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Show HN: Userfox (YC S11) — Better Welcome Emails (userfox.com)
100 points by pclark 1816 days ago | hide | past | web | 52 comments | favorite

we built a lot of stuff for userfox over the past few months. and we were looking at it all, making sure the user interface was usable, and so on: and ultimately decided that actually: sending emails when a user signs up is one of the most valuable inflection points, because:

a) it applies to every user (= highest ROI on copy written)

b) first impressions matter!

and c) its minimal work / thought for our customers. maximum value.

so we decided screw it! lets ship something this week! this month! and here we are. lets do one thing really well.

so userfox today allows you to send a drip sequence of emails to your new users. you can choose the days, the subjects, the content, we support your custom email theme, we even show you clicks and conversions, and so on.

it's awesome because its so light and easy. we're going to roll out some awesome custom data features very shortly. dead simple things, like simply "send this welcome email unless a user is on a paid plan."

et voila. when i look at products, i look at what they require me to do, and what they give me in return. i think that userfox can move the needle on your business, and to do that we ask for literally 15 or 30 minutes of your time. i'd bet you'll see more impact from userfox than your sophisticated SEO strategy in fact.

i have been on hacker news for a long time: it maybe even helped me get into ycombinator! but these are all stories for another day: right now, i wanted to show hacker news our product, because i think if you're a bootstrapping business: userfox is a no brainer. "it just works."

Nice, we built something similar internally (but without the nice frontend and relying on sendgrid for analytics etc).

What's missing in the longer term are more detailed ways of bucketing your customers based on where they are with the product, ie: did they deploy/install/upload a picture/whatever other functionality you offer. But as you've said, shipping it is important.

Another pain point you guys addressed was that making custom table based html templates for email is a pain. If you'd offer more templates in the future, that would be a nice thing to add.

We'll offer bucketing. It just seems very hard to do right: now from a software nor even design point of view, but in a manner that makes it worthy of a time investment for young startups. welcome sequence felt like the low hanging fruit. but it is coming.

We actually had custom themes. My co-founder will mock me for now removing them. ("simple is best!! these are UGLY!! People will want a clean simple theme or custom HTML. REMOVE THEM.")

shoot me an email though and i'll get my designer to build you (or anyone else) a custom html theme. (surprise bjoern!) peter@userfox.com

I'd like to know why it works. Does "10x superior onboarding emails" mean 10x better retention/conversion numbers? Backstory: I've been trying to improve retention in a complex system with ~10^5 users, and email doesn't seem to add too much gain. Focusing effort on the website seems to have a larger effect.

How are your emails 10x better? Is it the schedule (Day 1 ... day 4 ...day 7) of emails? The content ("Become a power user like Zach...")?

Unless you say why it is better, it is hard to see if that it is a no-brainer.

It's the increased frequency (5 "story emails" in first month trump 1 "transactional (welcome. login here…) email") and the fact these emails are a chapter in a story, specifically that someone has registered for your service: you can assume that you have piqued someones curiosity with your proposition: now push (well, drip) it down their throat with a sequence.

(I would not have been so confident with my copywriting if i didn't know it.)

nice work ! are you looking to distribute a rubygem for this? It'd be quite cool to configure different triggers ( time based, event based) from a rails app.

I see the potential, if done well, this can really help in better communication between a product and its customers/users.

Yes. We think those should be configurable through userfox rather than your code, but we're going to offer both solutions shortly.

Congrats on launching - looks great! My issues that prevent me from signing up would be:

1) No pricing structure means that I question whether you'll be in business in a year, or if you are in business, that you're service will be wayyyyy different then (will you insert ads into my emails? will you sell my info to a 3rd party? etc). These are questions you cannot answer today - you just can't. You can say, "Oh no, Scott - we would never do those things!" But no one will believe you b/c you haven't been around long enough.

2) My even bigger "beef" with this is that, because you have no track record, you cannot estimate your delivery rate. A big reason to go with the big email companies is b/c they can offer a high rate of guaranteed delivery. Your delivery rate will, in large part, be out of your hands - it's in the hands of your customers' content/emails. How will you protect yourself (and thus your customers) from bad customers who buy lists and use you to spam the lists? How will you vett your signups? What's your policies on when you would terminate a customer for spam?

