Story

Sending Out the First Email

Sep 12, 2014

These past couple weeks have been intense. Last weekend, I sent out the first batch of beta invites. I say “batch” for consistency moving forward, but it was only 10. I want to be deliberate with how I bring users into the app, considering Cushion is currently only me, so I’m intentionally starting small. For the first month, I’ll send out 10 invites a week. Then, based on how everything’s going, I’ll increase it to 20 or 30 a week.

The plan is to onboard people gradually, instead of opening the floodgates. Ever since adding the email subscribe form, I’ve been able to attract 1,042 people interested in Cushion—either for their own personal use or out of pure interest in following along. In the weeks leading up to the beta, I sent out the first email:

Howdy,

A few months ago, you signed up to hear more about Cushion (http://cushionapp.com), the app I'm working on to bring peace of mind to freelancers. It's almost ready for beta testing, so I wanted to reach out and ask a favor.

I created a short questionnaire (https://cushionapp.typeform.com/to/mgayv7) to learn more about the folks who would want to use it and get a show of hands for those interested in beta testing. It'll be super helpful for me and only take you a minute to fill out—I promise.

-Jonnie

I want all of the communication with users and potential users to feel like I’m talking directly to them in person, which is why I try to write like I talk. Years of receiving insincere emails from product companies has left me with one of the fastest trigger fingers for deleting emails. I’ve also tried to learn from their mistakes and avoid what turned me off.

The first pet peeve is when companies collect an optional name along with the email address and fall back to an empty string. This results in “Hey there ,”. In most cases, it’s a dead giveaway that this is a mass email trying to feel personal with either the space before the comma or the person entering a lowercase name. There’s nothing wrong with a simple “Hi”, or even “Howdy”.

Secondly, product teams are often so engrossed in their app that when they finally send the initial email, they forget that the majority of people haven’t lived with the app for the past six months. Most of them probably saw it mentioned somewhere, signed up to hear more, then forgot about it—especially if it has a nonsensical name beginning with a “Z”. Make use of the first sentence to remind everyone what they signed up for.

Lastly, I know a survey is a big ask for anyone, so instead of just assuming they’ll fill it out like a form at the DMV, I emphasized its brevity along with its importance to me. Hopefully that would be enough to get a good turnout. So, how’d it do?

I never send out mass emails, so I don’t know if this is good, but considering I delete most of the ones I get, I’m pretty happy with the results.

As for the survey, it consisted of 10 questions:

The results were overwhelming in the best way possible. Since there were a handful of options for each question, you can view the full results here, but the gist is that the majority of potential users fit my exact description—solo freelancer, working on 6-15 projects a year, sending out 21-50 invoices a year. By designing Cushion to best fit my needs, I’ve been unknowingly targeting the demographic most-likely to use Cushion. This is huge for the initial plans of focusing on freelancers, but with a fair amount of small teams also showing interest, there’s an obvious direction of where to go next.

This weekend, I plan to send out 10 more beta invites. If you want one sooner than later, email me.

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Archive

  1. My Typical Week as a Startup Founder
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  2. Building Components in a Sandbox
    Dev
  3. Reactive Time with Vue.js
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  4. Visualizing Daylight Saving Time
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  5. Recording Screencast GIFs
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  6. Writing a Job Listing
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  8. Our First Company Lunch
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  9. How to embed Vue.js & Vuex inside an AngularJS app... wait what?
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  10. Funding Cushion
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  11. Hiring a Team of Freelancers
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  12. Taking a Real Break From Work
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  13. Slack as a Notification Center
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  14. Document Your Features
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  15. 300
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  16. Vacations
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  17. Offering Discounts
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  18. Waves of Traffic
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  19. Less Blogging, More Journaling
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  20. Retention Through Useful Features
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  21. The Onboarding Checklist
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  22. Spreading the Word
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  23. From Beta to Launch - The Subdomain
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  24. From Beta to Launch - Sign up
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  25. From Beta to Launch - Messaging
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  26. Launch
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  27. Authenticating with 3rd Party Services
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  28. Intro to Integrations
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  29. Inspiration vs Imitation
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  30. The Emotional Rollercoaster
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  31. Designing Project Blocks
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  32. Everything in Increments
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  33. Deleting Your Account
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  34. Designing the Subscription Page
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  35. Rewriting the Timeline
    Dev
  36. Restructuring the Individual Project Page
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  37. Project Blocks
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  38. Redesigning the Homepage
    Design
  39. Multiple Timelines
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  40. Archiving and Estimate Differences
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  41. Multiple Financial Goals
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  42. Zooming in on the Timeline
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  43. Currency
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  44. Preferences, Accounts, and a Typeface Change
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  45. Sending Out the First Email
    Story
  46. Currency Inputs, Notifications, and Invoice Nets
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  47. Dots and Lines
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  48. Calculating in the Database and Revealing Tendencies
    Dev
  49. Improved Form UX
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  50. Cushion is Online
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  51. Schedule Timeline Patterns
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  52. A Slimmer Schedule Timeline
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  53. The Schedule Timeline
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  54. Plugging in Real Data for the First Time
    Design
  55. Transitions and Project Lists
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  56. Death to Modals
    Design
  57. The Individual Project Page
    Design
  58. Estimated Incomes and Talks with Other Freelancers
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  59. Statuses to Lists and the Paid Beta
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  60. The Timeline
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  61. Invoice Terminology
    Dev
  62. Modal Forms
    Dev
  63. Wiring the Backend to the Frontend
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  64. Balancing Design and Dev
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  65. Timecop, Monocle, and Vagrant
    Dev
  66. Going with Ruby and Sinatra
    Dev
  67. Ditching local-first and trying out Node.js
    Dev
  68. Switching to AngularJS
    Dev
  69. Building the Table with Vue.js
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  70. Clients, Projects, and Invoices
    Dev
  71. Introduction
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