Episode 382 | Fixing Onboarding, Marketing a Low LTV Product, and More Listener Questions

Show Notes

In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob and Mike answer a number of listener questions, topics include fixing onboarding, marketing a low LTV product, and the legality of cold email.

Items mentioned in this episode:


Mike: In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Mike and I talked about how to fix your onboarding, marketing the product with a low lifetime value, and more listener questions. This is Startups For The Rest Of Us episode 382.

Welcome to Startups For The Rest Of Us, the podcast that helps developers, designers, and entrepreneurs be awesome at building, launching and growing software products, whether you’ve built your first product or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Mike.

-: And I’m Rob, I guess. And I’m not Mike.

Rob: That’s what Sherry said when she was on the show, “And I’m not Mike.” What’s going on this week, man?

Mike: I just pushed the new Bluetick website live this week. That’s finally out there, they were out, I think, Monday night. Just been making some minor tweaks here and there just to get the images all straightened out and smooth out some other rough edges.

My main focus was just getting the design itself in place and then the copy along with the new updated theme because it’s all built on WordPress. Now that that’s stuff’s in place, I actually have to leave in four or five hours to go to FemtoConf and then once I get back, then I’ll probably finish off the rest of the little minor things that need to be taken care of and just make sure all my plugins are installed and all the analytics are working and then from there just start marketing.

Rob: The site looks great, it looks really nice. It’s like ten times better than what you had up there. All the way from the look, to the images, to just the verbiage and then what you have there. Bravo on that. Can I give you two small critiques? I’m sure these are behind on your list. You have a testimonial on the home page which I think is great.

Mike: Actually those are gonna be swapped out.

Rob: Cool, you got multiple, but put big old quotes around it. There’s something about seeing quotes around it. I know there’s Justin’s face there and then there’s a testimonial to the right of it but without the quotes, it’s like there’s just something there. I really like to call out large quotes because then people know the guy is saying that. It’s a little thing that I see in a lot of sites but I think there’s some impact.

Mike: Yeah, I’ll definitely do that. What’s the next one?

Rob: The other one is, you know what, this one isn’t actually a critique. You have one sentence description at the bottom of the page in the footer about Bluetick and it says, “Bluetick relieves the soul deadening drudgery of email follow up for founders, overworked sales executives, and anyone who’s ever lost a perfectly good lead to the email blackhole.” That’s a really well-written thing. Why does it say FIP? What’s FIP mean?

Mike: I don’t know, actually I think that’s gotta be RIP.

Rob: There’s just a little typo there. I don’t love your logo because it took me a while to figure out what it is but it looks like it’s a dog eating an envelope or carrying an envelope, is that right?

Mike: Yeah, it’s carrying an envelope.

Rob: I’m sure it looks better when it’s big but given the size on your site right now. Listeners, you should go to bluetick.io and check all this out and see if you agree with me or what else we can figure out. I’m sure changing your logo is like priority 942 on your list right now.

Mike: Yeah. The only reason I even had the logo done was because before it was just text and I wanted to have something up there so that people could associate the logo with the text itself because there’s familiarity that people get with certain text fonts especially when they go with a particular logo but I’m gonna be using that logo inside of some of the emails and stuff that are being sent out. I just want that familiarity to at least be there.

It wasn’t necessarily important, it was just like okay, if I’m doing a step up, the previous logo was literally a stock image that was just black and white of a dog’s face and it was just not very relevant, I’ll say.

Rob: I would think if you could somehow simplify just the dog’s face, turn it into a line drawing or something. Again, I realized it’s hard because you can’t do it yourself, you’re gonna have to hire somebody. I don’t think this is a deal breaker, I don’t think people are not gonna sign up for the app because of that. It’s just something that every time I come to the site I notice it and I’m like it’s a little busy.

Mike: This is gonna turn into a website tear down episode.

Rob: It’s gonna be the whole episode. These are very minor things. There are no typos on the page, the copy is good, personal touch at scale for all your follow up emails, that’s your headline. It’s really well-written. Obviously you could split test against something but nothing comes to mind as like boy, this copy is really jacked up or anything. It looks good.

The only two, again these are minor things, your Drip widget popped up on me after maybe 5 to 10 seconds. I was in the middle of reading your headline or the subheading and the thing popped up. I would probably push that out to 30 seconds, you have quite a bit of [inaudible 00:05:05] on the page, maybe even 45 seconds. Just give people a bit of time to read a little more.

