Category: Marketing

What happens when a post hits #1 on Hacker News? Here are my stats

My latest post about the Pipedrive story to 10,000 customers reached the top spot on Hacker News for a couple of hours. Here’s what followed numbers-wise.

The Hacker News effect

The post has been seen by 20,038 unique visitors to date, and counting. Counting in the sense that for nearly 3 weeks now, blog traffic has been 5-10 times greater than before.

I’m pleasantly surprised Hacker News traffic didn’t immediately die down and the site has sent a couple of dozen visitors per day ever since the post got published. Direct source has held up even better – I guess the link is making second and third rounds in various IM apps and gets found many an over-flooded inboxes.

Long tail traffic sources

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How to get from 0 to 10,000 paying customers in SaaS

Short answer: great product, some marketing and a bit of luck. These things got Pipedrive to pass the 10,000 paying customers milestone earlier in the year. The longer answer is below. This is the post I would have liked to read back in 2010 when I had started working with Pipedrive founders. And I thought I’d get it out of the system as we change gears to target getting to the 100,000 paying customers mark.

Get tailwinds working for you – build a great product (with great support)

Pipedrive dashboard

Pipedrive could have grown to 10,000 paying customers without any marketing: by describing it as “it’s a piece of sales software” on an uncrawlable site without any design, without onboarding emails, without press mentions, without a single ad and blog post.

The main thing that got Pipedrive to first 100, 1000 and 10000 customers was having a great product. Our “inventory” back in December 2010 was: founders having a very good understanding of the pain in sales software, an MVP-level product used by 20 or so companies, plenty of ambition and no marketing budget. This wasn’t a lot, but because this included the critical component of having a product that solved a problem, it was enough.

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Everyday work humour

The thing with everyday work humour is that it doesn’t happen every day. Work mate James made me chuckle so hard recently I couldn’t help but share a recent exchange of emails.

Prologue

I’m a bit of a word geek so when you sign up to a trial of Pipedrive and don’t log in for a couple of days we send the following email:

Subject: Can we help?

Every time someone signs up to Pipedrive and doesn’t immediately fall in love with it, our support lead Martin gets a little anxious. He refreshes the dashboard of our analytics widget every fifteen minutes and wants to give this user a call to ask whether everything is ok.

It’s been 3 days since you signed up to try Pipedrive (thank you once again!) and Martin’s analytics widget tells him you haven’t used the software too much. Did we not live up to your expectations? Any technical issues? Would you like help with getting started? Please reply to this email with any questions, comments or concerns.

We recommend adding a couple of deals, or importing your own data to get a sense of how Pipedrive can help you get more clarity over your sales results.

PS. Martin says hi.

Not punchline-funny but does the trick. This email has gotten a good amount of tweets, positive responses and, most importantly, new customers.

But one day we received the following reply:

customer responseWhat do you do? Get offended? Explain to customer there might have been humour involved? Compliment customer on his (highly unlikely but possible) super dry taste of the funny? Here’s what James replied:

james replied

Beautiful.

4 Things That Are Broken with Internet Marketing Today – A Classic Example [Updated 24/2]

Update 24/2 : I got fooled. This post is about a Facebook ad for a nightclub. I kept seeing the ads and I examined the link later – it doesn’t link to Club Hollywood as one would expect but to a shady dating site. I wouldn’t expect meeting the love of your life on that site..

Rest of the post makes sense even with this ad being an example of a scam, not of a social media campaign, so I’m leaving it up.

 

I came across the following Facebook ad some days ago. At first glance, why make a fuss? People come across 3000+ marketing messages every day, there are many worse than this.

Club Hollywood Ad

But at closer look this ad is symptomatic of internet marketing in general. There are four five things fundamentally broken with this ad:

 

1. Bad targeting

Facebook knows my age (mid-30’s), but I haven’t specified things like my hometown and  relationship status. I haven’t “liked” the club’s Page. Surely an ad for a mainstream meat market vaguely in my geographic area, in English, is not a good use of anyone’s ad budget and my Facebook feed.

