What Shopify’s CMO can teach you about marketing like a boss

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For anyone looking to grow their business it always helps to glean intelligent insights from the experts. Shopify CMO, Craig Miller, recently did an interview with Referral Candy to discuss what he learned while spearheading the growth of the e-commerce company.

Just look at the astounding numbers Shopify is putting out. Launched in 2008,  the company grew by a factor of ten from 2011 to 2014, increasing its subscriber base from 13,000 to 130,000. In 2011, total sales were $275 million, and from 2010 to 2014 Shopify went from just 40 employees to 500 with offices in Toronto, Montreal, and Kitchener along with its Ottawa headquarters.

Shopify’s customers are stores, from all over the world, and they each pay monthly subscription fees to use Shopify’s e-commerce software. These aren’t only just mom-and-pop e-stores; major brands such as General Electric and Wikipedia and Gatoradeand CrossFit have set up shop on, well, Shopify.

Such breakneck speed of growth is hard to ignore, and it’s helpful to learn what Miller can teach any marketing executive and B2B CEO about growing a successful business.

Marketing is All About Growth

One of the first things Miller did when he joined Shopify three years ago is rename the marketing team to the growth team. Why? Because marketing is sort of a nebulous term where people aren’t always sure what it means, he explains in the interview. By rebranding it as the growth team, the objective became much clearer.

Craig Miller, CMO of Shopify
Craig Miller, CMO of Shopify

Miller also stresses that growth has to be a company-wide objective, and not just the job of one select group of people. By instilling this mindset into the company, everyone is on the same page.

Make People Feel Like Their Work Matters

One concern for businesses is that the people on their marketing team might leave, or be transferred to other positions in the company. By making the people in his growth team feel that their work has a real impact, and is important to the company, those employees are more likely to stay on board. In fact, the problem might then be that you will have too many people wanting to join the team.

Don’t Be Afraid to Be Different

Every company wants to stand apart from the crowd somehow, and in our highly connected world that’s becoming more difficult than ever. Differentiating your business can be done in a myriad of ways. Miller cites the Shopify Terms of Service as one good example. The TOS has the usual legal jargon on the left hand side, and then on the right has a small paragraph or two explaining in everyday terms what it all means. The TOS page has been tweeted dozens of times.

Miller also says that businesses shouldn’t hesitate to try new things just to see how they work. If something doesn’t pan out, just  learn from it, and move on. Odds are that it won’t end up being a huge deal. When you find things that work, do them more often. Don’t spend all your time planning for the future, but look at what you can do today. Time is money. You don’t want to waste it contemplating endlessly about what could be done, Miller adds.

Always Be Improving

Miller is constantly hunting for ways to improve Shopify. He’s registered for Shopify a thousand times this year, every time looking for areas of improvement. He focuses on small, easy changes that, over time and once enough of them have been committed, can turn out big results. These iterative changes grow the company little by little, but the C-suite execs must be focused day-to-day to see the results.

Analytics Are Essential

Miller didn’t go to school for marketing. His background is in engineering, so this makes him very analytically minded. Data speaks to him as though he were reading a book. By using tools such as Google Analytics he can find areas of improvement, and figure out what the company should do. It goes to show that you don’t need a MBA to grow a company into the stratosphere.

In 2010 the Ottawa Business Journal named Shopify Ottawa’s Fastest Growing Company. This year, the Globe & Mail’s Report on Business named Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke its “Canadian CEO of the Year.” Given the explosive growth the company has experienced since then, it’s safe to say these accolades are well-deserved. Miller’s keen insights should be helpful to any business looking to turbo-charge its growth.

 

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