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Evaluation support emails

The first people to come into contact with our product are likely developers, who are typically very touchy folk (I should know, as I am one).  Ergo, we don't want to piss them off.

In an effort to accomplish this, we don't require people to give us 14 pages of personal demographic information before they download a trial copy of our product.  However, we do give everyone the **option** of providing their email address when they download PDFTextStream if they want to be contacted by our support people in the course of their evaluation period.

We figured we could get by for a few months sending these emails out manually, but we've had such a response that doing so is just counterproductive.  So, we've got a script ready to go into cron that will send out messages that can be scheduled to go out to people who have downloaded our product X days ago.  We're thinking of the following schedule:

7 days after the download: send a nice, friendly how's-it-going sort of email, reminding the recipient where they can find support info and documentation, and maybe include a short, introductory usage example.  Nothing heavy-handed, as most people haven't even bothered to look at what they've downloaded yet.

21 days after the download: send a more serious email, asking if any questions or problems exist, and include a more advanced example that would make the advantages of PDFTextStream more concrete.  Make some mention of any promotions we're running at the time, and again inquire after any questions or problems that might have cropped up.

45 days after the download: send a pure sales-driven email that talks about the product's advantages and features compared to its competition, mention of benchmark data that shows our product in a very favorable light, and include some top-level information about purchasing that the recipient could either use or forward on to the purchasing agent they might need to work through.

That would be it -- 3 emails seems to be a reasonable place to stop.  Any thoughts on this overall strategy, and/or the content, timing, or intentions of the three messages?  Does anyone have direct experience with such followup support/sales email campaigns?

Chas Emerick ( http://www.snowtide.com )
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

"Nothing heavy-handed, as most people haven't even bothered to look at what they've downloaded yet"

Not sure about other folks but generally I check something out as soon as I'm done downloading it.  If you find that a lot of other people do this as well, you might want to send an email with basics/tutorials as soon as they do the download.


Wednesday, September 01, 2004

As long as you tell them their email will be used for sales purposes, it should be fine, but they need to have an opt-out or they'll just give you a fake or temporary one (which will probably happen anyway).

Mr. O
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

From a prospective customer's standpoint, I think three email messages is probably too much, particularly if any of the messages are marketing oriented.  If I've downloaded your software, then I know how to get to your site and that's where I'd expect to get more product information.  If I were you, I think I'd stop after one or two messages.

I've received messages from companies promoting their products (because I'd downloaded a demo) and I almost always delete the messages without completely reading the message.  I'm more interested in trying the software than I am in reading stuff the company sends me.  If I need more info, I'll go to the company's site or I'll email the company.

Ewan's Dad
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

"Not sure about other folks but generally I check something out as soon as I'm done downloading it."

I seem to remember a study done by some marketing group that over half of the people that download a piece of software end up never trying it.  I can somewhat relate, as I will occasionally come across something interesting, "download it for later", and end up forgetting about it completely until 3 months later when I finally get around to cleaning out my downloads folder.

Mr. O: I forgot to mention that an opt-out is included with each email.  It goes without saying these days, I guess.

Chas Emerick ( http://www.snowtide.com )
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Truespace has, or had, a free older version of their modeling tool that you could download and play with. Since downloading this I've gotten probably a dozen emails from them pimping the latest version, basically whoring the price down more and more. It's actually rather funny, and reminds me of x10.

_ONE_DAY_ONLY_SUPER_MEGA_SALE_ACT_QUICK!_

.
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Of the group that never did try the product, how many would have tried it, if gently reminded via email?

Of the group that did try it, how many were put off by the emails, and decided not to buy?

I have no idea what the answers are, but I suspect that one at 3-7 days might be enough, and wouldn't put off potential buyers too much.

One extra comment: be sure to put in a direct link to the download page in the email. Often I download stuff and immediately forget where I put the darn thing. Of course, this link would bypass any "free registration" hurdles that I've already had to go through for the original download.

Edward
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

I think it should be no more than 2 e-mails:

1st just after the download, with tips and link for basic documentation (maybe a "Getting Started").

2nd a few days before the end of the trial period, to make a little of marketing and maybe showing some special offers.

Ricardo Antunes da Costa
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

>> Ergo, we don't want to piss them off.

Then, personnaly, here's what pisses me off when I'm checking out a product I don't know anything about:

- No two-line explanation as to what each product does in the Products section. I don't have time to go through marketingspeak to figure it out. Just tell me what it does, and what benefit it brings me. If it looks interesting, I'll read the user's guide

- Don't ask me to provide an e-mail and demographics: Just a link to the EXE. I know where to find you if I need more help (and send the check :-))

- Unless it's an expensive product, subject to changes depending on who's buying it, make the Prices list obvious so I don't waste time evaluating a product that is way out of my budget

- Provide a good FAQ section, along with a no-brainer forum like JoS. I'm sick and tired of PhpBB

Fred
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Oh, and I forgot: Very few sites display a feature sheet, to make it a snap to know what I'm missing if I'm buying the entry-level or mid-level version instead of the Enterprise version. Don't make me think :-)

Fred
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

PDFTextStream PDFTextStream PDFTextStream PDFTextStream PDFTextStream PDFTextStream

WOWIE!!! I'll buy one of those!!!

sucker
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

"Don't ask me to provide an e-mail and demographics: Just a link to the EXE. I know where to find you if I need more help (and send the check :-))"

GIMME GIMME GIMME, FOR FREE... then

COMPLAIN COMPLAIN COMPLAIN!

ISV's love you, Fred!

Mr. ISV
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

I would say the two e-mails sound good.  If they haven't bought it after 45 days then they're either not going to buy it or they're not ready to buy it.

You should have the marketing info on your web site and perhaps have a link to that in your two e-mails (it helps when the tech guys try and sell it to managers etc.)

Whenever I'm trying to figure out whether I'm going to buy tool xyz I am most worried about a) Does it do what I want, b) Can I make it do what I want without too much difficulty.

If you have easy tutorials, maybe sample source code (if appropriate) then that will help.

I would make the first e-mail arrive sooner than 7 days though.

Also consider making your documentation in HTML format as well as PDF.

Steven
Thursday, September 02, 2004

I agree with Paul, but I would temper it by adding an interstitial page asking the person to register, but make it all optional.

And send an email in about a weeks time, in text format.  Few things are worse than having to dig through all the pretty graphics to try and figure out what the email actually says.  Plus, quite a few spam filters give a higher spamminess weight to html emails.

Steve Barbour
Thursday, September 02, 2004

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