Media outreach — This is one of the more effective means of growing our customer base through influential voices and platforms that receive millions of readers or viewers worldwide. When you have a story and powerful angle, then the world will take notice. It’s all about creating the narrative that people can relate to, paired with publishers that are widely recognized and trusted. Our features in major tech blogs during our initial launch are the reason why we were able to build a tremendous amount of traction to kickstart our journey into delivering the best email experience, through a company that cares about the well being of people.
As a part of my series called “Five Strategies I Used To Grow My Business To Reach Seven Figures In Revenue”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrea Loubier, CEO and Cofounder of Mailbird. She is passionate about Women in Tech, Remote Work, and Behaviors Between Humans and Technology. You can find Andrea solving the problems with digital communication, human connection, being a spokesperson for equality and inclusion and building a healthy relationship with technology.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
ANDREA: I wanted to become a social worker, to help people. However, working with legacy governmental systems was frustrating, didn’t pay well and was not exciting enough. I then decided to fall on my degree in marketing so got my first post grad job working at a market research firm — worked there 6 years, promoted each year, left to do something new. Got a job with a software company. This is where I was inspired and the decision-making wheel began once I got a taste of being able to own creating a life that I was proud of and that had greater purpose.
So, I kept my eyes and ears open for opportunities, especially internationally outside of the U.S. At this time tech was booming and Southeast Asia was developing faster than ever. I applied to work for a property rental tech company, through which I became friends with one of the founders. From this, I was introduced to my current partner and co-founder in Mailbird and decided to pack up my bags and meet to build an email company from exotic Bali, Indonesia. The motivating factor was working for a tech firm previously that was thriving, growing and had a positive culture. I wanted to get into tech. I wanted to start my own company. I wanted to learn and fail and succeed.
I started tackling one of the biggest challenges since the invention of the internet, that being email management and the experience that comes with it. Today I’m more passionate than ever in getting granular on human behavior in relation to technologies that rule our lives today. I’m intrigued by the psychological motivators that create work flow, but also stress. I wanted to solve the problem with email, a daunting task. I was excited for this new chapter and challenge. I can say that the decision paid off, as I don’t think I’ve ever hit the ground running so fast and so hard with the outcome of learning so fast since starting a business and not being afraid to fail.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
ANDREA: I was invited to partake in a startup reality show on the TV network Channel News Asia. One thing I learned from starting a company, is you have to jump right into it to learn and to choose living a life with no regrets. I was always interested in seeking creative opportunities to help grow our business and this is one of the more crazy opportunities I took on.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
ANDREA: I cannot say just one person to be honest, I’d say it’s a number of people in my life that have inspired me and motivated me. Encouragement and living the life you want is so important to me. I don’t want to ever feel regret because I was too fearful of doing or not doing something. So in this case I wouldn’t say one person, but rather many from my parents, my business partners, friends, successful VC guys, business coaches, influencers and teachers. This intricate network of people that help propel and empower me to do things outside of my comfort zone were pivotal in my achievements. I’ve recently become a first time parent, and they say it takes a village to raise a child. Much like this sentiment, I believe it takes a village to build a person of character, resilience and success — no one successful ever….ever….did it alone.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
ANDREA: “Life is a series of baby steps” by said by Hoda Kotb. I think this is more recently relevant given the relation to parenthood and watching a child observe and grow in the real world. They learn by doing, falling, making mistakes and without fear of judgement from others. It’s unfortunate that this changes as we mature in age and what others think becomes more impactful in shaping our minds. However it’s a positive when our circle of influence is propelling us forward. So much of life is rushed these days, so in the spirit of slowing down and being present in the world that is moving fast, I feel strongly that we shouldn’t be afraid to slow down. When we slow down, we have more clarity and time for reflection. I believe that progress happens when we take baby steps, making big daunting goals feel much more achievable.
Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. We’d love to learn a bit about your company. What is the pain point that your company is helping to address?
