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Why should big enterprise have all the best marketing toys?

Sean Cook prefers a world where the best digital marketing tools are available to everybody. And as MailChimp’s Vice President of Marketing, he gets to help make that world a reality.

“Part of our mission is to make the most effective e-commerce marketing tools available to small businesses,” he says. “We find the stuff that works, and we make it work for merchants.”

At heart, Cook is an entrepreneur. He started — and sold — an e-commerce platform before joining the MailChimp team. So perhaps it’s not surprising how excited he is to talk about our Facebook Ad Campaigns, a powerful new tool for small businesses. In the conversation below, Cook explains why the new channel was developed, and why it’s a game changer for MailChimp users.

First off, is the new Facebook channel a sign that MailChimp is pivoting in a new direction?

Really, it’s an expansion of our platform. Our customers are looking for ways to grow their businesses more efficiently, ways to expand their audience and sales. MailChimp has always been a powerful set of marketing tools for our customers — this is simply an expansion of that platform.

So this helps e-commerce clients find new customers.

Right. Our customers have always used MailChimp to engage their audiences, have meaningful conversations, and increase sales. But for a long time they’ve also wanted more ways to grow their audiences. We see Facebook as a natural place to identify new buyers.

How does that work, exactly?

If I’ve got an email list, I can engage that audience and share my products, services, and message, but email marketing doesn’t help me find new customers. Facebook does, though! And the data I’ve already collected in MailChimp can be applied with surgical precision to finding a new “lookalike” audience — people who match the attributes of my customer base but may not have heard of my business.

This goes beyond demographics. We can look at geography, tastes, purchasing history, affinities, and other attributes to create a clear picture of what an ideal new customer looks like. Facebook is built on helping people find one another and connect. For the people who use MailChimp, it’s a powerful way for our customers to use the data that is already in their hands from their existing customer list to find a new audience.

The user controls this all within MailChimp’s dashboard — it’s not a portal to a Facebook tool, right?

Yes, and that’s a key point. We knew this was important, and something that our customers were very interested in seeing us build out. Our customers want us to expand into other channels and create new ways to market using MailChimp. And the reason for that is that they trust us. MailChimp has a very high standard for usefulness and usability, and we are committed to maintaining a quality of experience and usefulness for our customers.

With Facebook Ad Campaigns, we wanted to create something that enabled our customers to access an entirely new channel delivered in an authentic MailChimp experience. We weren’t going to launch until that expectation was met.

I think agencies will see we’ve delivered on that. The capabilities of the new channel will continue to expand, and it will keep getting better, but we would never send something out of the gate that is unworthy of our customers and our brand.

"We wanted to create something that enabled our customers to access an entirely new channel delivered in an authentic MailChimp experience."

How will this new tool make life easier for agencies?

Our customers have the same struggles that all small businesses have — they’re limited on time, money, and resources. They’re making stuff, they’re fulfilling orders, they’re doing their own product photography, and running their business. So the tools we provide have to save them time and energy while engaging their audience and helping them grow.

Facebook Ad Campaigns accomplishes that. It helps our customers to identify and engage new audiences while allowing for the level of automation that our customers have come to expect from MailChimp.

One of the really exciting things about this for agencies and their customers is real return on investment reporting. Because of the connectivity between Facebook, MailChimp and the e-commerce platforms, users will be able to see the direct impact of their advertising dollars.

Agencies and their customers will be able to see which ad dollars are working, which are not, and what sales of what products are being driven by those ads. It is definitely powerful stuff and clears away some of the anxiety and ambiguity that sometimes stifle the willingness to spend on advertising.

And in addition to control, it gives them access to valuable analytics tools.

Analytics are essential to our customers. Their reports show them where and how their dollars are working. And because Facebook, e-commerce platforms, and MailChimp all talk to each other, we can report on which ads work, which sell products, and which grow the audience.

It’s not just the reporting, either. It’s the insight our customers get by having that data and product information readily available. One of the benefits the new channel offers is the ability to segment lists around a specific product or promotion. Armed with that information, MailChimp customers can target specific user groups within their list based on selected attributes. From there, they can identify lookalike audiences that will be served relevant advertising.

Combine that with the power of automation and we’re giving our customers a new way to integrate their mailing lists and Facebook into a single creative campaign. That’s powerful stuff! We think it’s really going to make a difference for these entrepreneurs.

What are some of the other new possibilities that Facebook Ad Campaigns will open up for small businesses and online retailers?

For some of our customers, this may be their first experience in this kind of advertising, which can be intimidating. What MailChimp is doing through this integration is giving our customers the ability to run ad campaigns that are smarter and more effective, using data they already have in their possession.

It’s worth noting, too, that we’ve been close partners with Facebook in the development of this channel. We both have audiences that can benefit largely from each other, and the integration that we’ve done is a very complementary thing between the 2 companies.

That said, as we developed this tool we also wanted to make sure it was easy to use. We’ve created a streamlined interface that is both powerful and intuitive.

Sean at MailChimp in Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Small-business owners don’t always have a lot of time to dedicate to learning new software. What would you say to a MailChimp customer who might be on the fence about trying the Facebook channel?

A lot of us are used to a steep learning curve when we try new technology. Which is why, here at MailChimp, we haven’t lost sight of the fact that our customers appreciate our easy-to-use and intuitive experience.

That’s really the philosophy we embraced as we developed this tool. How can we make it as easy as possible for our customers to purchase and manage ads on Facebook? We’ve done everything possible to ensure that the things our customers like about MailChimp will be the things they like about the new channel.

What kind of feedback have you gotten so far from your users?

The response has been terrific — we have customers using the channel and discovering new ways of getting the most out of it.

One of the things I love about our customers is the rapport we have with them. When there’s a problem, they tell us and it gives us the input we need to drive improvements to the platform. And when they’ve had terrific success, they share it with us. That way we can help others identify best practices and get the most out of their experience with MailChimp.