in coming years.
- Half don’t have all the martech tools they need.
Of those martech tools, email marketing automation represents a big opportunity. This is where entrepreneur Dan Hanrahan staked his claim. “At every step of my career, email was the thing that I spent the most time,” Hanrahan says.
Hanrahan glimpsed what would become Sigstr while working for iGoDigital in Indianapolis. iGoDigital’s marketing team routinely asked the company’s 60 employees to copy and paste a banner image into their email signatures. The banners alerted customers to product releases, upcoming tradeshow appearances, and other leads in an organic, unobtrusive way.
When iGoDigital was acquired by ExactTarget (later acquired by Salesforce as Marketing Cloud), Dan Hanrahan saw his new employer doing the same thing—except with 2,000 employees. He asked the head of marketing, Amanda Leet, about it. Why would such an innovative, venture-backed business email its 2,000 employees asking them to copy-and-paste banners into their email signatures?
“Her answer was, ‘Dan, I know I’m only going to get about 10 percent of the company to follow my 10 steps to update their email signature. But I also measure on the back-end how many registrations for my event come from that 10 percent of people who do it. And it’s a really meaningful number, one of our most impactful campaigns,’” Hanrahan recalls.
Sigstr supercharges the marketing power of email signatures
Sigstr would eventually be born from that conversation. Founded in 2013 through Indianapolis venture studio High Alpha, Sigstr’s SaaS platform eliminates the issue of compliance by automatically inserting signature banners, complete with clickable links, into every email employees send. The software offers a full suite of useful tools such as:
- 1:1 targeted signatures for recipients in relevant marketing campaigns.
- Signature segmentation based on employees’ department or region.
- Support for use with all major email clients and platforms.
- Built-in analytics for measuring recipient click-through rates.
Sigstr has seen encouraging adoption among tech-centric companies and has delivered impressive results for its customers. For example, Atlanta-based SalesLoft generated 700 clicks and 550,000 total impressions with a Sigstr marketing campaign over a five-week period.
“Sigstr has quickly become one of the most important marketing channels for our team,” says Kevin O’Malley, vice president of demand generation at SalesLoft. “It literally could not be any simpler to use, and the value is instant and unparalleled.”
O’Malley isn’t alone praising Sigstr, whose clients include AT&T, Amazon, AdRoll, and email marketing company SendGrid (recently acquired by Twilio for $2 billion). These companies use Sigstr’s email signature platform to promote everything from new products to trending content to upcoming events.
A market opportunity poised for explosive growth
According to chiefmartec.com, which measures the size of the marketing tech industry each year, there are close to 7,000 martech companies in operation today, up from 1,000 in 2014. And a report released by Forrester earlier this year predicts that U.S. spending on marketing technology and services will continue to grow in coming years, ballooning to $122 billion by 2022.
Investor interest in martech appears to keep pace. Funding levels have held steady between $500 million and $1 billion over the last 10 years. Sigstr has shared in this investor enthusiasm, receiving $7 million in venture capital to date. That makes Dan Hanrahan feel good about Sigstr’s fortunes in such a thriving, ever-evolving environment.
In fact, when Sigstr closed its $5 million Series A, even HubSpot made an investment. “HubSpot customers have seen impressive returns when using HubSpot and Sigstr together,” says Brad Coffey, chief strategy officer at HubSpot. Tim Kopp, partner at Hyde Park Venture Partners, agrees. “Employee email is the last marketing channel that has gone untapped. Every day there are billions of interactions between employees and their customers,” he says. “Sigstr helps marketers take advantage of this channel to drive real marketing ROI.”
Building a culture ready to seize opportunity
Hanrahan understands the opportunities that lie ahead for Sigstr, and he knows that the company needs a solid foundation built on people and culture if it hopes to reach its goals. Sigstr orients its values around honesty and self-improvement, anchored in Hanrahan’s own humility and commitment to learning.
“I’m learning every day,” he says. “Even though you’re a founder or CEO, there are still people who are smarter than you, better than you, who have done it before, who you can learn from.”
But a still more important guiding principle comes from Hanrahan’s conviction that every business venture must come from a place of personal motivation. This “richer why,” as he calls it, helps the team pull through when times inevitably get tough.
“Whatever plan you lay out, whatever business you want to start, you’re going to hit roadblocks. Always ask yourself, ‘Why am I going down this path, and what am I willing to give to it?’ Make sure those things match up,” Hanrahan says.