Skip to ContentReforge logo
Case Study

Reforge Powers Growth and Team Development at SmugMug

Use cases: Establish shared language, getting better as an org

Jill Choi

Jill Choi

Director of Product Management, Smugmug

Key Points:

  1. SmugMug equips leaders and key decision makers across their Product, Engineering, and Marketing teams with Reforge.
  2. SmugMug also uses Reforge to establish strategic baselines of how to approach certain aspects of their business like growth, user insights, and more.
  3. Jill says that Reforge’s influence shows up most in the metrics related to SmugMug’s overall growth, as well as employee performance.


This case study explores how SmugMug, an industry leading end-to-end photography management and sales platform, leverages Reforge to drive team development and foster a growth-oriented mindset throughout the organization. By equipping managers and leaders with a Reforge membership, SmugMug aimed to provide team members with new perspectives, enhance their skill sets, and promote collaboration across different departments.

Jill Choi, Director of Product Management at SmugMug, delves into how Reforge was initially adopted, its current usage across teams, the impact on team members, and the integration of its frameworks into SmugMug's strategies and processes.

Discovery and Adoption of Reforge

Jill was initially recommended to Reforge by a friend who praised the platform's high-quality content. Intrigued by the potential benefits, Jill joined Reforge. Her positive experience led to the enrollment of the entire product management team in the subsequent cohort.

Soon after, impressed by the program's value, the General Manager, UX Researcher, Lead Designer, and other partners joined Reforge. However, driving adoption of Reforge concepts among team members presented a challenge because they needed a common understanding and vocabulary. To address this, SmugMug expanded Reforge's adoption to partners and key decision-makers, such as the Directors of Engineering and Marketing, to build awareness and advocacy.

Current Usage and Collaboration

Presently, SmugMug has 11 team members actively enrolled in Reforge. The Reforge platform serves not only to broaden specific skill sets but also to foster a shared understanding and vocabulary across departments. Initially, team members took courses specific to their areas of expertise, but they have now begun exploring courses in their peers' areas. This cross-functional learning enhances team collaboration by promoting empathy and providing a common framework for discussing approaches.

For instance, the Sr. Director of Engineering taking a course on User Insights for Product Decisions has facilitated effective communication with Engineering Managers and Individual Contributors, while aligning their perspectives with the product management approach.

Integration into Team Development

Reforge's impact on team development aligns with specific milestones in an individual's journey at SmugMug, primarily focusing on leads and managers. Seats for Reforge are assigned to these roles during onboarding or when someone transitions into a lead or managerial position. The expectation is that each individual with a Reforge seat participates in every cohort within a given year. While suggestions for specific courses may be provided, the final decision rests with the individual, empowering them to tailor their learning experience.

Shaping Opportunities with Reforge Frameworks

Reforge has profoundly influenced how SmugMug approaches business opportunities. Several frameworks from Reforge courses have been integrated into the company's strategies and processes:

  • Advanced Growth Strategy: Shifting the focus from funnels to loops, SmugMug conducted in-depth analyses of various loops to evaluate their effectiveness in driving growth. The team experimented with financially incentivized viral loops and explored new content loops to reduce reliance on paid advertising.
  • Monetization and Pricing: SmugMug utilized value research frameworks to optimize its plan pages, leading to a pricing page redesign, validation of current prices, and a roadmap for implementing usage-based pricing.
  • Product Leadership: The Competency Model framework introduced by Reforge enabled a more comprehensive assessment of the product management team, prompting SmugMug to extend this approach to other disciplines, becoming the new standard for performance assessment and development planning.
  • Finding Product/Market Fit: Reforge's course guided user research and facilitated discussions with stakeholders, ultimately helping SmugMug.


The investment in Reforge has proven to be highly valuable for SmugMug, demonstrating tangible returns on multiple fronts. For those considering making the investment, it's essential to understand the significant impact Reforge has had on the company's growth and team development.

First, in terms of cost-effectiveness, the Reforge investment stands out. Jill said, “It’s a screaming deal. The investment is significantly lower than the cost of business graduate school credits or attending multiple conferences. Reforge provides exceptional value with the live cohorts and access to self-serve course materials.”

The impact of Reforge is widespread throughout SmugMug as well, manifesting in both discovery and execution. The frameworks and shared language learned from Reforge courses have become integral to aligning and driving initiatives within the company.

Jill said, “If people have the same understanding of the problem, and how you’re going to approach it, it makes them more efficient at their jobs. There is a critical mass you need to get at your organization with Reforge.”

By applying these frameworks, SmugMug has gained a more comprehensive understanding of growth strategies, pricing optimization, product leadership, and finding product/market fit, resulting in a more informed and effective approach to tackling challenges and seizing opportunities.

While specific metrics directly tied to Reforge are difficult to track, Jill says the influence of Reforge is evident in the metrics related to SmugMug's growth and employee performance. The concepts and strategies learned through Reforge courses are directly applied to achieving the company's objectives and key results (OKRs). By leveraging the knowledge gained, SmugMug's team has been able to make informed decisions, drive growth initiatives, and measure progress against their goals effectively.

In summary, the investment in Reforge has proven to be worth it for SmugMug. The affordable cost and the practical and actionable knowledge acquired through the platform have delivered substantial returns. Reforge's impact permeates the company, empowering SmugMug to approach challenges and opportunities with a growth-oriented mindset, aligning teams, and driving measurable results.

Explore Reforge for Teams