Those of you who know me know that this statement is not one to be taken lightly: this news left me speechless. RIGHT??? Doesn’t happen often. And it was only for a moment. But when I first heard the news that Intuit had agreed to buy the notoriously bootstrapped email marketing platform Mailchimp for $12 Billion in cash and stock, I was flabbergasted. I was flummoxed. I was ALL of the old-timey feelings for utterly confused.
That is until I remembered this one line from a keynote I once watched: “I'd like to see business go back to a model where everybody believes that marketing is the center of what every company has to do.”
It was 2003 and it was the first time the CMO Council had gathered for what would become an annual event. The keynote address was delivered by the Chairman of the Board at Intuit…the former CEO with “humble roots” as a CMO. Bill Campbell didn’t just believe marketing was important. He truly believed that real marketing—the act of a brand engaging with and telling shared stories with a customer—should drive growth.
I honestly had not thought about that line from Campbell’s keynote until I read the Twitter statement from current Intuit CEO, Sasan Goodarzi, on the decision for the acquisition: “Together, we will deliver an innovative customer growth platform to help our customers grow and run their businesses with confidence.”
So let’s get into the weeds on this one. Intuit has officially announced plans to acquire bootstrapped mail phenom, MailChimp. Headquartered in Atlanta (which Mailchimp CEO Ben Chestnut has already dubbed Intuit’s east coast hub) with a roster of over 13 million users, Mailchimp represents a growth-driving solution for an SMB market that was ravaged in the pandemic.
A report from Intuit Quickbooks noted that in April 2020 alone, SMBs lost $4.6 billion in monthly revenue. Goodarzi is apparently betting that by binding a growth engine like marketing automation to back office finance resources, SMBs will regain pre-pandemic confidence in growth and business.
But the biggest hint as to WHY this acquisition happened isn’t in the power of the platforms being brought together or even Intuit buying its customer base a giant $12 billion dollar band-aid. The purchase driver is in the data…and they pretty much said so. In fact in an investor call held on Monday September 13, Goodarzi noted that Mailchip sits on “a lot of customer data. We (Intuit Quickbooks) have all the purchase data.”
This telegraphs, in a pretty direct and loud manner, that this move isn’t just to benefit Quickbooks, or even Intuit’s SMB customer base. This is a data and intelligence service play for enterprises that often struggle to gain access to intelligence based on customer behavior and customer transaction intelligence.
I’ll wait for everyone to search for books on “CMO / CFO Alignment”…yeah…there aren’t any…yet. But don’t be shocked if someone at Intuit releases one soon.
But maybe that’s where Intuit has been all along. Afterall, they had, at their helm for many years, a coach and a leader who was one of the first CMOs to step into a CEO role without so much as breaking a sweat.
What Intuit has done has shifted the center of gravity of a “business graph”—something Ray has been poking people on for years now— that is purpose-built to make better decisions at both speed and scale. (Check out this podcast where Ray breaks down the value of a business graph: https://lochhead.com/ray-wang-2/) Transaction and account data alone was never going to get there…the graph demands a massive amount of data on customer event and behavior…an overflowing firehose of data that…ohhh I don’t know…a sales and marketing engagement and automation engine like Mailchimp can provide. It is about helping business leaders make better, and perhaps as the Intuit Quickbooks Mailchimp Customer Intelligence (name totally made up for the record) solution moves farther down the AI path, more automated decisions.
So, does this mean H&R Block is suddenly in the market for a sales and marketing engagement tool. Dear lord I hope not. But, it sure shines a spotlight on solutions like Zoho One with its business operations platform for small business. What this ALSO means is that customer engagement engines need to innovate and advance quickly on just how their data can do more than parrot back campaign success metrics, CTRs and opens.
No matter where this new marriage leads: to a high powered decision velocity machine built to accelerate the path from micro to small to mid-sized business, or into a whole new realm of business intelligence for Intuit, there is one thing I know for sure: Campbell, who passed in 2016, is sitting back on a spiritual football or rugby field somewhere, having a pretty good laugh.