Why It’s Hard to Dump Inefficient Systems

  • Pierce Ujjainwalla

    Pierce Ujjainwalla

    Co-Founder & CEO, Knak

Published May 5, 2020

Why It’s Hard to Dump Inefficient Systems


Explore Knak's journey from signature templates to innovative solutions, learning valuable lessons on embracing change and customer feedback.

Do you do something inefficient out of habit? Are you so busy you don’t have the time to learn how to use time-saving options, even the ones you know exist? You’re not alone! Here’s what we learned when we (finally) decided to sunset our signature product, templates.

Knak was created to help people send out modern, on-brand and effective emails.

Our clients, for the most part marketers, generally don’t know how to code.

That meant they struggled when they tried to create emails that were anything but generic. Even adding a logo was problem for anyone not familiar with coding. And fancy fonts and colours? Forget it!

Our solution was to create templates that allowed our clients to send out snappy-looking emails without having to know how to code. These templates became our signature product and the source of most of our revenue.

Problem solved?

Not really.

Over time we realized, through client feedback, that our templates had created as many issues as they’d solved.

But we have struggled to get our clients to accept them. Existing clients seemed wedded to the original, inefficient templates. And because the templates were what we were known for, new customers would ask for them.

We ourselves agonized for more than two years before deciding it was time to sunset what had been our signature product, the one that essentially got the company going.

Why so much resistance?

Here’s what we learned about managing change.

1. Win converts in small batches

Everyone’s crazy busy these days. Especially, it seems, our clients. In the marketing world, everyone’s focused on getting things done right now!

When we’d tell a client that our new products were much more efficient than our templates, the common reaction was something like this: “We know the new system is better, but I have to get this one thing done right now. I don’t have the time to learn about something new, nor do I have time to convince people in my company – who are as busy as I am – that we need to change our way of doing things.”

We realized we didn’t have to convince every client right away. Instead, we set targets for converting small groups of clients – as few as five or 10 people a month – to our new products.

Those converts were able to become champions for our new Builder and Enterprise tools in their firm. And because they knew how the tools worked, they were able to help their colleagues master them.

Over time, we were able to win over more and more clients to the new systems – enough so that the templates were eventually no longer a major source of revenue.

It was not easy to deal with resistance to change. We would work with a client to build an email in one of the new products, and they would say, “Oh, this is good – but now I have to train my team in how to do this and I don’t have time.” We overcame that by creating a buddy system so people didn’t feel they were facing the new product alone.

2. Accept that your new product won’t be perfect when you launch it

Resistance to change can be an internal issue as well. Even I struggled for a long time with the idea of ditching our templates.

Part of that resistance comes from a desire to want any new products to be as good as they can be when you launch them.

Perfection isn’t necessary; functionality is what matters.

Accept that you will make a few mistakes – and learn from them. Your clients will help you; in fact, they may even appreciate being part of the process.

3. Learn from your customers

For us, the big learning in this whole process was how important it is to listen to your customers.

And I do mean listen. Because sometimes your customers will tell you one thing, but what they are really saying is something else altogether.

We started Knak to create the world’s best Marketo templates. (Marketo, for anyone who doesn’t know, is a company that provides marketing automation software for such things as emails and digital ads. Many marketers use the software to create emails.)

Over time, our customers made over 25,000 templates using our platform.

The process worked, within certain limits.

But even as one issue seemed solved, new ones emerged.

Many of our clients have very firm ideas about how they want things to look, and even with templates they were having a hard time getting what they wanted.

For example, a template might allow them to put a logo in an email; but some email campaigns required multiple logos. So they’d be back to us to ask about coding.

If we had taken their responses at face value, we might simply have kept adjusting the templates.

But because we truly listened, we realized that the problem was much bigger than that. We realized that no matter how good a template we built with our platform, the result didn’t give our customers the flexibility and control they needed.

For example, our templates didn’t provide granular user controls for different people in their organization; they didn’t allow effortless collaboration by individuals within an organization; they didn’t automatically add the correct tracking parameters to all of the links, and they didn’t help manage approvals and track the audit history.

These were all things our customers needed.

Once we truly listened, we realized these were not template problems, they were creation problems, and they required a whole different platform to solve them.

The reality is that marketers want to be creative. They also want to stay on-brand, but it is really difficult to achieve that balance when working from a template.

Our new products solved the problems – and provided more flexible and efficient solutions.

But we were only able to do that because we listened.

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  • Pierce Ujjainwalla


    Pierce Ujjainwalla

    Co-Founder & CEO, Knak

    Pierce is a career marketer who has lived in the marketing trenches at companies like IBM, SAP, NVIDIA, and Marketo. He launched Knak in 2015 as a platform designed to help Marketers simplify email creation. He is also the founder of Revenue Pulse, a marketing operations consultancy.

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