Jan 25, 2024

Buttondown: A Founder Leading by Example with Superior Customer Service

I recently spoke to the founder of an innovative email service company called Buttondown Email. No, I don’t know the founder. No, this was not an interview for my blog. This was a sales enquiry. I contacted the sales staff as I required a custom premium feature and to my suprise the founder of the company, Justin Duke, responded to me. What the heck!!!!

This guy runs a decent sized technology company and personally responds to sales requests. It felt like the equivalent of me walking into a local McDonalds and being served a burger at the cash register by the CEO. Unheard of.

I discovered Buttondown Email on my search for a superior email service at a reasonable price. I wanted to ditch my previous newsletter provider Mailchimp because I find their product inferior and difficult to use. I even contacted the support staff of MailChimp recently with a problem and I received help from an overseas team that sent me around the merry-go-round. I wanted to get off that ride ASAP.

Boom! Buttondown showed up on my doorstep.

I came across it as I saw Basecamp, a product I use, said that they send email with Buttondown. I poked around and loved what I saw. A simplified product, built with privacy in mind, and easily extendible by a Software Engineer like myself. So many simple but powerful features tucked into a reasonably priced product. Please take my money.

So I went to sign up for Buttondown but I saw that I required a premium feature not included in the base plan. A personal deal breaker for me. I almost resigned myself to staying with MailChimp but the traumatic picture of the merry-go-around appeared in my head. I decided to make a last ditch effort and contact the sales team.

To my surprise the founder of Buttondown replied and offered me the premium feature I desired as an addon. Seriously? The founder not only responded to me but offered me an off-the-menu option. In no world would a big service provider like MailChimp, owned by an even bigger service provider called Intuit, make me a custom offer like I received with Buttondown. The owner Justin saw a sales opportunity, showed flexibility, and offered me an addon like any good business owner would do. Cut a deal.

I said yes and paid immediately.

Curiosity overwhelmed me so I replied to his email and asked him the following question, expecting no reply:

I will be writing about this experience in a blog post as you’ve impressed me that much. I have but one question: In between programming the application, maintaining docs, doing 1000’s of other tasks, how do you make the time to reply to a sales request in under 24 hours?

He replied to me within 24 hours, 1 day before Christmas on the 24th of December:

Ha, you flatter me! I think the answer might be a little unsatisfying, but it’s a true one: emails and newsletters are a pretty commoditized space, and it’s very easy (because emails and archives are so portable) for customers to switch providers whenever they want. Time and time again when I ask people who have stayed around for years why they’ve stayed, a big reason is support and service: they’ve never had a company treat them with the respect and attention that we do. I don’t take it for granted, and I structure my days knowing that answering questions and helping folks onboard is the single most important use of my time!

Justin is an absolute genius and respectable business owner. A business owner that understands the value of superior customer service. I run a small software company here in Adelaide Australia and do the same with my business. However, Justin runs a company on a much larger scale and still maintains a high level of customer service. I highly respect and applaud such an effort.

I deal with many software vendors for my business and receive subpar customer service on a daily basis. This experience felt like a breath of fresh air, a glimpse into how a business owner can run their company on a larger scale. Just because you get larger, doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice a high level of customer service. I hope this inspires other business owners as it indeed inspired me. Thank you Justin for the valuable lesson and for leading by example.

I understand Buttondown pales in comparison to the size of MailChimp but it serves as a reminder that other businesses exist that provide similar services to larger companies at a more competitive price, accompanied with a higher level of customer service.

I receive no kickback from writing this post about Buttondown, although it seems I am some sort of paid advocate. I don’t know Justin nor am I affiliated with Buttondown other than utilising their service. I wrote this out of appreciation for the customer service Justin provided me and as a reference to myself and other business owners that a high level of customer service goes a long way and doesn’t disappear when a business scales up.

Mailchimp lost me due to their inferior product and the nightmarish merry-go-around experience with their overseas support team. Buttondown won me over with their superior product and second to none customer service. How a competitive market place should function. Justin won my business with his superior service.

I highly recommend Buttondown to other businesses that run a newsletter, they offer a superior product at a reasonable price with a high level of customer support: https://buttondown.email/ (not an affiliate link, just a plain old link).

Thank you Justin.