I’m excited to hear your ideas!
Paul May (Co-Founder and CEO) November 15, 2010 15:41

Help us design the new Outreach tool!

Hi everyone, we're working on two new modules and we'd like to get your help designing them. The first one is the Outreach module. The goal of the tool is to give you a way to conduct outreach faster, without sacrificing personalization and relationship-based outreach. As a follow-on to the first release, we also want to make it more measurable.

What I'm hoping you can help with is:

  • provide your overall impressions of the value and the usability

  • let us know if there are things that would make it more valuable for you

  • provide your thoughts on the importance of some of the things we've left off for now (are there any deal breakers and which features should be the first add-ons)



There will be four basic steps to conducting an outreach campaign in BuzzStream:

  1. Add your mail server settings in the Settings section

  2. Segment your contacts into an outreach list,

  3. Create an email template, which will serve as a starting point for each email you send

  4. Personalize each email and send



So let's use an example scenario to show you we're thinking it will work...suppose I'm working on behalf of a real estate website that's developed a widget. To promote this widget, one segment I'm going to reach out is a group I consider "high value, low hanging fruit." This group includes local real estate bloggers who:

  • we've rated as "high influence

  • have linked to us or written about us in the past, and

  • we've had conversations with them in the past



My strategy is to send an initial email to everyone in the list and then follow up three days later.

Step 1: Filter my contacts to get a list of all people who fit in this segment



I'll also create a filter for the follow-up email...i.e., "show me everyone in the original group who's contact was modified three days ago."



Step 2: Select the contacts and apply an email template to the segment



In this case, we need to create a new template:



Once I've completed it, I'll click "Save and Continue" to start personalizing my emails.

Step 3: Personalize emails and send them

All of my information about the contact is on the left-hand side (hover over any notes, articles, links, etc to see all of the info). On the same screen, I have the ability to personalize each email (so no need to click back and forth)...just edit my email, click "Send and go to next contact," and I'm taken through my list contacts.



So that's the plan for v1...we're trying to keep the first release simple, and build on top of it based on your feedback. Things that are missing from this release that we hope to add in the near future:

  • campaign tracking support, so you know: who opened your emails, who clicked on links, etc.

  • A rich text editor and support for html emails, so you can format your emails (bullets, bold-faced,underlining, etc)

  • Ability to add attachments



So I'd love to hear your thoughts:

  • On a scale of 1 to 5, how valuable is this (1 is "not valuable at all" and 5 is "extremely valuable")

  • What do you like? What would you like to see changed?

  • What, if anything, should be added to this first? What's missing?
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  • I’m thankful
    I'd rate this a 4, with a potential of a 5 once I see how it actually runs. I'd be nervous about sending the wrong email to someone, so I hope it is easy to manage and not get confused. I think this could definitely be of interest, but it's hard to envision without the actual program in front of me. Good work!
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  • the ability to tailor each email is critical. I look forward to testing this out.
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  • I’m interested
    Hi Paul,

    This is something I would be interested in trying, so it is a 3 out of 5 for me.

    We use Google Apps for our company email, what are the implications for the step 'Add your mail server settings in the Settings section'?

    Cheers,
    Dave.
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  • EMPLOYEE
    I’m appreciative
    Paul May (Co-Founder and CEO) November 16, 2010 16:14
    Here's some of the feedback I've received via email (some from people who actually tested the tool):

    • need a way to get back to the template without losing your list ("back to template" button)

    • not clear what "shared templates" are (answer: when you select this, all of your team members can see/use the template)

    • "Can you send to everyone without reviewing/personalizing? Most of our emails are personalized, but some are just mass mail."

    • "Can I limit who can use this?" (answer is yes...there will be a permission for Outreach, so you can limit access via roles)


    Thanks for the feedback...keep it coming!
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  • Paul - Since this will be using internal email servers is there a way to throttle or schedule email sends to minimize the probability that the ISP will receive complaints. For example, if we were to send out 100 personalized emails, can we set it to send x number every hour instead of 100 at once? Even better, being able to schedule by day and by hour would be useful as well.

    Thanks.

    Jeff N.
    • Paul May (Co-Founder and CEO) November 16, 2010 20:57
      Thanks for the feedback, Jeff. That won't be in the first release...one thing to note is that the focus of the interface is to provide a way for quick personalization, but it's not designed for email blasts. That being said, we've had a ton of feedback from people who want the ability to send all emails at once when it makes sense to do so (particularly useful if you're creating a custom field for personalization...e.g., an introduction field that you fill in when you add the contact).

      I'll add this to our feature request database and make sure it's looked at after we deliver v1.

      I'll send you an email with a link to our development server (so you can test it out).
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  • Paul May (Co-Founder and CEO) November 16, 2010 18:14
    More feedback from people who have emailed:

    • "Using your contacts modified 3 days ago for a follow-up filter example - it would be really be helpful if we didn't have to remember to do this. We also include the original subject and body text of the first email and put our second request text above the original email text. In my ideal world, when we first sent the series of emails, a checkbox could be ticked for "follow-up with a certain number of days." As you sent each email, it would automatically create a task 7 days later that when clicked on would pull up the original email with the same person back in the 'to' field. On top of the original email body and subject (almost as if you forwarded the first email and were adding your comment above it) would be my second email text. Then, they would be on your task dashboard as tasks you could click off one by one or as a group."
    • "Can I do this from an individual contact record instead of a list of contacts? (answer: not in the first iteration, but coming soon after...you can basically do the same thing by selecting a single contact and clicking Email Outreach though)

    • "We use a different mail server and email address for each client/website. Can I add multiple servers/email addresses?" (answer: not in the first iteration)

    • "Can the subject line use merge fields?" (answer: yes)

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  • I’m excited
    Another great feature would be to add analytics to this... such as opens and clicks.
    • Paul May (Co-Founder and CEO) November 18, 2010 23:10
      No doubt, Christine. Putting analytics in adds some challenges with regard to spam blocking though. With our current implementation, you'll be sending from your outgoing mail server...so your delivery performance will be completely dependent on your actions. If we add tracking via a BuzzStream URL, your deliverability performance will be at least partly based on the actions of others (i.e., a spam filter could flag our URLs as likely spam because of the actions of people in other accounts).

      I'm certain we'll be able to come up with a good solution (that doesn't require us to become a full-fledged email marketing service provider), but we definitely need to think it through before implementing this.
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  • Love it. 6 of 5. Can't tell if it works this way, but I'd like ability to prep all personalized notes, then press send once or schedule delivery.

    Sending to all at the same time would be awesome for embargoed news. Just had this problem last week in fact...
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  • EMPLOYEE
    I’m thankful
    Paul May (Co-Founder and CEO) December 16, 2010 22:57
    Hi everyone. I'm happy to say that the Outreach Module has been released! Thanks to all of you for help in the design of this feature. Your input was invaluable.

    Here's the blog post announcing the feature and here's a tutorial.
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