2. Zero authenticity

You’d think a nightclub would use a photo of a “local beautiful woman” here, perhaps even shot on one of their advertised club nights.

Not quite. When you do an image search on Google with that image you learn it’s someone called Mechelle Montes, and you learn that from a forum where guys with an IQ of a toaster are discussing MILF photos anonymously.

Local Beautiful Woman?

[Addition 24/2: Given the scam context, the photo makes perfect sense]

3. Irrelevant landing pages

If you click through you end up on a generic homepage which is sub-optimal to say the least. A hopeful clicker will find no reference to local singles there.

[Addition 24/2: I am almost sure I clicked through to the landing page when I first noticed the ad but I guess I didn’t. Lesson learned: will click on shady sites more often in the future]

4. Poor grammar

… is poor form, no matter what the language.

So this harmless nightclub ad is a caricature of internet marketing. We’re in a hurry and often spending money that’s not coming from our own pockets. So we cut corners on targeting, steal images or – on a good day – use tried and tested stock photos and treat copy as an afterthought. I, too have made these mistakes. (With the exception of featuring Ms Montes on my ads).

Decent targeting, some level of authenticity, reasonable landing pages and grammatically sound copy are not rocket science. They save marketing dollars and make internet a tiny bit better. How about let’s get them right more often?

Referral marketing dilemma: you can influence so little, and yet do so much

With notable tech brands I’ve worked with a large chunk of new business has come from 2 channels. One is what analytics software refers to as Direct, or people typing your web address to the address bar of the browser. The other is brand search, or people searching for your company name. It’s natural for companies with a long history or a big advertising budget, but how do young tech companies gain the gravity to start attracting people in such a way?

With Skype this was partially attributed to the great work of our PR team but these two channels drive the majority of new business for companies like Pipedrive, too. I’m pretty sure the two posts Pipedrive has gotten on TechCrunch and a bit of Adwords haven’t generated any significant brand awareness to speak of.

What’s behind brand search and Direct is your users interrupting each others’ busy lives to tell about your product. A sacred moment for any entrepreneur or marketer for sure.

You get what you measure, plus a lot more

The challenge for marketers is that referrals is a large blind spot for marketing analytics. It’s difficult to tell what’s behind Direct visitors and signups exactly: a press article, a link shared via Skype or email or a monkey with an online typewriter and an infinite amount of time. There’s even a suitable term for it – dark social.

Web analytics shows just a tiny sliver of referral activity – usually referrals originating from social media and any built-in tell-a-friend programs, which may account for 5-30% of total referrals. (Even less if tracking has not been properly set up.) This means you know very little about the majority of referrals: who is behind them, what is their motivation and the golden question: how to get more referrals.

The bad news: you can’t do much to influence referrals

When you can’t see referrals in your web stats or backend data, there are other ways to start understanding referrals. The simplest way is to ask them.

In a recent referral study we asked users of a SaaS product what had prompted recommending this software. We found out people had good reasons for spreading the word. The bad news (and the good news) was that around 60% of customers made recommendations proactively, without the company or people around the customer having direct influence. 32% had been asked software recommendations in that specific niche and 22% had been asked good software tips in general. At the time the company wasn’t very active in asking for recommendations, but it was sobering to see influence over only around 3% of recommendations.

And when we asked about the main motivation to recommend the software then 60% or more people wanted to help someone or they just “really liked the software a lot”. Just 1% of people had made referrals to earn free months! (but again, this wasn’t communicated actively back in the day)

But there are still many things to do to get more referrals

The flip side of the fact you can’t influence the majority of referrals is that you CAN influence the minority. Every company can, for instance:

