How Mixmax Acquired 5,000+ Customers Via Word of Mouth and Has a 20% Growth Rate

We have a love-hate relationship with traditional email.

With the average worker spending 23% of their workday sifting through 100+ emails, email is being referred to as: ‘knowledge pollution’.

Today, we are excited to share with you, our interview with Olof Mathé, the co-founder of Mixmax, a communications platform that allows you to send engaging emails, with tracking, scheduling, polls, surveys, and much more, to help boost your productivity.

Eric Siu picked Olof’s brain to discover: how he has is rapidly acquiring customers, what traits he considers in potential hires, tips on building a successful remote team, and more…

1)      Why don't you just tell us who you are, and what your story is?

Yeah, sure! I'm the co-founder and CEO of Mixmax, based out here in wonderful San Francisco. I’m actually originally from New York but mainly grew up in Sweden, and studied in France, so I've been about in a bunch of places, but excited to be in downtown San Francisco now.

2)       Tell us a little more about Mixmax. What was the impetus behind starting it?

Love that question!

The impetus was actually a longstanding frustration with how incredibly impoverished our communications are. That's something we all share as co-founders, actually, so if you think about how we communicate, especially how you communicate outside of your immediate team, typically you're just putting ink on digital paper.

It's plain text, it's really boring, it's flat, it's not at all expressive; and kind of funny, because today's the day of the Snapchat IPO, and I'm kind of a huge proponent of the richness and communication that Snapchat has given us, and kind of a little bit philosophically similar.

Mixmax amplifies what you're able to do in your communication and makes your communications much richer and more expressive.

You can embed any third-party app or even just embed your calendar, directly in a message or embed a video or an animated gif, just to make messages much more like apps or the web. That was the original itch that we were trying to scratch with Mixmax.

3)      How much does Mixmax cost?

It depends a little bit on your needs, but anything from $9- $65 per month.

4)      How many customers do you have? Tell us about any numbers that you can share around the business.

Yeah. I'm excited to share that we have more than 5,000 customers growing at a really, really healthy rate, north of 20%, so we're really excited about that, and it's kind of happened on its own, actually.

We just brought in someone to help us on the sales side a couple of months ago, but apart from that, it's all been self-served, which we're really excited about.

5)       I don't even know how I heard about you guys, but I'm just a customer, so whatever you guys did … I guess I should ask, how did you go about acquiring your first, let's say, hundred paying customers?

Great question!

I think we're big believers in the adage: “You should be embarrassed by your first release,” so we had a closed beta for a couple of months and then our official launch was on Product Hunt.

This was, roughly, almost two years ago, actually, so I think that helped us in our launch, because it got us in with kind of an early adopter, tech-savvy community that might be more forgiving of quirks in the early versions of product.

6) The 5,000 customers you have today, are these all paying? Also what is the average spend per customer?

Those are customers, not necessarily users, because there is a free plan of Mixmax, as well.

The average depends a lot on the type of user you have, but, kind of, on average, it is $25, $30 per customer, monthly.

7) Got it, okay. People can extrapolate those numbers out to figure out your MRR numbers, roughly in those ranges. In terms of customer acquisition nowadays, what's working for you now?

For us, actually, it's still largely based on word-of-mouth and how the product works. What we see is someone starts using it in a company and then it gets shared within the pod that you sit with, and then it very much grows from there.

That's actually the biggest growth driver for us. I wish I had some smart nugget to share with fellow entrepreneurs about: “This is how you should grow.” I guess we've just been incredibly product-focused, so a lot of low-hanging fruit for us to chew off on the marketing side.

Learn More: 14 Ways to Acquire Your First 100 Customers

8) Tell us about one big struggle you faced while growing Mixmax.

As a start-up you have ups and downs daily.

There's almost daily, a new unanticipated struggle, and that, is just part of the joy of doing a start-up.

The overall goal, that's really important for us, (since we're growing the team so fast), is:

How do we grow the team fast enough with incredible people?

A litmus test we have for growing the team (which might sound a little bit freaky) is: could we work with this person for the rest of our lives? That's just a litmus test in terms of being really excited about working with someone, so I think growing the team with the right people is a constant struggle that every startup has.

9) What traits are you looking for to consider … You're basically deciding if you want to marry this person, right?

The way we think about bringing new people on is, “Does this person add something really unique to the team?” It's more about, “How does this person contribute and expand the culture of the company,” not, “Does this person necessarily ‘fit in' with the existing culture?” I think that's a little bit of an important mind-set difference.

Apart from that, I think there's an overall criterion for characteristics we look for in teammates. A big one, obviously, at a startup is this overall thing of being really ambitious, self-directed, and independent and having a lot of drive, because you just need to jump on things and create outcomes for customers.

We look for teammates who are: really good communicators, really considerate, and creative.

10) Interesting, okay. I love it. Is there one specific tool that you use to manage your product roadmaps? You have Asana. It sounds like it's good for project management. Is there anything else that comes to mind?