Last thing is, your title tag on your home page, it says, “Home-Bluetick.” I know you’re not doubling down on SEO right now but really, Google has probably indexed you already. You may wanna start that with something, I don’t know what keyword you’re gonna be targeting or keywords but whether it’s email follow up or whatever generic phrase you would love to rank number one in Google, at least have that somewhere in there, probably towards the front.

Again, I wouldn’t keyword stuff but Home-Bluetick isn’t gonna get you much. You don’t want people to find you for the word home. People are gonna find you for the word Bluetick. Neither those really need to be there, although I’d probably still have Bluetick in there somewhere. That’s about it, man.

Mike: All of those are great suggestions. Some of them, like you said, the typo, I knew that I had to get to that but I just hadn’t gotten to it. I feel like extending out the Drip widget a little bit so that it gives people more time. All the title tags and stuff like that, I have not even looked at any of those yet. That’s on the list of things to do when I get back.

Rob: You have some art on the tour page, that’s very cartooning. Those look really cool, I like the feel of that. It’s very professional feel.

Mike: The designer who did the website, he came up with those illustrations. We went back and forth on a couple of different design ideas that he had and those are the ones that came out of it.

Rob: Very cool, man. Good luck. I’m interested to hear how it impacts conversions and all that kind of stuff.

Mike: The main focus of doing all of this stuff was just to give the website a much better feel to it so that when somebody either came to the website itself or was directed to it because of a referral, it doesn’t look like something that they would’ve just clicked the back button and said, “No, I’m not even gonna give this a chance.” I did hear that as feedback from people where I recommend it to so and so they told me that if I had not recommended it to them, they wouldn’t have even given a second thought.

It’s really to just overcome that as a primary objection. I can do a demo for somebody or a webinar and I could sell them on it and say, “Yes, this is what the product does.” By showing them inside the product and what it can do for them and solve their problems, yes it’s fine. But a completely cold lead who comes to the website has no idea and they’re not gonna give it a chance, that’s really what it is. The bar for something like a SaaS product is much higher than something that the old website could even overcome.

Rob: The bar is much higher than it was five or ten years ago as well. I think you made a good call here. Doubling down on this, you’re at the point where you’re starting to scale getting more trials coming through the websites, now is the time to do that. If you spent much time on this when you’re in customer development, it would’ve been a waste of time. I think it was a good use of time and money.

I wanted to talk a little bit about MicroConf, it’s coming up in April, Starter Edition. We still have tickets left and we have some really good speakers this year. We have Mary Pullen who’s talking about her first year of SaaS bootstrapping. We have Alli Blum talking about copywriting and onboarding emails, she’s been on the show. You’re speaking, Justin Jackson, Ben Orenstein, Courtland Allen from Indie Hackers, Mojca Mars about Facebook Ads, really solid lineup this year.

If you’re at all interested in hanging out with 100-250 folks who are all the way from idea to making a full time living from their business, head over to microconf.com, click on Starter and the tickets are relatively inexpensive compared to most conferences and we do still have some left. We’d love to see you there.

The other thing is I’m driving to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin next Thursday or I guess it’s two days after this will air to attend Gary Con, have you heard of that?

Mike: I have not. Is that related to Gary Gygax?

Rob: Yes, Gary Gygax was the creator of Dungeons and Dragons. He died in I think it was 2010, 2012. Basically friends and family just got together and played a bunch of games. It’s like there’s table top games, there’s card games, and RPGs and miniatures and the war games and all that kind of stuff. It was like 20 or 30 people the first year and they jokingly called it Gary Con in his honor. The next year, they sold a few tickets and they had 100 people and it just turned into this thing.

I went last year, it’s kinda neat being in the midwest. I’ve never gone because I was never gonna fly from California out to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin but being in the midwest, it’s like a four or five hour drive. Last year I was kinda nervous about going, my son and I, we obviously love and play these games but we’re not sophisticated gamers, we’re just playing for fun and there are about 1200 people there. It was a blast, man. It was so much fun.

People are really nice and welcoming. I’d come up with my ten year old son and I was like, “Hey, we’ve never played this.” They’re like, “No problem, we have a character for you, here’s how you do it.” They were just super helpful. Anyways, I’m really looking forward to that. If anybody happens to listen to this and be there, please drop me a line. We’d love to connect with you but if not, I’ll certainly report back about the nerdery that’s gonna take place in Lake Geneva next week.