All in all, email is too critical to trust to a fresh startup IMO. I wish you luck and, if you guys are still around in a few years and have answered the above questions, I may become a customer!

The sign up button says "try for free", which implies it's a trial signup. But I can't find the price for the subscription anywhere on the website.

It is free for now. There'll be pricing eventually, but it'll be for additional features (such as a/b testing and so on) as we ship them.

Right now, if you sign up, it's free to use, and we'd never be like, "hey man, you now owe us money for stuff that you thought was free."

I've avoided signing up because I couldn't find a price.

Just saying its free / there is no pricing plans yet etc would have let me sign up, or an actual pricing list.

I won't try a service without knowing whether I can actually use it going forward (I'm time poor) so the lack of pricing information anywhere makes me leave the page.

I'll second this. I was interested, but it's not something we can evaluate until you're ready to commit to price bounds.

Given the heat in this space now, it would also be nice to know how your service differs from e.g. Vero or customer.io.

I had the same question as @jd - to clarify this, you might want to change the call to action to "get started for free" or something along those lines...

We're changing the button to say "Get Started - It's free!" better?

That implies free forever, you want to commit to that? That's also what it says now when I first viewed that and yet I still went hunting for pricing. I would actually trust signing up for the free account more if I saw there was a paid option somewhere for whatever reason!

I think our approach is that what you see today is free and future features will be paid. Expect a pricing plan very very shortly though.

That's perfect. Thanks for the clarification.

Great - thanks!

Looks pretty cool. One question - pricing? There's a "try for free" button, but there's no indication of how long the trial actually lasts nor of what happens after the trial. Note that I didn't sign up, - this information is only from the home and signup pages - but it would be great if I (or any potential customer) could see this info right up front.

Pricing will be for new, more sophisticated features, what you see today will always be free. Features like push notifications, a/b testing, custom campaigns, additional email themes, and so on.

I have learnt a lot from patio11 so we'll always be generous and honest about this stuff. Pricing simply didn't feel like a reason to delay launch!

Thanks for your reply - definitely looks cool. As I mentioned above (under @jd's post), it might help to change the call to action text...

Would there be any reason to use this over, say, a Mailchimp auto-responder? I don't mean that at all in a snarky way, just curious. I'd be interested to give this a go, but can't quite justify shifting my auto-reponders from Mailchimp just yet...

If you're starting today: userfox is much faster to get integrated and sending email than MailChimp (or anything else.)

If you're already using MailChimp: send me a note and I'll show you our beta "variables" feature that allows you to say things like "send this welcome email unless this_custom_data equals that." launching soon.

I couldn't find a Privacy Policy or ToS anywhere...this is really interesting to me, but if I'm going to let you track everything my users do on my site, I'm going to need to know that you're not going to sell their emails, sell that data...

Oops. My heart just missed a beat that we forgot to add this for launch! We're not going to do any bad stuff, we're not going to sell the data nor emails, there is nothing weird going on here, we want to be as useful and valuable for businesses as Olark is. We're a Y Combinator company, and are thusly obsessed about doing the right thing and delivering an awesome product and support.

I'll get a Privacy Policy online asap.

This looks really cool and is something I'd definitely be interested in (been on the 'todo' list for too long)... but I really need more info to decide if I want to invest the time in trying it out.

Some kind of 'how it works' page ... how does information get from my app into yours, can I embed per-user links (for example for email confirmation), how do opt-out notifications get back from your app to mine, etc.

Minor UI issue ... the mouse pointer & hover action suggests that the day icons on the front page do something ... but they don't for me (Chrome 22, Windows)

I'll answer your questions here and then think about how to answer them on the site.

Q: how does information get from my app into yours

A: async javascript snippet. my co-founder has the scars to prove it is robust.

Q: can I embed per-user links

A: yep. our docs are a lot more elaborate than our user interface at this point, but you can do almost anything you desire. best to shoot me an email and i'll explain. peter@userfox.com

Q: how do opt-out notifications get back from your app to mine

A: we have a simple unsub API to communicate who has unsub'd, we handle the entire unsub from userfox emails obviously. you're going to eventually (soon) send all emails via userfox though.

