Time to read: 6 minutes

I haven’t written anything on here in awhile and figured I was due for an update + sharing some new things I am working on!

Emma is currently in France (half way through a 17 day trip) and I am deep in the weeds of finding us a place to live in Charlotte, NC. Luckily, my mom lives here, and in exchange for taking care of her 10 month old puppy, Daphne, I have had a place to stay.

Emma and I are in the market for a townhouse in Charlotte. 2-3 bed, ideally with a garage. So, if you know of any, send them my way.

This post is going to be way more about mobile and some issues I ran into running my last company. Not necessarily a product to solve, or a list of features to build, but more things I never quite figured out. And still think about.

About a year ago we hit a really great cadence of cold email => demo => sale. The process was somewhat repeatable (we’d book about 30 a month). This was great because we didn’t need to cold call (something we had religiously avoided, done at times when needed, but hated). And the numbers weren’t too bad.

I think for a few months we closed about 5% of those demos. Not great, but these were 100% cold, with no warm up or anything else. I figured with some optimizations, better leads and learnings we could get that to 10-12%.

That felt like a motion we could keep up. Albeit, you can burn through a market fast, but lets ignore that portion for now.

We were sending a LOT of email. Email automation basically ran our business. For this, we used ActiveCampaign for awhile. Drip, Mailchimp before we knew better, EmailOctopus and eventually landed on some other software that was an insane deal (can’t remember the name right now but unlimited leads and unlimited emails for $100/month????). That software wasn’t great, and had a lot of bugs but was so absurdly cheap we dealt with it.

During all of this we traveled somewhat. I have kind of constantly been back and forth between Raleigh and Charlotte since school and managed a lot of family responsibilities that required me to travel.

The top thing I could never figure out, while trying to grow/run/operate a business heavily reliant on email automation is why all of the current products absolutely suck on mobile. I have a few hypotheses I’d like to explore below, but please help me try to figure this out!

Some offer responsive web apps (it is 2019 and some still do not) and very few offer mobile apps. But they aren’t really usable on mobile. If you think about email automation there are a few things that are just kind of difficult to do without a keyboard:

  • Design
  • Variables
  • Multiple templates
  • View lots of data

So, yes, even when your app is available from my iphone (I have the biggest screen available) it still isn’t actually usable.

Especially when you add in a few different automations. Try dragging around on a screen to manage 5 different decision trees of options based on if your contact opened the email or responded, etc. It is just really painful.

So that is the first problem. I know how to use email automation and its not easy for me to use it while traveling. And yes, I know the #1 rebuttal to that will be how often do you change it while you’re on the road. I didn’t change it a ton, but when I needed to, too often my choices were stop the automation for 3 hours until I had wifi again or let something be broken/wrong/etc.

So, I think it is at least somewhat valuable to be accessible on the road. And, I do believe, better products come from a greenfield of creating for the medium. The answer is not to just port over all functionality from an existing web app. The correct answer is to think through what the use case is, for whom, and create an entirely new way of doing the job.

For that, I am not sure yet. But, this is only the first issue.

Second, our clients were all small businesses. Less than 50 employees. Usually less than 20. For them, technology is still hard. They have core competencies in other things, and technology is a way for them to run their business. Technology is not their business.

This is so incredibly important. I’m going to include it again. For MOST small businesses in America (and maybe the world), technology is not their business. Its the way they run their business.

Things like Time Sheets, Excel, LinkedIn, Email, Phones are what let them pay the bills. They are not what makes the actual money. Remember this.

In working with our clients we would constantly run into issues where they didn’t understand anything about email automation. Again, not their fault but something to be wary of.

They sort of new email marketing was important. Didn’t really know about email automation.

So, lots would pay someone to scrape a large list of leads. Import those emails into mailchimp and hit send. Sending from their own email inbox, on their primary domain === BAD .

Then, later on, the problems would come. Their emails to teammates, customers, spouse,etc would be flagged as spam. Things wouldn’t deliver. Things that, had they have known to do different from the start, they would have set it up better.

In lots of cases they are paying for mailchimp (surprisingly expensive). I’ve seen in the $80-$100ish/month range. For a lot of our clients this is top 3 most expensive tool they use!

Not to mention mailchimp doesn’t even do real email automation. Behavorial wise (AKA different actions based on what someone did).

I don’t have an answer to these problems yet. But a few things are true:

  • Lots of small businesses out there
  • Most of them want to grow (make more $$$ at least)
  • Tech is a way to do business, not THEIR business.
  • More people are mobile than ever now
  • Very few small businesses do legitimate email automation (b/c they don’t know what it is)
  • Very few small businesses do email marketing on seperate domains/warmed up domains to protect against spam.

So, with that said, there probably is a product to be made that fixes these issues. And hopefully someone either:

  1. has already built it and sends me the link

  2. gets inspired to build it

The product won’t be the hard part. Making the business work will be.

Small businesses churn. Email has costs associated with it.

The domain experience is hard to find. SMB are price sensitive (although, >$50/month accounts are golden for this niche).

Being capital efficient will be a challenge (lots of education, lots of spending on brand, expensive to switch providers, expensive to onboard/train each owner but you probably NEED TO to fight churn).

Scaling inbound is hard on these products, and you can’t quite afford outbound.

Things to think about.

Welcome to 2019. Where we still are trying to make business & mobile software work for the SMBs of the world!

This post was last updated: Monday, September 16, 2019