  • Add a straightforward way for people to recommend you. If you’re building a web tool, make sure you have a tell-a-friend functionality that’s easy to find and that functions well end to end. If you run a hair saloon, print referral flyers/invites. Referrals happen naturally anyway, you can improve end-to-end conversion and improve tracking by doing relatively little. For example having a pre-written referral email takes a lot of friction away for busy people or people who can’t express your value proposition in 2 sentences (that’s 99% of customers and 60% of your whole team) and can make a huge difference.
  • Ask for referrals. Everyone in sales knows this already, but surprisingly few tech companies ask for referrals. You don’t need to develop an elaborate referral program a la Airbnb or Transferwise immediately, asking nicely in an email is a good start.
  • Get the timing right. Referrals don’t happen evenly throughout the user life cycle. For gyms, the best time for referrals is around week 6 when you’ve seen some results but routine has not kicked in yet. For software this may be anywhere from day one to months 2-4 (elaborate software that take time to learn and make an impact). Once you’ve found the sweet spot, set up a triggered notification or email for that time.
  • Similarly, you can optimize rewards. If just a few customers care about a monetary reward, try offering a charitable donation or recognition in exchange for recommendations instead.
  • Oh, and don’t forget to build a great product, so people want to spread the word about it (you heard it here first).

In conclusion, the fact that you can’t influence the majority referrals is good in several ways. If you’ve built something notable, you can count on Direct and brand search traffic to arrive on your doorstep without you doing anything. But perhaps more importantly, you can optimise end-to-end referral flow, timing of asking for referrals and rewards. Any time and money spent on this is guaranteed to be among your most profitable marketing activities.

Photo credits: John P

How to do a successful Kickstarter campaign: 7 tips

Click & Grow recently ran a Kickstarter campaign for the Smart Herb Garden, raising $625,851 from 10,477 backers. I had the privilege to look after the marketing side of thing for this project and I really mean ‘privilege’. Running a Kickstarter campaign is a marketer’s dream job: it’s highly measurable, the duration is finite and the playing field is more level than is usual.

Although running Kickstarter campaigns has been written about extensively, quite a few people have inquired about the topic, so I typed up my observations. Here are 7 tips for running a successful Kickstarter campaign.

1. Have a good story. 

Having a good story is a good idea anyway but on Kickstarter it is crucial. A good Kickstarter story answers three questions:

What is it and how does it make the world a better place? The first part is obvious, the second part isn’t: there aren’t very many Kickstarter success stories of things that promise more of the same or marginal improvements.

Who are you to make this project happen? There are many examples of failed or severely delayed projects, so credibility matters. And because you don’t yet have a product, your own face is a big part of the story. Like marketing in the good old days!

Why are you on Kickstarter? It helps to be clear how much do you need and how will you spend it.

2. Read articles and talk to people.

Many smart people have done it before, so it’d be a crime not to read up on Kickstarter’s own resources, blog posts of creators and Quora threads. Here are three posts ( 12 and 3) I found really useful, there are many more. And you’ll pick up even more if your get on the phone/Skype and chat to a couple of people that have ran a Kickstarter campaign.

3. Be part of the community.

This is kind of obvious but backing a couple of projects yourself and lurking in the comments section of projects is a great start.

4. Video and project page.

There are people more qualified to advise on video matters but I know this much: you need one part video shooting and editing skills and one part of aforementioned story to get a good result. If you hire external help for getting the video done, write a tight brief and take the time to thoroughly talk it through with the video maker before the work starts.

You also need to present your story well without the video. Good web copywriting principles apply – best pages are made easy to skim with sub-headers, illustrations and tables, as opposed to long paragraphs of text.

5. Make yourself visible on Kickstarter.com

Here’s where it gets a little less obvious. Most backers will likely discover your project on Kickstarter, not via your own mailing list or media. So you really want to be featured in places like “Popular”, “Staff picks” and the page that’s shown after you’ve backed a project. And the way to get there is earning your place by getting lots of people to back you in a relatively short amount of time. If you get listed well, you can expect every backer you convince yourself to drive 3,4 or more additional backers.

Our two main levers with the Smart Herb Garden were the existing Click & Grow community and PR. To engage the former, we had prepared three different mailing lists to go out the minute the project went live as well as personal email drafts to individual networks of team members. We also used paid promotion of our early Facebook announcements.

On the PR front we had identified a short list of six publications we really wanted to write about the project. We had pre-briefed them days before the project launch, in addition to a longer list of blogs and news sources that we contacted as the project went live. This secured coverage in Techcrunch, Gizmag, Mashable, CNET, etc which trickled down to other blogs in the following days.

