How Musicnotes.com Achieves Success With a Lean Team
Musicnotes.com has figured out how to make sweet music — which translates into revenues — with a lean team.
This was the main message from Bill Aicher, chief growth officer for the online sheet music publisher and retailer, during his keynote presentation at eTail East in Philadelphia yesterday.
Despite the fact that Musicnotes.com has 260,000 downloadable products and 150,000 visits to its website daily, it has a very lean team. So, how is it been able to achieve success given its limited manpower? Aicher offered the following four reasons why:
1. Take a step back to define your focus and goals. Once you know your goals, "build your team around them,” said Aicher. Currently, Musicnotes.com is focusing on customer acquisition and retention, so it’s building its team with these goals in mind.
Once your team is set, allow your employees to become experts in their positions … but also allow them to cross over to other departments so they can work with other people as well, Aicher said. At Musicnotes.com, communication is key. “We make sure that people are good at what they do and share their ideas back and forth with each other,” said Aicher.
To make communication easier, Musicnotes.com recently implemented a group and video chat tool built for its teams called HipChat. The solution is helping Musicnotes.com improve communications across teams, according to Aicher.
2. Know your customers … all of them. Despite its small size, Musicnotes.com makes a concerted effort to know all of its customers. “We know our customers shop differently, want different products from us, and use different features on our site, and we use this information to give each of our customers a great experience," Aicher said.
For example, Musicnotes.com is aware that an artist named David Pomeranz is very popular with its customers in Thailand, so it makes his downloadable music easily available to visitors from that country. This music isn't as readily available to visitors from countries that aren't as familiar with Pomeranz's music.
3. Leverage partnerships and technology for smarter marketing. Aicher mentioned that the when looking for technology partners, the sheer number and variety of vendors in the e-commerce space can be overwhelming for any company — not to mention a company with a small team like Musicnotes.com. It’s important not to let the complexity overwhelm you, Aicher said. “Find a partner who you can really work with, not just buy something from,” he added.
At Musicnotes.com, vendors become part of internal teams. “When I think of my merchandising team, I think of my internal team as well as the person I work with over at Monetate [Musicnotes.com’s online merchandising partner],” Aicher said.
4. Question everything you do and keep testing. Despite its size, Aicher said Musicnotes.com questions and tests everything it does. “You’re not going to grow unless you try different things,” he said. “I make a ton of mistakes, but that doesn't stop me from trying.”
Aicher also discussed how Musicnotes.com relies on a testing strategy called minimum viable product (MVP), which was introduced in the book "The Lean Startup" by Eric Ries. The strategy allows for fast and quantitative market testing of a product.
“MVP allows you to try new things with minimal risk,” Aicher said.