Startup Slam II: The Reslammening

This past weekend, we held the second annual Startup Slam on the campus of the University of Victoria and it was a blast. First things first: holy smokes there were a lot of people there. For those that showed up and participated, we’d like to sincerely thank you for being a part of the growing tech community on the island and bringing so much energy to the slam.

If you’re looking for slides or any of the materials from the workshops, check out the slamdule on github. Continue…

It’s Zappening

The following is a guest post by our friend Alison Groves, from Zapier. Our integration with them went live a few months ago and we’re always looking at how our users are taking advantage. If you want to share your use case or have suggestions, let us know at us@sendwithus.com.

Email is one of the most important marketing channels out there, if not the most important. Communicating in emails with your users and customers—in newsletters, on-boarding campaigns, or even password resets—gives you the best way to start a direct conversation. However, doing that in any organized manner, and consistently delivering emails that are on message and effective can quickly become complicated.

Sendwithus boils down that process to be as easy and seamless as possible. Create and update email templates for anything you need to do, and you’re good to go. Then, you can make your life even easier by adding a few automations to your workflow. By connecting Sendwithus to Google Sheets, your landing pages and forms, and even e-commerce platforms, you can bring customers and users right into your email flow without any extra manual work or having to worry about people slipping through the cracks.

swuzap

That’s where Zapier comes in, by giving you the ability to connect the other apps you rely on to Sendwithus and keep data flowing between them. We asked a few users to share how they were using Zapier to automate their workflows and keep the email train rolling. Continue…

Taking Our Own Advice

Here at Sendwithus, we like to practice what we preach, and one thing we spend a lot of time talking about is how to remove developers from what are essentially marketing workflows. In fact, most of what we’ve built has been specifically to address that.

Complex web applications are dangerous places for content creators and marketers. The stress of setting up a development environment can take years off your life and an entire day or two of work just to be able to deploy a copy change is a big, unnecessary time sink.

Nobody should ever have to experience the pain and agony of breaking production just to update the text on a landing page. At Sendwithus, we take care of our content creators and we spent some engineering efforts to rectify this situation. It was decided that this process is completely unnecessary to do something so simple.

Artist's rendering of Alex deploying to production

Actual footage of marketing deploying to production

Continue…

Let’s Talk About Your Referral Program

Referral programs don’t seem to suffer the same overcrowding effects as most other messaging. Giving a user multiple opportunities to like, share, or refer only ever (within reason) increases their participation.

Of course there’s a drop-off, but this effect holds out longer than you expect and probably a lot longer than it should. That’s why we should always be experimenting, but remember to weigh the results in good taste and always make sure you offer a proper incentive.

cashbribes

“We tend to overestimate the user’s sensitivity to certain messaging.”

Referral Prompts are Additive

This was the first of the three cardinal lessons of a referral program I picked up in conversation with Ivan Kirigin – whom you may know from his work on the dropbox referral program – while we were working on the latest chapter of our “How to Send Email Like a Startup” guide: Continue…

From PostgreSQL to DynamoDB

When PostgreSQL Did Everything

In the early stages of sendwithus we used one Heroku Postgres instance for everything. It was very fast to set up, easy to maintain, and reasonably priced.

We could backup, migrate, and upgrade our entire database within minutes. We could run ad-hoc SQL queries and expect near real-time performance. We could also quickly create new features and produce custom reports for our amazing customers.

As our product evolved and our company grew, so did our database.

We started handling millions of API calls per day — sometimes spiking to more than 20k requests/min. Sendwithus tracks a lot of data, and our one-size-fits-all PostgreSQL solution started falling behind.

Screenshot 2015-05-01 09.33.05

 

Continue…

Our Favorite Tools for Powering Happiness and Transparency

Last week there was a thread on GrowthHackers about the ways in which different growth teams use Slack. I answered in the comments, but thought it could be useful to run through a couple of points in more depth. Plus it’s a great opportunity to talk about a couple of tools I absolutely love: Slack and Zapier.

First of all, one of the things I love most about Slack is that it combines the office chat mechanism with automated alerts and everyone is already self-selected and subscribed to the relevant conversations. This is great for tracking errors, news, social media, and well pretty much whatever your team might deem important…

the slambot: reddit to zapier to slack

Tracking the very important things

One thing that people really seemed to appreciate in the GH thread was the idea of having a channel dedicated to the doling out of props. Intra-team commendations are always really helpful to keep everyone engaged in the project, and indeed we do these at our monthly all-hands meeting, but here at sendwithus we also have a great system for sending love from our users directly to the team in real time.

Continue…

How to Start a Startup Video

Sendwithus has a ton of great features and we recently realized that we didn’t have a simple way to show the true awesomeness of our product, so we decided to make a product video.The process of making the video was interesting so we wanted to share with you what we learned along the way. You can find a full list of resources at the bottom.

Steve awakes to lightning and nightmares of email template management

The original concept was a bit more dramatic

What we Wanted

A short public video that explains what Sendwithus does, and integrates well into our website design. We were looking for something in the vein of great startup videos that came before us, like AirBnb, Listia, and PushForPizza.

What we Had

Here are the things we had to start: a month, a small budget and some ideas on what the video should look like. We didn’t have the budget to get a production team or six months to make a flawless video. Perhaps more importantly, six months from now our product could look very different from what we showcase today. Using resources we already had, we wanted a professional quality video that would add to our website and emphasize the solutions we provide. To do this, we had to distill the core offering of sendwithus into a few simple ideas:

  1. A pretty email template management system that sits on top of your Email Service Provider (ESP),
  2. A system that can be used by marketers to update and change email content using our dashboard,
  3. An API that can be used by developers to send email through the ESP.

This process is what we wanted to illustrate with the video. Continue…

Don’t Start a Drip Campaign

Don’t get me wrong, we here at sendwithus love drip campaigns. But when we sat down with our friend Noah Kagan of AppSumo to talk onboarding emails, it became very clear that – especially for startups – a drip campaign to address the pain points in your product might be presumptuous; to heal your users’ pain, first you must experience it.

“But how do I experience the pain of something that’s not happening to me?” asked the robot. The same way you do in real life: ask, listen, and be available. These are the tenets that guide us through our latest installment in the Pirate’s Guide to Email: The Onboarding Campaign

even robots have empathy, sometimes

Continue…

Lean Product Feedback via Email

lean hero image ;)

The Lean Startup movement has undeniably had a massive impact on the startup world as a whole, and it has especially been felt by me and my co-founder, Brad. In the early days of Sendwithus, adopting lean methods for customer development and lean analytics techniques for data decisions was incredibly important to how we validated our ideas. These philosophies are now embedded in our entire team and continue to shape our company.

Today I want to share one aspect of our “lean product” process. We call it lean product feedback, and it’s how we close the loop between customer development and analytics.

Continue…