Could Collaborative Email be the next wave?

There have been a number of innovations targeted at improving Email.  For the last 2 years, I’ve been in the proverbial “basement” designing, prototyping, usability testing, redesigning, building, observing users, and rebuilding a new app called Contatta, that aims to innovate with collaborative email for business.

We’ve been relatively hush-hush about the whole thing until last summer when we finally started to take the covers off.  In a short blog post entitled, It’s Time For Something Different, I wrote:

…email is how the business world communicates. And it’s not going away any time soon.  Email itself isn’t broken. But the Inbox and workflows surrounding email sure are crappy.

Over the last 6 months, as we’ve been using pre-beta versions of Contatta internally, we’ve found that what we’ve built is really collaborative email.  Here’s why…

What Happens Today:

1. You receive an email with interesting content that you want to share with your team.  Maybe a it’s a note from a customer or partner.  Maybe it’s a newsletter.  Whatever…you just want to share it with your team.

2. So you forward to all@yourcompany.com with a message like, “I found this interesting and wanted to share with you guys.”

3. Everyone in your company now has to process that email, which sits somewhere in their Inbox along with other emails of various importance.

4. Invariably, someone replies to all with the inane, “Thanks for sharing.  I really liked that.”

5. Not to be left out or outdone, someone will reply to all with, “Me too.”

6. Which causes “the funny guy” to chime in with, “Me 3. ;-)”

7. Which causes “the angry guy” to reply to all with, “We shouldn’t be replying to all on emails like these.  It’s a complete productivity killer to have to process all of these inane replies.”

8. Which causes “the peacemaker” to reply to all with, “Angry guy, don’t freak out all over everyone.  They’re just expressing themselves.”

9. Which causes…

…and on and on it goes!

Stop replying to all, collaborate instead!

Most email clients have long since improved upon this problem by “threading” the reply chain into a single conversation.

Still, some companies have banned the use of “Reply All”, or placed rules around who can send to all@yourcompany.com.

Even still, many companies are using IM tools like HipChat, internal social networking tools like Yammer, and / or project management tools like Basecamp to move internal conversations OUT of the Inbox.

But…you still receive “share-worthy” emails in your Inbox.  And there are varying degrees of difficulty trying to get an email from your Inbox into these various other systems.

So what’s a boy to do?

Enter “Collaborative Email”

Because Contatta is also an email client that improves your email experience with features like “Relationship Buckets” for the Inbox, you’ll be able to share an email into a Workroom just as easy as if you were to forward to all@yourcompany.com.  But any ensuing discussion happens as Comments in the Workroom, not as future emails in your Inbox.

Sharing an Email in Contatta is as simple as Forwarding, but without the risk of entering Reply-to-All hell.

So I’m hopeful that “collaborative email” will be the next big wave in email innovation.

Removing Friction in the Age of Context

I just posted my first post on Medium called, The “Age of Context” is about Removing Friction.  Thx to Chris Lee for inspiring the idea after he sat through his umpteenth demo of Contatta earlier this week.  :)

Posting on Medium was an interesting experience.  Their editor for creating the post is gorgeous.  It’s 100% WYSIWYG.  When you click Publish, it looks exactly the same.  Talk about removing friction…With WordPress (which I’m writing in right now), the Visual editor uses a different font and spacing than post page.  So my writing/editing process is generally 1) write it, 2) preview post in a different tab, 3) repeat ad nauseum until the post looks just right.  ;-)

So I think I’m going to write a few more posts on Medium.  There’s two other “design-ish” posts that I’ve been mulling over for a long time.  “Frequency-of-use vs. Ease-of-use” is one.  “The pros and cons of Bolting-on vs. Building-from-scratch” is another.  We’ll see if those ever make it out of draft status.  ;-)

Double-Negatives in Dialogs, Basecamp Example

I’ve written before about how double-negatives are my kryponite.

When a checkbox is checked, it should signal a positive, not a negative.

This latest example comes from Basecamp, the very popular project management tool from 37 Signals.

dont-show-this-message

This dialog isn’t as bad as other examples that I’ve found in the past.  But it wouldn’t hurt anyone to change this to: “Allow this message to be seen by the client (Jennifer Fiddlerova)” and uncheck it by default.

All the little things add up.

IamThere.com Sold for $5,000

July 19, 2011 — Scottsdale, AZ — eSN Ventures announced today the sale of the company’s crown jewel, IAMTHERE.com — perhaps the most coveted eight letters in domain name registry history — for $5,000.00 to an unknown buyer.

“We had been squatting on iamthere.com for a long time…I mean, a l-o-n-g time.  It was actually the inception of eSN Ventures.” reported Patrick Sullivan Jr., co-founder and domain manager.

“Patrick and I originally came up for the idea of putting webcams at funerals and weddings after a few (dozen) cocktails on a long flight from Phoenix to Newark.”  said Richard Nordstrom, co-founder and chief strategist.  “That was in 1999 y’all!  Who had even heard of a webcam back then?!?!”

“You have to remember that in 1999, business.com had just sold for a million dollars.  We realized that ‘squatting’ was the new ‘black’, if you will.” said Sullivan.

After the initial acquisition of IAMTHERE.com, Nordstrom and Sullivan approached Pat Sullivan Sr. with the idea of forming a “squatting enterprise” of sorts.  Sullivan Sr. liked the idea, and wasn’t quite sure how to buy domain names himself at the time, so he gave the two a sizable angel investment, and eSN Ventures was created.

Nordstrom and Sullivan Jr. spent the next several months drinking beers at night and purchasing wonderful domains such as, AskAbuddy.com, AskAchemist.com, and several others in the AskA___ family.

