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When a Startup Sends a Passive-Aggressive Email Every Day (minimaxir.com)
195 points by minimaxir on May 14, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 151 comments



Wow, a lot of people here are lauding Weebly for their great customer engagement whatever strategy. I don't know how effective these messages are, but working in e-commerce, I can say that customers don't want to be spammed.

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.


The depressing part is reading the comments here on HN and realizing that some people just don't see what the problem is. Ok, fine, forget about the ethical aspects here and understand that when you spam your customers like this you tarnish your image because you're effectively putting yourself in the same category as the people who try to sell fake rolex watches and viagra pills.

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.


I suggest that the next time a business, startup or not, tries to "lifecycle email" (yuck) you, don't unsubscribe - spam flag them.

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!".


Giving a company my email is not implicit permission to email me whenever they want. If you actually checked the box "yes, please email me," then yes, you gave permission. But if I did no such thing, then it is spam.


I may be entirely wrong here, but I think it is.

> 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.

source: http://www.spamhaus.org/consumer/definition/


No, giving my e-mail address is just that - giving an email address; it does not come with permission to send automated daily emails. For example, I login to facebook with my email address, but I have explicitly withdrawn any permission for facebook to send me any notifications by email in all the opt-out settings.

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.


Luckily, the customer still has control over what spam means to them. If you're requiring an e-mail login on your site just so you can loophole your way into inundating me with e-mails sent by a machine, then I'm marking it as spam.


Whether or not we consider that "spam" is a semantic argument. I do, because it litters my inbox and pisses me off. I recognize that people may want to distinguish it from bulk email from entities that you have no prior relationship with, but to me, that's immaterial.


I don't know why you are quoting spamhaus definition for spam, that is not relevant for the GP. Neither is the can-spam acts definition.

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.


Be an adult: if you signed up for something, take the time to try and unsubscribe first.

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.

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 answer to both of those questions is the same.


Except as an email admin, the answers aren't the same. Suddenly getting all your emails as bouncing, and the receivers won't tell you why? Maybe some retard marked your IP as dynamic or dialup. Get a whole swath of people unsubscribing after you send a bunch of emails? Pretty sure sign to tone it down a bit.

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.


> Except as an email admin, the answers aren't the same. Suddenly getting all your emails as bouncing, and the receivers won't tell you why? Maybe some retard marked your IP as dynamic or dialup. Get a whole swath of people unsubscribing after you send a bunch of emails? Pretty sure sign to tone it down a bit.

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.


It has been a long held view that that unsubscribe links should be avoided.

http://www.nbcchicago.com/investigations/series/target-5/lis...

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.


Except, you know, if you signed up for it, you should really try to do the right thing and unsubscribe. Can't remember whether you signed up for it or not? Maybe you're signing up for too many things (and, yes, I agree that there's far too much of "sign up to find out more!").


Many people don't understand the why's of something, so when they hear 'don't ever press an Unsubscribe button' they never hit unsubscribe buttons, even for services they know they signed up for. People will remember things when it is most inconvenient for you.

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.


It actually saddens me that pressing the "Spam" button in Gmail has a material impact on the company that sent me the email. I use that button to mean "Get this out of my hair. Unsubscribe, bin it, set a filter to ignore them - whatever, I just don't want to see it any more!"

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.


How is clicking "unsubscribe" laborious? (Assuming, of course, the link is there, as it seems to be for most 'legitimate' spam)


There needs to be a 'best practices' for the unsubscribe option. In the ideal case, you click unsubscribe in the email and are taken to a webpage either confirming your choice or asking you to click a single confirmation button. But sometimes you have to re-enter your email address to unsubscribe, or login to your account to do so.

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.


It takes at least five seconds out of my life. Sure, not much. But certainly more than the 0.5s it takes to hit the keystroke to mark as spam.

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.


I can kind of sympathize; many email providers have made it really easy to flag something as spam. Compare one click which submits it as spam and moves you to the next email, to multiple clicks, perhaps with some scanning of text on the unsubscribe page, which probably took some time to load, not to mention that the unsubscribe link might be anywhere in the message.

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.


If you had them calling you everyday, you'd surely want to block the calls instead of calling them back and requesting them to stop calling. (I realize emails are less intrusive.)

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.


As far as I'm concerned, a single unsolicited message from anyone with no personal connection to myself constitutes spam. Obviously opt-in lists are a different story.

Anecdotally, most people aren't going to go through the couple or three clicks to unsubscribe. This is what spammers rely on.


Companies you have heard of put friction on unsubcribes. Ever seen "Edit your mail settings" at the bottom of an email? They think that creating an account constitutes opt-in.


