Hello! Tell us about yourself and what are you working on?
Hello! I'm Romain Vialard, a self-made programmer from Paris, France, and the creator of Yet Another Mail Merge (YAMM) — an email marketing and email personalization tool.
Thanks to our users, we are the top mail merge add-on for Gmail with over 860,000 users, and we're now making $70,000/month.
How'd you come up with the idea for Yet Another Mail Merge?
In 2010, around the same time when Google announced Google Apps Script, I started my internship with Valeo, one of the first large businesses to have "gone Google". I then interned with Revevol, Europe's largest G Suite Reseller of Google.
In those days business interns were expected to write macros in Microsoft Excel to automate tedious tasks and processes. As I was working for companies which were migrating to Google productivity tools (Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Docs) I picked Google Apps Script to write macros for Google spreadsheets, which was the right tool for the job. With it, I created many useful automation scripts that increased productivity.
One script that I created simplified internal training registrations. I integrated Google Calendar and Google Spreadsheets with Google Form and automated the process. At the end of every registration, the tool would send registration confirmation emails to the registrants with appropriate training details. In other words, the tool sent transactional emails with personalized information. Et Voila! That's the seed for today's YAMM.
What went into building the initial product?
The first version of Yet Another Mail Merge was built over a Google Apps Script code sample provided by Google themselves at that time. My company was working on a mail merge requirement for a client, and the people on the project chose Google Sites as the mail merge template source. For me, it appeared to be a rather cumbersome solution.
Around the same moment, Google released a new connector to Gmail. It gave me the idea to have the mail merge template in Gmail as a draft. So I created a script, named it "Yet Another Mail Merge", and shared it on Google's App Script gallery to be used by other developers and users.
Some people at Google liked the idea, and a few weeks after publishing YAMM, I co-authored a guest post where I presented it as one of several ways to do the mail merge with Google Apps Script.
The first version was more of a minimum viable product (MVP) that served with features that were just sufficient to satisfy early users. It took some of my evenings and extra hours to get it into shape. I did this for no money. The Google App Script gallery, where I first shared my script with other developers, was a repository of scripts. People could import a copy of a script source code into their spreadsheet and use it as their own.
New users continued to adopt the script. With this added feedback I kept refining my solution. At the same time, Google Apps Script itself was also becoming better and better, giving me new tools to improve YAMM.
How have you attracted users and grown Yet Another Mail Merge?
In March 2014, Google replaced its App Script Gallery with its Add-on store, making it way easier for users to install a script and way easier for developers to maintain them. YAMM was one of the first 50 add-ons to have launched on the add-on store. And it was a success! This new marketplace attracted many users, and YAMM benefited a lot from it.
To this day, YAMM has gotten all its 860,000+ users from visitors to the add-on store. Our growth is 100% organic. Our position as the top mail merge add-on and the positive reputation we've gained from our loyal customers have attracted more new users for us.
Additionally, our referral program and the recent Product Hunt launch continue to bring us new traffic. With more than 100,000 monthly active users and 23 million emails sent every month, YAMM's new installations keep growing.
What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?
We offer YAMM as a freemium product. The script is free for anybody with a Gmail account to merge up to 50 emails per day. Our premium plans offer users a higher email quota (400 emails a day for Gmail users and 1,500 for G Suite users) at an affordable price. Our revenue comes from annual subscriptions and renewals.
Our profit margins are very high, as we don't spend any money on email servers (we use the Gmail API to send the emails) and don't pay commission to sell on the Google add-on store.
Until September 2014, YAMM was available for free on the new Google add-on store. But success in this marketplace meant that I was spending more and more of my free time on support and improvements. While I was answering support requests during my vacations, I decided it was time to monetize. Plus, it seemed like a fun challenge. :)
As YAMM is a tool to send batch emails it made more sense for me to monetize based on quota limits rather than on premium features. I was already collecting usage stats in Google Analytics: In July 2014, my users were sending more than 300k emails every day. 97% of them were sending a little fewer than 200 emails in one batch.
I decided to target the remaining 3% (the heavy users) and reduced their quota in the free version from up to 1,500 (the limit set by Google) to 200 recipients per day. I used PayPal to quickly launch a paying plan for those who wanted to send more emails than that. And it worked! Of course, some users left to find free alternatives but many were happy with the product and were okay with paying.
After this successful switch from a 100% free product to a freemium one, I did (and I'm still doing!) some fine tuning, increasing the price, or lowering the free quota to generate the biggest revenue possible while continuing to grow our user base. To this end, I knew I had to find a solution to keep some users who aren't so willing to pay. So I decided to simply copy Dropbox and went for an in-app referral program. Once again, the add-on usage tracked using Google Analytics was helpful for me to pick the right quota to give for each referral.
To this day, our customers find YAMM very affordable for the value it provides for them. And we allow YAMM premium plans to be purchased directly on our site via PayPal or credit card.
What are your goals for the future?
Growth! YAMM users are very satisfied with the product as it is today. So my primary focus is to let more new users discover and fall in love with it.
In the coming months I want to see YAMM become the top installed Google Sheets add-on in the add-on store. (It is now the second.) The next target is to become the first Google Sheets add-on with one million installs.
If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
I sold one of my scripts, Gmail Meter — a tool that sends a monthly report of your email usage & behavior stats — for some quick cash.
At the time I was super happy that someone was willing to give me money for it. But maybe it wasn't a good idea, especially to sell it for a low price, while I could have totally monetized the tool for more over time.
Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Yes. Mostly Googlers and Google!
From the day I fell in deep love with Google Apps Script I had been advocating the technology and was spreading the good word about it on the product forums. That's when the first product manager of Google Apps Script contacted me to know more about me and how I was using Google Apps Script at my internship.
Later he sent me a few goodies and a handwritten postcard, thanking me for my contributions. I was very touched by his gesture, and they kept me motivated for so long. He was the one who invited me to write the first guest post on Google Apps Script.
When the add-on store was launched, every add-on that was added to it initially got reviewed and tested thoroughly for its user experience and UI improvement. This meant that Google ensured the quality of each add-on before making it available to its audience. The person in charge of those reviews at that time gave me great feedback on how to improve my products.
Google is quite good at recognizing and rewarding fans and people who are advocating its products. And this kind of close relationships with Googlers in my early days made proved to be resourceful.
What's your advice for indie hackers who are just starting out?
Try to create an add-on! There's a big demand and not so many offers. There are many more use cases that could be solved with add-ons, especially over Google Sheets (since for decades now people have used spreadsheets to build applications, and add-ons are making the process way better).
I've been able to run a successful business based on this marketplace. There are still so many opportunities and Google's add-on store is big enough for many more developers and companies to build new stuff:
- It's an active marketplace with many users looking out for products that can suit their Google tech stack.
- Google Apps Script is quite easy to use. It doesn't require great tech skills to create your first script.
- You can build small, try, and fail. You can worry about more challenges once you get more users.
In the end, an add-on store with more new and interesting products will not only be beneficial for the Google users but can also bring more and more potential buyers to all add-ons available, including my own.
Where can we go to learn more?
You can try YAMM for a special 3-month free premium license for Indie Hackers!
My other products are:
Awesome Table: A data visualization tool with nice views (cards, maps, table, Gantt view) for Google Spreadsheet data.
Form Publisher: A data merge tool that turns Google form submission data into documents with predefined layouts (possible formats Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, and PDF).
I make blog posts on Google's technology and about my products on my G+ page.
Thanks for readign. Please leave your comments for me. You are most welcome to use me as a sounding board if you want to create your first add-on for Google add-on store.