Marketing rapid growth: Evernote’s stroll down memory lane

The chief of marketing, Andrew Sinkov, speaks to CMO about customer loyalty, social media interaction and why the company isn't focused on advertising

“Our goal is to elevate their brand as people that understand both our value and the value our product has brought to their lives,” Sinkov said. “Not only has that affected the user community, but we’ve also brought that into the products as a way to educate others. It’s a global campaign and one that’s impacting how the core products themselves function.

“We see this as a very young program evolving in all sorts of ways.”

Strategies to cope with growth

The hardest thing about being the marketing chief of a rapid-growth company is the pace with which the brand and product set is changing. “You’re bringing new products to market that may almost redefine the scope of what your company does,” Sinkov said.

“You always have to be thinking of the new opportunity, how are we going to increase the company’s story, and how we expect these to impact our users’ lives.

“One of the biggest challenges is to take that growth and always be open to re-evaluating who you are, what you stand for and where you’re headed. For our users, we’re constantly providing new products and features they want. If you look over the past year – for example, Evernote has grown dramatically in terms of definition and what you can accomplish. The biggest challenge is not to feel bogged down by the way you defined your company in the first place.

“Your users are the ones who are re-defining you as part of their daily lives and it’s important to be open to that.”

This doesn’t mean forgetting the core brand promise, which in Evernote’s case is to make people smarter. “It’s about evolving what the company represents while always remembering where we started and why we’re doing this whole thing to begin with.”

For example, with its new Evernote Business offering, the company is diverting from its usual course of letting the individual work out use cases themselves and employing corporate communication methods such as case studies, webinars and training materials.

“Mostly that’s just a starting off point, because whatever guidance we give them, they will adapt it to be whatever they want it to be,” Sinkov said. “But with business there are expectations and we need to meet those in a way that’s best for them.”

Forward focus

Alongside newer products like Evernote Business and Evernote Food, Evernote is ramping up its telecom operator partnerships and recently signed a deal with Deutsche Telecom to offer its Premium version to its customers. It has inked similar agreements with Japan’s NTT DoCoMo and Orange in France.

“These forward-thinking carriers have devices they sell as part of the platform and want to offer subscribers additional value in a way that’s not just bundling, or saving you time by having to download an app,” Sinkov said. “It’s about thinking about the type of subscription a user has, and how they can give you more value with your contract.”

Regionalisation is another focus this year for Sinkov, who admitted it was a fine balance between being effective in all regions while keeping locally focused.

Whatever might be around the corner, one thing that keeps Sinkov enthusiastic is that Evernote is still evolving. “Our relative immaturity means we can still do something innovative and unexpected. We’re in a very exciting time,” Sinkov said. “We’re constantly adding new things to expand what the company means.

“We are changing, but it’s an exciting change.”

It’s for this very exposure to change that Sinkov recommended all marketers try working at a company like Evernote at some point in their career. “It’s a different mentality, and you’re part of an ever-shifting, ever-changing environment where you are along for the ride while also defining it,” he said.

“I know these things aren’t forever, companies do change and become large and more established. Right now we’re at a point where it’s just fun and exciting.”

Evernote: Company credentials

  • Evernote was founded by two teams in 2007 led by renowned Russian entrepreneur Stepan Pachikov, who had been working on advanced image recognition technologies and tools to improve people's memories; and Phil Libin, who was looking to start a company that would use everyday technologies to help people remember aspects of their daily lives.
  • The company claims nearly 50 million users globally in 2013.
  • The business follows a ‘freemium’ business model, comprising a free fully-fledged version and premium versions.
  • It claims 35 per cent of first-time users become devoted to the offering, and 22 per cent sign up as paid users within three years.
  • Evernote secured US$20m in a Series C investment led by Sequoia Capital in 2010. This followed a $10m and $6.5m injection of cash in 2009.
  • Versions available include Evernote Business, Food, Skitch for image annotation, Penultimate for the iPad, Peek for studying and Hello.

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