I have this argument with people I work with all the time because I'm the only one that's allowed to send out e-mail blasts.

"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.


Haha, this is a totally fair thing to say. Talking about marketing, one can start to dehumanize people, and that is never good.

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."


I flag twitter and facebook We-haven't-seen-you-in-a-long-time messages as spam. Because those emails are also about selling a product. But as someone who runs a tiny niche forum, I am tempted to mail users to return. So I am in a dilemma of sorts morally.


HN always seemed a roulette to me. Remember that article where a guy makes his gf signup for Spotify and Spotify tries to match the same credentials to Facebook, then logs in, reactivates her account and adds the app to her FB? Most of the comments were surprisingly supportive of Spotify. And today we have an article on the front page about URLs posted in chats being visited for malware checks.


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?"

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.


The thing is, there is a tension between "customers don't want to be spammed" and "spamming customers produces appreciable and measurable results". For every N disengaged customers you annoy with the unsolicited mail, you re-engage M who simply forgot about you. Tuning that ratio is hard, and sadly poorly suited to advice like "don't send spammy reminders".


I'd conjecture that "lots of spam" probably increases short-term engagement, but if these people have to be emailed very frequently to use your product, are they really interested in using your product over the long term? Are those the kinds of customers you want to have?


Yes. At least in this example, (if it succeeded) you'd end up with a website on their service after this. Regardless how hard it was to get you there, you no longer are a customer that has to be emailed frequently to use the product. You are now just a customer.


You forgive Everlane because you like their emails.

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?


I guess I'd ask the question like this: is there no room for taste [1] when it comes to emails?

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?

[1] http://www.paulgraham.com/taste.html


It's worth remembering that the Weebly emails were sent more frequently then the Everlane ones. An email every month or so? Ok, not a problem. An email every day for more then a week? Back off.

Email volume does matter. You can send too many emails and annoy your users.


I'm not sure they're the best example to use, since Everlane uses popover signup forms on every single page you visit until you create an account. Maybe once you're onboard they get a little less desperate.


Can I refocus this conversation away from you and Weebly? Both for avoidance of personalizing this and to avoid this turning on the specifics of this post and their copy, because the takeaway message for most people reading this is "Should we implement lifecycle emails or not?" rather than "What exact words should I use?" or "What frequency is appropriate for a zero engagement user?"

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.


I think everyone here understands the economic argument for why this happens; it's the same reason spam still exists. That's not the question; the question is, is it right?

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.


Spam and customer engagement are totally different things.

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.


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.

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!'


You've made a great case for popups and tooltips while using a site.

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.


Exactly. I have nothing against the use of e-mail marketing, just the abuse of it.


They do seem to be pretty aggressive with the email. Not great for branding for sure.


Thus a speculative hit to word of mouth does not weight very persuasively against a demonstrable massive increase in recurring subscription revenues.

Coincidentally or not, you've just explained why spammers spam. Not that I disagree with you.


I think Patrick picked the numbers quite intentionally and in light of that the comparison to spam doesn't hold water. Bob is said to be the 1 annoyed user out of 100. In other words, 99% of people are finding the emails useful. That's the argument at least.

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...


99% of people are finding the emails useful.

How did you reach that conclusion?


It's a hypothetical argument involving a fictional corporation. The numbers are made up.

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.


> 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.

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.


The counterargument to this is that FooCorp is probably not optimizing its sales funnel to catch the kind of people that read technology sites. Statistically speaking that is a marked minority.

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%.


> 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"

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.


I don't know if this article made it to the front of hn, but I read it a few days ago and found it very appropriate -- http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/188197/the_metrics_are...

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.


It's cool how these email filters end up being an approximation of what we once thought of as morality, with lots of gray area and variation with societal norms. Your email is bad if it's annoying, and annoyance gets measured.


To add to this point, Weebly's audience and its users are almost entirely unlike the readers of HN. Weebly is a website builder for nontechnical people, and many of us here on HN know that nontechnical people regularly have exactly the questions that Weebly's emails are answering.

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.


> the takeaway message for most people reading this is "Should we implement lifecycle emails or not?" rather than "What exact words should I use?" or "What frequency is appropriate for a zero engagement user?"

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?


FooCorp may not care about Bobs opinion as a non-customer, but I do (or rather, I don't want to be spammed).

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.


I disagree. I think most readers here (on Hacker News) are in the 99% category of Patrick's fictional scenario. Perhaps some of the contributors here are in the 1% that would get grumpy, but I doubt even amongst the contributors that it would be all of them.

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.


