Thursday, December 03, 2009

How Mad Mimi created a $75,000 a month business in a couple years

Mad Mimi is making $75,000 a month in just about 2 years. They did it with focus on a small niche, twitter replies, and obsessive customer service.

Mad Mimi is a web service to send out marketing emails to an email list. Email marketing. Not rocket surgery. Actually such a routine business that the competition in this market is pretty established and there's a lot of it.

I can rattle off at least 5 or 6 from memory that do things like this: MailChimp, Campaign Monitor, Aweber, iContact, Constant Contact, Vertical Response, Emma, on and on. Just look up email marketing in Google and be overwhelmed.

Huh, so you have to be nuts to want to enter this right?

A couple nights ago I attended a talk given by Dave Hoover of Obtiva about how he helped Mad Mimi get started. Dave's talk was recorded and hopefully will be up on Chicago Ruby soon, so I'll just mention a few things that really stood out.

Mad Mimi actually tried to get started in 2005. Apparently it failed in its first attempt. Not sure about the details. But it sounds like whoever was trying to build version 0.1 couldn't get it off the ground. But Gary Levitt the owner and founder of Mad Mimi sounds like a man with a vision and crazy persistence.

You've got dozens and dozens of competitors. And your first attempt at starting your new business failed. Give up?

Instead he contacted Dave with Obtiva to give Mad Mimi a second try. That effort seems to have paid off. Here's a few takeaways from Dave's talk that stood out.

1) Focus on one type of customer. Gary is a musician and wanted to focus on helping musicians. Mimi even stands for Music Interface something something :) As Mimi started, it was completely targeted at helping Gary's musician friends send out great emails to their fans.

Just like an example out of Geoffrey Moore's Crossing the Chasm's "Bowling Alley" theory, Mimi's success with musicians was like a bowling ball hitting the first pin. After that, it started to hit a lot more pins. The success has spread to clubs and spread to fans receiving those emails. And now many more non-musicians are on it. Seth Godin is a high profile marketing guy and he uses it for Squidoo.

2) Use twitter replies. They've won a lot of customers just paying attention on Twitter to people that need things. Someone having trouble with a competitor? There they are offering a nudge to check out Mimi.

3) Total dedication to customer support. An important feature for them was adding a "Chat to Support" button in Mimi that opens up a 37signal's Campfire chat. Customers love having someone to ask questions to in real time and only a click away.

Their customer support doesn't stop there. Here's one example of how crazy they are with paying attention to their customers' needs. The head of customer support (Gary's brother Dean) heard on Twitter that one of their customers was traveling to New York and was looking for a place to stay. Dean had that guy stay with him at his own place in New York. :)

Dave gave a great talk. I'll update this post if I see the video online. Obtiva and Mad Mimi seem to be a couple companies worth paying attention to.

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