Happy Labor Day!

Labor Day was founded in the 1800s, and we’re happy to carry on the tradition of celebrating the achievements of American workers…by relaxing! We’ll probably be listening to some new music, catching up with our families (or our favorite TV shows), and hanging with some friends. We will be out of the office on Monday, September 5th, but we’ll be back at it on Tuesday, September 6.

Wit or Grit in Application Development

WitOrGrit

Application developers are the people who take complex problems and fix them using web-based tools. That’s a fancy way of saying that they make cool stuff online. They can create applications to predict your risk of a heart attack they can create ways for you too look up skylines across the world and they can help you create easy infographics.

We’ve seen this idea discussed before. It’s sort of like the chicken or the egg thing. What’s more important in app development? Wit? Or grit? We’re going to break it down, but we’re talking about web-based apps, which means applications built for the web. There are also native apps, which are built specifically for whatever program they’re on (iPhone/Android, etc.)

Examples of Wit & Grit in Applications

Application development isn’t really like other fields. It’s the type of work where you have to use both intuition and whimsy— where wit and grit come together to create something well…a little bit magical and a little bit freaking awesome and a whole lotta bit functional. When you use a web app and don’t notice you’re using one, that’s a good example of killer application development. When you use a web app and it makes things a bit easier for you, that’s also an awesome example of app development.

We were checking out some apps recently, and we came across Whichbook. Whichbook was started by Opening the Book in order to serve a specific goal. They did something simple, yet endlessly powerful: they saw a need (people weren’t reading enough because they didn’t know what to read) and they created a simple solution (make it possible for people to find books to read based on categories).

And that got us thinking about our own designs. We make a lot of web applications for businesses, and while they aren’t always whimsical or silly, they do mix intuition (wit) with hard work (grit) so that we can create a useable and helpful experience…and cut down on time spent working. Obviously!

We believe that a good application isn’t only about providing a helpful resource to users, it’s about creating delight, and that’s exactly what these web apps do.

Case Study: Wit and Grit in Entermotion’s App Development

When we connected with Ready Roofer, a Kansas-based roofing company, they told us a few key elements of their goals: they needed a web application that would manage their call center; they needed a way to share information securely across departments; and they needed the application to be intuitive enough so they could train warranty specialists on how to use it.

Let’s look at the nerdy details of what they needed:

  • Ready Roofer needed a way for call center employees to click on a PO Request, a Request Estimate, and Warranty Service.
  • Ready Roofer needed a way to push new requests to the next people in line so the process could remain open and clear.
  • Ready Roofer needed a way to keep track of requests on a server and to hide those requests behind a login

Along the way, we discovered some new bits of information that they’d need to incorporate:

  • They’d need a way for the manager to easily access all inquiries by job number
  • They’d need all updated warranty information to appear in a main dashboard so it could be accessed with ease
  • They’d need a way to mitigate pauses or hold ups within the call center process

Our first steps in developing this app were entirely grit based. We looked at the information and we created a wireframe to walk us through the process. Once we created the wireframe, we had a whole new set of questions: would people notified be able to create new job entries? Would the employees involved vary from job to job or would they be the same throughout the process? How would the flow be best organized? Does Ready Roofer have a specific way they envision this all moving? Which processes require multi-step verification?

Like most applications, some info was uncovered over time: we needed a way to make time entries editable from the admin; we needed to implement auth/admin access based on login information; we needed to assign color-specific labels to emails that got sent out; we wanted to make it easy for the founder to skim through calls, requests, and updates easily, so we created a call log that could manage all information easily.

Smashing Magazine talks about “knowing your users,” and, in this case, our users were the clients of our client. We always focus on the end-goal in application development, and we always ask ourselves what we need to do to ensure the application has a smooth user interface.

Sometimes, that doesn’t always go along with what our clients initially envisioned. Sometimes it means going to our clients and saying “hey, I know you didn’t ask for this, but we were thinking of….” Usually it works. That’s wit. 