Thanks for the note on the ui issue. we'll get it fixed.

Interesting idea! However from what I have seen, to truly engage your customers through email, it either needs to be personalized, be intelligent enough to track current activity and engagement levels of users and tailor the mails you send accordingly, or .. something else?

It would be nice to hear just out of curiosity what kind of market (low number of important customers or high number of users or both) you are targeting, and what is your strategy on a higher level to increase conversions?

Introduce your product through a series of emails.

Two huge benefits over what you do today (almost certainly a singular welcome email)

* helps users understand your product

* reminds users of your product. What was the last product you signed up for? Unless it was userfox, you've forgotten!

Introduce features, tell the story of why you're building what you're building, and so on. I love emails that profile power users. Real explicit actionable advice.

I totally agree you should write specific emails about specific features. We'll support that, but right now you'll make more money by sending a few welcome emails rather than just one.

The landing page is quite nice, but the zoom animation and the pointer cursors on the days really makes them look like clickable buttons that simply aren't working.

thanks! I actually wanted to remove the pointer/cursor but forgot. Will update this shortly.

This is great! I like how you provide some basic advice below the email composition, since many users won't know exactly what to send. I'd even suggest you could build on that with some more specific guidelines on sending the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. And guidelines on determining how many to send, when to send, etc, since those things can be edited by users.

We actually have a copywriter on team who would love to assist people writing emails. He manages a copywriting helpdesk for our customers, and also offers services to write and manage content. Shoot me an email if this is interesting to you. He writes dozens of emails with tremendous results for some of our customers. peter@userfox.com

Thanks! I've set it up now. One question about the embed code is what happens if I don't have the user's email, or there's no user. If I just say email: "", will that work OK? (ie do nothing.)

It'll do nothing. I personally wrap the userfox snippet on userfox.com (uh) with a check to see if the user is logged in, but yours will work.

I like it! My main concern is that it's Javascript only. Hopefully I'm wrong, but I can't see anything the code from arbitrarily being inserted elsewhere with my client ID but random email addresses and sign up dates, and thus triggering emails in my name to go to these email addresses that aren't actually my users.

we have an even more secure mode that we roll out to customers at volume; naturally anyone can have it, but we're still working out the user interface for it. if this is what is holding you back, email me and you can have the docs. peter@userfox.com

I bounced after getting to the form.. As a developer and therefore your main target for potential customers, you never answered the most important question... how? How does it integrate? Is it an API, do you have plugins for my platform? Etc, etc.

I've been looking for something like this for a long time. It's something I wouldn't purposely implement because it's a pain to manage time/writing cron jobs, etc.

Love the landing page too!

If I remember right there was a paid service around here that did the same thing. You are going to put them out of business. Great product!

We'll put them out of business with a superior product. :)

userfox will be freemium business. (what you see now will be free, though.)

This is really going to be tough for me over the next two weeks because I'll have a lot of new services to become a power user on.

You (probably) jest but I would have loved LinkedIn and Twitter MUCH faster had they done a better job at on boarding me. I didn't get what they were for way too long. Needed a story.

who edited the title of this submission? thanks for using the proper em dash, but userfox is supposed to be lowercase.

Nitpick - http://userfox.com/about/ 404s.

will update the link. good spot. the correct link is http://www.userfox.com/about/

sorry it isn't more exciting. I'll make it cool tomorrow.

You know what sounds like a great way to delight users? Don't send me email. Leave me alone. I signed up for your service, not for a newsletter.

That is you, but others convert

it's like the next evolution of landing page signups. to me this was missing from sites like launchrock.

We announced userfox with a launchrock page and I really wish I could have tied launchrock into userfox: sending a drip sequence to users that registered interest in a service would have improved launchrock 100x fold. (as asked, but alas, they're busy.)

what are some comparative products, and how does userfox set itself apart?

aweber.com currently owns the IM world. I have some experience with them and with mailchimp. This is like somewhere in between, aweber is more spammy prone while mailchimp won't allow you to auto-respond unless you buy a subscription.

Baisically, there isn't a reliable freemium service with an autoresponder. It also strucks me as "hassle free" light service i would use for medium to small size projects. Will use it soon

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