Saturday, February 08, 2014

Contactually + MailChimp = yummy

Some time ago I wrote that we at Point Nine love to eat our own dog food. That is, we run Point Nine  almost exclusively on Cloud apps. We're also heavy users of Zendesk, Mention, Geckoboard and other products from our own portfolio companies.

Another great example is Contactually. At its core, Contactually is a relationship management platform for salespeople and service providers in relationship-based businesses. The combination of two killer features – an address book that updates itself and a very smart system for so-called "follow-up reminders" – allows Contactually users to stay top of mind with all of their important contacts, which can have a huge positive impact on their business.

One really really nice thing which Contactually does for us is that it continuously adds subscribers to our (in)famous newsletter – almost automatically. Here's how it works.

1) By scanning my email accounts, the software automatically adds all new people who I'm exchanging a message with as contacts. You only have to connect your email accounts once, Contactually does the rest.

2) Every two weeks or so I put the new contacts into one of my "buckets":

This takes just one click per contact (and you can also do it from your mobile).

3) Then the magic starts. If I've added a contact to a bucket which is set to be synchronized with MailChimp, the contact will be pushed to our newsletter subscription list in MailChimp.

Here's how the bucket settings look like for these buckets:

If I don't want want to add the contact to our newsletter I just use a different bucket, one which is not set up for synchronization with MailChimp.

4) As soon as the new contact is pushed to MailChimp, the contact receives this email:

This is done using MailChimp's auto-responder feature:

That's it!

When we started this experiment we were of course wondering if it's too aggressive to automatically subscribe people to our newsletter. We came to the conclusion that it's OK if we're selective (i.e. only add people who we think are interested in news from us), have a fun confirmation email (see above) and have a one-click unsubscribe link. So far, we didn't receive a single complaint and very few people have unsubscribed, so it looks like it's working.


Parker Woodward said...

Wow. That's Awesome! Great way to build your list automatically.

My concern is that email companies (like MailChimp) are really serious when they say you can only send email to users that have given you permission however I think this is a good solution that doesn't spam.

Keep writing! Love your stuff!

James Ferguson @kWIQly said...


I was recently emailed by Mathias Ockenfels to see how things were going at kWIQly (great -but answered elsewhere ) - I also know you are a fan of open discussion so I hope you will accept this strong criticism in the positive light as it is intended (it is "on topic" and timely).

I noticed something on the bottom of an email today from MO which for me just didn't ring true.

>>P.S.: Maybe throwing an eye at Christoph’s or Pawel’s blog helps you to better >>understand our investment rationale and it might even provide some valuable >>advice for your business, too. You may also follow us on Twitter or like us on >>Facebook. Some people also say that we have a pretty cool newsletter. ;-)

1) A postscript (Nachschrift) is an afterthought and should be inherently personal and in context - this fails that test, it was prepared before the email !

It is wholly generic - I do follow your blog, have commented and I believe I also follow you on Twitter - so this appears to be the acme of unresearched content by being both "canned" as a template and obviously not thereafter personalized.

As such it not only appears horribly insincere ( it is ! ) - Since I know from personal experience that Point Nine are in fact hugely sincere - this is a great mistake, based on good intentions.

2) Advising someone (in a personal end-note) who has had many exchanges with Point Nine how to "better understand our investment rationale" implies they do not. Furthermore "it might even provide some valuable advice for your business" though being very true is to a native English ear extremely patronising.

Imagine if I came to pitch you and began with:

"listen carefully, pay attention - and you might learn something"

- how would you feel? - This is the effect your email footer achieves.

3) The font is different from the font in the message - Whoops !

4) Minor linguistic errors (if you are going to standardize it is well to invest care because it is all or nothing)

>> Maybe throwing an eye at Christoph’s or Pawel’s blog helps you to better understand..

sounds extremely painful

Passing an eye over Christoph’s or Pawel’s blog may help you better understand ..

avoids the painful impact and implies thought's-eye-over

So, while I think automation and filtering can improve performance generally, there is real danger in the specific - if you are not sensitive to *who* you pass through the sausage machine for handling you may make the Wurst :) of your contacts !

Happily - I am not in that category and intended this constructively ; )

James Ferguson @kWIQly said...

Christoph - Thanks - really glad you took this in good faith.

For the record I am really enjoying the process of extending info dots with Mathias, (and sent him a heads up about this post).

He has done far more than many VC with whom I have had contact - and shows real interest in our progress (even if we haven't fully worked out how to engage yet). Time will tell ;)

Bernhard Mehl said...

Christoph, I noticed at the time you've written this the PNC newsletter had a little more than 1.000 subscribers. We at KISI hit the limits of what Mailchimp can handle pretty quick. Does it still work out for you currently also with bigger volumes? Or do you sort out your contacts a lot before uploading? Thx

chrija said...

Yes, it still works for us at ~ 2500 subscribers now, and I'm pretty sure that MailChimp has customers with 10,000s if not 100,000s or even millions of subscribers. What kind of problems are you experiencing?

Bernhard Mehl said...

Seems like we hit a tiered ceiling with 5.000 subscribers and it seemed maxed out (while being logged in). Then I logged out and saw they have pricing within pricing tiers. The issue we have with Mailchimp is that it is 10x times more expensive than comparable systems like Mailjet or others. It can be a nice start but I can also do gMail Contacts > Zapier > Mailjet automatically as soon as I have a new contact.