The one thing they have correct is that aggressive subject lines are generally better at getting click-throughs than milder ones. "You'd be crazy to miss out on this" works better than "Check out our new product."
I used to work for a flash sales website, and whenever I told people about it, they'd uniformly say "Oh yeah, I've signed up for them! Way too many emails, can you make it stop?"
I'm sure the folks at Weebly have tested this (or maybe this poor unfortunate soul is part of some silly week-long A/B test to try and improve engagement.) But my personal experience says that Weebly needs to get smarter about how to engage.
More effective: Send someone a couple of welcome emails. Wait 4 weeks. Then send them a message. BAM, lots of engagement, because when you receive the email you say "Huh, this must be pretty exciting, I haven't heard from them in a while!"
Have you ever signed up for Everlane? Go do it and pay attention to the way they do onboarding and email marketing. They don't spam me, but when they do, I'm like "NEATO LET ME SEE YOUR NEW CASHMERE T-SHIRTS" because it seems like a rare opportunity to see a budding startup release a new product. It's all marketing but done in a way that doesn't suck horribly.
I suggest that the next time a business, startup or not, tries to "lifecycle email" (yuck) you, don't unsubscribe - spam flag them. If some business people have such warped understanding of reality that they can't see spam when they send it, at least they can get penalized for it.
Much as I smiled a wry grin at this suggestion, I have to say, don't fucking do this. Be an adult: if you signed up for something, take the time to try and unsubscribe first. No way to unsubscribe? Unsubscribe doesn't work? Okay, now you should start flagging as spam.
Unsubscribing has the added benefit of being more direct, in a "hey, we spammed this guy with 4 emails in three days, then he suddenly unsubscribed", instead of going "why are we being marked as spam? our lists are completely opt-in!".
> the recipient has not verifiably granted deliberate, explicit, and still-revocable permission for it to be sent.
I'm pretty sure that giving your e-mail is explicit permission and an unsubscribe link makes it still-revocable. That said I completely appreciate that emotionally it feel like spam, and I can't imagine why any business in their right mind would feel this was a good business practice.
Subscribing to messages should be explicitly opt-in, and in a bunch of countries is legally required to be opt-in. If I miss an opt-out checkbox, and you send a marketing email - that is spam by definition, if gmail decides to filter you out, then by all means it was the right thing to do; and if it was a local business, they would be fined for that.
I use (and suspect the GP does too) use something like the following definition:Spam is email you don't want - it doesn't matter if you signed up with a company or not if you don't want a particular email it is spam.
Now as a practical matter I tend to click unsubscribe if it exists, mostly because otherwise the spam filters quality drops too far, but I still consider it spam.
I have a hard time keeping track of which companies I actually want emails from and how many companies tricked me into signing up for email by defaulting the "Spam me with marketing" somewhere on the page I used to sign up. Especially if a company is inconsistent with emails (no emails for a year, then 5 in a week).
So, sometimes I just get sick of dealing with it and start marking things as spam.
The answer to both of those questions is the same.
I don't appreciate getting bogged down in automated emails anymore than the next person, but that's one of the reasons I don't hand out my email address very often. People should really be careful who they give their email address to, and less websites should require an email address for anything but business and very obvious newsletters.
Sure. But at the same time, if the company intentionally requires a daily amount of attention from prospective customers, it is not entirely unfair if prospective customers occasionally cause some measure of inconvenience from the company. If you don't value my time, why should I value yours? Live by the sword, die by the sword.
People aren't going to trust your email marketing when you spew out so much email that it appears to be unwanted. If you look like spam, you're going to be treated as such.
Every once and a while, people listen to what they're told.
Also, they may have signed up to find out more because they wanted to find out more right then. After they learned more, they no longer cared. Since they no longer cared and there was no presented way right then to indicate they don't care, they may look at further marketing emails as spam, especially when there is a lot of them and not a simple follow up 'we miss you' a couple of weeks later.
Just because you know you're not sending out spam, doesn't mean that what you are sending doesn't look like spam to the receiver.
That Google then turns around and treats my signal as an indication of the level of trustworthiness of the whole company, and then uses this level for other users is actually irritating to me. I'm just using the user interface in the most convenient manner to me. Yes, I should go and unsubscribe - but that's laborious, and clicking "Spam" isn't.