Focusing the effort in the first 12 hours off the project got us our first backers, but perhaps even more importantly it got us listed throughout Kickstarter for the whole duration of the campaign. In the end more than 75% of pledges originated on Kickstarter.com.

6. When in Rome. 

… do as the Romans do. And I don’t mean frequent visits to public baths or lavish festivities, but following the best practices that work really well on Kickstarter. Early bird offers and limited pledge levels give a reason for your loyal community members to back your project early (and help get listed on Kickstarter). Kickstarter-special reward modifications make backing more interesting for your biggest fans.

Kickstarted famously is not a store so if you’re running a hardware project, there are also some restrictions compared to traditional pre-ordering. For example, you can’t offer multiple quantities of the same thing. What you can offer is “reasonable sets” of different products, for example two console remotes. We introduced a set of two herb gardens, one with a green lid and the other white all around, which was reasonable enough for Kickstarter.

7. Listen and adapt.

Last but not least, Kickstarter is a much more “live” campaign than most marketing I’ve done previously. You’ll get a ton of questions and feedback in comments and personal messages, and you’re expected to not just listen, but take action too. We changed quite a few things as a result of feedback and this seems to be the norm on Kickstarter. The good news is that this feedback is much easier to act upon compared to most situations, as you haven’t yet started the production process.

Reading feedback, replying and making the necessary adjustments to FAQ’s or project description takes at least a couple of hours every day, which is a good reason to make sure there’s a dedicated Kickstarter “project manager” in the team.

What I would do differently next time

Getting more than 10,000 people behind the Smart Herb Garden was definitely a good result, but the campaign was by no means perfect. Here’s what I’d do differently in the future:

– Show more face. There were no have native English speaks in the team, therefore we made a decision early on to minimise talk time on camera. A good substitution would have been showing US backers and potential backers instead, and there was even a great opportunity to record this, but timing was too tight to organise shooting. Also, in hindsight I would also have organised a couple of meet-ups with existing community and new backers.

– Don’t rush the video. We had hired external help for the video and had a very tight deadline. This meant that script writing started before we had throughly talked through the brief, and filming started before we had thoroughly talked through the script. In the end it all worked out fine, but we would have gotten the video done quicker and smoother by not rushing the very beginning.

– When you get into stretch goal territory, be more ambitious. The success of the project had us set stretch goals twice which kind of worked but in hindsight I’d set them once and for all.

It’s all about the team

While I had a say in marketing side of things the brains behind the project belonged to Mattias Lepp, founder of Click & Grow. (My tip #8 would be to borrow some of Mattias’s entrepreneurial energy for any Kickstarter endeavours.) Liis and Priit from the Click & Grow team, people at Velvet & London AD (spacial thanks to Mari-Liis and Oliver!) and Max Borges Agency all made huge contributions. A good reminder that it’s all about the team.

Finally I’d also like to thank Peedu Tuisk of OCDesk for sharing his experience with me early on, and giving feedback later. Hope this blog post has gone some way in paying it forward. And if you have any questions, please add a comment or get in touch.

Tips & tricks for promoting events: hustling is the new normal

I didn’t enjoy last Sunday too much. I had 4 days to go until my next british stand-up comedy night and I had sold less than half the tickets needed to break even. I stared at the computer screen and refreshed the ticketing site’s page a couple of more times. Needless to say, this didn’t improve the situation.

Background: this was my 9th comedy night and since this is more of a hobby than work, I had treated the marketing side of things accordingly. A Facebook event, a fan page, a couple of tweets, a ticket giveway and the occasional radio or newspaper slot. First shows sold out effortlessly but each time I had had to work a little bit harder to sell the seats. This time it was crisis. It was time to put on my best hustling hat. This was my action plan:

Try promoted posts of Facebook. I promoted one of my Page posts to people that had “liked” the page and their friends, and though I don’t fully trust Facebook stats, it seems I got good value from my 11 dollars.