ANDREA: The negative experiences associated with information management, specifically with email. My co-founders and I developed Mailbird because there was no email management solution that delivered an enjoyable experience. When we looked at different operating systems and the email solutions created for them, we took note of those that had an enjoyable experience and looked for where there were opportunities for improving that on platforms where the negative email experience was not being addressed. Our team at Mailbird aims to not only build the future of email but to also deliver a healthy relationship with email that removes stress, time and agony from the experience. We want email to serve the needs of a high email load power user who receives thousands of emails a day across multiple accounts, all the way to your grandparent who just wants to be able to easily send and receive emails with their loved ones.
We want to take one of the most popular and widely used communication platforms to help businesses become more effective with asynchronous communication, where they can operate efficiently and with reduced stress and clarity. We study these human to tech relations and our interactions and relationship with technology and how its evolved without the proper support into what is commonly seen as negative, addictive, inefficient, stress inducing online activities. At Mailbird our purpose is to help you have an email experience that makes you feel good.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
ANDREA: We are an international, remote-first team. We rely heavily on technology to enable us to collaborate and communicate with each other. Through this we’ve discovered the many challenges that currently exist with information exchange and management through technology. So we collectively work on tackling those challenges from both behavioral and technology focused approaches. We do our diligence in truly getting to know people, understanding their needs, motivations and problems when it comes to online communication.
We love to learn, research and test our learnings and solutions. This enables us to be the first email company that cares less about “how much time you spend using our email application” and more about the behavioral science of what happens to a human being when they are interacting with each other via email. It’s a fascinating topic in the day of everything being tech first. Mailbird is paving the way for the future of work, and it has never been more timely given circumstances today with a pandemic that has severely impacted the way in which traditional co-location office work environments are operating.
When you first started the business, what drove you, what was your primary motivation?
ANDREA: Learning and achievement drove me. After succeeding in previous positions, knowing that I’m the type of person who works hard and understands that hard work pays off — its what got me to where I am today — I wanted to experience a different type of achievement and success. I found that with diving into the unknown of entrepreneurship. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made professionally. It’s something that I’m truly proud of. My motivation is driven by positive responses to solutions that our team at Mailbird is working on, in addressing the negative relationship people in this world have with email.
What drives you now? Is it the same? Did it change? Can you explain what you mean?
ANDREA: Today, after having succeed the critical first few years of starting a business my motivation stems from completing a cycle. Knowing that nothing is forever, and at some point there will be a major turning point in any business that leads to the feeling of, “we made it” or “we did it”. It’s that feeling of success, which sometimes seems like it will never be satiated. Success comes with both internal and external feedback. You know you are successful when others give you the feedback that you are successful. You also know you are successful when you yourself feel that you’ve achieved what you wanted in business.
Finally, who doesn’t want to deliver something positive in the world to help people in any way shape or form. That is what sets us apart as a species, the fact that we work hard to help each other as social beings to survive, to succeed, to feel better. I’m driven by the intricate details in studying human behavior in association with our addiction to technology. We are at a stage where we are successfully scaling the business and the team, and broadening our market share giving more people accessibility to a superb piece of technology that enables us to connect without boundaries. Solving these challenging problems with technology is truly amazing and I want to see that through.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
ANDREA: As mentioned earlier, we are broadening access to different markets in both studying human behavior with email technology but also deliver solutions through our learnings in different technology environments. Mailbird is an email client now but an evolving technology communication company that is truly looking at cross platform solutions with email management. Our greatest achievement being the concept of unification, which in itself, delivers a tremendous amount of relief when it comes to managing information through communication using technology.
The topic of this series is ‘Five Strategies I Used To Grow My Business To Reach Seven Figures In Revenue’. Congratulations! Seven figures is really a huge milestone. In your experience what was the most difficult part of being able to hit your first million-dollars in sales revenue?
ANDREA: Simply weathering the storms of instability and uncertainty when starting out. They say that a good 90% of startups fail within the first two years. This could be a number of reasons, but for our team at Mailbird the difference was in the people we had on the starting team. We are smart, resourceful, and stubborn about succeeding. Part of this was discovering how to test and iterate efficiently, and to take our growth at Mailbird from stagnant to rapidly growing and spreading through word of mouth.