If I'm reading email on my phone I don't want to have to spend 30 seconds entering my email address or looking up the password for some account I haven't used in months. In the worst case I've lost my password or someone else has used my email address by mistake, and then I'm forced to find the password reset option, re-check my email, and change the password just to unsubscribe. By that point just clicking 'spam' and getting the email out of my inbox starts to sound like a good idea.
And that five seconds is a lowball estimate if the unsubscribe link is actually to a "manage your email notifications settings" page as is so common these days.
IMHO, unsubscribe links should take one click, and should be at the top of the message, clearly marked. Even if you accidentally click it, so what? Just have another link on the resulting unsubscribe page to immediately undo the unsubscribe. Also, having better support in mail clients for unsubscribe mechanisms (I know Mailman puts in a header with an unsubscribe link, clearly labelled), would be a good idea. I could even see spam handling systems getting a little more sophisticated (if they aren't already), and attempt to unsubscribe via methods in the email first, then if that same email address gets any more email from that source, autoblock it as spam.
And I don't care much for the company, I just want to use their services. I don't want their email barrage flooding my inbox. I shouldn't have to put up with it just because I'm an 'adult'. Spam is pretty much anything in my inbox that I didn't expect and don't want.
Anecdotally, most people aren't going to go through the couple or three clicks to unsubscribe. This is what spammers rely on.
"WAHH, my 1% OFF sale is soooo important that I want to make sure nobody misses it. Can we send it out on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday? NO??? Do you realize that you're KILLING our business?"
No. Everyone hates spam. Go away.
There are some (many?) legitimate cases where I will sign up for a service and forget about it. (Rackspace's onboarding email says it best: "Did you get a text message? Meeting invite? It's okay, here, finish signing up.")
If you sign up for Everlane, you do so because you are legitimately interested in buying new clothes. Fashion changes, and if they can keep me abreast of the latest and greatest, then I am getting value.
If I signed up for Weebly because I need to publish a website, but for whatever reason I drop off, maybe their prompting will prompt me to go ahead and finish my site so that I can show it off to my friends.
Of course, it's hard to know whether a customer will fall into one of those buckets, or "I just wanted to check out the site, leave me alone!"
Maybe it is analogous to dating: flirting with someone is okay if the other person reciprocates, otherwise it is "creepy."
You recognise that emails from a flash sales website are vastly different than those from a service you're trying out, right?
One is about "Hey, buy X and Y today!" and the other "Hey, here's a cool feature in the product you're trying out!"
Not all emails are born equal.
If many of Weebly's actual signups have a reaction similar to your Everlane reaction, something like "NEATO I'D FORGOTTEN I WANTED TO GET MY WEBSITE UP WITH THAT BENEFIT", then what's the problem?
We can all agree that different audiences will find a particular email more or less engaging. The same way we might say "mathematics is beautiful", is there any room for saying "that marketing campaign" or "the way they engaged with their customers" is elegant?
Email volume does matter. You can send too many emails and annoy your users.
Bob started using software from FooCorp. Bob, for whatever reason, was not a great fit for FooCorp, and as a consequence has zero engagement. FooCorp is unable to examine the inside of Bob's head, and must make predictions on Bob's behavior based on their model of his decisionmaking processes as informed by their experience with numerous similarly situated customers.
FooCorp made numerous attempts to improve their business relationship with Bob, despite the risk of annoying Bob. They can justify this by pointing to observable evidence that, if they mail 100 Bobs, statistically Bobs actually do start using the FooSoft, and (anecdotally) their customer support team gets emails and blog posts saying "Thanks for being so attentive to my needs!!1" This is actually not shocking to FooCorp, because FooCorp has years of experience with onboarding customers onto FooSoft, and they have talked to hundreds of people who, when asked "Why did you not finish using FooSoft?", responded "I got busy. / I forgot about it. / I didn't do that. Wait, I did that? Wow. Um, hold on, I want to log in right now and fix that. No seriously. That was something I was going to do."
