💣 Growth Hacks From Shopify’s Brand and Audience Expansion Director

With Ideator Lindsay Craig

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Umbrella season is well upon us in Vancouver. But if you drive high enough, it thankfully turns to snow. With holiday festivities right around the corner, I wanted to quarterback an interview that brings you to the frontlines of ecommerce.

I slid into the DMs of a Shopify friend to ask if she had time to help. Hovering around the $200 billion market cap zone, Shopify is no small operation. And neither is managing their brand and audience team.

Lindsay Craig is the director leading Shopify’s Brand and Audience Expansion. With 85 folks on her team, she has her hands on a lot of moving pieces. Thankfully, Lindsay was able to carve out a bit of time to help drop some marketing bombs for us today.

👀  Today’s Menu:

  • The simplest way to build a community around your brand

  • A framework on prioritizing ideas to go hammer and tongs on execution

  • Experimentation - The key to unlocking success 🔐

Top up your coffees and let’s dig in. ☕️

JH: What’s your #1 tip for building a community around your brand?

LC: I think a lot of Brand teams plan way more than they need to. It’s great to be prepared, but if you don’t leave room to engage with your community, your content or campaigns may not resonate. We have an awesome Social team who are really plugged into what people are saying about Shopify.

This has led to ideas like selling a chrome “Cha-Ching” button to all the folks on Twitter who love our sales notification sound, or doing an impromptu Shop Pay hoodie drop.

These fun moments are possible because we have a team that is listening to our users and we’ve intentionally left flexibility in our UX roadmap to engage with our community

Try it here!

JH: As the Director of Brand Growth, how do you cast a vision then divide and conquer your team of 85? How do you ensure convos don’t remain as “ideas” and action is seen in a big org?

LC: We’re one of the newest Marketing teams at Shopify; we started 2021 with fewer people, less structure, and a shortlist of hypotheses we wanted to explore together. Initially, we focused a lot on creating a ‘culture of shipping’ where sub-teams were empowered to collaborate, move quickly and experiment. 

As we’ve gained traction in certain areas, we’ve grown our teams and relied heavily on our Operations team to help us add the right level of the process. Last week, I met up with my direct reports to reflect on our biggest wins & learnings of the year, and to kick off our annual planning cycle. Now that we’re a more established team, we are adopting a model where each of them will be accountable for a specific ‘marketing mission’ and measurable goal(s) next year. We have shared operating principles (like “bullets before cannonballs” to quote Jim Collins) and operate as a ‘team of teams'. 

At the project level, we rely heavily on rituals and processes to maintain momentum. I meet weekly with both my direct reports and our Ops team / UX Leads. Our Ops team is deeply involved in almost all our projects; they track everything in Notion (with a custom brief template) and help organize kickoffs, standups and retros. Every project is led by a dedicated Champion who is accountable for rallying the team around shared goals and timelines, and spreading the word (internally and externally) when it’s time to launch.

JH: What’s your favourite “eyes light up moment” of leading this fascinating part of Shopify’s brand growth?

LC: We have an exciting mandate that requires a lot of experimentation — it’s a little nerve-wracking but also exciting when something new takes off. This past spring, I had a theory that we might be able to attract people to our brand by giving away something valuable, instead of spending the same amount of money on ads.

So our UX team did a short sprint and designed really fun, engaging “Business Starter Kits” for 9-12-year-old kids. Our goal was to give away 5,000 kits within Canada (a geographic constraint since it was an MVP).

All 5,000 kits were claimed in the first day or two, and that was all sparked by a single tweet from a colleague who is a parent. In total, ‘word of mouth’ drove over 100,000 people to Shopify.com/kids which proved we were onto something.

JH: What area of the operations has seen the highest amount of growth (Twitter, creator partnerships, brand campaigns etc)?

LC: It depends what kind of growth we’re talking about. From a metrics perspective, I’ve been really excited to see how engaging and scalable our Tiktok & Youtube Partnerships have been.

Our Partnerships teams collaborate with influential merchants like Unnecessary Inventions, Colin & Samir and Slime Influencers on everything from integrations to ads to commissioned content. They’ve graduated from experimenting last quarter to scaling their work this quarter and I can’t wait for their current batch of projects to go live.

 JH: Huge thanks to Lindsay for making time to share some gems with us. If you want to follow more of her work, check out her website or follow her on Twitter.

💡RIFF OF THE DAY

Wanna see a new e-commerce store in action? Shopify President, Harley Finkelstein, just launched a new one this week called FireBellyTea with the former co-founder of DAVIDsTEA. I checked it out yesterday and was so impressed I bought some new goodies.

Thanks for reading! I try hard to make it a newsletter you look forward to each week, so if you have any suggestions about content you’d like to see or ideas that sparked, let me know:

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Stay outta’ trouble and catch you next week.

✌🏻 Joel

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