The first rule of thumb in starting any business is, “don’t run out of money”, and we succeeded those critical years because we are smart about how we managed our bootstrapped investments and initial capital. We were not afraid to put Mailbird out there, in the raw, knowing that even if something did not pan out we would learn a lot from it and be able to do it over again but with more success. Every business will run into tough times, and it’s how you navigate through those times that sets you apart for success. A major part of this is all about the people you keep in your company that ensure success is imminent.
Could you share the number one sales strategy that you found helpful to help you reach this milestone?
ANDREA: We removed our freemium model. Now Mailbird is a premium email product that delivers solutions that are valued by our customers enough that they are willing to pay to have it.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you or your team made during a sales process? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
ANDREA: We launched a marketing campaign in China, without enough planning or administration of a localized team that could help with entering this very unique, yet large, market. We learned that when conducting a localized marketing campaign, you need to hire locally in that region, you need connections, and you need to localize the communication initiatives that are culturally sound and relatable.
Does your company have a sales team? If yes, do you have any advice about how companies can create very high performing sales teams?
ANDREA: No, we always like to focus on automation where possible. We’ve experimented with sales and I think it can be very beneficial depending on the business model, the type of business, and the customers you serve. Since Mailbird caters to consumers and small businesses, the majority of our sales efforts happens through digital marketing initiatives. We do this in order to be able to scale our efforts, so the more efficient we can be the faster we can grow.
However for sales teams, I believe that they can only be high performing if they have a proven system and strategy in place when holding the hand of any potential customer through their journey and experience with the business from every touchpoint. A high performing sales team understands their customer, and they know exactly what to say to close a deal.
At Mailbird we are lucky that we don’t necessarily need a live human being that needs to speak to the greatness of Mailbird, because we’ve crafted the human experience from the first touch point through to the last with careful detail. In this case, you don’t need a sales person. The customer journey is crafted perfectly in order to ensure value is delivered every step of the way in order to ensure a sale is made.
Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Strategies I Used To Grow My Business To Reach Seven Figures In Revenue”. Please share a story or an example for each.
- Growth hacking — intensive experiments to test every behavior and touch point a human has with Mailbird to enable us to deliver the most value for any given prospect.
- Inbound marketing — we work with partners that compliment Mailbird’s solutions to help with cross-promotional initiatives as well as publishing content that is relevant to our potential customers based on product market fit. Review sites have been great in giving full disclosure of thirst parties when comparing Mailbird to other existing solutions on the market. Referral programs have also been a great way to generate new leads for us.
- SEO — a big one for us in that it’s one of the key means that people find us organically. When someone searches for “best email client”, Mailbird shows up as one of the top results. We use this tool to easily help our potential customers discover us with ease. Getting backlinks and features in high authority websites helps us gain access to that larger audience through SEO.
- Media outreach — This is one of the more effective means of growing our customer base through influential voices and platforms that receive millions of readers or viewers worldwide. When you have a story and powerful angle, then the world will take notice. It’s all about creating the narrative that people can relate to, paired with publishers that are widely recognized and trusted. Our features in major tech blogs during our initial launch are the reason why we were able to build a tremendous amount of traction to kickstart our journey into delivering the best email experience, through a company that cares about the well being of people.
- Product strategy — We take care in researching, understanding and analyzing the product we have to offer and the impact on human behavior. We delivered a feature that was highly engaged with and had high demand. We were able to monetize that feature in a way that ensured our customers got a solution at a great value to them.
What would you advise to another business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth or sales and “restart their engines”?
ANDREA: There are a few considerations here. For one, growth is a delicate dance of resource investment and output, risk and reward, value vs. impact and full alignment on goal and objective setting. If your company has hit a block, the first thing I’d recommend is hosting a review and discuss meeting with your key team players that add a lot of value to the company. From these meetings the goal should be to have clarity on next steps to execute. If the ideas presented are not good enough or not worth the effort due to high uncertainty, the next thing I’d do is reassess the weak points in the business, where is there room for improvement?
What opportunities have not been further investigated? Who are we missing on the team that is needed to execute new growth initiatives? One thing I’m not keen on doing is outsourcing growth, as if another firm who’s not engrained into the culture and history of your company will magically resolve your business growth blocks. Outside consulting can be beneficial, but only because it will be another set of eyes with a fresher set of ideas that maybe have not come to surface internally. When things get stagnant, its time to make some noise. Do something different and bring attention to the great things your business is doing. Most of the time investment in heavy marketing and in creative campaigns will restart the growth engines again if done with a clear strategy and impact in mind.