Go “creative”. “Share and win”-type Facebook promotions are primitive and probably not in agreement with T&C’s, but they appear to bloody work. I’ve been quite methodic about cleaning my news feed, but I keep seeing them promotions. I didn’t have an iPhone 5 to give away, so I did a parody promotion, taking advantage of the fact that the word for “share” and “divide by” is the same in Estonian. This got 13 shares – with average friend count at 150, this was around 2000 eyeballs. In a situation like this, every little helps.

This promotion, coupled with the promoted post and a couple of “normal” posts resulted in FB (vanity) metrics going through the roof. Looks nice, but I knew I had to do more than Facebook.

Set up an email list. Facebook has become increasingly noisy. Too many promotional messages, people turning off updates from Pages and email notifications. Sensing that, I had set up an email list a week before and gotten more than 100 people to sign up. I sent out my first ever newsletter.

Do a Google Plus listing. (This might be opening a can of worms, I know.) No-one’s on G+ to see your listing, but adding it has two benefits. It sends a good-looking email to everyone you invite (because people haven’t yet turned off notifications). More importantly you’ll secure some real estate in people’s Google Calendar.

Good old media. I asked a few friendly media contacts to see if and how they could spread the word. Obviously this requires establishing contacts beforehand, cold calling at this stage would have been an uphill battle.

Last but not least – the most powerful channel: asking nicely. I skyped, texted and emailed to a bunch of friends, acquaintances and people I thought would be interested, asking them to buy a ticket, spread the word, or both. It’s not the most pleasant thing to do, but it’s much more pleasant than having lots of empty seats on the night. A big thank you to all who helped!

Result: full house and a very good night of laughter. Plus, the fact that I had had to hustle made the whole thing even more rewarding.

Quick survey: it’s all about social

Today I did a quick follow-up survey with ansr.io* to sense check. And though the results** heavily skewed towards Facebook (where I shared the link) it confirmed my gut feel that in event promotion it’s all about social. Social as in Facebook and the old-fashioned social of talking to people. Naturally, what you promote must be worth talking to a friend about.

Hustling is the new normal

Going forward I don’t expect any of the things described above to work. I expect to sell few tickets if I do what I’ve always done before. And I’ll be prepared to hustle and look for new ways to get the word out. Marketing comedy events is very similar to marketing startups in that sense.

* Ansr.io is a promising and much needed tool, because SurveyMonkey is just one big collection of Upgrade buttons these days. But I’d give Teller and team another couple of weeks to iron out the bugs before you jump aboard.

** Tried to use Infogram for the graph but their service was so slow and unresponsive that I gave up. Not easy being an early adopter.

Keep it simple, talk to users – how Toggl has gotten to 20.000 paid users, and counting

I attended one of lunch talks at Garage48 Hub yesterday, the guest was Alari Aho, co-founder of Toggl. Toggl is a SaaS time tracking app that is doing well. They have more than 300.000 registered users and around 20.000 paying users. It’s a freemium product that is free to up to 5 users per team.

Due to the nature of the lunch (no slides, people ask questions, and sometimes very random questions) talks Alari didn’t go too deep into any topic, but he openly shared what Toggl has done and have his suggestions for other SaaS startups. In this post I’ve tried to structure Alari’s nuggets under different “headers”.

The first lesson is focus

Toggl was started as a side project in a software development house back in 2006. For the first couple of years it didn’t make any money and growth was rather flat. Things kicked into gear when client work stopped due to recession and the team properly focused on building the product.

Another aspect of focus is building an app that does one thing very well, and talks to other apps, not a “swiss-army knife”. To provide more value Toggl has introduced additional products like Planner or made Toggl better by making it simpler (eg. remove features that are being used by 1% of users) and faster to use.

Toggl has some very specific target groups like lawyers or designers, and the company has been toying with the idea of making dedicated apps for each one. But so far users in different verticals have rather homogeneous needs, and there hasn’t been a real need for that.

For wantrepreneurs Alari’s advice was to do one thing at a time rather than build several products and “see what sticks”, because it takes time to do something properly. He advises to plan 2 years for getting something done properly, and not counting on much income during that period.

