Monday, April 8, 2019

8 Ideas that the fascinating MailChimp story teaches us (Part-3)

This post is in continuation of an earlier post. For more context on MailChamp story and the ideas discussed in the last post, please check here.

Continuing more ideas from this absorbing case.

6. Go out of the door and talk to customers
'Email remained its bread and butter, but Kurzius started canvassing customers about the features they wanted next, making eight to ten cross-country trips each year to talk to small-scale entrepreneurs. Identifying himself as just “Dan,” he learned that store owners and small business operators wanted help advertising on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. So Mailchimp added simple tools to run social media campaigns. Ease of use remains a high priority.' (From Forbes article)

This point is almost a no-brainer but sharing a couple of points from my experience.

a) Most of the Innovation teams that I have had the privilege of working with- do the mistake of underestimating the real interactions with the customers. This can happen due to various reasons like lack of access to customers, lack of skills to extract info from the customers or it could simply be over confidence in their understanding of customers needs and their ability to meet the needs based on their technological prowess. How do we ensure the Innovation teams give real customer interactions a priority?

The approach I have followed in the past and also suggested in Steven.S. Hoffman's book- 'Make Elephants Fly- The Process of Radical Innovation' is to clearly demarcate the roles within the teams. The recipe for a perfect Innovation teams requires the roles such as these:

- The Hustler: a person who sells the vision and the product to the world. Talks to customers, gathers inputs, feedback and requirements.
- The Hacker: A techie who knows the latest and the related technologies inside and out and can use this to transform the business.
- The Hipster: Design guy, ensures that an optimum user experience is delivered to the users.
- The Hotshot: Domain expert, especially of technology domain or the problem solving area is new.

Will having such a role bifurcation ensure that the problems faced by
Innovation teams are solved forever?
No, not really.

But having the right role mix-up ensures that human output is maximized and the odds of achieving success increases dramatically.

7. Go High Tech but don't lose sight of Low Tech
'Some new efforts are decidedly low-tech, such as testing printed postcards; their customers sent 25,000 this summer. Others are much more sophisticated. By tracking a business’s customer base across every point of interaction—Facebook, email or in-store, for example—Mailchimp wants to supplement the email lists that gave the company its start, adding more targeted groups: say, customers who haven’t made a purchase in the last six months. Such capabilities are already standard with much more expensive software, like Salesforce; Mailchimp is trying to make them affordable for small businesses.' [From Forbes article]

It was amazing for me to notice that while embracing today's technology to enhance the marketing outcome for small business, they are also leveraging age-old mechanisms (like Postcard) to create the momentum. This could potentially be related to the fact that medium like Postcard really has more relevance too the audience that some small businesses cater to but largely this has to do with the fact that the essence of marketing is about creating nudges that draws people to action.

Laslo Bock's book- '
Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead' has this reference on the topic of nudges.

"In their book Nudge, Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, professors at the University of Chicago and Harvard Law School, document at length how an awareness of the flaws in our brains can be used to improve our lives. They define a nudge as "any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people's behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives.... To count as a mere nudge, the intervention must be easy and cheap to avoid. Nudges are not mandates. Putting the fruit at eye level counts as a nudge. Banningjunk food does not."

In my experience in running various site level and global technology initiatives where high employee engagement and participation was necessary, i relied a lot on creating nudges (like physical posters, emails, slack messages etc.) that weren't deemed noisy but at the same time were effective enough to drive people towards participation.

8. Energy and Enthusiasm
'Go public? Not worth the headache, Chestnut says. Sell? The founders look incredulous. “To this day, it’s just a fun feeling that we can help,” Kurzius explains. Chestnut chimes in: “I want people to see that the past 17 years were just a warm-up.”'

The last line that Chestnut says “I want people to see that the past 17 years were just a warm-up.”' sums up the key ingredient needed for success- the raw energy and enthusiasm. These are the words of people who are in love with their work. A lot of people start the work motivated by an attribute or two about their work but only a handful are able to sustain that motivation for years and this bunch of people are the ones who eventually create a massive dent in their work universe.

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