Over the past few years, one of the things I've grown to dislike is email marketing.
What was once a simple, enjoyable experience devolved into a confusing mishmash of features. Things that used to be simple—setting up a list, embedding that list in your site, and collecting emails—atrophied.
And for the most part I ignored it. I went with the flow.
At least, that's what I did until Command launched.
Then it became a bit more obvious. I started to shop around for a better solution that would combine basic newsletters with sequences. The solutions I found were either messy, too expensive for an early stage product, or lacking features that would help me grow a SaaS business.
Then I started to see other people echoing the same feelings I had about everything. There was a noticeable discontent with how email was taking shape.
Having decided from feedback and introspection that the initial direction of Command was a bit off, I started to think.
Looking at the existing feature set, I realized: "hey, with a few edits, there's a pretty compelling CRM and marketing tool here."
A CRM and Email Marketing tool that's specific to SaaS
The lightbulb came on when I realized that the things I had subconsciously invested the most time into within Command were: managing your customer list, emailing those customers, and tracking the revenue earned from those customers.
What was missing was the connection between all of those things along with some badly needed context.
A few questions I started to ask:
- How do I know where a customer comes from?
- How do I know the value of a customer?
- How do I know if I've communicated with a customer?
The answers to those questions were either non-existent or inconvenient to find at best.
But, the data was there.
Now, I can get a quick snapshot of how my SaaS business is performing in context of my customers.
If I want to get more insight into a specific customer, I can jump into their profile. If I want to build our relationship, I can start conversations and review how we've communicated in the past.
Making email less messy
While direct messaging is important, the other side of this equation that's important is communicating with a lot of customers at once.
But email campaigns, frankly, have gotten messy.
Because a lot of existing solutions are not focused on a single industry, they take a generic approach which sometimes works and sometimes doesn't.
When it came to going live with Command, my list of demands was short-and-sweet:
- Identify who is a beta signup
- Create a campaign introducing the product
- Target that beta list and monitor their engagement
I'd be lying if I said this didn't exist in my existing setup. But was it enjoyable? No. Far from it.
Instead of being a quick, few minutes, my time was wasted navigating sloppy menus, poorly designed UIs, and what I can only describe as half-built features.
It was a bummer and certainly not reflective of the products I want my own customers to experience.
So, I fixed it. No need for fancy, convoluted UIs. Just get to the point: write an email to your customers and send it.
The other thing I didn't like was the templating process.
When I consider the emails I personally engage with most, it's the ones that are simple.
Not quite plain-text. Just enough formatting to get the points across. No over-the-top "this may or may not work in your email client" HTML templates.
I'm putting my foot down. Aside from possibly adding the ability to set a logo, I'm keeping things simple.
The focus will be on the content. Write great emails that engage your customers or don't—don't use a fancy template as a crutch.
Getting people in from different places, fast.
Another big issue I had was getting people onto my list. As I saw it, there were two ways this happened:
- Signup forms on marketing sites
- People I add manually that I meet in person or find while doing customer discovery research
On the forms side, just like the "sending an email" problem above, the experience was messy and frustrating.
I wanted the forms experience to be lightning fast and simple. No confusing UIs to shuffle through. One form with easy-to-understand customizations.
When it came to manual data entry, the other thing that frustrated me was...the data entry. In order to really know who a customer is, you need context.
With Command, just provide an email address and it will try to find as much info on that customer as possible.
Not only does this speed things up quite a bit, it also makes the customer discovery process enjoyable—it's enlightening to find out who is interested in your product and using it.
The long-term vision
Admittedly, there's a lot to fill in here, but as a true-blue nerd that's exciting! This is just the tip of the iceberg and there are a lot of ideas brewing.
Do I have a launch date for this new version? Nope.
My focus right now is on getting things right so SaaS teams can immediately extract value vs. meeting some arbitrary date. I can say, though, that my opinion on shipping fast has changed dramatically in favor of as fast as possible.
At some point I'll write some more thoughts on what that process looks like so others can inform their own work.