Talk to users a lot

When probed about the most important things that have led to Toggl’s success, Alari emphasised the importance of talking to customers. They frequently travel to US or UK with the sole aim of visiting customers, seeing first-hand how they use the product and getting feedback. He brought the example that sometimes a feature that works well in the office simply doesn’t work in real life.

Toggl has also introduced some scalable means of talking to users. For example, when they found out that conversion to paid is much higher for users that have invited the whole team, they set up an email that encouraged users to do just that. 14% of people who received the email invited the team vs. 7% for those that didn’t.

Be very pragmatic about marketing

Toggl only hired their first marketing person a couple of months ago. This is not to say Toggl hasn’t done any marketing, they’ve just been very pragmatic about it (like the email example above).

A whopping 75% of traffic to Toggl comes from non-branded search (try googling “time tracking”). And this hasn’t come by itself – they’ve invested into SEO-friendly website and good copy. It also helps when you’ve been around since 2006 and been linked to by LifeHacker and lots of forum posts and discussions.

To get the word out Toggls emailed around 20 relevant bloggers back in 2006, and – lo an behold – one of them wrote about Toggl. This trickled over into posts downstream and the company hasn’t had to work hard for PR later.

Today Toggl does lots of marketing experiments. For example, Dropbox-style “refer people to get free service” didn’t work well – there were some signups but they didn’t convert.

Raise prices when you can, and raise money only when you need to
Tweet this quote

Toggl started out by charging $1 per user and now charges $5, without introducing new features. With the latest price hike, existing users kept the old price for 3 months, and could lock in the price for 12 months thereafter by paying in advance. 5% of customers decided to leave but because 10% decided to pay upfront, revenue increased both in short and long term.

Toggl was initially funded by proceeds from software development services, and is profitable today. They haven’t felt the need to raise addiotnal funds and, as of now, are planning to self-finance future growth.

Photo courtesy: Kadri Uljas of Garage48Hub

Telling stories at Seedcamp London

I can’t say attending Seedcamp with Talentag yesterday was “great fun”. It was intense, and while we had a good time, it left us exhausted and overwhelmed by the end of the day. But it was useful as hell for getting quality feedback and meeting people. Seeing so many smart people who have done it before, and that are doing it in front of your eyes, also gave a nice motivational boost (after a night’s sleep).

Timo Rein has written a great post about the benefits of attending Seedcamp, and tips on preparing, and there’s no point repeating his points. Instead, I’d like to summarise a masterclass by Saul Klein and Chris Riley on telling stories.

The black line on the wall

Saul kicked off the talk by showing one of his holiday snaps. Slightly sharper than the ones my grandmother used to torture me with, but otherwise a rather unremarkable photo of his family in an ancient-looking place with a black line across the wall. Because of this line a few people in the audience recognised the place as Masada, the 2000 year-old fortress in Israel. This line makes Masala different from thousands of other old fortresses, and any holiday pic featuring said line is instantly recognised.

It was this metaphorical black line that the session encouraged us to look for and develop in our startups. Some of Saul’s sound bites that resonated with me were:

You need to tell your story to a class of 7 year-olds. Not to mention that you need to be able to tell the story to your friends and family.
Great storytellers know their audience. That said, Saul insisting that great storytellers “sleep in customer’s beds” got the response that this not scalable, and also depends on the product in question. :)
Pick a field big enough for a never ending story.
Saul concluded that a crap product doesn’t fly even with the best of stories, marketers and agencies.

Chris Riley started with a clip that he claimed to about the most exciting thing in his (rather exciting by most standards) professional life. If was the first couple of minutes from this video:

Not a word about technology. Rather a story of Apple and the industries the company had revolutionised. At that very moment I acknowledged that I was taking notes on the said “breakthrough internet communications device”. Which kind of proved Jobs’s point.

Jobs’s storytelling greatness is even more evident in this video, contrasted with Gill Emilio’s lifeless style.

More examples of great storys

Mini. The idea of Mini has outlasted the original product. Current incarnation of Mini has nothing to do with the original because it’s made by Germans, works reliably etc. But today’s Mini stands for the same things than a Mini back in 1960’s.

ALO Audio. Selling the quality of sound through traditions of electronics manufacturing.