Also, when you get down to brass tacks, if Bob has zero engagement with the product, Bob will not pay for the product, and thus the downside risk of annoying Bob is to a first approximation zero. Bob might, because it is 2013, feel that Bob's opinion of FooCorp is very important to FooCorp even if Bob is not a paying customer, because social media and branding and word of mouth. Bob may not run a software company, but if Bob were to hypothetically talk to people who did, Bob might hear it is difficult to pay engineering salaries with word of mouth but monthly recurring subscription revenues do not have this downside. Thus a speculative hit to word of mouth does not weight very persuasively against a demonstrable massive increase in recurring subscription revenues.
While the rightfulness question is interesting, I'll leave that to others to discuss and go right on to the pragmatic consequences: I am very, very, very unlikely to sign up for a service "just to check it out", precisely because of tactics like this. Even if I do, I will give them a unique email alias that I can disable at will (reject at SMTP envelope stage), and that I keep records of, so that if I get annoyed enough (typically, if their unsubscribe doesn't work or doesn't exist), I will keep a record of them as company, never, ever to do business with.
I don't believe it should be marked as spam (I opted in), but it's also not something I feel should be encouraged.
When you sign up to evaluate something, you're kicking off a sales and evaluation process.
If you are at a restaurant and a good waiter notices that you're picking at some crackers instead of eating your meal, it's normal for them to approach you and see if everything is ok with your meal. You may not want to talk to the waiter, but his job is to make you satisfied with your meal, tip him, and return to the restaurant.
If you ask to waiter to leave you alone and he persists, that's a problem that should be addressed. Likewise, if you don't want to hear from <Vendor X>, you should make your feelings known and get an appropriate response.
1. the waiter is a real person.
2. the waiter was able to identify a potential issue (the customer was not eating), unlike the e-mail script, which only triggers after a set time period of not logging in. The situation would be more analogous to me taking 30 minutes to eat my meal at a restaurant when the average sit time is 20, and the waiter coming over at exactly 30 minutes and telling me 'did you know that it's been 30 minutes and 7 seconds since you've been seated? if there's anything I can do to help you finish your meal, please don't hesitate to contact me!'
But what if the waiter visits your house, asking you why you haven't been to the restaurant in a week? I'm sure that I haven't opted in to that, even if my address is on my checks.
Coincidentally or not, you've just explained why spammers spam. Not that I disagree with you.
Spam, on the other hand, is far to the other extreme. Way more than 99% of recipients don't find those emails useful (not to mention they were unsolicited emails).
e.g. "After 26 days, and almost 350 million e-mail messages, only 28 sales resulted" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spam_(electronic)#Cost-benefit...
How did you reach that conclusion?
I think Patrick is saying that, assuming most people are satisfied, it's acceptable and not at all evil if a small minority who signed up for the emails in the first place turn out to be annoyed.
Yet Bob might make a blog post and get significant exposure on a very well known technology site where many industry leaders participate - where people like me might say: "hmmm do I really want to deal with FooCorp spam when I can use similar competing services which do not seem to annoy people with spam"
There is always risk to annoying customers. You just never know how it will come back and bite you.
You make a good point that you don't want to annoy user so much that they rise up against you with torches and pitchforks, but I believe patio11's point is that the indignance of a few HNers does not compare to increasing engagement/conversion of trial users by e.g. 0.5%.
I can say from experience that this is exactly this line of thinking that lead to Zynga's viral behavior on Facebook. It also contributed to it's downfall.
The problem with this analysis is that it assumes a zero cost to an unopened email. It reductively sets this cost as "the risk of annoying Bob, who won't use us anyway." It's not as simple as that. Misusing any communication channel causes channel fatigue. This is what happened at Zynga.
At Zynga, we had a better understanding of our outbound messaging than nearly every other company in existence. Messaging, clickthrough, A/B testing, new users/activation/retention/revenue/virality by channel. We ruthlessly weeded out poor performing messaging with those that performed the best.
But when the question came up of "is this too much?" it was always cast aside. The reasoning was the same - on a macro level, users are responding to our messaging positively. Why would you send less, when sending more has a clear business benefit?
The issue is channel fatigue. Over the years, our CTRs would drop across the board. Some of these were step-function drops caused by Facebook changes, but it turns out that most of the difference over 5 years was due to Zynga's abuse of the channel. Every message that they sent to an uninterested user causes that user to trust the channel less. Every pink cow notification causes them to check that shiny red icon a little bit less.
