Saturday, April 6, 2019

8 Ideas that the fascinating MailChimp story teaches us (Part-1)

For years we have heard some version of the now almost clichéd phrase "Email is dead." On the contrary and in the midst of all the innovations happening in social networking, the need for having an email account has barely diminished.

There is a thing I found fascinating about the MailChimp story that inspired me to write this and the following post. Here it is:
Mailchimp is a marketing automation platform and an email marketing service. In a day and age when futurists don't leave any opportunity to write obituaries about the future of email as a preferred means of communication, Mailchimp has built a multi-billion dollar business around email marketing and are still going strong.

MailChimp's success simply amazes me given the context of today's world where anything low-tech is considered unsexy.

I happen to read their story about MailChimp's success that appeared in, not so long ago.

In this 2 part series, let me share some of the ideas I learned from somewhat understated MailChimp's story. Here are 3 ideas in this post:

1. Great ideas thrive on real life inspiration:
The founders of MailChimp came in from humble backgrounds. In their short lives before MailChimp happened, Ben Chestnut lost his job in 2000, Dan Kurzius saw his gather's bakery going bankrupt, sister losing her hair salon. They had first hand experience in seeing small businesses struggling. One of the thought they embraced early on was to build a simple site that could help small businesses be in touch with their most loyal customers. They reasoned that while a simple touch with customers alone may not save the business from going bankrupt but can potentially be a step in ensuring that they stay relevant. Thus were sown the seeds of email marketing software.

Last year, i was at Zinnov Confluence where i heard Shekhar Kirani (start-up founder and an influencer) energetically say at a panel talk- we have problems everywhere, right from the time we leave our homes, during our transit to office, in our office, everywhere. It takes an strong entrepreneurial mind to convert the same problem to a business opportunity and thereby giving yourself a chance to positively impact many lives. Most people don't choose to go beyond just classifying a problem and crib about it. It takes a different kind of will and tenacity to stay with the problem long enough and extract a solution out of it.

2. Nurture Side Projects

From the Forbes article:
"Mailchimp, named after their most popular ­e-card character, launched in 2001 and remained a side project for several years, earning a few thousand dollars a month. Then in 2007, when it hit 10,000 users, the two decided to commit full-time."
In the several interviews that I have taken, I quite respect it when people say that curiosity is their strength. One of the ways to get a hint of curiosity and drive among people is to probe them on what additional stuff have they done beyond their routine projects (for which you are paid anyway). Whether they have any side projects they have contributed on ?

I have seen quite a few projects that started on the sidelines and eventually became big. A project demoed in an internal technology event at my organization, eventually became a start-up called as Eye-D and is helping solve a real life problems that visually impaired people face.

I was reading the book- Sprint by Jake Knapp as a lead author. It tells the stories of how Google's

projects such as Priority Inbox and Google Hangouts started out as side projects before they caught enough attention to become big.

I see people generally give excuse of not having enough time while not embracing any side projects. Here is a thought that Jake shares in his book-

'Our best work normally happens when there is a big enough challenge and not enough time.'

3. When it comes to products, focus is your best friend

MailChimp's focus segment has always remained small business owners. Small business owners usually can’t afford marketing teams or social media pros.
Focus is an amazing tool for start up founders and leaders. Leaving everything else aside, it helps you discover the will to say no to things that aren't of high value.

When Steve Jobs rejoined Apple during his second stint, one of the first decisions he made was to cull the product SKUs that were redundant and were proving to be a distraction.

Sharing this excerpt from the book: Deep Work

“As the authors of The 4 Disciplines of Execution explain, ‘The more you try to do, the less you actually accomplish.’ They elaborate that execution should be aimed at a small number of ‘wildly important goals.’ This simplicity will help focus an organization’s energy to a sufficient intensity to ignite real results.
For an individual focused on deep work, the implication is that you should identify a small number of ambitious outcomes to pursue with your deep work hours. The general exhortation to ‘spend more time working deeply’ doesn’t spark a lot of enthusiasm. In a 2014 column titled, ‘The Art of Focus,’ David Brooks endorsed this approach of letting ambitious goals drive focused behavior, explaining: ‘If you want to win the war for attention, don’t try to say ‘no’ to the trivial distractions you find on the information smorgasborg; try to say ‘yes’ to the subject that arouses a terrifying longing, and let the terrifying longing crowd out everything else.’”

More ideas from this story in part-2, coming soon.

Images source/Acknowledgements:

#MailChimp #Focus #SideProjects #RealLife #Sprint #DeepWork

No comments: