Atlassian’s Trello Acquisition and the Three Principles for SaaS Market Expansion

SaaS companies that expand from selling to IT to selling to business teams (or, vice versa) rely on 3 principles, which I call The Three Principles of SaaS Market Expansion. It requires these companies to take a resolute approach that is similar to the crossing of the Rubicon. “The phrase Crossing the Rubicon means to pass a point of no return, and refers to Julius Caeser’s army’s crossing of the Rubicon River in the north of Italy in 49 BC, which was considered an act of insurrection and treason. Julius Caesar uttered the famous phrase alea iacta est—the die is cast—as his army marched through the shallow river.”—Wikipedia.

 

Atlassian Buys Trello for $425 Million

This week, Atlassian broke the news that it was acquiring Trello, a simple list-making software company, for $425 million. It’s an amazing price for Trello, 15 times TTM (trailing twelve months revenue). Forbes wrote about why Atlassian bought Trello, and the primary reason was, as CEOs know, an adjacent market move. Adjacency thinking leads CEOs to consider how to expand to a different buying group within the kinds of companies they already sell to. Atlassian has now expanded from selling to IT to selling to business teams. As Forbes wrote:


“Atlassian’s existing products, including Jira, sell mostly to software developers and IT departments. Trello, on the other hand, is popular not just with coders, but with marketers, HR departments, sales teams, media companies, and other non-technical groups.”


 

As the CEO of Dossier, and having made 17 acquisitions previously, we know a thing or two about making acquisitions work. Every day we have thousands of teams using Dossier, an app for organizing customer conversations. Our team, like that of any startup, is small—and made powerful by the way we use software to automate how we can communicate with our customers. We use many self-service products to run our business—we wrote 20 Affordable Tools to Run Your Sales, Marketing and Service Stack for a total $1,000/mo. Also, many teams that use Dossier have also attached CRM tools like HubSpot and Salesforce, and task management tools like Asana and Trello, so we’ve learned much from our common customers. Atlassian’s purchase of Trello is a textbook example of market expansion—a playbook that large companies employ to grow their market share. How do you make such an acquisition work?

You’ve got to hand it to the Atlassian management team—they weren’t content doing what they always do, but have taken a bold move to enter an adjacent market. As I wrote in my previous article, Your Corporate Strategy is a Prisoner of History (or, Why CEOs Should Listen to Their Inner Revolutionary), at our previous company, which we sold for $395 million, “The thinking behind our corporate (expansion) strategy was that our sales teams were selling products to IT teams only, and that we needed to expand our brand to business teams at Internet and e-commerce companies like Facebook, Amazon, eBay, and brand managers at Chase and FedEx—all customers”. How do you make such a strategy work?

Selling to IT and Selling to Business

How easy is it to expand from selling to IT to selling to Business, or vice versa? On paper, the thesis sounds great. Start by selling a niche, but highly differentiated, product to your first audience. Start with a departmental sale, rather than to the enterprise. Expand capabilities so that federation occurs—i.e. you land in one team (say, to an IT buyer), and then expand to another team (still, another IT buyer). And then when you’ve established a strong brand with a specific buyer persona, then make an acquisition of a company that knows how to sell to the other side (this time, a business buyer), and then rinse and repeat. It’s been done in the technology industry.

Adobe started with multimedia and creativity products, then acquired Omniture to sell to marketing teams. Since then, it has added several more acquisitions to deepen its footprint for marketing automation. Oracle started with the database business, selling only to IT, then acquired Siebel Systems to enter the CRM market, changing its persona from IT to business rapidly. Autodesk, on the other hand, has stuck to its knitting—once glance at Autodesk’s list of acquisitions tells you that these apples don’t fall far from the tree (of CAD automation). Salesforce has tried to expand from selling to business teams (it’s core CRM business) to selling to IT (by the acquisition of Heroku)—but it is not yet working to dislodge entrenched competitors like Amazon Web Services.

So what is the secret to adjacent market expansion? The Harvard Business Review provides insights in its seminal article, Growth Outside the Core. It identified six ways to expand outside a business’ core, and provides nuggets such as this: “One was that most sustained, profitable growth comes when a company pushes out the boundaries of its core business into an adjacent space. We identified six types of adjacencies, ranging from adjacent links in the value chain to adjacent customers to adjacent geographies“.

Market expansion for SaaS businesses may follow these six strategies, and any MBA worth her $200,000 degree, will tell you—business expansion is a time-honored tradition. Yet, like any industry, the technology industry, and, in particular, software-as-a-service companies (I’ve worked for no other type since I left Oracle), have a different set of rules. To make such a market expansion work, consider these characteristics of the companies acquiring, and being acquired:

1. Transactional Sales

When two SaaS companies both have transactional sales, rather than expertise-driven consultative sales, market expansion is much easier. Atlassian sells ticketing software like JIRA, and it’s a transactional sale—i.e. it does not require a high degree of domain expertise for the sales team that is selling it. Prospective buyers sign up for or download the software, learn how to use it or get some general assistance in getting the software to work, and then they buy it for a per user price. Trello also has a transactional sale, marketing and HR teams that purchase its software also follow the same pattern as the JIRA sale. The synergies between the two businesses are all about operational effectiveness—making the sales process more efficient. Expect a lot of consolidation of IT infrastructure costs between the companies as they merge their teams. On the other hand, consider why Salesforce, which sells to business teams, isn’t able to effectively compete in the AWS market. Selling an enterprise-level CRM is a consultative sale, but selling cloud infrastructure services is a very transactional sale—hence, there are no sales synergies.

2. Inbound Marketing

SaaS companies thrive when marketing teams generate a large number of inbound leads. Companies like HubSpot have perfected this approach, practically writing the playbook for inbound lead generation that is then fulfilled by inside sales teams. As long as the combined marketing teams are able to use their expertise to generate relevant content, the success of market expansion is increased. On the other hand, if the acquired company’s marketing team is decimated under the false assumption that the acquiring company’s marketing team will be able to handle the marketing, then the acquisition has a high chance of failing. Inbound lead generation is an expertise-driven business—your marketers have to understand the content that generates interest, the experts to be interviewed, the guest blog authors to be invited, etc. If a marketing team understand how to sell to the business buyer, they are not likely to know how to sell to to the IT buyer, and vice versa. So, Atlassian, I imagine you’ll be sweetening the deal for the Trello CMO.

3. Internationalization

Traditional companies can expand in other markets if they expand the geographies in which they sell. The same happens for SaaS companies, virtually overnight, if they can internationalize their software. Think, for example, about the signup workflow of any transactional SaaS application. If it can be translated into a dozen languages, that’s another 30 countries it could sell in. Online advertising makes it a cinch to enter these markets. A caution, though—the product must not require telephone calls to sell or support the product. It must be done online, via email and chat, because then it can be done in countries which specialize in customer service—such as the Philippines, or Ireland.

When SaaS Market Expansion Fails

SaaS companies that require expertise-driven sales, rather than transactional sales, are not likely to be able to successfully expand markets when they cross the Rubicon with the buyer persona. We once acquired a company that sold primarily to business audiences, and the sale was highly consultative. When the COO of the acquired company decided to not come along with the acquisition, that caused a ripple effect in the sales organization and many of the expertise-holding salespeople left. And with it, went their customer relationships, and the acquisition we made failed to yield any market expansion results. Note that this is different from non-consultative salespeople leaving the company. It’s because the salespeople had expertise that the clients relied upon, such as presenting findings from quarterly reports to their management team, that the customers were happy. Take away these salespeople, and the customers walked as well.

However, if the above 3 characteristics match between companies as they acquire their way to market expansion, the acquisition has a high rate of success. We’re going to be watching Atlassian and Trello work this one during the integration—the signals look great because the 3 fundamental factors for successful SaaS mergers are present in both companies.

 


About Vik Chaudhary

Vik Chaudhary is the CEO of Dossier (http://www.dossier.work) in San Francisco. To business professionals and teams, Dossier is an app for organizing communications with customers. In his copious spare time, Vik—well—asks CEOs to not screw up large acquisitions.

Dossier is an app for organizing customer conversations, no matter where it happens, with zero disruption to the ways you already communicate. Based in San Francisco, Dossier is helping business owners, business professionals and teams around the globe intelligently sync their customer communication channels and organize documents, tasks and more. Welcome to a new way to build better customer relationships and a better business. Sign up for a free account today at https://www.dossier.work.

Dropbox drops Mailbox. Or, How Foresight is 20-20.

There’s a saying in mergers & acquisitions circles: companies are bought, not sold. This could not be more apparent in the case of much ballyhooed mobile email startup Mailbox. It was only a few months old, funded by Marc Andreessen from blue-clip VC firm Andreessen Horowitz, when it was wooed by and sold to Dropbox for, reportedly, over $50 million in cash, and with stock options, potentially valued at $100 million. With the Dropbox IPO looking uncertain, especially since Box is valued in the public market at $1.66 billion, much less than the $10 billion Dropbox was reportedly last privately valued at, much of this valuation was on paper. Yet, $50 million in cash is some heckuva lot of cash.

Dropbox announced today that they have shut down Mailbox. And the reason is “As we’ve increased our focus on collaboration, we realized there’s only so much an email app can do to fundamentally improve email. We’ve come to believe that the best way for us to improve people’s productivity going forward is to streamline the workflows that generate so much email in the first place.” Here’s the email that I received from Dropbox an hour ago:

There are of course reasons by Mailbox didn’t work; but that doesn’t mean that Dropbox was wrong in its instincts. They were just so early in their thinking about collaboration that they didn’t make the right choice. But it learnt a lot along the way, and is now poised to address the problem again. Note they said:

                …to streamline the workflows that generate so much email in the first place.

To understand why Dropbox faltered with the acquisition, understand what product guys know for a fact:

The world rarely needs another new product. One reason new products fail is that they try to change the behavior of the buyer. Remember the Segway – the self-propelled human driving machine? Or the Roomba, the self-propelled vacuum cleaner? There are plenty of early adopter buyers for these machines – I own a Roomba and it is collecting dust in my house (no, it is not cleaning up the dust, it is sitting in the corner collecting dust). The reason is – these machines required an unnatural change in behavior. I couldn’t just turn on the Roomba and leave the house and expect that it would do its job properly. I knew from experience that it would get caught in wires, or get stuck under the couch, or go round and round in circles. I ended up changing my behavior to use it – I would have to turn on the Roomba, then babysit it as it went around the home. I ended up doing much less physical work than vacuuming the house myself, but a lot more mental work watching the machine. In the end, I stopped using it and now use it only rarely.

The business world rarely needs another new application. This is at the heart of our company, Dossier. Our product helps businesses talk to their customers faster than anything they could do themselves. But when we built it, we wanted to make sure that Dossier worked beautifully with all applications that were already in use by sales, marketing and customer success teams. So if you use any of these products at your company – Gmail, Outlook, Salesforce, Zendesk, and even your own web site, or your own custom app like a sales quoting application, or a packaged application like Netsuite – you don’t have to learn how to use Dossier. You get trained on how to set it up and refine it, and then, you just use email to talk to your customers, Salesforce to manage the system of record, Zendesk to handle customer service requests. Dossier acts like the marshall, sending information from one group of people to others, helping customers talk to your employees, employees talk to each other, application users talk to IT teams, and so on. We make IT click.

integrations

 

In my previous life, I made 17 acquisitions for a public company, and our last deal was to sell our company for $400 million. Many of these acquisitions did not pan out the way that we expected. So the Dropbox team didn’t really make a mistake that was different than many mistakes that all companies make. Hindsight is 20-20, as they say.

What is important is foresight. As entrepreneurs around the world build the next great mousetrap, they should think hard, as we had to do – whether we’re making it really easy for the product to be adopted in today’s business environment. And that environment requires that whatever you build fits into the hearts and hands of the people that will use the product every day. Build with foresight, and your hindsight will be 20-20. Build without it, and the myopia will have far-reaching consequences. For Dropbox/Mailbox, some people have with $50 million more and the others, less. At least Dropbox understood what makes enterprise users tick and made the right decision. And now it really has their work cut out for them. Companies like Slack are streamlining the workflows that cause employees to generate email. Companies like Dossier are streamlining the workflows that cause customers to generate email. Email is dozens of years old, but it won’t just go away. Reimagine the problem that customers, partners and employees face in collaborating with each other.

Build with foresight, and your hindsight will be 20-20.

Customer Service in the Fast Lane—the Zip and Sip Strategy

One day we will drive cars that zip at 300 miles an hour and sip at 300 miles per gallon. And our Customer Organization will close 1000 cases and talk to 1000 customers. Can one do both?

Like a lot of kids, I wanted to be an astronaut. I started studying Astronautical Engineering—at least, until I wrote my first software program—and realized that’s where the real rocket science is. Having switched to a computer science and engineering major (“6-3” in MIT-speak, ex. “I’ll meet you after 6.001 in 18.301 at 11:01″), and with a strong interest in flight, I’ve always been fascinated with systems that are immensely fast yet solidly powerful. So like many CS grads of my time, I traveled west to San Francisco to work in tech. A fast-growing public company gave me my first job, and it was 3 startups later—one went public, one failed, and one acquired for $395 million—that we started Dossier in 2014. And in all these companies—the process of managing customers felt like the Sisyphean task of building the 300 mph/300 mpg car. One company Volkswagen is building a hybrid car called the XL1 that zips at 100 mph and just sips gas.

The Opposing Forces in a Customer Organization.

Building the utopian 300 mph/300 mpg car illustrates why our Chief Customer Officers can’t operate their customer organization that is simultaneously efficient and strategic—the two are opposing forces in an organization. For efficiency, you need to speed up and look for improvements in operational processes. For strategy, you need to listen for patterns with customers, and that often requires slowing down rather than speeding up. Indeed, the facts on customer service look pretty dismal:

  • 89% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company after experiencing poor customer service [Rightnow].
  • 17% of consumers would recommend a brand that provides a slow but effective solution [Harvard Business Review].
  • 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated [McKinsey].
  • …and so on. For more bad news, see 50 facts about customer experience.

But look closely at the facts and you will see that many of these statistics have been around for years. From the 1970s to the 1990s, the customer service industry was designing itself for efficiency—to channel incoming telephone calls to the correct representative.  In the 2000s, technology companies began creating software tools to help businesses handle customer service. Zendesk was the first software-as-a-service technology company in customer service to go public, and around them there are others, as this Gartner magic quadrant graphic shows.

Tech companies would have us believe that well-designed software can help you create a customers-first strategy. Buy Zendesk, Salesforce ServiceDesk, or Verint, and your organization will handle customer woes and also listen to customers strategically. Companies that use such software are driven to listen better to customers, but it’s really responding, not listening. Operational efficiency and customer intimacy are opposing forces.

Customers and Social Airwaves.

When the social revolution hit the business world, and Twitter came into being—customer service changed forever. Customers of any consumer or business brand were able to take to the airwaves and communicate their experience. I myself took to Facebook when receiving disastrous emergency roadside assistance from my auto insurance company.  My insurance company’s mascot may very well be an animal with a British accent (identities of company mascots have been changed to protect the guilty), but the operational efficiency of the customer service rep was not amusing—I was in a broken down car in the night with my young daughters. My insurance company rep was insistent on process that would require us to wait for “anywhere up to 2 hours” and would not look for a towing company that was closer to us. So instead, I called a company whose customer listening skills are legendary—American Express. Their roadside assistance rep understood the situation and routed us to a towing company whose drivers were just a mile away, getting someone to us in 15 minutes. That’s the difference between a customer service organization designed for process (mistaking it for efficiency) and one designed for strategic success. As the American Express rep showed, you can be both efficient and strategic, and they’re designing the legendary 300/300 customer organization.

After I messaged the insurance company on their Facebook page, I got a quick call back from their social media team. However, Facebook and Twitter channels are staffed by marketing and PR reps. We know that the people who manage a company’s social media channel are not trained customer service reps. And customer service reps, on the other hand, are not trained in positioning and public social media. In today’s social world, though, you need to provide a customer support channel that has the power of Zendesk and the agility of Facebook or Twitter.

Customer Silos? It’s not WWII.

Having a customer service platform that allows each department to go deep and yet have the entire company be agile—is utopian (and, as our engineers at Dossier have demonstrated—finally possible). It requires a platform mindset to developing software products that open up communication throughout your company. Customer silos are so World War II—yet these deepen and are really hard to penetrate. Let’s say you, the CEO, start to check on company health on the weekend, and want to know how you are doing with your top 10 customers. You have access to email, Salesforce, Zendesk and Marketo. Retrieving financial data is easy, but to get the real customer picture you need to see across systems.

Even the CEO will take days to get the full picture on the top 10 customers, if at all. He/she will need to ask his/her head of sales, customer service, and product teams—by email, phone calls, and maybe a customer dashboard that shows revenue, number of active users, usage and so on. That slow and manual process is mind-blowing in its backwardness. But that’s what software designed for divisions and departments does—it creates information-rich silos that block the rest of the organization from understanding customers.

By and large, though, customer service is done by a highly-trained, process-oriented team called, variously, Support, Tech Support, Customer Service, App Support, Helpdesk Support, and so on. And the entire software industry, a $2 billion industry, has spawned companies like Salesforce.com and Zendesk. These tools are designed mostly for specialized customer service teams. Watch a demo of these products and they will talk about “call deflection”, “queueing,” and “ticket escalations”. In other words, customer support is a science, has a waterfall process, and operationally-savvy people lead those departments.

Somewhere, in the goal to make customer service efficient, companies have lost the strategic ability to really listen to customers. I don’t mean those companies with 10,000+ employees—I mean, even 20 and 100-person companies have lost that ability to really listen. Between the customer and the employees are highly trained customer service people who follow a process—and when they are good, know when to be flexible and delight the customer. However, it’s time to break down the customer silos.

The Fear of Scaling Customer Feedback.

The reason for customer silos being created is—there is a fear in every organization about not being able to handle the scale of customer feedback. Handling scale requires depersonalization—ex. follow-the-sun customer service models that bring staff from different geographies to handle service inquiries. That leads to automation of responses, knowledge bases, driven by effective Chief Customer Officers with a relentless focus on efficiency and quality. Add to this the inherent depersonalization evident in the design of customer support software, and you get an organization that is driven by reacting to customers, or, at best, proactively heading off customer calls by creating self-help knowledge bases, communities, and so on.

By making interacting with customers the domain of Customer Service, the functions that need to listen more to grow the company’s revenues and customer intimacy—the Executive Team, Sales, Product or Program Managers, Marketing, and IT centers or Engineering no longer have the ability to listen to customer feedback at volume and see patterns. The “silo” divisional thinking takes over, there is no visibility into customer issues, and the teams that need to listen every day to customers don’t have the ability to do that.

Customer Listening Posts

What we have seen our top customers—from startups to Fortune 500 companies—do is to create highly efficient customer listening posts. These listening posts are seamlessly integrated with people in customer service organizations, who use Zendesk or Salesforce.com. Yet, these listening posts are designed for ease of use and for everyday people—your employees and your customers—to use.  As natural as having a conversation, the CEO can now search all conversations from prospects on your web site, customers in your apps, and all customer issues discussed by employees at your workplace. Type in “unhappy” and you will find all customers who have said that they are unhappy. Conversely, a “love it” will reveal all your champions, by user, account or geography.

That is why we created Dossier, a Collaboration App for Teams—to make it possible for the Chief Customer Officer to help the entire company listen to customers, while at the same time handle the scale of customer service issues efficiently. Fundamental to this new wave of customer collaboration software is delivering a Facebook and Twitter-like experience for customers and all teams that want to listen to them, yet being able to instantly sync with and search all customer issues in support platforms like Zendesk, Salesforce Service Desk or Desk.com, and all projects in project management tools like Asana, Trello, and Clarizen.

One of the ways we are encouraging companies to get every employee to tap into customer feedback is to remove the biggest impediment to getting the entire company to listen to customers—per-user pricing for customer support software. All customer support software—from Oracle, Salesforce, to Zendesk—is based on per-user pricing. This means that, the more employees that you want to have listen to customers, the more your company pays these services. While this makes tremendous economic sense for the customer support vendor, we feel that a pricing structure that encourages all employees to just drop in to listen to customers is called for. So, for example, while your customer service organization uses Zendesk, the rest of your organization—like Sales, Marketing, Product and Customer Success—use Dossier without any user restrictions. And the two platforms—Dossier and Zendesk, Salesforce, Asana, etc.—are connected and seamlessly integrated, giving the rest of the company visibility into customer questions, feedback, and praise.

This is why today, we’d like to invite you to start collaborating with customers for FREE—today, many companies—from 10-person startups, 500-person private companies to 44,800-person companies like CenturyLink use Dossier in all its glory with unlimited customers, unlimited web site visitors, unlimited application users, and even unlimited employees. The first 5,000 messages in your company are free, and then after that, paid plans for the entire company start with a fee of $100/mo.

We’re doing this because we want to bring back the art of listening to the customer, backed by our data science that makes it possible for all companies to both be efficient and strategic—by not just managing customer issues, but also listening and talking to them. And this means that every employee in your company should be hearing customer feedback, asking questions internally, learning from that feedback, and jumping in solve problems or apply that knowledge in ways that you didn’t imagine was possible. Your people are what make your company, and we want to help you turn your company into a customer-intimate culture, not just an operationally-efficient one.

In other words—take a complete approach to customer engagement, not that of the auto insurance company whose customer service rep wanted me and my daughters wait for 2 hours for a tow. Be like American Express, or like Volkswagen, driven to build the impossible and delight the customer. Bring back customer listening—make every employee listen to, learn from, and help a customer. You can have both a “Zip and Sip” strategy!

Do you have a story on how your organization works amazingly with customers? Please share it with everyone.


About Vik Chaudhary

Dossier is an app for organizing customer conversations, no matter where it happens, with zero disruption to the ways you already communicate. Based in San Francisco, Dossier is helping business owners, business professionals and teams around the globe intelligently sync their customer communication channels and organize documents, tasks and more. Welcome to a new way to build better customer relationships and a better business. Sign up for a free account today at https://www.dossier.work.

Separation of Church (Web Site) and State (Email)

STOP using Gmail. I don’t mean, literally. But definitely stop using @gmail.com email addresses for your business. I mean, really. It’s like a grown man wearing shorts, you know, all the time. Ok, since most of you read this because I blasted this to all 618 Facebook friends and 3528 LinkedIn contacts (I hope that proves to you, ex-boss, that I spend way more time at work than fun), you’re probably already tech savvy and asking if it’s necessary for me to… gasp… write a blog about how to get your own custom email domain, like, LeaveMeAlone@Extroverts.com.

I’d rather be smelling flowers like the guy above than have to go through the ordeal of working with custom email addresses, Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365 again.

Truth is, if you’re a tech startup, you get that you need to have your own email address, i.e. an address like vik@dossier.work. However, many (non-technology company) small business owners start with – and stay with – emails like MolokaiStaycations@gmail.com. My dad is a good example – he owns the best known Indian restaurant in the Baltics (to get there, start in Helsinki, Finland, take the ferry over to Tallinn, Estonia, where Skype was started, then drive what feels like hundreds of miles of flat terrain to Riga, Latvia, and then Vilnius, Lithuania). In fact, Nik Zennstrom and his Skype team would often eat at his Tallinn restaurant, and if only my dad had taken shares instead of Estonian kroons. The business is Sue’s Indian Raja, and has a website, but check out the email address – it’s a Gmail email. As it turns out, dad’s visiting us this week, and we’re going want him to change his email to raj@suesindianraja.com.

So that should be pretty easy, right? Wrong. It’s pretty difficult to do for your average business owner, or even her fledgling IT staff, which usually happens to be a high-school student recruited to keep things running for the tech-challenged owners. Getting a professional email setup is similar to setting up a business phone system – you could buy a home phone from Best Buy and put it in your office, but soon you will run up against its limitations and wish you had gotten a business phone. Need to have call forwarding when you travel outside the office? Send voicemail messages as email? You can’t do that with a home answering machine. Similarly, with email, you need to do it right to establish credibility with your customers and efficiency in your team.