Mike: That’s awesome. I’ve been to a couple of gaming conventions like that, there was one in Buffalo, New York that I went to. It’s probably 10 or 12 years ago. It’s interesting because there was a guy there who had a role playing game that he was trying to launch and trying to get funding for but he was also still doing play testing for it. There was a room of 25 of us, he basically threw us into this game. I think the game was called monoxide amazon or something like that.

The idea was you’re in this world where you just basically have to run away from everything, everything is out to kill you. Half the people died in 10 or 15 minutes or something like that. It was like an hour long session but out of all of us, I think there were only five or six of us that made it out alive.

Rob: That’s cool. That’s the neat part. Last year the same thing happened, there were several people there who were trying to get their games on Kickstarter or going to put them on but they were doing play testing. My son actually played that Tower Defense game board game that he enjoyed a lot. The convention itself, it is four days.

We’re only going for three days of it but it’s not just some eight hour session, we’ll probably game as much as we can, eight to twelve hours a day, we’ve already signed up for tables in advance and then we’re also wandering around. There’s so much cool stuff to buy too, it’s really bad. I need to limit my spending but I get overwhelmed how much cool stuff people bring. It’s a great time to buy dice and miniatures and all kinds of geeky stuff.

Mike: Cool. What are we talking about this week?

Rob: We have a few listener questions. Actually, by the end of this episode, we will have zero listener questions in the cue. I don’t know if it’s woohoo or not. We’re gonna have to come up with some content next week. If you do have questions for us, please, email them to us at questions@startupsfortherestofus.com or certainly call our voicemail number which we read at the end of every show.

Our first question is from Tim Win. He has a couple questions in the same email. His first question, he says, “I was wondering, for a B2B Saas targeting specific niche market, what will be a good amount of traffic I should try to generate to get meaningful feedback?” Aside from it depends, do you have thoughts on this? Because it does depend, that’s a very general answer. Let’s weigh it on, I may have some thoughts.

Mike: I think when you ask a question like this, what you’re really trying to get out is the amount of feedback that I’m getting good enough in relation to what other people would get or are you getting the feedback that you need to make a decision. I think that’s how I would approach it to figure out whether or not you’re getting enough traffic.

You have to decide on what your KPI for that website is and how you’re going to be gathering information from people. Let’s say that you use Hotjar and you put a poll on your website and you get 100 or 500 people to it and you get 3 people to answer the poll, that’s not a good percentage but 3 people out of 500 visitors is not going to help you in any way, shape, or form. Even just adding once answer is gonna skew things in such a direction that it’s just not helpful.

I think I would look at it in terms of how much feedback you’re getting versus how many people are visiting. Also, recognize that when you’re looking at the traffic stats for a particular website, it’s very easy to misinterpret bots coming to the website to just crawl it versus actual visitors who were there for purpose or came from a particular search term or were directed from an email or another website.

Rob: If you’re using Google Analytics, though, I don’t think it picks up bots, I’m pretty sure it does not, it’s only if you look at raw server logs, just a caveat in there.

Mike: But it is hard to tell when you’re looking at that because you do see on the server logs, you’ll get 20 or 30 visits a day. I’m not convinced that Google accurately filters out all the robots that it’s supposed to.

Rob: Really? Because it’s JavaScript. Typically a bot is like a crawler, it’s a Python Script that’s just doing something. It shouldn’t “execute” JavaScript. You need to execute JavaScript to have Google Analytics track you. I know that Google’s crawler does execute some JavaScript, there are stuff, it’s possible but my guess is that most bots are not executing the Google Analytics.

I’m guessing they would exclude it if they could. They’re pretty smart about that. The point is if you’re not using Google Analytics and you’re using your logs, they could be in there.

Mike: That’s true. With this particular question, what you’re really trying to get out is what is the information that you’re trying to retrieve from people and what feedback is it that you want. Do you want conversations? Do you want them to comment on something? Do you want to get them on a phone call? What is the KPI that you’re trying to push people towards? Are they doing it?

I don’t think it’s a matter of trying to measure the actual traffic itself because, I think, bear minimum, you probably need at least 500 visitors a month, anything below that you’re just really not gonna be able to make a meaningful business out of it.

The other thing to consider is the fact that not every B2B SaaS product needs to have traffic coming to its website if that’s not your primary source or primary channel for marketing the product. If you’re doing outbound cold emails, for example, or if you’re sending postcards in the mail to people or you’re doing cold calling, none of those things involve people coming back to your website so there’s an implicit assumption here that the traffic that’s coming to the website is based on SEO or content marketing or something along those lines.

I would just be hesitant to say that there’s 100% correlation between website traffic versus being able to get that meaningful feedback because if you are doing cold calling, for example, you can get on a call with somebody and you can ask them questions and talk to them, get the information you need and they never hit your website at all. That’s something to keep in mind.

Rob: I think that’s probably the first point that I would make. I think that that’s something to keep in mind, is it’s not about necessarily driving a bunch of traffic to a form or to an opt-in. It depends on your business idea but boy, if you have no audience and no reach, I would probably start with some type of outbound, cold email, or maybe some ads going to a landing page or something.

There’s just no better way to get feedback because that’s his questions, it’s not how do I build a meaningful business, it’s how do I get meaningful feedback. The way you do that is you ask for it. It tends to have to be outbound. I would hang on with this concentric circle marketing I was talking about.

I would talk to my friends and colleagues and then their friends and colleagues and then their audience and then eventually you get to the cold audiences but I would start in the center with the people that you know if you truly are going for feedback.

In the early days of Drip, yes, I threw up a landing page and put some copy on there. The only reason I did that was because I was going on podcasts and people were asking me about it and I wanted somewhere to send people.

Eventually, once I knew what we were gonna build, I started doing some ads to it and I did build a list from there but that was not the way I got meaningful feedback. The way I got meaningful feedback was a bunch of warm emails to people within my network asking them, would you use this tool? Here’s a screenshot, what do you think? And then started building momentum there. I think that’s the way to think about this.

If you wanna build an actual sustainable business and you’re asking about how much traffic, DotNetInvoice, which depended on the month but between $2000 and $4000 a month, pretty consistent, sometimes it got to 5000. That site had 1000 to 1500 uniques for years. It was just a really high converting site and it was in a vertical. That’s what he’s asking about here.

He’s like, it’s a B2B SaaS, it’s in a vertical niche. You don’t need that much but you are gonna top out at some point and just stop growing. DotNetInvoice was $300 one-time purchase. Keep that in mind as well.

With 1500 people coming to your site, if you think about, let’s just throw out a 1% conversion rate to trial, you’re gonna get 15 people into trial funnel, that’s with credit card upfront. Let’s say you close 50% of those to customers which is likely, then you’re gonna have seven or eight new customer a month.

You have to ask yourself, if you charge $1000 a month, that’s probably pretty good. If you’re charging $10 a month, that’s not very good. You have to think about your price point and just think about the numbers that I threw out there and you can do backwards math and figure out how many people you need to send to figure out how fast you wanna grow.

Tom’s second question was that he seems to be getting free trial sign ups but once users get into his onboarding which is like a getting started wizard, he seems to lose them. It’s only three steps, it’s nothing too complicated, just adding their location, product service they provide, and setting a payment processor so they can take payments from their customer.

“Some seem to get to this part and never log in. Any idea why? It’s driving me crazy.” What would you do if you were in his shoes, Mike?

Mike: I was gonna say there’s no way for us to really answer why that is. I think that if I were in his shoes and I was having this particular problem, I would email those people individually who never got past that point and see if you can help them, either just walk them through it or ask them questions about what their experience was. Your best case scenario is to get them onto a call to walk them through it and do a personalized onboarding session and then watch them as they go through it so you could just use Zoom to watch over their shoulder as they go through.

The nice thing about doing that is if you do it for them, then they see it but if you let them do it because they don’t know exactly what they’re doing, they’re going to click on stuff that they shouldn’t and you’re gonna be able to recognize that and say, “Why did that person click there?” You can ask them literally on the call, “Why did you click on that? What was it that made you think that you were supposed to click on that?”

Maybe they’re getting confused about the UI, maybe they just don’t have time to log in so they never set up their account.

I think there are other questions I would also ask about like do they come into the site and get there or do they just never come in? If they’ve gone through the signup, does it take them directly over to this three-step process or do they have to get an email and then they click on the email and then they come back into the application. How is that sequence of events set up and what’s the flow look like for the end user?

It could very well be that some people, depending on their browser for example. I’ve run into this with Bluetick in certain situations where some browsers, on occasion, do not work and it had to do with a race condition inside the JavaScript code. Some things work fine and then other ones didn’t. I didn’t know that because I wasn’t monitoring exactly what browsers people were using.

Like I said, because it was a race condition, it sometimes happened but not always. You really just need to talk to them and watch over their shoulder to watch them go through that and ask those questions to find out what it is that you’re doing. If they already got through that first step, they signed up, you have their email address or at least presumably you should. Contact them and follow up with them until you get an answer as to why they didn’t go through that next step.

Maybe they realized at that point that it was going to be more to set up than they thought it was. At that point, you have to evaluate, do I put this process in place? Do I need them to do those three things all at once? Could I spread it out? Are there ways to interject that as part of them using the product without forcing them through that concrete step all upfront? Let’s say that the location, for example, could you pull that from their credit card information?

Rob: Like their IP.

Mike: Yeah, that too. It depends on how accurate you need it to be. Like time zone, you could probably pull from somebody’s browser. If you need the address, could you pull it from their credit card? That depends on whether or not you’re taking credit card upfront which sounds like it’s not because it’s free trial. Those are the places I would start.

Rob: I think that’s spot on. The one other thing I would consider is taking away self-service signup and just putting a request demo button. When they hit that, they can just book right in Calendly and set something up. If you really wanna do this well and this is what you’re focused on, the requested demo button, you could respond to that within minutes.

If you’re relatively low traffic and you really are just hacking away all day right now, try to get back to people within ten minutes of them clicking that and just get them on the phone, do a Zoom meeting and do a screen share and walk them through. It’s essentially what you said, Mike, but I’m just saying you take away the self-service signup portion.

I think that right now it’s gonna be about talking to customer sounds like you’re still in the early days. You could throw Hotjar on there and do screen recordings, you could throw Crazy Egg in there and do heat maps, you can do all that stuff but you’re never gonna find out why, you’re just gonna see what is happening. The why is obtained through having a conversation with them. I would be more hands on these early days, you don’t have to do that forever. I think you’ll certainly find out that it’s pretty valuable for your learning, for accelerating your learning in these early days.

The last question was for you, Mike. He says, “I was listening to one of the podcasts, Mike was saying bluetick.io  was having usability issues he had to fix. Are you able to get into detail? Just curious as to what some of them are.” I recall you talking about one usability issue, interested in talking about that?

Mike: Sure. The main usability issue that I have addressed towards the past six months or so, they had to do with onboarding. When somebody signs up for Bluetick, one of the first things that you have to do is you have to set up your mailbox and you have to add in your username and password. If you’re using Gmail, there’s all these different settings that you have to connect. You have to have IMAPS or hostname, username, password, port number, the encryption level. You also have to have the exact same information for your SMTP server because it may not be the same.

Initially, I had a set up page where you had to set up your mailbox and there were probably a dozen different settings. What I would do is I would personalize onboarding for each person, walk them through it, watch the backend because not everybody knows what ports they’re using for their mail server. Some people are technical, some people are not, so I walk through it with them.

I got to a point where I knew that certain types of mail servers were very common, you’re using Gmail or Google Apps. I could guess what those are because it’s always gonna be imap.gmail.com and then also smtp.gmail.com but your username and password are gonna be different.

I could basically filter out a bunch of those and I was able to shorten down the page itself but in addition to that, there were still problems because if you a have two factor authentication set up or you don’t, you either have to enable less secure apps or you have to enable two factor authentication and you also have to make sure that IMAP is enabled.

Overtime, I whittled down the number of things that somebody had to do to get their mailbox set up. At some point, I transitioned to the point where if you are using Google Apps or G Suite, as I call it now, you can just click through and go through the OAuth authentication. That basically takes care of everything for you, you’re just putting your username and password in Google, click the button and boom, everything is taken care of for you.

There’s very much a progression where I slowly pulled myself out of the setup process. On day one, I didn’t necessarily know what everybody needed and I didn’t have everything coded. I pushed myself into the process to make sure that it got done.

