Episode 287: Show Notes
We have such a great episode for all of you today, we literally cannot wait to share it! Today on the Strategy Hour we host Nathan Barry from ConvertKit! Now it may come as a bit of surprise he is not actually here to talk about email marketing and funnels and all that good stuff that we all love him for, but rather he is going to explain the big changes that almost happened at ConvertKit this year. We say almost because for those who might not know, ConvertKit, the hugely successful and constantly growing company almost changed their name during the summer and then decided not to. So Nathan is here to give the low down on this experience, how it all transpired and the lessons he and the company took away from it.
There is so much to learn in the episode so grab whatever you need. Maybe even some tissues because it gets a little emotional! We chat about handling audience reactions, moving forward with ConvertKit, difficult conversations, the big lessons, and much more! This conversation is such a true and honest reflection on a difficult and potentially disastrous process and it is not often we all get to have such an inside scoop on a true industry leader. So without much more ado, let’s dive right in!
The Renaming and Rebranding of ConvertKit This Summer
We all know that businesses change over time. Whether it is a blog, a YouTube channel or an online store, your original idea evolves and grows into new territories. You, your business and your ideas are not static and as time passes it is important to take stock of what moves. This was definitely the case for ConvertKit and Nathan tells us how humble and achievable the goals they set in the beginning were. For Nathan, the name ConvertKit suited this first stage for the business and once it became something bigger, more successful and far reaching than they expected it to be, he and the team started to consider the option of renaming it to better suit this new world it was inhabiting. You do not have to continue down the same path when the mission and your passions are being altered or a great opportunity to pivot arises. Nathan was realizing that the mission for the company was different now and it felt appropriate to match a name with this. ConvertKit’s willingness to redesign and rethink part of their business has led to great success for them in the past and this philosophy is a staple element in the company. The thought of changing the name was actually something floating around for about two years before it actually came to the surface and during that time they came across the Sanskrit word seva, which means to give without expectation of return. This word immediately struck a chord with Nathan and the team, as this sort of attitude to his customers and audience has always been the most appealing aspect of the business.
Reactions to the Proposed Name Change Announcement
When Nathan made the announcement this year at Craft and Commerce, ConvertKit’s own conference, that the name would be changing to Seva he noted that the immediate reaction seemed positive. But in the coming days there were four main reactions. Many people said the name resonated with them strongly because it better articulated what their business was about. Some customers said they loved the name and it was meaningful to them culturally as it represented a part of their own culture and were very happy to see it reflected in the name of the company. Then there were quite a few negative reactions, people saying that changing the name was stupid and asking why they would even do that. The last reaction and the most noteworthy for Nathan was a section of their customer base who were hurt and angry by the name change. These feelings arose for people who had a spiritual connection to the word seva through the Sikh religion, for whom seva was the highest form of devotion and worship and they felt that it was a disrespectful use of a very holy concept. Nathan took in all of these reactions and was deeply troubled by the last group of correspondents. He ended up asking a specific person with this position if there was a way that they might be able to move forward with the name in a way that was respectful and less hurtful and this person agreed to help them with the process because of the idea that seva represented to them. This little interaction actually showed Nathan that in order to truly embody the concept and meaning of seva, the reason they had chosen the word, he and ConvertKit needed to give back the name. For him, living out the concept meant giving up the name. Shortly after it was announced that ConvertKit would not be changing its name after all!
Announcing that the Name Would Not Be Changing
The first step in this process was to call the people who had been so hurt by the use of the word and set things right. It was quite difficult knowing that the public announcement would upset a whole new group of people who were now invested in the name change but this was the price they had to pay. They spent the better part of a week crafting the right way to communicate this and decided to leave the original message they had placed on the new Seva website in place as an act of transparency. There were an expected array of reactions to the news breaking but on the whole, they seemed a little more positive than even Nathan predicted. He now knows that a name is not an identity and an identity is not a name. ConvertKit does explain what they do and does the job of naming their brand just fine! Day-one philosophy and the ability to pivot can really get you in trouble but it can also get you out of trouble as this whole story exemplifies.
A Look at the Future of ConvertKit
Nathan’s vision for ConvertKit continues to be to exist to help creators succeed. Their next concrete goal is to reach $1 billion dollars in revenue for their customers. You might notice that they have switched their way of measuring, they now look at how much the creators who work with them make and this is the new bottom line for them. Their focus is how to help creators meet these marks and everything they can do to provide this service. ConvertKit continues to chase what is fun and exciting to them, this year alone they made a coffee table book and a documentary on blogging. For Nathan, helping entrepreneurs and online businesses reach a little further than their short term goals and financial destinations is where he sees his calling. He really wants everyone to enjoy the journey just a little bit more and to broaden the horizon of what it means to be business owner in the world today.
The Renaming and Rebranding of ConvertKit This Summer. [0:04:42.8]
Reactions to the Proposed Name Change Announcement. [0:12:21.3]
Announcing that the Name Would Not Be Changing. [0:22:58.7]
A Look at the Future of ConvertKit. [0:31:09.1]