“We had a ton of great names.  I swear we did.  But tell you the truth, I can’t really remember any of them any more.  Let me get back to you on that one.” said Nordstrom.

In 2001, eSN Ventures came close to selling IAMTHERE.com for $15,000.00.  After months of negotiations, the deal fell apart.  “The dotcom bubble had just burst, and along with it, the value of domain names.  People sorta thought the internet might be over.” said Sullivan Jr.

After losing their sole prospect, eSN Ventures went quiet for the rest of the decade.  Sullivan Jr. explains, “Yeah, I kept renewing IAMTHERE.com and was even able to pick up IAMTHERE.net for a song.  As I recall, I think the previous owner had let it expire.  But I let the rest of the eSN portfolio slowly expire.”

In 2009, on a whim, Sullivan decided to list IAMTHERE.com for sale on GoDaddy’s Premium Listing Service.  “I figured, what the heck you know.  If someone wants to buy this for 5 grand, cool.”

Sullivan never heard a peep, so he totally forget he had listed it…until Tuesday morning when he read that it had been sold and transfered from his account.  “It was kind of crazy to read the email because after all this time of NOTHING being there, (pun intended) I actually had just started using the domain for my band, Sapphire Sky, to broadcast live wedding performances to guests that couldn’t attend.  Seriously, the whole idea came back around, and then my domain is sold right from under me.”

Sullivan is now using Iamthere.net to broadcast live wedding performances of the band Sapphire Sky.

Pat Sullivan Sr., the lone investor in eSN Ventures commented, “With GoDaddy’s ridiculous 30% commission, I don’t quite think I’ll break even on this 12 year investment.  But at the end of the day, I’m just proud the team was able to put a little money back in my pocket.  I think I can safely move this one into the ‘not a loss’ column.”

Nordstrom commented, “It seems like it was a great idea now that we don’t have it any more.  Dammit, pretty sure somebody is gonna get rich off this domain.”

When asked about GoDaddy’s 30% commission, Nordstrom commented, “That is a rip-off, no wonder they’re doing so well.”

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Actual CPM per Broadcast Medium

This post is part question, part answer since I didn’t find much on google related to actual cpm per medium.

I’m curious what other business owners see for CPM; that is the advertising cost per thousand listeners / viewers / email recipients / eyeballs / etc.

Here’s my own experience…

Radio = $2 – $4 CPM

Radio has been my “seductive mistress” for the last 5 years.  She whispers messages of hope and the promise of “dedicated listeners who follow the host like a zombie army and buy everything he / she commands.”

I take the plunge into her bedroom once a year or so.  After the unique 800 number I’m spending $200/month on phone rings 20-ish times in a week — after 400,000 zombies with nothing better to do than listen to said host have supposedly heard my unbelievably well-crafted message — I tally up the stats.

About 40% of people buy the product.

20% ask for the price and hang up once they’ve heard it.

And the remaining 40% ask questions for 27 minutes, then ask us to mail them pricing and product brochures because they can’t afford an effing internet connection.

8 orders (40% of 20) at $100 an order is $800 in revenue.

Not profit, people…revenue.

You see, my employees get the idea somehow that I’m obligated to pay them to answer calls from said zombies.  And because I’m nice and I like them, I do.

  • Radio Cost Per Spot = The most expensive spot in radio is 60 seconds on The Rush Limbaugh show.  It’s about $14,000 for 60 seconds, host-voiced spot.  I don’t know the CPM off-hand, but he’s number 1 most-listened to radio host by a major landslide.  I’m typically offered around $500 – $700 for a 60 second.  But, if you get on a long-term contract and get bonus spots, I’ve had them as low as $23-ish.
  • Radio ROI = For me, it’s been in a range of .18 on the low-end to 1.8 on the high-end.  That’s measuring revenue, not profit.  So when I spend a dollar and get 18 cents in revenue in return, yes, I feel like Zach Galifinakis getting tazered in The Hangover.

Email (to 3rd Party Lists) CPM = $2 – $18

Email to 3rd Party Lists has been really good, and really REALLY bad.  What’s the difference?  If the list owner has a sizable audience of actual zombies that actually do what he recommends, then it works.  Any other message I’ve sent to any other audience has a negative ROI.

So basically, there is one list that works great for me, and all the others suck.

  • Cost Per Email = The one that works costs me $3,000 to have sent.  The ones that don’t work don’t matter.
  • Email ROI = As low as .05, as high as 4.25.

Print Media CPM = ??

I’ve done so little print media (magazines, journals, newspapers) that I really don’t know the number for this.

I did recently spent $3400 on a very targeted trade journal.  I negotiated from 1 ad for $3400 to 3 ads and a month long banner ad on their website for $3400.

But I don’t know if we had a single click from the banner or a phone call.  I haven’t checked our Google Analytics, and I didn’t use a unique 800 number in the ad.  I was too short on time to meet the deadline.  Shit happens.

Web Banner Ads = ??

I also have very little experience here.  Ever since I read about banner blindness, I just figured it probably wasn’t worth the effort.

However, I did negotiate a very strategic placement in a very relevant directory that is sort of like a banner ad.  They wanted $1500 for the full year, I got them to throw in $2000 worth of other “premium” stuff (which, let’s be honest, cost them nothing), so it seemed like a good deal.

And here’s the real kicker, since this directory has a very professional sounding name, I’m creating a logo to put on my website as a “3rd party trust icon / badge” saying, “Featured in Respected Buyers Guide Directory” to (hopefully) improve my own conversion rate.

Sneaky, eh?  ;-)

No Experience With…

I have zero experience in these areas. Newspaper Ads, White pages, Yellow pages…  Any one care to offer some numbers on

Adventures & mishaps in business, marketing, technology, and design. It ain’t always pretty and the good guys don’t always win.