My favorite Ruby thing this week: when *my_array

This week we added a feature where our texting club customers can define their own aliases for the JOIN keyword, so they can track and measure which advertising is attracting people to JOIN. (For example a receipt might say “Text JOIN to…” while a sign in a bus might say “Text SNOWBUNNY to ….”) Continue reading My favorite Ruby thing this week: when *my_array

Why my company doesn’t send automated email from a ‘noreply’ address

It’s common – and tempting – for companies to send automated email to customers from an un-monitored address, often called something like “no-reply@”.

We send from an address such as “mail@” and if our customer happens to click the ‘reply’ button and sends an email, we forward it to “support@”.

One of my projects http://www.mondoflyers.com sends email flyers from one real estate agent to all the other agents in town.

Sometimes, a recipient simply clicks “reply” – most often with the intent of sending a note to the sending agent (“hey that house looks interesting, I’ll give you a call”), but sometimes with the intent to send us a note (“unsubscribe” or “wow that’s a great flyer system, how do I send one myself?”).

We really don’t see the downside of forwarding such emails to support and letting them handle it as the situation merits. So sometimes our support folks (a) forward a note to the obviously-intended recipient (which impresses our customer to no end), and sometimes they (b) unsubscribe the recipient even though they didn’t follow the exact instructions, or (c) sell our service to the recipient who asked for info, but sent the inquiry to the wrong place.

If your customer clicks reply, do you really want to throw it away, or bounce it back and ask them re-send it? Why not forward it instead to a human who can, more often than not, discern what needs to be done?

Ever wish you could have your work caller ID show up when you use your personal phone?

Well, now you can… we call it a “field extension.” www.fieldextension.com

When you make work calls from your personal phone, you can have the Caller ID show up as your work number. (Or, for that matter, if you don’t have a separate work number you can use your field extension AS your work number, making calls to/from your cell phone without anyone seeing your personal number.)

Texting overtakes voice+web as the new “voice” of US consumers

Buzzbeeper, Inc., released surprising data today via PRNewsWire. When asked to give customer feedback and given the choice between voice, web, or SMS texting, consumers now overwhelmingly prefer texting. Interesting to speculate why, but I believe it comes down to the less-obtrusive “I’ll get to it when I get to it” nature of texting that leaves the consumer inherently in control of the survey process. We’ve all been sucked into one of those so-called “short” surveys (like promoted on restaurant receipts) that easily take 15 minutes. Whereas with Buzzbeeper, it’s at most two quick questions… usually “how’d we do?” and “would you refer us to friends?”

My favorite guerilla marketing story (so far)

I get asked if there was a truly pivotal moment that led to my last IPO, a moment where everything hung in the balance, when sheer determination tipped the scale. Here’s the moment that comes to mind…

Once upon a time, around ’95, I got this crazy idea that the still-nascent internet would be the best medium for training since chalk. At the time, CBT (computer based training) was the end-all for corporations, and Asymetrix was the king of CBT tools. We were out to disrupt the whole notion of shipping CDROMs and having people mail (not email, mail) the training results back to someone who then more or less manually compiled the results.

So my small team built the world’s first internet-based training system for authoring and publishing interactive training courses on the internet. But… how to market it?

Back in the day, before google ad words (heck, before google, before webex, before most corporate training departments even used email) a poor startup had a harder time getting any meaningful customer traction on a shoestring. You hopefully got a little press to get them to call you. You visited them. You demoed. Old school. And hitting the road to talk to customers was pretty expensive.

But I’ve always been a “bring the mountain to me” kinda guy, so I started thinking “where is one place I could meet a lot of the people I wanted as customers?” And the annual Asymetrix User Group seemed like the perfect place, seeing as how they were precisely the people who needed our product. So I registered as a vendor, paid the exhibitor fee. Our registration was accepted. So for the next couple of months we got ready… booth, cool demos, sexy new features, the works.

About a week before the conference I got a call from the Asymetric VP of marketing who politely, but firmly, explained that even though they did not have internet tools, we were clearly competitive, and no way would we be permitted to exhibit at their user group, and our refund check was in the mail. Period. Two voicemails appealing to the CEO went unreturned.

My first reaction was, as The Dude says, “This will not stand.”

I’d sunk every marketing nickel into getting ready for the show. The thought of so many of ‘my’ fortune 500 training directors being in the same building at the same time, so close yet deprived of the chance to see my world-changing invention, was unacceptable.

So we immediately
1) Secured a permit from the city to hand out flyers on the sidewalk outside the convention center where the Asymetrix User Group was held
2) Hired a enough actors to cover all the entrances
3) Gave each actor a big stack of flyers that said “Welcome to Seattle! After you enjoy the Asymetrix User Group today, walk right across the street and see the new training technology that Asymetrix refused to let exhibit, while you enjoy some great Pacific Northwest salmon and wines.”
4) We also gave each actor a copy of our permit (just in case, which turned out to be useful, since Asymetrix did in fact try to tell them they were illegally handing out flyers).

Turns out, using actors was a fantastic idea my sales guy John suggested. We used actors because, well, they work cheap, and are able to really get into “the role” of being articulate, fun, energetic, engaging, polite, and slightly mischievous.

And that little stunt is how we got Boeing as one of our first customers. Which is how we got two brand-name VC’s to invest. Which is how Docent.com went public.

P.S. Oh, one more thing. After my company’s IPO, Asymetrix merged with us.