Q&A with Intuit Mailchimp’s Jim Rudall & Jon Fasoli
Best known for its newsletter and automated email templates, Mailchimp was founded over 20 years ago as an alternative to expensive email software.
The company now claims to send out around one billion emails a day on behalf of its 14 million customers and has enjoyed “double digit growth” in the UK over the last 18 months, according to its newly appointed EMEA general manager, Jim Rudall.
Rudall recently joined the firm two years after the boot-strapped company was acquired by tax software platform Intuit for a reported $12bn in cash and stock. After this acquisition, Intuit officially changed the name of the platform to Intuit Mailchimp.
TechInformed caught up with Rudall – a former head of revenue at e-commerce platform Shopify – as well as Intuit Mailchimp’s chief product and design officer Jon Fasoli, who had flown over from the US for a customer event in London’s Strand, where we met.
At the event, the firm announced the release of more than 150 new and updated features to its platform. Key developments included a new email and audience analytics dashboard; the addition of more generative AI-powered tools; updates to Campaign Manager; and more ecommerce automations.
The firm’s standard plan has also been expanded to include many features that were previously only available to premium customers, including increased customer support and access to Multivariate Testing, Comparative Reporting, and Advanced Segmentation.
Why have you decided to focus on Intuit Mailchimp’s EMEA customer base?
JR: There are loads of reasons to invest in UK – particularly because of what’s going on in the market. Whenever economic conditions get challenging people go back to trying to understand their customers and communicating with them and we’re able to provide them to do the tools for that, at scale.
You were at Shopify before – what lessons were you able to take from there?
JR: They both have that same mission of wanting small businesses to thrive. I was a small business owner myself years ago, running an outsourced sales consultancy. I’ve got a lot of empathy for this community. SMBs power a significant percentage of the economy here, and right now they need all the support they can get
In terms of Generative AI, how is Mailchimp incorporating this technology into its platform?
JF: We’ve been baking AI into the product for a long time but until recently it’s been invisible in terms of the customer experience.
Now with ChatGPT the exciting thing is to bring a lot of things from behind the curtain to the front of the stage. We’ve been learning a lot from our customers using our generative AI capabilities which are in beta right now.
These features include the ability to generate an email in its entirety so you can tell us who you want to talk to, the tone, set the parameters and the platform will generate the content for the email.
Can the platform generate images from scratch yet?
JF: Image-wise there are a lot of exciting partners and tools that we’re leveraging but are not able to talk about right now. Things we already have in the market are a creative assistant that will take in an image that you’ve uploaded and will frame it up with content and optimise it across all social media channels.
The actual generation the DALL-E type stuff from scratch… that’s what we’re playing with right now, but we haven’t released anything yet. It’s a complex space and we want to get it right.
During the event today professor Hannah Fry made the differentiation between generative AI and predictive AI. Do you think it’s a combination of the two that will be the game changer for marketers?
JF: What makes AI effective from a marketing perspective is personalisation: addressing who it is that it should be speaking as; whom is it speaking to; and what is it speaking about.
And when you think about those ingredients, one of the things we’re really excited about at Mailchimp is the ‘speaking as’, as it is something that we understand well because we have customers who have been with us for 20 years.
We understand about tone, brand and how to best represent our customers to their customers. In terms of the ‘speaking to’ aspect – we have 8bn email addresses – so there’s a deep understanding as to whom the small business is talking to, so we can personalise that message.
Do you think that knowledge-based jobs will disappear because AI can automate so many tasks?
JF: I have a positive outlook. I see the evolution of a marketer’s job and everyone’s’ jobs as being like a manager. You have the power to deploy a team of AI agents to do the thing that you are setting out to accomplish but whatever the core motivation, the missions, where to direct that team still sits with the marketers. They have the vision. AI has the whole corpus of the internet to learn from. But it’s looking backwards, it still requires that creative pioneer.
The platform has suffered data breaches in the last year – what precautions are you taking to ensure these are less likely to happen in future?
JF: I get told off by our security team when I go into too much detail, as that might compromise us, but transparency is one of our core values. Trust means being clear when things happen. We take a tremendous amount of pride in the security standards we have but whenever things come up, we communicate the breach to the relevant parties and adjust quickly.
What feedback have you got from your customers about today’s event?
JR: Customers are already visualising how they can remove huge amounts of process from their marketing workflows to create more time in their day. They are also looking at ways they can create more one-to-one relationships with their customers.
You’re also offering your UK customers more personalised, one-to-one customer support… won’t that require more staff?
JR: We’re staffing up in this region. We have an award-winning customer team and plan to growing that team extensively over the next year.
What customers would you say are using the Mailchimp platform to its full advantage?
JF: Club Soda stands out because it sells beverages to two very different segments of customer. Some of their customers want alcohol others are in programmes looking for alcohol alternatives. So, they focus on these two distinct segments using Mailchimp with a high degree of intention to ensure that the messages are personalised for those two audiences. The in-store products are the same, but the way you bring that product to two different customers is completely different. I love how intentional they are.
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