Now, for email, there is no chance that you would send enough email to kill the channel for everyone, it's just too big. Because of that email works differently. Every crappy email you send has a cost, and that cost is measured in deliverability. There is a network of email providers, email distributors, and other companies that deal in "who's email actually gets sent". Every company & domain gets rated on their spaminess, and the worst get cut off from the email ecosystem.
If you're abusing the email channel, some of your email will get marked as spam. Email providers use this data, along with others, to determine if your email should end up in the inbox. What's also important to note is that individuals can have a huge effect on deliverability. If I'm an annoyed Bob, there's no reason for me to blog about it or go to social media. I just have to mark your emails as spam and drop a note to your email distributor to tell them that I think your email practices are abusive.
A "marked as spam" rate of 0.1% is good. That means that every "mark as spam" event counts for a lot. It only takes one annoyed Bob to put you on the email spam radar.
This is 2013, we have the ability to measure the effect of a single, extra email. We have the ability to predict our chances of reviving a user who hasn't engaged. We have the ability to make a statistically significant guess about who could re-engage and who we've lost. We should be getting smarter about email when we scale up, not spammier.
Weebly can do better than this. And if email is important to the business of Weebly, they should do better.
Many companies don't get to the point of extreme performance, but when they do suddenly new problems arise. Optimizing the hell out of one metric or multiple metrics absolutely leads to erosion in other metrics.
The metrics that involve longevity tend to get ignored, especially in a competitive market that requires companies to spend to acquire users (they also are ignored when management is pushing on short term numbers.) If they are far enough out, your company crashes. This is a problem every business faces. Warren Buffet even has a few things to say about certain industries where, over the lifetime of a business they don't turn a profit. Short term metrics can be very dangerous.
In the relationship to what you mentioned with e-mail, the company is has an incentive, by the current spam filtering "cartel" (that is a huge stretch of words, but basically Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft) to send as much email as possible! The 100 emails in the inbox of a user that doesn't market them as spam pushes that marked as spam rate down. There is certainly a threshold involved in sending email users aren't looking at at all, but what those numbers are is a hazy. The spam complaint rate, everyone in email knows.
Sending tons of unnecessary, non-personalized, irrelevant email is a branding problem.
Here's the message that Bob is receiving: "Hey Bob, here's an email about how to do that thing you wanted to do, but were too embarrassed to ask your nephew about."
Bob is going to stick with Weebly because of these emails, not despite them, and Weebly is going to continue being a product that is wildly popular with the Bobs of the world, and not so very popular with the HNers of the world. There are about 1000x more Bobs than HNers out there, so IMO the math and the messaging both check out.
I think (since we're both conjecturing about the takeaway message for the hypothetical "most people") the most interesting thing to come from this discussion would be how to do this sort of stuff tastefully.
It's hard to know how to engage! I think there is value in picking apart the techniques used in this campaign, the same way there is value in picking apart how CPU scheduling works.
After a bit of digging, it is easy to know the "things one should do for marketing." Engage, measure, test, iterate, funnel, A/B test, NPS, etc.
But what's not as widely known are what specific copywriting techniques one should use. Or how to measure the effectiveness versus email frequency. How do you decide when - or whether - or how frequently - to send a customer survey?
And no, I am not going to be a customer of theirs, but if somebody I know needs help putting together a webpage, then they would likely come to me for recommendations. Weebly might have been one of them before, now it will not be.
My guess is that most of the readers here are in the same category.
Personally, I've used Weebly, and recommended it to many people. This level of emailing only happens if a) you're in the email-frequently side of their A/B test, and b) you don't manage to publish your site. If you do manage to publish your site - which is presumably why you signed up in the first place (unless you're the OP, who is clearly a somewhat unique Weebly user) - you won't get any of these emails! I honestly can't see what all the fuss is about.
Second, we put a lot of effort into trying to send personalized email communication that is specific to your use case, but it looks like we missed a very important group, contributors to others' sites. This was a mistake. These emails may make sense if you were starting your own site, but they certainly don't make sense if you were just contributing to someone else's. I'm going to make sure we revise that set of emails within 2 weeks to something more appropriate and even less frequent.
Last, as many here are correct to assume, we are constantly testing and refining our email communications. I think it's helpful to understand our customer's psychology when they are signing up for Weebly, it is instructive in understanding our thought process and why we send the emails we do.
Most of our customers (60%) consider themselves entrepreneurs. They are bringing a new idea to life, things like chairigami.com, themintspace.com, stealthelectricbikesusa.com or weeknightbite.com. They are quitting their full-time jobs to do this and it's a very frightening process.
Creating their site is especially daunting and difficult for them, even though it's so crucial to their success. Many of them start the process, want to finish, but give up. We've found that the first week is the most crucial. In our email communications, it's our goal to try to help them across the finish line to a high-quality site.
In this case, we were emailing too often, and we've stopped doing that. In general, most of our users do appreciate some help and encouragement along the way, and we will keep testing emails to try to make that as effective, helpful, and non-annoying as possible.
I also just edited "we were emailing a bit too often" because it was more than a bit, it was straight up too often.
If there's something I'm still not seeing, I'd love to hear your feedback.
My point was that at the time I posted, numerous comments in this HN discussion essentially said "You're being spammy and abusing the trust of users", and to me, your comment read as "No problem, we're fine-tuning the ways we spam people so now we're only going to indulge in 75% as much unwanted harassment while abusing the trust of this particular group of users, and that makes it all OK".
To be fair, maybe I just saw your post at an unfortunate mid-edit stage, or maybe I'm just in an unusually bad mood for some reason and I loathe spammers. But honestly, at the time it read like one of those non-apology apologies that is only ever given by shady organisations you want nothing to do with. :-(
In any case, I'd like to point out to the parent comment that jumping into a thread in which people is calling your company spammy and using sentences such as "In our email communications, it's our goal to try to help (our customers) across the finish line to a high-quality site" along with the name-dropping in "We are working with entrepreneurs such as X.com, Y.com and Z.com" is not really supporting their case. At first I learned that they might spam me. Now I also learned that they are likely to forward my problems to PR instead of the tech department.
They sign up for your free virtual ant-farming business, then they don't use it. Why? Beats me. Beats everybody. You can either just ignore them or assume they need help.
If you ignore them, they're guaranteed to go away. If you try to help and they need it, good for you! If you try to help and they don't want it? They don't want to farm virtual ants anyway. So they spam-flag you and you go away. You made an extra effort.
This looks like the best solution to me to a tricky problem. It helps the most number of people. Assuming that everybody that initially wants something is going to somehow pester the crap out of you until they figure out how to do it doesn't seem rational. How else should a service act?
I love a good rant, but I'm honestly left feeling like this person hasn't thought this problem through from all of the relevant viewpoints.
The OP is tech-savvy and knows about each of these possible choices. He/She chose #5 each and every time. I argue that the resulting anger is non-constructive.
If I ask you every five minutes if I'm bothering you and you don't say anything, then later you write a blog post about how I won't stop talking, who acted passive-aggressive?
Really? Take off the programmer hat and put on your human hat for a second. #include <empathy.h>
How would you feel getting a vaguely aggressive message every day from some random company? I can't imagine there are very many people who would appreciate it. In fact, I can't imagine there're very many people on the planet who would think it's a good idea.
The only way anyone ever thinks some stupid thing like this is a good idea is if they're blindly following the results of their A/B testing without taking a look at the big picture. The kinds of people who do this are the same people who play D&D as minmaxers, rule-lawyers and metagamers, then get confused when the gaming group falls apart. You might be measuring conversion rates (or XP and magic items gamed), but conversion rates are not your business. The point of a business is to make something people want to buy, just as the point of a D&D session is to have fun.
By blindly following the numbers without thinking about the people involved, you optimize yourself into the ground.
Bank managers do this, realtors do this all the time: if the prospect doesn't say "I'm not interested", assume he's busy and try again later. This is just regular hustle. Now if you tell me not to contact you again and I do, then we are in creepy territory.
The disconnect in the article comes from the company assuming the OP is a potential customer (a valid assumption, since most people that do give their email create a site).