Not really. To be honest, we're fans of, a product vision doc for 2017 that we refresh on a somewhat regular basis. We have a short-term products roadmap doc. Actually, Google Docs, so we're probably a little bit old-school in that regard, then we have the very sophisticated users of Asana, which we use as both a task manager and a bug tracker.

11) Cool, love it. What's one big change you made in the last year that has impacted you or your business in a big way?

Great question!

We used to be an entirely San Francisco based team. Now, we're a distributed team, so we have a couple people who don't work in the San Francisco office. We have someone in Michigan, Mexico and Australia.

Being a distributed team was one of the best decisions we ever made as a company, and we were  really sceptical doing this at first, but the way it started out for us, was that we got a lot of inbound for people who want to work at Mixmax.

Typically, as everyone knows with inbound, you have to sift through to find the really high quality inbound that you get, but we got an inbound from this one person on the team who was not based in the US, and we decided, “Hey, let's just check it out and see if it can actually work to be a distributed team.” He turned out to be incredibly awesome, and we brought him on, and it just worked great to be a distributed team.

It brought hygiene in terms of starting stand-ups on time, and documenting things properly in Google Docs or sharing information in Slack the right way, or better documentation in Asana or wherever it is.

It's really fun being a distributed team because it brings more diversity and different points of view into the mix.

12) What I found from an agency perspective was, we had to switch it back to having … At least the people that are doing the marketing work, is, for me, at least, I have to put them in an office environment where they can collaborate with each other, and they're doing the creative stuff, but I think if it's designers, developers, I think, generally, they can work well remotely. What's your take on that?

Yeah, 100% agree, and I'm really looking forward to having, kind of, our current perspective on that challenge and be proven wrong, just like, initially we were really skeptical about the company being able to work productively as an in-part distributed team, but yeah, I think there are certain roles that work much better distributed than others.

Typically, and this I hear from other companies that have successful remote work programs, too: it's, people who work remotely, are typically a good couple of years out of college. They're typically a little bit more senior. Some of them have families. Everyone on the Mixmax team who works remote has actually worked remote for multiple years before, so they know it's a way that they're able to be really productive, and they have the right setup with the home office or an office away from home.

That's a great way to put it. I totally agree with that. Also, at the same time, you can't hire interns that have never worked remotely, too. I think you got to look at the past, too, and if they've actually had success with it, so I totally agree with that.

One last thing on that Eric, actually, one thing that we do is, when someone joins who's going to be distributed, we bring them onsite for one to two weeks when they start, just so they can meet everyone else in the office and get properly onboarded. Typically, also, we do two team off-sites a year when the entire team comes together.

13)  How old are you right now, and what's one piece of advice you'd give to your 25 year old self?

I'm 36.

Take more risk.

I think when I was younger I was more, perhaps for lack of a better word, status-driven, or risk averse, and I think it's because, when you're young, you don't have anything on your CV that's really strong Also, back then startups didn't exist, as a thing.

I think I was afraid start-ups because I thought it would look bad on my resume, and I think there's been a change now where fortunately, in San Francisco the climate is such that doing a startup is what you should do for your resume, because it's the best way to 10X your learning in a really short period of time. I'm happy that's the way the world works now because I think people have much better opportunities than they did when I was 25.

14) What's one new tool that you've added, besides Mixmax, in the last year, that's added a lot of value?

I think that might actually be a SAS analytics product called ProfitWell. When you're starting out a business as an entrepreneur, you're probably using Stripe for your billing, and very quickly you're like, “Hey, how much money am I actually making across different plans and what's my retention rate, et cetera?” ProfitWell was an incredibly slick way of just getting great visibility on that, and there are other products like that.

There's a product called Baremetrics. They blog quite a bit about SAS metrics, and then as you get more sophisticated you probably want to switch to other products, like Recurly, Chargebee or Zora. That was one product that was really helpful to us to get visibility in the business.

15) What's the best way for people to find you online?

Probably the best way is to follow us on Twitter: @mixmax, and you can get in touch with me on  @olofster. Also, if you're listening and interested in Mixmax's business, interested in what we can do for your sales automation, or putting your outreach on autopilot or just interested in working with us, you can send me a note to: [email protected].

Growth Case Study: Bananatag and the Power of Good Press

Like Mixmax, Bananatag integrates directly with your email account, enabling you to track, schedule, send template emails; as well as provide you with email analytics to give you a deeper insight into how your audience is engaging with your emails.

Bananatag’s co-founder Corey Wagner, explained that when he launched the startup in 2012, the challenge he faced was: “getting the word out, as we couldn’t go out and spend thousands on ads”.

The company saw initial success through featuring in niche industry blogs, that had a relatively small, but highly targeted audience. However, the real breakthrough came after being featured in a Mashable article about Plugins that increase productivity. As a result of this coverage, Bananatag’s number of customers increased by 10 times in the following month!

The company then went on to be featured in a second Mashable post  that amassed several social social shares.

As a result of the press coverage, Bananatag surpassed their targets and foresee a revolutionary change in the way that people will send emails, predicting that un-tracked emails will be a thing of the past.

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