Grit: What We Applied

Whenever we make apps, we use our experience to develop solutions that make sense. We don’t list too many controls on the screen at once, we don’t provide blank inputs when a dropdown box is needed; and we incorporate controls that make the most sense for that specific issue. Application development is fluid and applications work best when they’re developed fluidly.

Martin Fowler, an author an software development speaker once said, “Any fool can write code that a computer can understand. Good programmers write code that humans can understand.” And we think that’s a good place to leave off for now. Because when you combine wit and grit, and develop apps for humans, you can make everyone’s day a little easier. 

Email Marketing Basics: Technical Details

Learn how to send emails to your subscribers.

If you missed Part I of email marketing basics, check it out today. 

We said it before and we’ll say it again: email marketing isn’t about selling, pushing, or screaming. It’s about connecting with your customers in a real way.  We’re here to break down some misbeliefs about email marketing to help you get the bottom of it. 

How Often 

Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense. They listen so much that they forget to be natural. 

– Gertrude Stein, Reflection on the Atomic Bomb

Send too often, and customers will get really bored of you. Don’t send enough, and customers might forget about you. So what’s the deal? Email marketing campaigns are about reminding your customers to make moves exactly when they’re ready.  It’s not about pummeling them with annoying, over-the-top emails, it’s not about sending 10 emails a week, and it’s not about over-saturating their inbox with useless info. There’s no hard-and-fast rule about frequency, so the only true way to tell is to test it. According to Campaign Monitor,

“Test your send frequency on smaller portions of your list to measure impact. Remember, getting more opens and clicks without a change in visits or revenue might not equate to anything tangible so always test before you dive head first” (Campaign Monitor).

If you’re leading customers through a specific process, you can use some math to generate ideas. Or, you can use those programs we explored in Part I to analyze your data. But we think the best way to really figure it out is to use common sense. Would you want daily emails from a company you care about? Probably not. We don’t even like daily emails from our best friends (sorry, James!), so keep your cool and keep it cool.

Start low. Try for an email a month and see how it goes. If your customers are responding, you can increase that number and see what happens. If people are unsubscribing or not opening your emails, then you should refocus by looking at tone, length, and finally frequency. 

A Plan of Attack

According to HubSpot, you should create a hypothesis first, segment your subscribers, figure out which test metrics you want to use, create your emails, and then, after you send them out, analyze the data against your hypothesis. 

Remember that some bits of info, like open rates, aren’t really helpful because they are only considered “opened” if the images involved in the email are downloaded, and many people use image-blocking email features, so this is one metric that you can forget about that one entirely. Focus instead on more important data like conversion rate or click-through rate. 

How Much

Deciding how much text to use in promotional emails is pretty specific. HubSpot suggests you should consider the following questions:

  • Who are you sending to?
  • What are you talking about?
  • What kind of email is it?

According to The Atlantic and Boomerang, an email of 50-125 words is best. 

Like everything else in this process, it’s best to try it out and see what happens. One thing isn’t going to work for every single company, so it’s important to see what works for you and your audience. Try split-testing your emails to track customer engagement. No one’s clicking on longer emails? Chop your text in half. Check again. Is everyone responding to less text and more high-quality images? Whatever you notice, try to replicate it and check it out again later on. 

What Tone

Once you have an idea for what length you want to hit, you can start thinking about how you want to say it. Before you decide on a tone, you’ll want to consider a few questions:

  •  Who is your audience?
  • What’s your brand’s voice?
  • What’s the point of the email?
  • What type of action do you want subscribers to take?

No matter what tone you decide on, make sure you’re writing to a wide audience. No one wants to sit through a bunch of jargon and the latest version of the dictionary.

Boomerang analyzed the data and they’ve come up with some interesting email marketing tricks to keep in mind.

  • Write for a 3rd grader
  • Write with emotion
  • Keep headlines short (3-4 words)
  • Ask questions (1-3 tops)
  • Be subjective (facts are boring. Spice it up!) 

