Sunday, December 29, 2013

How to Send New Years Notes

With the New Year on our doorstep I'm thinking back to many of my important contacts that I've fallen out of touch with simply because there was never a pressing reason to reach out.

So, I'm making the time now to reconnect with these people to hear what they’re up to and share my own updates  And, just in case you haven’t gotten around to sending out Christmas Cards (or emails), here’s the process I use to send holiday update emails for the New Year.

The Template 

As with any communication the goal is to maximize your signal to noise ratio.  Make it short and relevant.  I generally like to include a greeting, one cue about a common thread we talked about last time, and an update:
Hi [name]

It's been a while since we caught up! How has [their job/project/hobby] been? I just wanted to shoot you a quick note to wish you a Happy New Year! 
 While this can be done with mail merge and excel, I've started to use Contastic exclusively to automate this process:

1.     See who you’ve fallen out of touch with

Contastic scans your gmail to figure out who you haven't exchanged emails with recently.  Next to each of your contacts we'll show you how any days it's been since your last contact.  A good rule of thumb is to stay in touch every 30-90 days.

2. Prepare your NYE template

In the Contastic template builder you can write an email in your own voice while inserting dynamic content that will customize the email using your contact's LinkedIn information.  The goal here is to make a personal email with the least amount of redundant effort.

3. Send!

Once you hit 'email' we'll pre-fill a template with custom content tailored to your contact and send the whole package to gmail or your mail client of choice (Outlook, Thunderbird, etc.).  You can edit and send it from there!  We bcc our mailbot (he's harmless we promise) on the messages so we can learn which content you liked best for you!


This is the perfect opportunity to revisit folks you’ve fallen far out of touch with (on Contastic this would be your 90+ bucket).   I’ve also had some friends combine Contastic with Boomerang to schedule their messages to go out on New Years Day.  I hope this helps you stay in touch in the new year!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

How to Validate Your Product Idea

The default answer is yes.  Ask anyone about your idea - that's what most will say. Yes is free.  Yes may even earn them some brownie points.  Yes is easy.  Yes is worthless and not to be trusted.

No is expensive.  It risks insulting someone’s life’s work and ruining a relationship.  Very few will invest a No in you when they can cash in a Yes.

So, how do you figure out if your idea is a good one - and worth building?  These are the three steps we use at Contastic to make users invest with us – this is the real meaningful yes:

Emails (Attention) 

The first step to validating any venture is the landing page.  Mock it up to look exactly like it will after you product is launched.  However instead of a payment form you’ll have a signup form for people to ‘pay’ with their emails.  This is giving you permission to message them about you product.  It signals that they have a problem and your product at least looks like their solution.  Also, when you do launch, you’ll have a set of beta users ready to go. Shoot for 100 – it’s a nice round number that generally extends beyond your close circle of friends.  This is an investment of their attention.

Users (Time)

After gathering an email list of interested users create a quick and dirty prototype. This should be the bare minimum where it is useful to users.  Note that this does not at all mean easy to use, polished, or pretty.  As soon as it can add value in anyway to your users – launch it to your list.  Then, watch to see if people use it regularly.  You can learn a ton about how people are using it, and their regular engagement will be a sign that you’ve hit the mark.  They are now investing their time.

Customer (Cash)

Cash is king – and in this exercise it’s no different.  There is nothing harder than getting a customer to open up their wallet and part with some hard earned cash.  Use the existing landing page from step 1 and convert the email collection to a payment form.  Now that you’ll getting some dollars in the door – congratulations – your idea is now validated!

To be sure, this is not where the validation ends, the Customer Development Process leverages a similarly progressive framework to validate all areas of your business form acquisition to retention.  If you have any other tips and tricks for validating your product ideas let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

3 Lessons We Can All Learn From Being the New Kid in School

When Kevin and I came together to build PeopleNotes we were driven by a need that had been brewing since our childhoods.  We both moved around a lot - 16 schools between the two of us - and we were always the new kids in school.  This taught us to work hard for, and subsequently treasure our personal relationships.

As our professional careers developed we’ve seen how others can struggle to learn those same skills as they move in to a new city or career.  This inspired us to build what we learned as new kids into an app that would help everyone make friends and build better relationships:

#1 End missed connections

How many times have you had an amazing conversation at a professional event or conference and then forgotten to get some contact information to stay in touch?  I can’t imagine how much better my life would be if I always managed to follow up.  The biggest reason we included the people search features for PeopleNotes was to make sure that you could look up anyone you talked to on the spot without fumbling with business cards or a clumsy CRM system.   Our goal was to make a mobile tool that made entering a new contact as easy as searching Google.

#2 Make people feel cared for

Even with the best intentions we all forget important details about our contacts all the time.   That's a surefire way to torpedo a relationship. Conversely, there is nothing that makes another feel as cared for as remembering the little details - like a recent vacation or favorite food.  We built the QuickNotes feature of PeopleNotes to help anyone jot down the important details of every conversation to make sure they don’t forget anything about their important relationships ever again.
Review information and news before a meeting.  Take notes during and after.

#3 Empower people to choose their relationships

So many relationships rely on serendipity – who you work with, live near, or share friends with - to maintain their social network.  However, relying on fate to choose your relationships often can leave out some amazing connections.   We created the ReConnect function in PeopleNotes to allow you to pick and choose who you want to be reminded to stay in touch with.  This forces you to deliberately make the choice of who your most important contacts are, and helps you remember to keep in touch.

We spent the last five months building PeopleNotes to become the app that helps everyone put these three lessons into practice and build better relationships.