There are milestones in every business, for me, there’s a few that stand out; deciding to focus on just email, deciding to call my company MailNinja, deciding to hire my first employee, to name but a few. Recently, there’s been a few more to add to ‘our story’.

Milestone #1 – my trip to Mailchimp HQ

Back in April 2019 (before the world went into ‘meltdown’) we had the pleasure of being invited to Mailchimp HQ in Atlanta, you can read about our visit here. This trip was an amazing experience and gave me a deeper insight into the company we chose to be our biggest strategic partner. The culture, the people, even the office, made me both inspired and jealous in equal measure. BUT, I came away with the confirmation that we’d backed the right horse. Mailchimp isn’t a static and boring company resting on their reputation, they are going places, and we’re gonna go there with them!

Mailchimp-agency-mailninja

Milestone #2 – the realisation moment

I went on holiday in the summer of 2019, and I spent the best part of 10 days sat on a lounger on my iPad Pro, researching, planning and mapping out what MailNinja 2.0 would look like. Early 2019, I had hired a senior manager to run the show so I could focus on growth – this was bad for 2 reasons;
Firstly, we had created layers of process and complexity where it wasn’t needed. We had tools for everything you can think of, from proposals to reporting. I was being persuaded that we needed to invest in even more software to the tune of £6k a year just to manage data (and we didn’t even do much data work).
The second part was that we simply weren’t converting many leads. We had a bunch of new leads every week, but none were converting. Some of this was down to the super-complicated Excel spreadsheet that calculated the time of EVERY aspect of a customer’s plan, meaning they just couldn’t understand what the heck they were looking at. The other aspect was that we had unintentionally put up roadblocks so our customers weren’t coming on board. We had setup fees, monthly management fees, 6-12 month contracts. It was getting out of hand, and as a result, I really didn’t enjoy going into work, I felt like I wasn’t making any difference, just turning up every day and writing a few emails.
I had put someone else in charge of my business. My biggest mistake.
I needed a holiday. I needed to reset the balance.
I needed to let the old ways die, and do something new, fast.
I needed to take back control.
From this moment, change was afoot; our senior manager had to leave, we had to move to a simpler model; simple plans, no setup fees or contracts.
In fact, when I realised the following, it hit me like a brick…
We need to sell our services like Mailchimp sells its product.

Milestone #3 – the rebrand

I wanted a fresh start, so before we introduced these changes I wanted a new brand identity, new brand colours, a new logo and an update to our website. I was clear that I wanted to build upon the things that we knew worked, kill the stuff that didn’t, and take things back to the start, making everything simple.
The first change was to refresh our logo. We challenged our two in-house designers to both create new versions of our logo. Nothing too radical, just a refresh. They competed against one another to create the best logo they could, then create a GIF for the logo.
Here’s a sneak peek of our brand refresh

One bold step.. the relaunch of mailninja

Milestone #4 – Mailchimp’s rebirth

Mailchimp had done email. It was becoming a crowded space, and they needed to figure out… Now what?
Mailchimp’s founders Ben and Dan have always set out to empower the underdog and support small business. They aren’t interested in capitalising on just email, partly cos they don’t have investors to answer to, and partly cos they already own 69% of the market share, so where do you go from there? Instead, they set out to expand on Mailchimp’s brand and transform into the all-in-one marketing platform.
Part of their relaunch was to refresh their brand, again nothing too radical, but to enhance the playful and simple brand identity they already had.
This post from Ben explains about Mailchimp’s brand evolution:

Milestone #5 – a time for change

So, this now brings up bang up to date. Lockdown.
It was strangely sunny here in the UK during April 2020, a small bit of joy in a mad world. I took advantage of home-life and spent a lot of time laying in the garden listening to podcasts from people who have ‘done it’ and become gazillionaires. One podcast led to another, and I stumbled upon a theme – that for a digital agency to grow beyond their current size, they needed to do 2 things; productise their services and systemise their operations.
Listening to episodes from the founders of WP Curve (now owned by GoDaddy), Design Pickle and The Hoth, it dawned on me that we need to do the same. We can productise our services into packages, systemise our entire operations, and we can scale this thing BIG!
One decision that I made early on but sat on it for a while, was that we needed to become a fully remote company. Equip the team to work at home and give them some flexi-time to allow for work/life balance.
The first step was to decide what we do and don’t do (just as important) in our set packages, this needs to be scalable, but also allow for some flex, cos no 2 companies are the same.
Next up, I needed to map out our systems. I created a super complex flow chart documenting every step of the process, adding in milestones, worksheets and checklists along the way. The backbone of this system is the MailNinja app. This forms the structure and enforces the steps and checks for each person involved in the process.
Lastly, I needed to create a growth plan. I can’t be sure that if we build it, they will come, how am I going to make sure we scale this.

Milestone #6 – the results

Now the MailNinja app is live and running and we have a simple flat-fee, pay-as-you-go model with no setup fees, we have customers signing up most days, and placing orders for emails all the time.
Despite being based in Swindon, we’ve never been a ‘local’ business in that sense. Unlike other digital agencies in Swindon, we were national. but now we’re global.
Don’t get me wrong, we’re far from done. The app is in permanent beta, there is no finish line. I decided that early on. There are so many ideas and new areas we can go with it, and this constant change and growth excites me more than anything. I’ve got my mojo back, and I now love my job.
My team are amazing, and they trust my instincts to drive them into new directions, and for that, I am super grateful. I do not take them or their hard work for granted. Without them, I’d just be full of ideas and no action.

Milestone #7 – MailNinja + Mailchimp

Now MailNinja has a newfound purpose, and Mailchimp are constantly evolving and growing, the future is exciting again.
The first thing to announce is that we have become Mailchimp certified. The Mailchimp Academy is a great addition to their partner program, and we’re proud to be one of their first certified partners.

Mailchimp email agency | mailchimp experts | mailchimp pro partners

The next thing is that we now have a shiny new Pro Partner badge to show off. We join an elite group of Mailchimp experts who have achieved Pro status. We’re so proud of this achievement, especially as we’re such a small little company in the heart of the English countryside. It makes me feel that anything is possible.

Mailchimp email agency | mailchimp experts | mailchimp pro partners

A brief ‘show-off’ is to announce that we are #1 on the Mailchimp partner directory (as of October 2020 anyway). Again, an achievement I am super proud of.

The final (final) thing to announce is that we have set up a group of Mailchimp experts, and are sharing our expertise regularly. So look out for our posts featuring some awesome partners. One of which is here https://mailninja.co.uk/blog/email-marketing-tips

So, now what?

So, Mailchimp has just launched Mailchimp & Co, a community of freelancers and agencies from all over the world, coming together to support each other.
You can find out more about Mailchimp & Co here:
I don’t like to shy away from things, so our mission statement is bold and brash – it’s simply: To be the biggest email marketing services brand in the world.
With 12 million people using Mailchimp, who knows where we’ll be in the next year. Now we’re a global business, I just know the world is our oyster.
Bigger. Better. Bolder.

That’s what…