I'd like to jump in and clarify a few things. First, we have recently been testing the frequency of our email sending, and the author seems to have been bucketed into the "more frequent" group. That being said, we were actually planning on reducing the frequency of what we emailed the author by roughly 25%, including eliminating the "Your website misses you" and the "It’s been 8 days, 2 hours, 30 minutes and 6 seconds…" emails, among others. I just fast-tracked this and it's now live, so our email volume when you sign up is now much lower.

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.


It's fascinating that even after presumably reading this HN discussion, you would still write things like "reducing the frequency...by roughly 25%" and "we were emailing a bit too often", followed by things like "email volume...is now much lower" and "non-annoying as possible". Lots of people here are trying to tell you something that could help your business, something that has very little to do with the precise number of mails you're sending, and you don't seem to be seeing it at all.


Around the same time you posted this comment, I just edited my post to clarify that we were already planning on removing many of the annoying emails, including the "Your website misses you" and the "It’s been 8 days, 2 hours, 30 minutes and 6 seconds…" emails, among others.

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.


Looks like we overlapped a bit there.

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. :-(


OP here. That's good to hear, and I appreciate the response. :)


What type of up sells or special promotions are you sing to bump people into action?


Either you are typing from your phone or I'm lost in today kids' lingo, but I don't understand what "are you sing to bump people into action" means.

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.


Sorry, that is a bad typo due to the Android keyboard. It should read: What are you using to bump (as in push) people into action?


The web is a tough place to try to help people.

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.


What you are describing is not what this person experienced. Weebly sent an email a day, for a week. I understand one email, maybe even two after a few days. But every day for a week is too much.


And on every single email the person had the following options: 1. Click the unsubscribe link. 2. Mark it as spam in his/her email client. 3. Actively follow-up and publish his/her site. 4. Ignore it and move on with life. 5. Collect it as an example of excessive lifecycle emails, then write a laborious article decrying the company's marketing practices.

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.


I'd agree with you if he'd used the unsubscribe link they provided with every message!


Putting unsubscribe links in unsolicited emails is not a bullet-proof vest; it does not remove their responsibility to avoid bothering people.


Yes, it does. They can't possibly know if they are bothering you or not, if you won't even click that link.

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?


> They can't possibly know if they are bothering you or not

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.


> the same people who play D&D as minmaxers, rule-lawyers and metagamers

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).


They can possibly know if they may other people by using their imagination and a little empathy. If I get to the point that I hunt around - and I often do have to hunt around - for the unsubscribe link, your company has failed.


I agree with you and I wouldn't like getting all those emails, but I imagine all this has been tested and this produced the best results. If that is the case, we can't really say this is too much.


Yes we can. Spam produces good results too, for the spammer. Even if the every-day email volume tested well in the short term, it will still likely have long-term business consequences. And even if it works well for them in the long term, it is still a net negative to society.


Actually, it sounds like this was part of a test and he was in the high-volume group.


"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."

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?


You measure this by looking at your competitors. And when you're as successful as Weebly compared to theirs, it's a reasonable conclusion that the purported repercussions of this behaviour are close enough to negligible.


If they sign up and don't use the service, the best way to user engagement is not by spamming them into submission.

Bad move Weebly.


Relevant viewpoints? This is Weebly spamming their customers in a sad attempt to resuscitate a dying customer relationship.


>>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.

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.


People claiming the author should have just 'unsubscribed' are missing the point of trust. The author didn't just want these e-mails, he actually lost trust that Weebly was capable of sending informative e-mails at all.

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.


agree, I think what a lot of people don't realize is that when you click unsubscribe that it is a signal that your email address is active. For those sites that are sketchy and may sell your address or do something else with it, this only helps them. If they are spamming you without the option to turn down the frequency its spam.


If you're a techie, what you consider to be annoying and terrible for "normal" users is likely vastly different to what those users themselves think.

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.


Ignoring your users is one thing; sending a new user an email virtually every day for 8 days in a row (with a creepy, "we know exactly how long since you've logged in, down to the second" finisher) reeks of the stereotypical greasy salesman hard sell, something "normal" users are well aware of (and hate) from non-web based businesses. Weebly is a case study in what not to imitate.


Ignoring your users is one thing; sending a new user an email a day virtually every day for 8 days in a row (with a creepy, "we know exactly how long since you've logged in, down to the second" finisher) reeks of the stereotypical greasy salesman hard sell, something "normal" users are well aware of (and hate) from non-web based businesses. Weebly is a case study in what not to imitate.

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.