Rob: I think that’s a great way to do it. We had several integrations in Drip that were a pain in the butt to set up. You had to go and install a WebHook and do all this and that. We’ve been going back as we’ve grown and scaled and making them all OAuth if the provider allows OAuth. We always call it V1. V1 integration was just to plugin and then V2 is to add OAuth and V3 was to make the triggers native. There were all these things and we just have the verbiage or the language that we all knew on the dev team.

You have been in your early days, it’s customer development time. You could’ve spent another three weeks in the early days making it super simple but you didn’t need to because you’re walking people through it. I guess this is technically a usability issue but it’s like a deliberate decision to move faster and then circle back and iterate. I think that’s something that people should keep in mind as you’re building your app. It doesn’t need to be the best all the time, you gotta do your best.

Do you want your code to have not a lot of croft and not have technical debt? I wouldn’t skimp on that. But when you’re moving fast, I think making a first past through and having the usability in some areas be not as ideal as maybe you’d like and you know that and you plan to come back, I think that’s a pretty good approach.

Mike: The other thing that I use specifically in this particular case which people might find useful is that I made this decision for this piece of it specifically because it was a setup piece. I knew that it was something that most customers are only ever going to do once and once it’s done, that’s the end of it. Even if it takes me 30 minutes or 45 minutes on a call to set somebody up and get that stuff connected properly, it doesn’t matter because it won’t have to be done again.

Obviously I don’t wanna be on a call with every single person for 45 minutes just to get them set up and then after that try to do some level of onboarding and customer development. If I can get that stuff taken care of later on, I basically just kicked it down the road because it was that one-time set up and it wasn’t gonna have to be done again. You can use that as a deciding factor as to where you’re going to spend your time.

I see a lot of other vendors doing this where if certain things are painful, you tend to find those things in places where the customer doesn’t have to do it very often. The one example that comes to mind is Oracle installer which for 10 to 15 years was busted. It was fundamentally broken on Windows, you literally could not install Oracle without it failing and then having to go in and fix stuff. They finally fixed it in 2012 or something like that. But for a long time, it did not work at all.

Rob: I remember that, that was crazy.

Our next question is about cold email, it’s from Greg Ristow from utheory.com. He says, “I love the show, I’ve got a startup music theory learning site which is just now at $1500 per month in revenue with very little marketing.” Congratulations, by the way. That’s a nice market to hit.

“Starting to think about email marketing strategies for reaching college music theory faculty, and high school music teachers. I’m wondering about the legality of gathering names and emails from school websites. When I look around the web, I get conflicting information on how CAN-SPAM applies.” That’s a law in the US about not spamming people. “I know in my own day job as a college music faculty member, I regularly get emails from companies who pulled my email from my school’s website. Any advice?”

Mike, I know you have a lot of thoughts on this. I’d say give a short answer and then a longer answer.

Mike: The shorter answer is that it is legal to go to somebody’s website and pull the email addresses. At that point, depending on how you email them, that’s where the piece of CAN-SPAM falls into place. It’s not about whether or not you pull the emails from the website or whether you gather their contact information, it’s really about what you do with it after the fact.

Underneath the umbrella of the CAN-SPAM Act, there’s basically three different types of emails that are sent out. There’s commercial emails, there’s transactional emails or relationship emails, and then there’s other. I’ll talk about those in a minute but most of what CAN-SPAM basically says is don’t lie to people or forge header information when you’re sending emails and try to hide what it is that you’re trying to do.

For example your from email address should actually be you or your business. Who it’s to should be that person, don’t be forging emails to people like if I were to send an email to you and I forged the header information and said that it was Bill Gates, then it starts to fall under the CAN-SPAM laws. Lying about those things, not specifying that something’s an advertisement, or line about what the subject is.

Let’s say that you say that it’s about your recent payment, and then in the body of the email you’re saying it’s a Viagra commercial or advertisement. That right there is a violation of CAN-SPAM because you’ve not said that it’s an advertisement and you’ve also lied in the subject line.

Not telling people how to opt out of future emails, that’s another one and then honoring the opt outs. A lot of those things are typically handled by an email service provider. Those are the things that you don’t typically have to worry about.

Going back to the three different categories of email that are defined here, there’s the commercial intent which basically is an advertisement of some kind. That’s really where the pieces of the CAN-SPAM Act are that you need to pay attention to. If you’re advertising a product or a service and you’re promoting it and sending emails to these people, it’s very clear that you’re trying to get them to sign up for a service, that is a commercial intent email.

