With Just Fucking Ship, well, just fucking shipped, Amy and I have been focused on two main things:
1) Amy is finishing up the first pass of editing so we can send our customers a FINISHED copy of the book. As I write this email, she’s putting the last chapter through it’s paces!
2) I’m diligently reading through all of the feedback from those of you who bought a copy for yourself. And it’s been quite a pile to sift through: over 115 people replied to a couple of pointed questions that we asked…that means nearly 15% of the 850+ people who purchased a copy of JFS have emailed us back to tell us what they’ve gotten out of the book in less than 2 weeks.
So today I thought I’d share some of the observations we’ve made - the patterns that emerge naturally from hundreds of emails - and exactly how we got so much USEFUL feedback.
Most “feedback” is worthless. Here’s how you can turn that around.
Instead, I’m going to take you through the steps - a mix of tools and techniques - that I took to set up a post-purchase auto-responder that helped us collect the kind of feedback that can actually help us improve JFS, and even come up with entirely new products.
Step 1 - Connect our sales system to our email list software
JFS principle #8 is “Shop the Shelf”, which means that we’ll do almost anything to avoid building new tools from scratch.
Launching JFS has been our first chance to use Gumroad, which is a dead-simple tool for selling digital products and even subscriptions. It takes 5 minutes from setting up a Gumroad account to having a product for sale. They handle everything for us - including the secure credit card processing and generating fancy graphs - in return for a small fee (5% + 25c per sale).
Well…almost everything. Even though Gumroad gives us the ability to send our customers updates via email, that’s about the only tool it gives us to contact our customers. That’s where Zapier comes in.
Zapier is another “off the shelf” service that lets you treat the different apps and services you use in your business a bit more like legos. The programmers who are reading this know that you can sometimes use APIs and webhooks to build integrations and automations between different pieces of software.
But with Zapier, it’s more like building with legos. You don’t need to write a line of code. You don’t even need to KNOW any code, or be tempted to build new things from scratch (which would violate principle #8 of JFS). Almost every email list provider out there has a Zapier integration - including Mailchimp, ConvertKit, Aweber, Drip, and others.
So with a Zapier account (which is free up to 100 automation tasks per month), I was able to set up a “zap” that connects Gumroad to our email list software. Every time someone bought a copy of JFS on Gumroad, they were automatically added to an autoresponder list specific to the book.
It’s worth noting that some Gumroad customers opt out of receiving emails, which we totally respect. Zapier makes it easy to filter them out when configuring the new Zap.
Step 2 - Set up an autoresponder that will email people at the right time
Autoresponders or automated email sequences are built into just about every email tool, but they’re also a bit different in every email tool, so I’m not going to go into the nitty gritty of HOW to set up an autoresponder itself. Instead, I’m going to share more of the thought process behind our technique.
Just Fucking Ship is an intentionally brief book – our writing constraints kept it relatively short and the narrative format makes it pretty easy to power through in one or two sittings (and, according to some of our non-native english readers, it’s noticeably easy to read through).
So for our autoresponder, my goal was to catch them in the middle of or as close to finishing the book as possible. I wanted to catch people while the book was fresh in their minds.
So I chose to send the first email 2 days after they purchased.
That’s enough time for most people to have made SOME progress through the book. And for those who haven’t started yet…there’s a chance the extra poke will get them going.
Step 3 - Write an email that people will actually want to open
You’ve probably signed up for a product or a service and gotten an automatic welcome email.
And you’ve probably hit the “archive” button without even reading it.
Because you already know what’s inside. The founder of the company thanks you, and lets you know that they’re available “if you need anything at all!”
These emails might appear friendly, but they’re nothing more than a time-waster. It doesn’t help the reader. And an open ended offer of “I’m here if you need me” doesn’t exactly inspire action, does it?
Instead, I made our automatic welcome email – which is already being sent on a 2 day delay from the previous step – ALL about the reader. Starting with the subject.
I wanted them to know that I respected their time, but if they had a few minutes, I had a couple of quick questions to ask them.
So rather than a subject like “Thanks for buying a copy of Just Fucking Ship” – which was admittedly the first thing I wrote when I sat down to sketch out this email – I used the subject line “can we ask you 2 quick questions?”
This email has an open rate of over 75%. Boom.
Step 4 - Write an email that people will actually want to reply to.
Like I said before, people who don’t read the emails they get from the products they buy all have one thing in common: the email is all about the product, or the company, that sent it.
Think about it - when you get an email, do you read it all the way through? More likely you first give it a skim, looking for either something about you, or something you need to take action on.
So rather than bury those things at the end as afterthoughts, we START with the reader:
I open with a mention of Just Fucking Ship, to make sure that the reader connects this email to the purchase they made 2 days ago. But that’s it. I don’t drone on and on about how excited we are to launch it, or how excited we are that they bought it….because the reader doesn’t give a damn about either of those things.
Instead, I open with a question. “Have you read it yet?”
A question that doesn’t require a lot of thought. A yes or no answer.
And then I ask them two questions that will garner a bit more substance. A couple of things about the questions themselves:
A - Both questions are specific. This leaves very little room for people to wander in their answers. If you read the book, think back to JFS principle #5. “Crispy” is better.
B – Both questions give us answers to things that we KNOW will be valuable. The first question will help us understand which chapters are most resonant and useful to our readers. The second question will help us think about who JFS could be useful for besides the mostly design/development/creative audience that it was written for.
More on this in a moment, I promise. :)
With these two questions, and the prompt to “just reply via email” (no forms to visit, which are likely to get lost in their open tabs), that’s it.
And since the email is automatically sent 2 days after a customer buys, we have a steady flow of replies to the questions rolling into our inboxes every single day.
And with lots of replies, we can start to notice patterns
That’s really the key to our Sales Safari technique – gathering LOTS of data so that you can notice patterns. No single data point on its own is worth enough to make a decision, but when you start hearing the same thing over and over and over…you can start acting on it.
Here are just a few of the patterns we’ve noticed so far, and what we learned from them.
1 – People WOULD be highlighting more if we made JFS available for Kindle. Yes, this is a bit obvious, but KNOWING this makes us feel really good about investing the additional time to format the book for Kindle.
2 – There are definitely a few standout chapters. While the responses are overwhelmingly positive in terms of “this kicked me in the ass just the way I needed”, getting even more specific helps us know which lessons people are getting the most value from. Backwards Planning and Shop the Shelf are two that stand out as crowd favorites, which means we can add even MORE value to those chapters, or split them out into additional guides. But we can also start to investigate why those chapters are more resonant, and see if that gives us clues for improving the other chapters as well. Double duty feedback is the best.
3 – For many readers, JFS provided a ton of value, and they want to share that with others. In a surprising (to me) number of cases, it’s a significant other or family member who has been toiling for far-too-long on a project. For others, it’s a boss/client/coworker. Or their teammates.
Which is helpful for us in more ways than “people like the book”, because it helps us think about how we could reach those KINDS of people and help them, too.