So here’s how we did it at Dossier, our startup that’s on Day 21 today. We wanted our web site and our email to be hosted by two different service providers. Our website https://www.dossier.work is hosted at Linode. Our email is hosted by Microsoft Office 365. I’ll provide step-by-step instructions on how you can do the same thing, so that you can send and receive email at a custom email address.

The next step for us was to separate church and state – our web site would be hosted by Linode, and our email would be hosted by Microsoft Office 365.

Set Up Web Hosting on Linode

This may be obvious, but if you haven’t already, you must register a domain name, e.g., onboardify.com. GoDaddy makes it really easy, so I recommend getting started here. Then, you should sign up for a trial account with Google Apps for Business, or Microsoft Office 365. Next, you want to setup your web site to point to your web hosting provider. The web hosting provider can be GoDaddy, and that’s the easiest thing to do if you are non-technical. Since we’re techies, we decided to setup our web site on Linode, which I do not recommend for anyone who wants their next three evenings free. To tell GoDaddy to translate the address http://www.onboardify.com to fetch the content from Linode’s servers, we need to configure DNS name servers in GoDaddy.

  • Go to Godaddy and click on Log In on the right hand side of the page.Godaddy1
  • Right where it says “Hi, <your name>”, click on the down arrow.
  • Click on the Visit My Account button.
  • Click on the Launch button on the right hand side of Domains.
  • Click on your domain name and scroll down to the Name Servers section.
  • Click on Manage, and then enter Custom values as shown below.

linode

Set Up Email on Microsoft Office 365

Microsoft Office 365 can manage your entire web site including email, but we didn’t try that. We explicitly wanted our web site hosting and our email hosting companies to be separate. For one, we didn’t want our web site to be hosted on Microsoft technologies like Sharepoint, preferring to use our own – this makes our technology choices more flexible. For example, if we decide to scale the ability of our web site to handle traffic, we could use cloud services like Amazon Web Services. Keeping our web and email hosting providers separate made sense for us, at this stage.

  • Log in to Microsoft Office 365.
  • Click on Admin and then on Domains.
  • Add a domain name, such as onboardify.com.

Next, login to your web site hosting provider, Linode in our case, and go to the DNS Manager for your domain. Create MX, TXT and SRV records exactly as you see it in the examples below, except where it says “onboardify” replace it with your domain – e.g., if your web site is http://www.mysite.com, then the domain would be “mysite”.

MX records

cname

Once you make these changes, wait about 15 minutes or so. Sometimes, the process of DNS changes takes a little longer. If you have set up email addresses such as myname@mysite.com, test that emails sent from/to it are received/sent. With any luck, your brand new, custom, email domain should be working fine in Microsoft Office 365.

Microsoft Office 365 email addresses cost $6/mo, and a little less if you sign up for an annual subscription. One of the advantages of Microsoft Office 365 over Google Apps for Business is that with Microsoft, you can create shared mailboxes such as support@onboardify.com and admin@onboardify.com, and you are not charged $6/mo extra for such mailboxes. These are extremely handy when you want your customers to email you at these corporate email addresses, but you want the mail to be received by a number of people.

If you are interested in having a similar set of instructions for setting up custom email in Google Apps for Business, let me know, and I would be happy to rustle up some instructions.

About Vik Chaudhary

Vik Chaudhary is the CEO of Dossier (http://www.dossier.work) in San Francisco. To business professionals and teams, Dossier is an app for organizing communications with customers. In his spare time, Vik runs all site operations for Dossier, and recommends that startup founders don’t hire an IT Ops guy until Year 3.

Dossier is an app for organizing customer conversations, no matter where it happens, with zero disruption to the ways you already communicate. Based in San Francisco, Dossier is helping business owners, business professionals and teams around the globe intelligently sync their customer communication channels and organize documents, tasks and more. Welcome to a new way to build better customer relationships and a better business. Sign up for a free account today at https://www.dossier.work.