But what if they later decide they do want a virtual ant farm, but don't want to use your virtual ant-farm business because of its previous spamming? This seems like it would be hard to measure - the people who are glad to get the reminder and so re-engage with the service do so quickly, so are easy to keep track of; but how do you measure the people who would have returned to your service next month, but didn't because you annoyed them with too many emails?
Bad move Weebly.
I have done this before - not with ant-farming, but with many other products. The reason is mostly what I would describe as "temporary mindshare." One evening I might get motivated to learn shaving with a safety razor and sign up for some newsletters, only to then have other stuff come up. I suppose this might qualify as some sort of "Internet A.D.D." where we have so many things competing for our time and attention that, even if we get hooked by something, it is only temporary.
This is a huge loss for Weebly, as they'll never reach the author again by e-mail, even if they were giving away a million dollar.
All in all, in Weebly's case, the e-mails are just spam. They do not have any function other than screaming for attention. Might work for 'growth hacking', but doubt it will do them any good in the long run.
Do you send lifecycle emails right now? If not, take Weebly as a good example of what to imitate. If you do, see if there're any cool ideas you might be missing out on.
Don't - whatever you do - take this blog post as justification or a reason to ignore your users.
I think you're viewing this negatively because you personally don't like receiving such emails.
Elsewhere I've referred to them as "Here's how to get the most out of our service" emails.
You've chosen to view them as creepy, "we know exactly how long since you've logged in, down to the second" emails from a stereotypical greasy salesman.
If you view these emails as spam, you're not going to like them, and you're going to think that "normal" users won't like them as well, as "normal" users don't like spam.
I'm arguing that "normal" users don't view these emails negatively, and so they don't have the same issues you do.
The next morning, you get a voicemail. "Hey, mootothemax, it's Bob from the dealership. I'm committed to doing everything I can to help you find a new car. Let me know if you need any help in the future."
All good, right? Sure.
The very next day, Bob calls again and leaves another voicemail. "Hey mootothemax, it's been... 2 days, 1 hour, 46 minutes, and 27 seconds since you were at the dealership and you still haven't gotten a car. I miss you. Relax, take a deep breath. It'll be OK. faint chuckle"
Already it's creepy. But we're not done. Day three, you get another voicemail from the dealership. It's claiming to be Richard, but it's a robodialer. "Hey mootothemax, it's Richard. Just wanted to introduce myself and see if you have any questions. If there's anything I can do, please call me back."
Day four. Bob on the voicemail again. "In today's market, you want to make sure you don't spend a lot on gas. That's why we wanted to make sure you knew our cars are the most fuel efficient in America!"
Bob doesn't call on day five. Must be his day off.
But he's back at it on day six. "Look mootothemax, I know it's hard to decide which car to get; as you may have noticed, we also offer more expensive luxury cars [to add to your confusion]." (okay, that last part Bob didn't really say).
Day seven. "Okay mootothemax, I know you're having a hard time deciding to pull the trigger on a car, so here's something I can offer: 3% off MSRP, but only if we close the deal in the next three days. Call me!"
Day eight: way less than three days later. "mootothemax, it's Bob again. Can you believe it's only been 8 days, 2 hours, 30 minutes and 6 seconds since you came into the dealership?"
Do you think that this scenario is acceptable, or even desirable? If so, then you happen to have something in common with only 8% of the US population. Personally, and I don't think it's fair or reasonable to say this is merely my own personal opinion or failing, if a salesman took the above approach, I'd consider it stalking and would've called the cops on day three.
If you don't think this is acceptable, why do you think it is when it's done through email?
Because I consider these emails the equivalent of "Here's how the A/C works" when you're on the test drive.
You, apparently, consider them to be nothing but the equivalent of having "BUY NOW BUY NOW OMG BUY NOW!" shouted in your ear as you drive.
Theres no content to these emails other than "please come back". These aren't giving him any tips, they are not personal, they're simply autogenerated spam at an exceedingly high frequency.
"Lifecycle" emails are supposed to be a nudge every so often (every few days at most). They aren't supposed to be a naggy, daily, completely auto-generated spam.
Also, this user isn't on the test drive. He's already left the dealership parking lot and hes getting a salesman yelling at him to come back daily. If I had a salesman doing this I'd not only not buy from that dealership, I'd probably have a distaste towards that entire brand of car and go to a competitor.