Let's say you're looking to buy a car. You go to your local dealership and you see a car that looks promising. You ask to take a test drive, but the dealer won't let you unless you provide your name and phone number for verification. No problem, standard procedure. You take the test drive, head home, but decide it's not for you and decide to look elsewhere.

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.[1] 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?

[1]: http://www.gallup.com/poll/1654/honesty-ethics-professions.a...


Let's say you're looking to buy a car. You go to your local dealership and you see a car that looks promising. You ask to take a test drive...

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.


You have a warped sense of "informative".

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.


I think that is a very generous analogy.

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.


I'm arguing that "normal" users don't view these emails negatively, and so they don't have the same issues you do.

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?


I disagree with seeing this as a good example of lifecycle emails for precisely the reason the OP mentioned - it's not an expected part of his relationship with Weebly.

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 disagree with seeing this as a good example of lifecycle emails for precisely the reason the OP mentioned - it's not an expected part of his relationship with Weebly.

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.

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.

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.

Plus his point about not having a one-click unsubscribe is valid, primarily because it's illegal to not include that.

To me, the post said that Weebly do have that unsubscribe link, can you point out where I've gone wrong?


Only one of these emails is even conceivably "relevant emails about how to improve your usage of a service," the one from the customer support lead offering help in using the service. The rest are just spam.


Only one of these emails is even conceivably "relevant emails about how to improve your usage of a service,"

There you and I disagree.


You've never heard non-techie users complaining about getting too many irrelevant emails? 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.


You've never heard non-techie users complaining about getting too many irrelevant emails?

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.


what you consider to be annoying and terrible for "normal" users is likely vastly different to what those users themselves think.

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.

Don't - whatever you do - take this blog post as justification or a reason to ignore your users.

That's a pretty extreme conclusion.


Right, lowest common denominator thinking. "Some people don't know any different, so let them have it!"

You view your non-techie users as the "lowest common denominator?"


No, but the GP apparently does in saying the UX is something less than terrible.


I received 15 emails in 10 days when I signed up for Full Contact. Yeah, I wanted to check out your product, so I signed up and tested it out. No, I don't need to be reminded that you exist every sixteen hours.

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.


No, don't just make it pleasant, make it easy for me, the customer, to control. Three levels is probably the most you need: 3) Trivia / social spam, 2) Announcements, 1) Security / billing / account maintenance; three little checkboxes, three bits in a "contact status" byte field somewhere in your DB. Do it. It's not the simplest thing that will work, it's the simplest thing that makes your customer feel like they have some control in the trust relationship you're trying to build with them.

And make it possible to actually close and delete an account; LivingSocial I'm looking at you.


New Relic do this as well. Extremely irritating, made worse by the smug, overly familiar tone of the emails, which were phrased as if I'd shared a frathouse with the copywriter or something.

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.


Funny you mention New Relic because that is the company I had in mind when I read this post.

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.
That arrogance made me cancel a "Standard" account ($49/month) we had with New Relic on another server. A bit of humility goes a long way, not conceited attitudes.


Among my recent favorites:

"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


Well at least it wasn't "Hello NullPointerException" followed by a traceback.


Ask to meet Adria Richards.


Same here, I signed up for their Node.js monitoring (saw the logo, then specifically ticked that's what I needed during sign-up), then discovered it's not actually available yet after the fact. Since then it's just been a barrage of emails, "Why haven't you set up your monitoring yet?!". Hmpf.


Yup, giving New Relic a test run was on my to-do list, but I was annoyed enough by their incessant messages that it got tabled indefinitely.


I immediately thought of clarity. I love the service, but the emails feel very off putting to me imho.


Overreaction much? Complaining about the email frequency would make sense, daily emails from a service I didn't explicitly request to be mailed so often is obnoxious. But "passive aggressive"? "Weebly is seriously threatening me into publishing my website"? Seriously?


Yes, my first thought was clearly this person is unmarried; they have no clue what passive-aggressive really means.


I'd love to hear your definition of it, drharris?


This comment made my day! Bravo, good form chap!


That is a fair assumption. :)


Haha, thanks for taking the joke. :)


Spam is not about content, it's about consent.

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.


This guy needs to go get a hug or something.

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.


Unfortunately, as a marketer it's really easy to see how this cycle happens. You send out an email and you see "Oh wow, 75% of the people we sent this email to came back to the site." That's your purpose - to drive engagement. So you set up an email drip that perhaps gets annoying, but in the end you see your numbers higher than they would be without those emails. You forget it's about users because now they're just numbers.

This definitely isn't a problem unique to small or early startups. (Looking at you, LinkedIn).


I've wrote a similar piece of the subject 10 days ago.

https://medium.com/this-happened-to-me/96a22e176b1

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.


