How Constant Contact blends lean startup & design thinking

andymillerConstant Contact is not a very old company. Founded in 1998, the Boston-area business became one of the early leaders in e-mail marketing for small businesses. Constant Contact went public in 2007, and since then been diversifying into other digital marketing offerings, like helping small businesses manage their communications on social networks or run loyalty programs.

Andy Miller heads the 14-person innovation team at Constant Contact; his mobile startup, CardStar, was acquired by the company in 2012. Miller’s team both supports innovation within other parts of the 1,200-person company with training, events, and consulting services, and also cultivates projects of its own. (Miller is one of the speakers at the opening day of our Field Study gathering in Boston tomorrow.)

Miller and CEO Gail Goodman are big advocates for tapping innovation throughout the company — they organize quarterly “Innovation Jams” to give employees time to flesh out new ideas. But they also put pressure on teams to prototype the best ideas from those Innovation Jams quickly; gather feedback about those prototypes from customers; and regularly prove that there’s enough data to justify moving them forward toward the market. Constant Contact is also on the verge of opening an “Innovation Loft” at its headquarters that will be home to Miller’s team, an event space, as well as a handful of tech startups developing new products for small businesses that will rotate through every four months.

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