An old saying goes: Make it easy for people to say yes.
I say: Make it easy for people to tell you, your startup is awesome.
Email used to be a joy. Every email meant somebody wanted to talk to me. Just me. Me alone. It was private, it was personal, it was glorious.
Nowadays email makes me cry. There are thousands of unread items in my inbox that I will never get to. Ever. I procrastinate opening my inbox for as long as possible and even when I muster the courage to go in it feels like stepping into a minefield.
I still dutifully respond to every tweet, to every notification on facebook. And on Path. And a dozen other social networks too. Just not email …
No-reply@ makes baby kittens cry
If you send me an email I WANT TO HAVE A CONVERSATION DAMN IT!
And more machines.
Out of the 26 unread messages in my priority inbox right now (I ignore my “normal” inbox) 9 were sent by a machine, 3 are from a mailing list, 5 are from some guy’s cool newsletter thing and and only nine are conversations aimed directly at me.
Only nine conversations … and that’s a very filtered look into a small subset of everything that’s flown into my inbox. Comparing priority inbox to everything else is like comparing the internet to 4chan.
Getting an email that actively discourages a response feels like …
- … a bad professor saying “Any questions?” and continuing the lecture without skipping a beat so nobody gets a chance to say anything
- … an old acquaintance saying “How you doin’?” instead of “Hey there” and immediately rushing off making sure you don’t respond and drag them into an awkward two minute conversation
- … a bad waiter asking if the food was good like this was a turn of phrase for “I’m going to take your plates now, please do not be alarmed. kthxbai”
This is 2012, people. Two thousand and twelve. It’s the future!
Nobody wants nameless faceless corporations anymore. And even if they did, email isn’t a flier you send into a million postboxes, it’s that personal sales/support/whatever call your humans make.
Fine, we got it wrong in the 90′s. Early internet corps thought email was just a flier. They didn’t think anyone would actually want to talk to a corporation. Corporations are something you’re supposed to hate and be annoyed with, right?
But you are a startup. You are not a corporation. And even if you are, I still want to talk to you damn it!
Automagic email done right
If you send e-mail from a email@example.com address, you should shut up and learn from @zemanta who send from firstname.lastname@example.org
— Micke Kazarnowicz (@kazarnowicz) April 24, 2012
Not all automated email is bad though.
Just over a year ago I signed up for 750words. Their Daily Nudge changed my perception of automagic email forever. Buster (the creator) convinced me that very often email is the single best medium out there. Done right, and email provides the best user experience you can think of.
Every morning for the past 375 days my inbox has been glorified with a little email that
- Pretends to be from a person – the reply-to is <person name>@<domain> (I love that)
- Says “Hello Swizec Teller!” in big bold friendly letters.
- Is signed by Buster with a first name
- Ends with “PS. I enjoy feedback. Reply to this email on the slightest whim!”
I loved this.
Replied several times … not sure I ever got a response, but hey, that happens. When you send an email to thousands of people every day, I’m sure replying to everyone isn’t an option.
More importantly, I started modeling my own notification emails this way and when I was running a web postcard service for a brief time last year, every fifth notification converted into a customer writing back to either say how awesome the service is or to recommend improvements.
Time and again I find myself loving automated notification emails that pretend to be from the founders of a startup. I loved seeing the “Joel from Buffer – hey your Buffer is empty” emails for a long long time before I turned them off since they stopped serving a purpose – habit fully built.
Buffer and 750words are the only two services – where I don’t personally know the founders – to make me fall in love, recommend the service to everyone, keep mentioning them in a lot of my blogs, and on twitter, and generally being excited about what they’re doing.
All because of their humanized notification emails that sound like a friend, not an annoyance.
You probably don’t send humanized email, but I think you should.
I want to talk to you.
- Learn Your Email Habits By Analyzing Your Gmail Inbox (psfk.com)
- Google+ Notifications Now Come To Your Email : Making Conversations More Fun (thetechnologycafe.com)
- Interact With Google+ Notifications Without Leaving Gmail (sproutsocial.com)
- A Super-Efficient Email Process (blogs.hbr.org)
- Why you should ALWAYS CC someone (news.ycombinator.com)
- Why you should ignore email (cbsnews.com)
- Ask the Entrepreneurs: 14 Ways to Conquer Your Company’s Overflowing Inbox (lifehack.org)