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  • Case Study


Supporting Company Culture: At Emma, it’s all about the culture.

Creating and recreating a positive company culture is a complex process. With a growing technical talent shortage and a competitive hiring market, employee retention has become a priority that often hinges on office culture. Industry leading companies are well aware of this and are investing in innovation / listening tools like Kindling.

Emma, an industry-leading email marketing software company founded in Nashville, is all about culture management. Since 2001, Emma has been providing top-notch service thanks to their... wait for it... people. Since day one they’ve believed that a human touch should be built into their software and prevalent across their organization. The results—a loyal user base of over 30,000 organizations, an Inc 5000 award and offices in Nashville, Portland, Denver, Austin and New York—all thanks in part to a working environment that is “heavy on culture and light on cubicles.”

“Emma is an alternative to the faceless e-mail marketing brands. Our big differentiator is our customer service. We really care and want to talk to our customers,” says Jenny Mahmoudi, user experience researcher.

The innovation management tool Kindling has supported the Emma team for the past three years with care and culture.


  • Total Ideas: 961
  • Total Comments: 2569

For Customers and Culture

For the past two and half years Emma has used Kindling to actively manage their customer feedback and feature requests. Chances are if you’ve called Emma for customer support, the agent had Kindling open and was entering ideas and details into the system for weekly review.

The software business is a service business. Every day there are new features and directions to explore. Some come from inside the organization and others from customers—both need to be actively managed. Emma uses Kindling to plan, by quarter, what types of ideas they are looking to develop. This strategy allows them to be extremely targeted about their development cycle and implementation process.

Kindling’s voting and evaluation features provide a very clear indicator of what is hot and what is feasible. Kindling empowers Emma’s development and marketing teams to refine areas they have already identified. That sort of insight isn’t easy via email and Excel and proves invaluable to an organization when everything is possible and the market is hungry for new, better and faster.

“Life before Kindling was pretty much the dark ages. We used an email alias, ideas@, and emailed all of our ideas to that address. Multiple people monitored the inbox, there was no history or way to identify any actions taken or not taken. It was a mess,” says Grey Garner, market strategist.

Categorizing and tagging ideas into useful buckets has been a game changer at Emma. Only a few teams at Emma speak directly to clients, so spreading that information across the organization is vital.

Through the use of Kindling, Emma has created a foundation of institutional knowledge about their users that has helped shaped internal conversations and projects by having the voice of the customer represented, even if a specific idea isn’t built directly.

“And as we’ve logged more ideas over the years, higher-level macro trends have emerged which have helped inform the longer view of our roadmap and evolution as a service,” says Garner.

Kindling as Culture Creation Tool

Every Kindling account has an admin, sometimes more than one. The admin actively monitors activity and creates movement on ideas, at Emma, it’s Jenny Mahmoudi. As a user experience researcher, much of Jenny’s job revolves around bringing research to action. The ease of use and power of Kindling fosters a sense of inclusion by giving everyone a voice—from the intern to the CEO. Employee empowerment is a quiet and powerful win.

“I get to come in with all these vetted ideas from Kindling and kind of tell our team what’s most important. It’s exciting. At Emma we are really care about how things work and the overall user experience. Kindling fits in really well with that mission,” says Jenny.

Any company that proffers “decidedly friendly world domination” and a “style guide that is a collection of thoughts about life at Emma” versus a 50-page tome is serious about culture. At Emma, innovation cuts across software features, in-house process suggestions and community service do-gooding. Separate Kindling rooms easily manage these distinct topics and help clarify priorities on all fronts. As industry veteran and Square COO Keith Rubois says, “The [hiring] atmosphere is brutally competitive.” All the tech hubs are fighting for talent and while salary is a component, culture is the big differentiator. Kindling—the voice of your people.