Mailchimp’s head of EMEA Jim Rudall explains his key management tips, the importance of getting context before making decisions and how AI will boost customer communications.

Jim Rudall has had an exciting career so far, with nearly two decades of experience in management positions, leading teams of various sizes and growing various businesses.

Rudall co-founded Conversion Consulting in 2005 and was the MD for more than five years, where he helped grow the company from two staff members to more than 30 employees.

He also helped grow some businesses until they were acquired by a larger company, such as which was acquired by Rakuten in 2015 – Rudall was the company’s revenue VP at the time.

Rudall also says he was one of the founding leaders of Shopify’s EMEA operations, where he worked as the company’s head of revenue for the region for more than three years. Now, he is taking on a new challenge, leading Mailchimp’s EMEA operations.

“The team has gone from fledgling to a fully formed Regional GTM [go-to-market] operation in just six months, and I’m delighted at how they have rallied around our customers and the opportunities we have here,” Rudall said.

Context before decisions

With a wealth of management experience behind him, Rudall has learned that a business leader needs to gather as much context about an operation as possible before making decisions on what to change – or what not to change.

“This doesn’t mean weeks of inertia as you need to be dynamic, but put in the time to understand as much as you can why things are the way they are before pushing the button on change,” he said. “You should try and link any changes you do decide on to a strong, ambitious vision for the future which will enable teams to get behind you.”

Rudall also said that its important to develop strong relationships and connections in a business as early as possible and to hire well – as success is linked to “the people who you surround yourself with”.

To get the most out of his staff, Rudall said its important to build trust through “transparency and vulnerability”, while communicating a “clear and ambitious vision for the future of the business – and therefore for them and their role in it”.

“As part of this, I find it helpful to set clear expectations and ensure regular two-directional feedback,” Rudall said. “Finally, I advocate strongly for an environment where risks can be taken – as this opens the door to truly effective learning.

“Give them permission to make decisions, fail without repercussions, and grow. Have their backs and be an advocate for them across the business.”

Rudall also said that he was once got advice from a colleague that just because you’ve communicated something to someone, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it has been “listened to, understood or even acknowledged”.

“You can’t assume that just because you think you’ve communicated it doesn’t mean you’ve done it effectively or even if the person or people involved were even paying attention,” Rudall said. “You have to go one step further and ensure that you’ve been understood. And if you haven’t, then you must be prepared to repeat, repeat, repeat until the message lands.

“It’s up to you to get this right; you can’t place the responsibility on those you’re communicating with.”

Digital marketing challenges

Rudall said that businesses of all sizes have faced huge operational challenges over the past couple of years as a result of “volatile economic headwinds”. He also said that the competition for attention and engagement from consumers is at an all-time high, which means “businesses are striving to find different ways to connect with them”.

“From a digital marketing perspective, it’s important businesses re-evaluate their targeting strategies heading into 2024, and consider a new approach to their marketing that focuses on the personalised experience for consumers,” he said.

Rudall said that many businesses have managed to thrive despite the economic challenges and have put themselves in good position to “flourish further” as the economic situation improves. But he said businesses need to “prioritise customer engagement through personalisation”.

Like many other business leaders, Rudall believes AI holds a potential boost and believes AI-powered tools can scale up customer communications and help companies “establish themselves in a competitive marketplace”

“AI will massively augment the existing capabilities of businesses to communicate and engage at scale, thereby driving down the cost of marketing processes and improving ROI,” Rudall said.

However, he noted that there needs to be a focus using customer data responsibly as privacy laws evolve and that increased personalisation comes with an increased need to balance privacy.

“Ultimately, personalisation isn’t possible without data, but companies must ensure it’s handled properly and used only in ways that customers approve,” Rudall said. “In a recent study of UK and US-based consumers, we found that nearly three in four customers are comfortable with companies using their personal data if they are transparent with how they are using it.”

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