Rationalize all you want but 7+ emails in ~7 days is spam.
The test drive is in the company of a sales man. Its the same as being in the show room. The equivalence there is being logged in to the website. One is engaged with the business by mutual consent. So, the A/C example is like getting a pop up offering support or advice while being logged in.
Leaving the show room is the same as logging out. The engagement is over. You do not expect A/C instruction or helpful wesite hints.
You've repeated this sentiment multiple times, from where do you derive this insight to a silent majority? Why is your sense that people don't view them negatively more true than GP's assertions?
If he had opted-in to Weebly's "30 day email course on publishing great websites delivered over 8 emails" then you're right, it's OK, but he never opted-in.
Plus his point about not having a one-click unsubscribe is valid, primarily because it's illegal to not include that.
I think that relevant emails about how to improve your usage of a service - from the service provider themselves, no less - are a valid part of your business relationship with them.
It's not difficult to label emails negatively if you yourself are not a fan.
Personally I'd have called them Weebly's "Here's how to get the most out of our service" emails.
To me, the post said that Weebly do have that unsubscribe link, can you point out where I've gone wrong?
There you and I disagree.
I'm arguing that what most techies consider relevant is likely to differ from what "normal" users consider relevant.
That's very different to oh hey, let me fill your inbox with whatever's on my mind today.
The non-technical users I've talked to about email view almost any emails except ones they specifically requested as spam, and don't appreciate it.
If none of your sample "normal" users have never ever appreciated an email they've received from a service, I'd kindly suggest that you're being lied to.
Right, lowest common denominator thinking. "Some people don't know any different, so let them have it!"
If not, take Weebly as a good example of what to imitate.
You know what? Instead of sending an email that says, inexplicably, "Steps to creating your first website," I'm going to put resources into making it a smoother process for creating that site when they signup, before they leave.
That's a pretty extreme conclusion.
You view your non-techie users as the "lowest common denominator?"
I had, separately, been discussing one of the less common features at Full Contact with a real person there, and pointed this out to him, forwarding all of the emails back to him as well. He apologized sincerely and helped figure out why this was happening (over email, of course :) ).
It's just an insanely reliable way to turn my opinion from 'this product is intriguing' to 'this product is irritating.'
If you're going to send email spam (and most startups have to, at some point), at least make it pleasant.
And make it possible to actually close and delete an account; LivingSocial I'm looking at you.
EDIT: just looked back through them, and that last bit about frathouses was probably overstated. It definitely felt like that at the time I received the messages though.
After unsubscribing/uninstalling New Relic from one of our servers/apps one of the sales guys contacted me via email. I ignored the first email, but he sent two more in 48 hours and I finally decided to let him know that we went for a competitors' service.
In a back and forth of emails, he kept harassing me because he wanted to know which competitor we went for. After telling him, this was his reply:
>Good luck with it. Doesn't look like there's much overlap with what we're doing in the way of far more advanced web app diagnostics and analytics.
"Hello NULL," -- from Leap Motion
"I wanted to follow up after meeting you" -- from "Developer Relations Team" (not a person!? did I meet the entire team?) at SendGrid
This is ancient, and it's disappointing that it appears to be forgotten lost information.
It doesn't matter if the email you're sending is full of great information and money off coupons. If you didn't confirm the email address and didn't get permission to send to that email address the emails you're sending are spam.
I hope weebly has a checkbox for users to opt in to a mail list (or, at least, opt out) - so by giving them his email address and not unchecking or checking that checkbox this user gave them permission to send him email. So they're not spam.
Not being spam is not the same as "acceptable" - an email a day would be frustrating to many people.
I actually signed up Weebly in the same timeframe after hearing about it from a friend using my iPad. Unfortunately, you can't do much with it on the iPad, so I signed out and forgot about it. I got a few emails from them, and to be honest, I found them to be interesting enough that I read them and acted upon them. Ultimately, I ended up not using Weebly, because another alternative (Tumblr) was more appropriate for my use case.
End of the day, they aren't "spamming". They are sending you a tickler to remind you of their product while you still remember it, which is a completely legit thing to do. It's particularly legit when you consider that their key demographic is folks who want a website, but want to build that site themselves with drag and drop.