In your specific industry what methods have you found to be most effective in order to find and attract the right customers? Can you share any stories or examples?
ANDREA: SEO and media pushes. A major part that we easily ignore when engrained in a business is outside of product, service and solutions. The other part of a business is the culture, the narrative and story that enables the public or your target audience to connect with you on a deeper level than just the equation of a customer saying “I have a problem”, a business saying “I have a solution” and the result being a product or service. Sometimes attracting the right customers means building relationships and connecting over shared passions and understandings of what humans need. I think we underestimate that, much like what we do at Mailbird in focusing on building positive engagement with email management, building positive relations and connection through a company’s narrative is just as important outside of the product or service alone.
Based on your experience, can you share a few strategies to give your customers the best possible user experience and customer service?
ANDREA: Do several interviews and surveys in real time with your customers as they are going through their journey with your business, in our case it’s email software. Learning and analyzing data that gets to the deeper understanding of our human behavior, motivations and needs, once unlocked, can give the clear answers as to what needs to be updated in order to deliver the best experience. As the world changes, we have to also look at how the interaction with people and communication technologies impacts their life. This is oversimplified but, in the end, you want your customers to have an experience that is smooth, easy, enjoyable and effective. We want our customers to feel good about email management, and to do that — we must remove the negative associations and stressors that currently plague their interactions with email from both the behavioral side and the product side.
As you likely know, this HBR article demonstrates that studies have shown that retaining customers can be far more lucrative than finding new ones. Do you use any specific initiatives to limit customer attrition or customer churn? Can you share some of your advice from your experience about how to limit customer churn?
ANDREA: In every business, churn will exist. It’s important to also understand the reasons why customers leave. In many cases it either tells you that you must update something in your business offering and full experience, or that you need to reassess the customers you are targeting. It’s nothing complicated other than ensuring that throughout the entire lifecycle of a Mailbird customer’s experience that we support them and serve them where they need us most. We deliver what they want, we provide value for them. This is also a balance between receiving feedback and evaluating which requests need to be delivered based on value and impact. Offering an incentive to stay is also an option, but at some point you should not have to convince a customer to stay. If they leave, its because you did not deliver what they want.
Wonderful. We are nearly done. Here are the final “meaty” questions of our discussion. You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
ANDREA: I believe in our particular interest in the behaviors between humans and technology, that we’ve become disconnected with our current world. In some cases, this is culture specific, however there is no doubt that the way in which a human exists in the world today has been largely impacted by constantly being connected to technology that has become addictive. Technology that has become a source of stress, anxiety and distance from real life.
There is an incredible amount of misinterpretation and miscommunication that happens on text based communication that happens through technology — look at the U.S. presidential elections for example, where a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation was happening online because people read words and didn’t speak to each other face to face, in real time in the same space. We’ve forgotten the power of humans as a social and intelligent species, and the thing that enabled us to be considered a superior animal in the world is our ability to connect, empathize, engage, support and collaborate in ways that keep us thriving, alive and healthy. The tipping point with the benefits of technology and its ability to connect us is that it very easily turns into something that is inefficient. Today we lack the most important thing that enables us to grow, which is connection in the flesh, that can only happen when you are face to face in real time, and in a shared space. The challenge today is to be able to fill that personal, positive, supportive and empathetic gap, whilst continuing the efficiency in our communications via technology.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
ANDREA: Richard Branson because he carries the wisdom of being successful with business with the Virgin empire as well as balanced with enjoying life. There’s no point in working hard to solve all the world problems if you don’t get to enjoy that world and take the time to spend with those that mean most to you. We forget that in life, if all successes and expectations were to diminish, the thing that matters most is the positive forces in your life and in particular the people who believe in you and support you through the ups and downs of life. Richard says, “Business opportunities are like buses, there’s always another one coming.” So when I see characters in fortune 500 lists or those who are receiving recognition for doing something great, I wonder what they had to sacrifice to get there. I wonder if it was worth it.
Thank you so much for this. This was very inspirational, and we wish you only continued success!