Two things happened.
First up, I went to see Mailchimp in Atlanta.
The second is I had a much-needed break from the office, a time to relax and reflect. Time to take stock and think about the future.
Here are the changes we’ve made.
Out with the old. Changing our business model.
We’re now acting more like a sassy SAAS startup than a 14-year-old service business. Mailchimp’s motto is ‘listen hard, change fast’, and this is something I brought back with me from Atlanta. We need to be more nimble, open to change, no scrap that… encourage and look for change! We needed to turn our business on its head and look for ways to take what we’ve done, learn from them, and look at ways we can truly scale our company.
This is not to say we’ve done too badly, despite the economic disaster and looming Brexit nightmare, we have actually grown year on year, and have attracted some pretty sizable customers along the way, but it would be lazy and complacent to sit back and say “job done”. It’s not in the fabric of our company, and I’d get bored.
When I started the company back in 2005, everyone was saying to me that you have to have a niche. This to me sounded counter-intuitive as I wanted to work with all types of businesses and not limit myself, but I completely missed the point.
It’s very clear to me that the secret formula for long term success is to find an area of your market and major in it. For us, that’s email. It’s all we do. I thought towards the back-end of 2018 that we needed to diversify, thinking we’d done email, we’d somehow exhausted the market, but that was pure crap. Email is still the best marketing channel for ROI, even in a glossy social media world. It’s not the most glam channel, but it delivers results.
That aside, it was clear that to grow, we cannot just be a small service company, we need to spread our wings. Therefore we needed to create something that would take us into a different space. A platform.
The MailNinja platform
The MailNinja platform is a work in progress and will remain in beta stage for the foreseeable future. The reason being, there are tonnes of possibilities to grow it in all new and exciting ways. To begin with, our free platform is an email content calendar and planning tool, with a Slack-style chat at its core. You plan, discuss and gather assets in a familiar chat window, and sort and store these assets for campaigns.
To start with, the purpose of this free platform is to be a way for us to meet and work with some new companies, but in time we will be introducing paid-for ‘powerups’ which will give users (sorry, customers) a toolkit for their email marketing.
With it, comes a change to how we price up our work…
Changes to our pricing model
When I was on holiday it dawned on me… why are we putting up so many barriers for people to work with us? Why are we getting them to sign 12-month contracts, charging setup fees, and using complex calculators to work out pricing plans? This stuff confuses people and drives them away. Why the hell would you do this?
So, we’ve ditched setup fees, contracts and complex stuff, and are now charging a simple cost-per-email fee. This starts at £300 and reduces the more you send in a month.
All of your billing info and invoicing is available in your free platform, and you are auto-billed each month, so you don’t have any manual invoicing or accounting to take care of. This whole new way of working makes it easy for you to get started and work with us and makes it so much easier for us to manage, meaning we can reduce faff and admin work, focusing more time on your emails and planning.
Our new logo and brand design – Emily Croft
Since we’ve had our current logo for a few years, and since we’re relaunching our company, we felt it was time for a refresh. Naturally, the first thing we turned our attention to was redesigning the logo. The overall consensus was that it needed an updated look and feel whilst still retaining the identity of the brand – a given example of a logo redesign was Mailchimp’s Freddie mascot. The first point of call was looking at the current logo design and reflecting upon the concepts behind its creation as well as its representation of the MailNinja brand identity.
With a grounded understanding of the original logo and its development, we started to research further into the logo design, current trends and ninja imagery. From this, initial designs could start to be drawn up.
The first few attempts were very much rooted in the design of the original logo. Quick sketches and rough ideas were drawn up and discussed as a way to start off the redesign process and get a feel for what was working and what wasn’t.
Though it was well-received as a starting point, it became apparent that the designs needed much more refinement, as well as being mindful to keep the friendly identity of the brand that our clients are familiar with. With this in mind, we began to reflect on the suggestions discussed as a team and went back to researching as a way to help generate more ideas and steer the designs to something more appropriate.
The second round of revisions involved a lot more exploration into a variety of design possibilities. More details were added and rounded edges became a definitive feature, helping to shape the overall look, feel and identity of the brand.
This time, the response from the team was very receptive of the refined feature and details, and a design was chosen to be taken forward for further development.
With a favourite design chosen, it was down to the small details to resolve the logo. We went through a number of revisions that explored the black and white balance, the possibility of adding a grey tone and including a bandana detail.
After multiple revisions, we were able to come to a final decision on the logo. The black and white values were tweaked to a 50/50 balance, resulting in a refreshed and modern feel. To help with the refinement, details, such as the bandana, were included, and the eyebrow quirk gave Ray more of an animated personality. This was balanced out with a small, white detail under the eye.
Finally, the logo was combined with a new font. The resulting logo adopted the friendly, approachable values of the MailNinja brand as well as a resolved modern look and feel.
Animated GIF logo – Marcelo Salgado
Here’s an animated version of our logo we will use sporadically on our website and promo stuff.
Our website revamp and colour scheme
As part of our brand facelift, we’ve updated our website, balancing our service offering between our core service that people know us for, and our new platform. It’s a careful balance, but I hope we’ve got it right.
Our platform will be free forever, however as it grows and we add more features we will be introducing premium features to support and work alongside our service offering.
Short term we will be making our platform the base of how we operate, but it very much plays a supporting role to our services, longer-term our plan is for our platform to become MailNinja, and we upsell managed services around it, flipping the balance towards the platform and less on services.
More news when we have it.
Doug Dennison, September 2019