Again, very little about the car, lots and lots of stories. (Eminem’s story, history of Detroit, hint to Ford installing Microsoft Sync in their cars). By the way, it sold lots of cars.

Path that tells a story of its own with design.

There are more story examples on Saul’s Checkthis page.

Discussions, conclusion

Riley pointed out that 90% of the work of storytelling, whether by Jobs or auto manufacturers from Detroit, is done by the audience, not on the stage. The full story is formed in people’s heads. For example, of the Nike ads in the 1990s, not everyone understood every commercial, but “curiosity was up” and there was strong interest to find out what was up.

When someone in the audience remarked that startups can’t afford to have superstars appear in their TV clips, Riley pointed out that Apple’s “Think different” commercial used copyright-free images and was without any special effects.

When asked whether startups should mention competitors in their story, Riley encouraged to certainly show how one is different from competitors (and showed this video).

In conclusion, always be telling a story and make sure to apply to Seedcamp. Seedcamp Budapest is in October already.

Life Lessons: Don’t Be A Dick

Being good is just a matter of temperament in the end.
– Iris Murdoch

I recently tried out a couple of blogger outreach services. One of them presented me with the following signup page, and signing up to the Pro plan seemed like a better option, because the “free” option wasn’t actually free to use. No-brainer, I thought, if I don’t like the service I can cancel in the first month, $20 is not such a big deal.

When a 240 dollar charge showed up on my bank statement, I was understandably disturbed. I re-checked the page and yes there is the Billed annually there but come on, font 6 shouldn’t officially count. As the service wasn’t quite what I needed anyway I immediately sent a rather cocky email to the service, asking for a cancellation and refund.

The reply didn’t take long to arrive:

I am sorry that you don’t like our price, but we don’t actually refund clients. I will make sure that your subscription is cancelled.

And cancel my service they did ie. I could not even log in to download a receipt, which of course didn’t make me happier. I contacted my bank to cancel the payment, sent out a condemning tweet and sent another email to the company, threatening them with spreading the word about that approach of yours. I heard nothing back and so I sent another bitter email. Still nothing.

After my bank told me that small print on the web is not their concern, I realised I was in the state often referred to as “fucked” in customer service speak. I had parted with my money, got nothing in return and was on my own.

A couple of days later I realised I still needed an receipt. I contacted the company again with a much more reasonable tone, having accepted defeat. The reply was quick; I got my receipt and even promised access to the service. I was pleased that someone was answering my emails again, so I decided to ask for refund one more time, politely explaining that I didn’t need the service and that this money would come from my own and not very deep pocket.

And guess what, I got a reply back that they they can make an exception to their refund policy. I felt glad, and really stupid. Why had I taken the threatening position in the first place when an honest friendly explanation did the trick? We hugged (read:apologized each other via email for mishandling the situation) and went our separate ways.

The service is Blogdash by the way – not what I needed but maybe works for you.

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
– Plato (or someone else. Long story )

To companies, especially startups: don’t be dicks. Not refunding people for a service they don’t need is plain wrong on one hand, and bad for business on the other. We do have this thing called social media after all.

Note to self and everyone that is a customer of something: let’s not be dicks. At the other end of the keyboard there is a human being who is most probably not the cause for the thing that annoys you. Little bit of friendliness can go a long way as I believe I’ve now proved.

Epilogue.

I needed to cancel another service a short while later. Coincidentally, I had troubles accessing my account there, too, and my first email was without a response again. My lesson still fresh, I wrote them a second email which wasn’t bitter:

I became a paying member and now wish to cancel my account and stop all payments to you. Nothing personal, I just don’t need the service.

I can’t login with [my email address] as your system doesn’t recognise the email address for some reason.

My accountant will kill a kitten every time you take a payment from my card and I don’t have a receipt. Please close my account, stop taking money from my account and end this crime against cats. They deserve to live. Please confirm receipt of this email.

Thank you,

Andrus Purde
Kitten lover

I was answered this:

We are animal lovers here and will do whatever it takes to preserve the lives of kittens. J

As requested, your account has been removed from our database. You will not be billed anything additional.

Q.E.D.