[This is a 47hats Tip.]

Want a simple way to add to your army of evangelists, identify usability problems and build market attention? Try emailing one customer a day. Pick a customer who bought your product or who signed up for your Web 2.0 service some time back and send them a friendly, short email:

Dear Bill,

Just a quick email to see how you are doing with MasterList Professional. Any issues or sticking points or suggestions?

Regards,
Bob Walsh

That’s it. Short and sweet. Rinse, lather and repeat.

Here’s what you get for your ten minutes:

  • A growing band of customers wowed by someone actually remembering them after they paid their money.
  • A growing and fresh list of customer testimonials.
  • A growing number of customers who rave about you online in a million blogs, social networks and places.
  • A growing list of common issues you should address. Usability. Compatibility. People trying to do things in your app you never thought they would try.
  • A growing list of great suggestions. Everything from ways of using your product you never imaged to major selling opportunities.

And here’s how you keep this from getting out of hand:

  • You are promising to listen, not act. You are not promising to build every feature, setting, option and variation everyone you contact wants – but you’d be a fool not to watch for and act on points that keep bubbling to the surface.
  • Not everyone will reply. People are busy and it’s the itch that gets scratched. But they will remember.
  • You can turn it on, you can turn it off. Have a really busy day today? Give it a pass. No problem. Just come back the next workday and resume.
  • Create a special folder in your email client just for these emails.
  • Create a set of stock replies to reuse when appropriate, for example, why there’s no Mac (or Windows, or Linux, or iPhone or…) of your software.
  • Build a super simple database (text file, excel, SQL Server, whatever) where you capture for further processing later – bugs, suggestions, testimonial quotes (after they email them, ask and get their permission), product ideas, people to contact, blogs to now follow.

Not everyone wants to be your friend. Once in a while you will get replies like – “I bought your software six months ago for my Mac and it didn’t work!!! You bastard!” – even though it’s a Windows app, and clearly marked as such. Maybe you still refund them, maybe you don’t. But you can draw their venom towards your product and that’s a good thing too.

As microISVs we don’t have advertising budgets, product managers, product placements in blockbuster movies and the like. What we do have the power of is acting like real people and caring about what we do. Use it.

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47hats Tips are just that: quick, useful suggestions for microISVs who what to succeed. Please spread the word! Thanks.

16 thoughts on “Email one customer a day.

  1. “Build a super simple database (text file, excel, SQL Server, whatever)”

    Since when are Excel and SQL Server “really simple”?

  2. Well, I find Excel super simple, but then I’ve been writing apps in Excel for 20 years 🙂 There are developers out there – I am not one of them – who can whip up a SQL Server database with a spiffy Ajax-enabled ASP .NET interface faster than you can say Inner Right Join.

  3. Why is the best advice always the “That’s so simple! Why didn’t I think of that?” kind of advice. Great tip, Bob.

    -nm

  4. Hi Ian Sinke,
    “Since when are Excel and SQL Server “really simple”?”
    Well; if Excel isn’t – what is?
    Actually – and everybody knows that – Excel isn’t a database.
    But who cares – again; almost verybody uses it as such. 🙂

    Regards

    Rudolf F. Vanek

  5. Bob,
    That is a great posting.
    One, of the most simple and most effective tips for ISV’s.
    We have done that for the last 2 years.
    It made us understand our customers’ needs, thinking and requirements and it made us grow.
    Of course it’s not always that easy as it might seem; but it’s always enlightening.
    “KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER”
    What better way than by doing it by the way you just suggest.

    Regards
    Rudolf F. Vanek

  6. Nice article, but:

    Maybe I’m not a typical customer, but when I get such emails from companies I bought products from, I get really pissed off: I’m a busy person, I get enough spam already, and I don’t want to be contacted any more than absolutely necessary. If I have a problem with a product, I’ll contact its support. If I like a product, I’ll recommend it to other people. But I don’t want to be contacted like that, unless there is a very good reason (like “in appreciation of your purchase, we would like to give you this other product of ours absolutely free” 🙂 and I better need that other product of theirs 🙂 )

    I guess it all depends on the target market: the response from the “home” users could be quite different than from the “professional” ones, or from system administrators, etc.

    The last thing I want it to piss off my paying customers. Before I start sending emails like that, I would like to hear some real stories from people who do that regularly (I would rather learn from the mistakes of others 🙂 )

  7. Well, if you use this method why to e-mail only ONE customer?
    You may write a script\app that one a day will pick all cutomers who bought from you e.g. 7 days ago and send them the personal messages “Dear [name], …”.
    Everithing will remain the same but you will cover all your user database.

    I know many ISVs who use this approach.

  8. Andrie,

    I think its all in how you do it:
    -Short
    -No additional selling
    -Open ended.

    I agree with you – marketing pretending to be customer concern and service will do you no good.

    Dennis,

    More is better, but there are so many other things a microISV should be doing that I think most developers would be biting off more than they could chew if they emailed all customers with such an open-ended request.

  9. Terriffic tip, Bob. Thanks a bunch! Up to now I’d been emailing productivity tips to all workshop attendees as a group, but I like this better. I’d be interested to hear how you track them. Just a list you go through one-by-one? Spreadsheet….

  10. Hi Matt – keeping anything you add to your work routine as simple as possible is must do, so I just have a folder in my email client where I bcc the outgoing email.

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