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How Kristy McCarley Slayed a Goliath

This Mailchimp partner took on the biggest job of her life—and crushed it.

It’s midnight at a FedEx Office location in Atlanta, Georgia. Kristy McCarley should be in bed. Instead, she’s here at this printing center, wrestling oversize papers. Kristy’s newest client, a health-and-wellness brand (who she’s asked us not to name for privacy reasons), has her tackling a goliath of a job: She has to get 30-plus Mailchimp automations working seamlessly with over 200 email templates.

“The project was almost too big for me. I like a challenge, but I also like to win. And for me, a win isn’t just crossing the finish line, it’s making sure my clients think I’ve done a great job.”

—Kristy McCarley

The client had tried working with other marketers prior to bringing Kristy on board. None could deliver. “The project was almost too big for me. I like a challenge, but I also like to win. And for me, a win isn’t just crossing the finish line, it’s making sure my clients think I’ve done a great job,” says Kristy.

It’s this drive that prompted Kristy’s late-night FedEx Office field trip, and why she’s printing blueprints of the project’s complex architecture. “I’m a very visual person, and even though I knew in my head how everything was going to work together, I needed to see the whole thing,” she says.

The “whole thing” was an interconnected system of funnels using Mailchimp automations. Depending on customer inputs (like age, location, and gender), a series of emails would be triggered. To populate this automations ecosystem, Kristy created over 200 email templates, each designed for maximum conversion.

Years of marketing experience had primed her to tackle this job. After careers in both IT and marketing tech, Kristy started her own consultancy, Pure Firefly, which offers clients digital marketing services including email marketing, workflow automation, and website development. But the learning curve for the project was steep. “I had never worked with that number of automations and triggers before,” Kristy recalls. “I learned more about Mailchimp automations in those few months than I’d learned in several years.”

Where other marketers had stumbled, Kristy engineered creative solutions. “Because I used to be a programmer eons ago, I was able to problem solve in a unique way and create opportunities where others might see dead ends,” she says.

“Because I used to be a programmer eons ago, I was able to problem solve in a unique way and create opportunities where others might see dead ends.” —Kristy McCarley

Although Kristy leveraged her strengths to complete the job, she also knew her limits. “One of the biggest lessons I learned from this whole experience is if you feel like something is too big, ask for help,” she says. “And this was so big, I did not want to be testing it myself.” So Kristy hired a Wordpress expert and someone to do QA. With their help, she was able to ensure every aspect of this complex system was working—even when updates to the client’s website occasionally triggered a domino effect of new variables to tackle.

Open communication was also crucial to Kristy’s success. “Whenever you’re working on something as big as this, there are always times where you feel frustrated because there are so many moving parts,” says Kristy. “Luckily, I was fortunate enough to work with clients who were great communicators.”

Though it took 6 months of designing, developing, and tweaking, many sleepless nights, and that notable trip to FedEx Office, Kristy got the job done. “It was definitely a lot of pressure, but in a good way, because I was helping the client achieve something they’d been planning for years.”

The great irony for Kristy is that in July 2020, shortly after finishing this job, Mailchimp launched its Customer Journey builder. “As a Mailchimp partner, It was really cool to see Journeys come out. It was like Mailchimp knew exactly what I needed. With Journeys, this project would have taken me half the time. Instead of 30 automations, we could have had 4. Too bad it came out just a few months too late.”

Kristy’s story is proof that when you combine hard work with the right skills, the right tools, the right team—and yes, maybe the occasional late night—there’s no goliath you can’t take down.

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