"We see from the fact that you haven't used our web site that you are not interested in our web site. Have you considered, instead, being interested in our web site?"


This seems like a pretty absurd response to me. First, as OP noted, they could have just unsubscribed. Annoyance gone.

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.


Worse is photobucket - they send out a similar amount of 'welcome' emails, even AFTER you click the 'fuck off' (unsubscribe) button. They seem to have stopped after I sent them a nasty email and reported their emails as spam.


Upon first glance, this definitely seems like overkill to me. (And yes, you could have simply hit unsubscribe and never written this blog post. But I'm glad you did, so we can all take a look.)

I have to believe Weebly has tested this drip campaign multiple times though and has some data behind their decision to use it.


Wow, guys.

I think the echo-chamber that is HN has clouded some of your judgments.

Some of you are actually defending spammers.


Spam is unsolicited email. If A gives their email address to B in order to use B's service, and B then emails A regarding that service, AND gives A the opportunity to unsubscribe from such emails, it's not spam.


The blog post is at least as 'passive-aggressive' as the emails, as opposed to just clicking any of the offered "stop receiving emails" links.

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?


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 [1] work. I plan to write an article about that soon.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5676189


This is way milder than Quora's (content-held-hostage, data-collecting) practices. Weebly is trying to help you complete a task you started -- the core task why anyone signs up with them -- and they make it easy to stop at any time.

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.


This kind of thing reminds me of guys who gets one night stands by propositioning every single women they come across.

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.


And site operators wonder why I don't sign up for things I might use...


The author is just interpreting effective email copy as aggressive communication. Good copywriting persuades the user into doing some action. But When you have no intention of doing that action, the persuasion, or pressure, that the copy induces by trying to make you do something that you don't want to naturally seems aggressive.

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.


If your copy comes across to your prospective users as aggressive and annoying, I'm not sure I'd call that effective copywriting.


Well, by his admission, he was using the account to help edit someone else's site with the service. I think that places him either as someone who is no longer a prospective user, or a type of user that falls outside their retention and engagement processes. In either case, that doesn't really negate the GP comment's point.


When I look at my Inbox, emails from companies (1) who got my email address directly from me, (2) include an unsubscribe link that doesn't require me to "login", and (3) honor the unsubscribe request ... are the least of my problems.

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.


So the problem seems to be that too few emails will leave users stranded, and too many emails will make users annoyed. As a solution, I think an approach similar to Beeminder might be good. They use a logarithmic distribution of emails. They send you an email every day at first (for the first 2 days), and if you don't respond, they dial it back to once a week. If you don't respond, they move it back to once a month or so, etc. I think the model is a good balance.


To me, the problem with the 'he could have just hit unsubscribe' argument is that there is no rational user that --wouldn't-- unsubscribe after receiving that many emails. So either they're totally ignorant of the sheer bulk of emails they're sending, or their strategy is to spam users until they unsubscribe.


I think patio11 is spot on here. Lifecycle emails are very pragmatic. They might be annoying to some users but in general they are a great idea.

related: http://www.behaviormodel.org/

"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.


Even though I agree, the author could have simply clicked the "unsubscribe" if he wasn't interested.


I used to manage community and email users (people that have signed up but may or may not be active) and we were very careful about emailing people. I didn't do it very frequently.

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.


Sometimes email robots can't take a hint.

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.


This actually seems to be a very YC kinda thing, presumably because of the extreme obsession with growth. I signed up for a vendor to check out its features the other day and had 3 different sales people email me each of the next 3 days asking if they could help. Another service did the same "we miss you, you haven't been back since..." How does any of this stuff provide value to me as a user? It genuinely seems like they don't give a shit about their users and simply want people to visit the site so their metrics will stay up.


One thing in life is sure: no matter what you do, it will offend someone. Blog's authour is an overly sensitive twit whining about business as usual.


My guess is it works fairly well on average, and most people don't think much about it. I wonder what patio would say about this specific case?


It's kind of hard to take this guy seriously about pushy tactics when he has an 1140x73 "share my article" section before the article.


I forgot I even had a Tumblr account (and can't remember why in the world I signed-up for one) but I got an email from them the other day whose subject line was just "Brilliant."

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!


It sounds like you may just need http://www.glider.io


Overly attentive startup?


"growth hacking"


I didn't plan to spend 15 minutes today reading all the arguments on this thread.

Therefore Hacker News is spamming me.

How can we shut down Hacker News?


Just use google spam filter.


So again, what's so difficult about clicking this "unsubscribe" button ?

And to post it here?

Really?

Some people do in fact have way too much time on their hands.




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