Content = Form + Function

Once you know what you want your customers to do, you can incorporate a tone that your customers will get. Selling high-fashion jewelry? A funny tone probably won’t work. Writing an informational article? Leave out the GIFs.

You know your company and your customers best, so make sure you follow brand guidelines, best practices, and use a tone that will excite your customers. Oh, and Boomerang also suggests that emails received in the morning or at lunch are more effective, so do that! Check out some examples below, and then hit the drawing board.

  

Email Marketing Examples

Artifact Uprising – Simple, image-based emails to generate sales.

 

Artifact Uprising Email Marketing Example

General Assembly – Informative email campaign to spread awareness of events and bolster following.

General Assembly - Email Marketing Example

 Uber – An event-focused email to inform customers of possible delays, changes, and event information.

Uber - Example of Informative Email Campaign

As you can see, the tone, length, and information in these emails is dependent upon very specific goals. If you know who your audience is, what you’re selling, and what your end goal is, you’ll have a good chance of creating visually appealing and compelling email marketing campaigns.

Don’t know where to start? Go back to Part I, where we explore email marketing basics including generating email lists, collecting emails, and email marketing applications. 

Going Back to Email Marketing Basics

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Marketing from the Bottom Up

Email blasts are best when you actually care about your customers. We know you’re probably thinking “but we do care about our customers.” And, duh! We know you do, but do they know that? How do you treat them when you send them an email marketing campaign? Are you following the rules so you don’t make people angry? Are you making sure your customers know it’s you writing to them? Do they know what you think about them and what you want them to do?

Email marketing research is completely freaking flooded with a lot of rules and a lot of ways to do things, and we think that’s all pretty cool, except a lot of it is silly. We think the main things you need to know are to treat customers with respect and do the right thing. 

Keep ‘Em Safe

The first step in your email marketing campaigns is going to be about keeping your customers safe. We know you’re not shielding them from the harsh realities of the world or promising safety forever, but you want to make sure they actually signed up to hear from you.

Otherwise, it’s like going to a party uninvited and asking the host 10 times if she wants to purchase your shiny new shoes right off your feet. She probably doesn’t, and she’ll likely kick you out and never invite you back. 

Email marketing isn’t about screaming louder until your customers choose you. It’s about saying what you have to say in a way that your customers want to hear. The first rule is the rule of not being rude. It means that you don’t send marketing emails to non-subscribers. Obviously. It’s not only a good thing, it’s also illegal to refuse. 

Like everything good in life, you need to get consent before you send out emails, so make sure you’re practicing safe email collection. 

Collect Emails Safely

You don’t have to buy lists or send emails to your mom’s reunion committee to have followers. You just have to make it easy for people to sign up to hear from you. And honestly, people may actually want to hear from you– especially if you give out coupons or deals. 

  • Encourage customers to share your newsletters with friends 
  • Place a physical sign-up sheet in your office or store 
  • Guest blog  
  • Create a downloadable product
  • Add scannable QR codes to your physical products 
  • Include a sign-up form on social media 

Boom. Cool. Once you have this list, you’re awesome! You can send them all emails all of the time for the rest of their lives and they’ll never have a chance to get out of it…

Just kidding, you should actually send out a welcome email where you remind them who you are, why you’re emailing them, and you should always give them a chance to get away. Again, if you think about it like a party, you’ll be safe. You’d never corner someone and convince them to talk to you for hours so don’t do it over email. It’s just rude. And kinda creepy. 

Manage Subscribers with Trusted Programs

Keep cool and use cool programs. That’s a motto we heard once. And we thought it was weird, but we kinda liked it. Do that. You don’t have to take lessons on email programs or anything, and we don’t expect you to, but there are some cool programs that will help you track your emails a bit better. 

MailChimp

 MailChimp has easy-to-use features that will help you send better emails.

