2008 blast from the past: me, Mike Wallin, and Derek Sivers, the subject of this post. (Photo: A3maven)
[Total read time: 3-5 minutes.]
Derek Sivers is one of my favorite people. He is a programmer who lost his stage fright by doing more than 1,000 gigs as a circus ring leader (!!!).
He’s also a musician who founded CD Baby in 1998. As of December 2009, CD Baby had the following stats as the world’s largest online distributor of independent music:
- 300,000 artists
- 5,339,025 CDs sold online to customers
- $200,000,000+ paid directly to the artists
Derek sold the company in 2008, and he did so in a most unusual fashion (bolding mine):
Sivers sold CD Baby to Disc Makers in 2008 for what Sivers has reported to be $22 million, bequeathing, upon Sivers’ death, the principal to a charitable trust for music education.; while alive, according to Sivers, it “pays out 5% of its value per year to me.”
I know this to be true.
Stranger still, at its largest, Derek spent roughly four hours on CD Baby every six months! He had systematized everything to run without him. Derek is both more successful and more fulfilled because he never hesitates to challenge the status quo, to test assumptions. The below guest post from him illustrates this beautifully.
Without further ado, the most successful e-mail he ever wrote…
Enter Derek Sivers
When you make a business, you’re making a little world where you control the laws. It doesn’t matter how things are done everywhere else. In your little world, you can make it like it should be.
When I first built CD Baby, every order had an automated e-mail that let the customer know when the CD was actually shipped. At first it was just the normal, “Your order has shipped today. Please let us know if it doesn’t arrive. Thank you for your business.”
After a few months, that felt really incongruent with my mission to make people smile. I knew could do better. So I took 20 minutes and wrote this goofy little thing:
Your CD has been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow.
A team of 50 employees inspected your CD and polished it to make sure it was in the best possible condition before mailing.
Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CD into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy.
We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of Portland waved “Bon Voyage!” to your package, on its way to you, in our private CD Baby jet on this day, Friday, June 6th.
I hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby. We sure did. Your picture is on our wall as “Customer of the Year”. We’re all exhausted but can’t wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!!
That one silly e-mail, sent out with every order, has been so loved that if you search Google for “private CD Baby jet” you’ll get over 20,000 results. Each one is somebody who got the e-mail and loved it enough to post on their website and tell all their friends.
That one goofy e-mail created thousands of new customers.
When you’re thinking of how to make your business bigger, it’s tempting to try to think all the big thoughts, the world-changing massive-action plans.
But please know that it’s often the tiny details that really thrill someone enough to make them tell all their friends about you.