If it’s a transactional email, that essentially is exemplified by things like somebody comes to your website, buy something, and then you send them a receipt. Emailing them the receipt, that’s a transactional email because they did something and then they received based on what they did.

The third one is other. This is where you get into a very, very grey area because all three of these things are all about the primary purpose of the message. What is it that that email was intended to do and what are the contents of it. If I send somebody an email that is completely unsolicited and it’s got links for them to buy my service or to come into my website and look at the product to learn more because I’m essentially pitching it to them and saying, “Hey, would you like to learn more about this? Here’s the website.” That is more of a commercial content.

If I email somebody and I say, “Hey, I’d like to talk to you about X because I’m exploring this idea.” Or, “I have a product and I’m doing some customer development.” That is not commercial because you’re not actively selling them something, there’s not an advertisement in it. It’s also not transactional. What happens is those types of emails fall under other.

I will put a blanket categorization here that says I’m not a lawyer. Just take some of this with a little bit of interpretation and a grain of salt because this isn’t legal advice. But my reading of all of these things is that that commercial content, the transactional and other, you can essentially leverage those three. Depending on what it is that you’re putting in the email, a lot of times, you can force it to fall underneath the other category which essentially says that it doesn’t need to follow these CAN-SPAM laws and regulations.

Rob: I think the TLDR on that. Again, we’re not lawyers, we can’t give legal advice but it is generally accepted practice that, yes, people do scrape emails from websites, whether they gather them by hand or whether they have a VA to do it or whether they write a script to do it. It is legal to cold email people even for commercial purposes, I receive them all the time.

I may morally or ethically consider them spam and certain people do and they say, “You’re spamming me.” Based on the legal definition, that’s not. I would give you the advice, don’t use a bulk email program, you’ll get shut down. Script that list and then import it into Drip or MailChimp or anywhere, we’ll block your account because people will mark them as spam, there’s gonna be bounces, people are not gonna open them, they’re just gonna have low engagement. Those cold emails should not be in a tool like Drip or MailChimp, they should be in a tool more like Yesware or Bluetick.

Mike: That’s correct. The interesting thing there is that the reason Drip and AWeber and MailChimp and all those others are stopping people from sending those types of emails and stopping them from importing the list and blasting them out is because what happens is that people on the receiving end of it, if they don’t like the message, they can mark it as spam. That’s not a legal definition that it was spammed, it was that that person classified as spam. What happens is that then negatively impacts the provider.

In that case, they’re protecting not only themselves but also all of the other customers that they have. Let’s say that I imported a thousand emails into Drip and I basically blast something out and then a lot of them started getting marked as spam, I am then thereby impacting the rest of Drip’s customer which obviously is a no, no. I would expect them to shut me down.

Versus if you send it out through Yesware or Bluetick or all these other things. What happens in those cases is if somebody reports to the spam, it actually goes against your own domain as opposed to somebody else’s. From my standpoint, if you’re gonna bash your own domain and you really are spamming people, and it is classified as spam, then you’re negatively affecting your own domains, not mine, not any other customers. At that point it doesn’t impact me as much.

The email service providers, the reason they’re doing it is not for legal reasons, it’s to essentially protect their current customer base and the send rates and deliverability of everything else that they’re doing.

Rob: That’s right because they shared IPs and shared sending domains. We are at time, sir. At the start of the show I said we’d get through all the questions but we did not, we have one question for future episodes. We will revisit that at some point. You wanna wrap us up for today?

Mike: Was that a deliberate lengthening of the episode to make sure that we had the one left or no?

Rob: No it wasn’t, I figured we would get to all of them, we didn’t have that many questions but obviously some of the answers were more in depth and we just ran a little long today.

Mike: If you have questions for us, you can call it into number at 1-888-801-9690 or you can email it to us at questions@startupsfortherestofus.com. Our theme music is an excerpt from We’re Outta Control by MoOt used under Creative Commons. Subscribe to us in iTunes by searching for Startups. Visit startupsfortherestofus.com for a full transcript of each episode. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next time.

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One Response to “Episode 382 | Fixing Onboarding, Marketing a Low LTV Product, and More Listener Questions”

  1. Javascript-based bots are quite common these days due to the ease of tools like Selenium. They _definitely_ affect Google analytics.