Mark DiCristina, Mailchimp Director of Marketing

Mailchimp are a company we have huge admiration for. Not only is their product badass, they’ve nailed marketing. Period. For that, we had to ask Mark DiCristina, Mailchimp Director...

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Mailchimp are a company we have huge admiration for. Not only is their product badass, they’ve nailed marketing. Period. For that, we had to ask Mark DiCristina, Mailchimp Director of Marketing to be this weeks SaaSStar. Here’s what he had to say to SaaScribe:


Hi Mark, Would you say Mailchimp doesn’t conform to traditional SaaS Marketing? For instance, sponsoring the podcast Serial and giving away monkey hats for cats may not be in the traditional SaaS Marketing playbook.

Yes, we do lots of things differently! Many SaaS companies are aware of the importance of brand marketing, but they’re unable to make the investments in a long term strategy that are necessary to create a meaningful brand. Our commitment to it has been baked in from very early on.

The Podcast Serial was a huge success both for the producers of the podcast and as a marketing coup for Mailchimp. How did Mailchimp get involved in sponsoring the show and can you share any ROI metrics that were a result of the sponsorship?

We’d been sponsoring This American Life for a while, and they approached us for Serial because MailChimp was the only advertiser their listeners had ever given them positive feedback about (the ad said we make hats for cats and small dogs). When they sent us a description of the show, we immediately told them we wanted to sponsor the entire season. There’s no way I could have predicted the the massive cultural impact it had, but I knew it had the potential to do for podcasting what The Sopranos did for television. I still feel good about that!

The ROI on something like this is hard to calculate, but it was insanely great. Our goal with podcast sponsorship is to create awareness, and we saw an unbelievable response. We showed up on SNL, The Colbert Report and Funny or Die. There were hundreds of tweets every day at the end of the season, articles in places like Fast Company and The Guardian about the ad and our approach, even remixes on Soundcloud. For so many fans of Serial, the MailKimp meme became the way they shared their enthusiasm for the show, and people are still talking about it today. For an advertiser, it doesn’t get any better than that.

Is it important for a SaaS Companies culture to permeate right through its marketing strategy?

Yes, and that’s certainly true of MailChimp. The reason we’ve been so successful with our brand is that it’s a true reflection of our values and beliefs. We’ve been consistent over a long period of time, and people feel that.

Mailchimp Only offered freemium 8 years after launch. Why so long and why introduce it when you did?

MailChimp is proudly self-funded, and creating a healthy company is more important to us than growth for growth’s sake. We knew freemium would create momentum for us, but it also came with a good deal of risk. We had to get to a place where we were confident about things like finances, abuse, and support before it made sense. Ben wrote a great blog post about it a year after we went freemium. http://blog.mailchimp.com/going-freemium-one-year-later/

Growth Hackers seem to be popping up in SaaS Companies left, right and centre these days. Is Growth Hacking the new VP of Marketing? Do you consider yourself a Growth Hacker?

That’s funny. It’s not how I see myself. I even had to look up the definition to make sure I answer the question correctly!

MailChimp certainly takes a non-traditional approach to marketing, and we’ve been able to make an awesome impact with a limited budget relative to our competitors. We do tons of iteration and experimentation, too. But when I think of growth hacking, I think of products that are looking for an audience and still trying to figure out how they fit into their customers’ lives. We’re very clear on who our audience is and the job MailChimp does for them. My role is to show people that MailChimp makes the best products in our industry and build a world famous brand to support them.

by Alex Theuma @alextheuma

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