MailChimp Pricing Plan for Email Marketing

Why We Like MailChimp

  • Trusted company: Founded in 2001
  • Easy template creation process
  • Intuitive subscriber management tool
  • Detailed analytics data

Campaign Monitor

Like MailChimp, Campaign Monitor has a drag-and-drop process so you can create beautiful emails even if you still type with one hand on a flip phone (we see ya…)Campaign Monitor Campaign Pricing

 

 Why We Like Campaign Monitor

  • Manage multiple campaigns with one interface
  • Track data easily
  • Great customer support

 ActiveCampaign

Like the other programs, ActiveCampaign is great for email marketing campaigns, but we’re especially excited about the ability to separate lists based on interest and location. ActiveCampaign also integrates pretty seamlessly with your email, so you can track customer engagement, follow up with customers, and manage your campaigns directly from your email. 

 

Email Marketing Pricing for ActiveCampaign
 

Why We Like ActiveCampaign

  • Easy A/B testing
  • Site traffic analytics
  • SMS marketing
  • Easy contact marketing features

Converting Lists to an Email Program

Once you have a list, you’re on your way to generating compelling (and legal) email marketing campaigns. Good for you! But there’s a few more things you need to do to stay legal. 

Compliance Matters

People were so annoyed with unsolicited emails that a whole act had to come out of it. Enter the CAN-SPAM act of 2003. You can read up on the CAN-SPAM act yourself, or you can check out some of the most important parts of it here:

Craft a Relevant Headline

Your headline must be relevant to what’s in the email. If you’re selling something for 10% regular retail price, don’t claim that customers can find 50% off coupons inside your email. It’s not only rude, it’s also a bold-face lie! Oh, and it’s illegal. 

Make Opt-Out Easy

Don’t make customers wait two weeks to be removed from an email list. Don’t hide an unsubscribe button. And don’t make it difficult for people to stop receiving messages. It might seem counterintuitive to remove people from your email list, but isn’t it better to talk to people who actually want to hear from you?

Remember: to collect email addresses properly, you need affirmative consent (How to Collect Your Email Marketing Addresses). You want to make sure you have explicit permission to send emails out.

Watch 3rd Party Providers

Just because you chose another company to handle your emails doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. According to the CAN-SPAM act, “even if you hire another company to handle your email marketing, you can’t contract away your legal responsibility to comply with the law. Both the company whose product is promoted in the message and the company that actually sends the message may be held legally responsible.”

Don’t Collect Unsafe Emails

We’re just gonna throw this out there: you probably shouldn’t collect email lists. Some of them are perfectly legal, but a lot of them are not. If emails come to you in Excel files or Word documents, they’re probably being bought and sold a lot, which means that not only are you engaging in unsafe business practices, but the people you email will probably hate every single one of your emails already.

Send a Welcome Email

When someone subscribes to your email list, you should send an automated email thanking them for signing up and reminding them what you offer. Let them know how often you’re emailing them and what type of stuff you’re going to send them. This isn’t required, but it sure will be nice.

Feel ready to create your campaign? Stay tuned for Part II, where we’ll explore some more technical details like how often you should send emails, how long your email should be, and what type of tone you should incorporate. 

What We’ve Been Reading

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We spend a lot of time reading blogs, but we also like to get down with a good book! Check out our August reading list and hit the books. 

The Trap by Melanie Raabe – A debut novel about a novelist who writes a novel to try to trap the man she thinks killed her sister. Meta? Oh yessa.

Collected Poems by Jack Gilbert – The only collection of poems that make us speechless. Well, we lied. It’s not the only collection that makes us speechless, but it’s one of them.

Strange Pilgrims by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – We’d make a Marquez monument if we could.

The World According to Star Wars by Carr R. Sunstein – We have no idea how we finished this one. It’s just a bunch of random half-baked thoughts put together. But we like that.

The Martian by Andy Weir – We love it because the author is a laboratory programmer and software engineer who just sort of accidentally wrote an amazing novel.

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald –  This is  an exploration of the human condition in relation to the most wild experiences a person can imagine.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – If you’re looking for a book with depressing characters, we’ve got you covered.

The Infinite Variety of Music by Leonard Bernstein –  We’re loving Bernstein’s lectures about music and composition because he’s clear and passionate.