Spamming is when salesmen start assaulting you. I looked at an MDM product, and lo and behold, I have no less than 40 calls from some asshat salesdude in the last 7 days, including Sunday.
This definitely isn't a problem unique to small or early startups. (Looking at you, LinkedIn).
The problem with those non personalise lifecycle emails is that they works on the "commoners" but can easily pissed of the tech savy users. Lucky for Weebly, they don't really care about the HN Crowd.
Lifecycle emails works best when they are highly personalise based on some actions the user made in the app or on the website.
So please, if you are looking in setting up lifecycle emails, make yourself ( and the users ) a favor and use powerful tools like customer.io, getvero, etc to easily create to personalised campaigns.
Second, they wrote, "if startups keep sending forward e-mails, everyone loses." This is false. Anyone who learned about new features, or was motivated/encouraged/pushed into publishing their website, won. Many small businesses need the coaching and help to publish their site.
These messages obviously weren't targeted to you. It would be nice if you just realized this and removed yourself, rather than assuming everyone is like you and is annoyed by these emails.
I look at it this way: either I pay the website directly, or they sell my attention/info, or they get a shot at marketing directly to me. #2 is the worst option; for free services, then, directly marketing their upsell to me is the only viable option.
Businesses have to make money. When you use a free service, there is a cost to pay. I think advertising and upselling their services is a very fair option, compared to some of the other models available.
I have to believe Weebly has tested this drip campaign multiple times though and has some data behind their decision to use it.
I think the echo-chamber that is HN has clouded some of your judgments.
Some of you are actually defending spammers.
The concluding suggestion -- "if startups keep sending forward e-mails, everyone loses" -- isn't well-supported. Weebly probably has data that these messages work, and even testimony from other customers happy to be reminded that they should finish their website.
Against that, what weight should a single peeved power user's blog post have?
And therein lies the problem. There's no real consequence for aggressive marketing, which is why the growth hacking strategies of Quora and FounderDating  work. I plan to write an article about that soon.
And both Weebly and Quora are milder than FounderDating's 'dark pattern' of making it hard to realize a smarmy message will be sent out in your name, spending your credibility to harvest more prospects.
Weebly's messages just nudge you along a path you'd already chosen, trying to prove their worth and convert you into an appreciative customer. (They're not trying to extract extra value from your personal info or network as a non-paying customer.) We should expect every business to do the same sort of sales, in a forthright non-deceptive manner, until you give them a gentle signal of disinterest.
The end result from his perspective is that he scored. The end result from everyone else's perspective is that he's a sleazy annoying scum-bag.
I'm not trying to justify the amount of emails that Weebly sends. That's way too many and way too annoying. But lets face it, the content of those emails is simply effective copywriting and the author doesn't like how it makes him feel.
We can disagree about whether Weebly's tactics are effective (I imagine they might be, for their target audience of less-technical users), but I don't understand the anger. This is very minor on the scale of email "abuse" that happens to all of us daily.
Use the unsubscribe link.
"My Behavior Model shows that three elements must converge at the same moment for a behavior to occur: Motivation, Ability, and Trigger. When a behavior does not occur, at least one of those three elements is missing." -- BJ Fogg
=> If they signed up for your service and your market positioning/signaling is not absolutely terrible chances are you've got people who are both motivated & have the ability "to do" and might just need a reminder/nudge :)
Of course lifecycle emails can be optimized but I applaud Weebly for having looked into something that so many companies don't even take the time to do.
However, I don't believe it is a bad idea. People like Max fall into the group that isn't engaged and provides no value to the company. A good strategy can be: email him repeatedly until he either engages properly or unsubscribes. I don't understand why he doesn't unsubscribe if it is bothering him so much.
We didn't do it because it didn't align with our branding but I don't think it's such a bad thing.
Facebook actually emails me like crazy to add more friends on my new test accounts.
What about the use of exponentially decaying frequencies for emailing non-interacters (users who aren't clicking anything in the emails)?
Say an email one week later, than two, then a month, then next quarter, year, etc.
There was no meaningful body text, just a one-liner about "discovering great content." For a while, I thought it was some sort of spam!
Therefore Hacker News is spamming me.
How can we shut down Hacker News?
And to post it here?
Some people do in fact have way too much time on their hands.