The first and last two weeks of each year tend to be when many people decide to post their “year in review” blog posts and/or publicize their goals for the following year. I decided to instead write a short note to the previous year.
You were awful. And not just a little bit. You will not be missed.
In December, my Mastermind group reviewed our year-end goals and all three of us fell woefully short. It was a combination of personal shortcomings for each of us and as a group, we didn’t have a system in place for holding ourselves accountable to those goals throughout the year.
My Biggest Failing of 2016
Personally, my biggest failing was the new product I started working on in January of last year called Bluetick. I pre-sold it to over a dozen customers(more on that process in the future), charging credit cards along the way to establish solid commitments and to validate the idea. My goal was to get an initial version of the product into the hands of these customers in April, which amounted to roughly four months of development time.
I assumed the role of ‘manager’ and let the team get to work as I tried to coordinate between them and work with my prospective customers to figure out whether we were meeting their needs. My development team was able to get something minimally functional ready by April and we started putting it in the hands of my users by May.
Unfortunately, I quickly realized that it wasn’t anywhere near being ready for serious usage. There were numerous bugs, partially-implemented features and some major design flaws. Within a few months of that initial release, I made the painful decision to let the entire development team go. At that point, I dug into the code base myself and either rewrote or refactored the majority of the application.
Fast forward six months to December and Bluetick is roughly where I wanted it to be last April. I had effectively hit the reset button on the application development. It’s not a decision that I’m happy about. However in retrospect, I wouldn’t have made a different choice.
It sucked, but it was completely my fault.
I could try to sugarcoat it somehow. I could try to place the blame elsewhere but it wouldn’t do any good, nor would it change anything. At the end of the day, my responsibility was to keep the product moving in the right direction but too many things fell apart along the way and for a variety of different reasons.
Some shortcomings were personal failures. Others were bad choices. In any case, the blame for what happened rests solely on my shoulders.
Fortunately, 2016 is in the past and Bluetick is substantially better off today than it was six months ago.
Reset Button… Again
The thing I like most about each new year is the ability to wipe the slate clean and start over. Conceptually, you can make the decision to start over and wipe the slate clean at any time. Psychologically it’s more difficult to do that if you don’t have a mental starting point.
People don’t start going to the gym on a Thursday because it screws up the arbitrary weekly schedule. For most people, this schedule starts on either Sunday or Monday. New Years resolutions are all based around a seemingly arbitrary date, but that arbitrary date is universally rooted in our heads as a “new year” so it tends to work well as a new starting point.
New year. New beginnings. Hit the reset button.
Unfortunately, the reset button fails from time to time. That’s not uncommon. I said as much last year when I hit the reset button. Sometimes it fails immediately. Other times it works for a little while and then sputters out. Software runs perfectly every time but it’s the humans that put bugs in it and by our very nature, we are fallible.
2017 is looking pretty good so far, even if we’re only a week into it. I’ve exercised a few times, written a new blog post, started some new marketing campaigns, gotten up each day at a reasonably decent hour and most importantly: I’ve set an initial launch date for Bluetick for the end of January.
Yes, I mean January of 2017. Damn you engineers and your lousy attention to edge cases and loopholes.
Bluetick is an email-based sales automation tool. It’s used to systematically follow up with people in your sales funnel in an effort to move them to the next step of the process. It does this by hooking into your mailbox and monitoring for replies to emails which are sent on your behalf.
If the person doesn’t respond to an email, then the system sends the next email in the sequence. These emails are sent directly from you and replies are received directly in your mailbox. The main difference between something like this and an email service provider is that it uses your mail server, not someone else’s, so it really is coming directly from you without any weird “Reply-To” fields.
The other difference is that emails are sequenced to achieve a goal. By default, the goal is for the other person to reply to the email you sent. However using either our API or our recent Zapier integration, that goal can be triggered based on an action in any of more than 700 other applications that Zapier is integrated with.
An Example: Scheduling a meeting
Let’s say that someone fills out a form on your website requesting more information and you capture that information into a CRM or a project management tool that supports tagging people.
Using Zapier, you could configure it to look for a specific tag to be applied to a contact. When this tag is seen, the information could be sent through Zapier to Bluetick, which would then fire off a series of emails to the person with links to your calendar to schedule a meeting.
When your prospect schedules the meeting, Zapier can then send information back to Bluetick telling it that the goal has been reached and it should stop sending emails. Otherwise, Bluetick will keep following up until the person replies to the email, schedules the meeting or the sequence of emails ends.
If the email sequence finishes without a response, Bluetick can send this information into your CRM indicating that the contact never responded to your requests for a meeting. That may be the end of your attempts, but you could optionally build other mechanisms for reaching out to the person.
Bluetick helps you systematically follow up with people so that you don’t have to.
Bluetick.io Limited Public Launch
My initial launch of Bluetick.io is going to be intentionally small. There are a TON of moving parts to the product and it’s substantially more complicated than I thought it was going to be when we first started building it. Fortunately, I have a good engineer helping me with some of the technical pieces and while I expect the infrastructure to hold up well enough, I still want to be cautious in the early days.
The last thing I want to do is have it fall apart because I added too many customers all at once. That would get me more revenue, but the tradeoff would be that I would burn through too many prospective customers before I figure out the best marketing approaches and the friction points in product adoption before I could fix them.
To avoid that problem, the initial launch is going to be limited launch to no more than 20 people beyond the current people who’ve placed preorders. I’ve talked it over with a few people and this has a number of advantages. First, it allows me to ease into adding stress to the back end of the application. At the same time, it gives me time to fix bugs, implement new features, provide good customer support and help to onboard users into the application.
If I do too much too quickly, that wouldn’t be possible. I’d rather be slow and methodical while staying on the path than to go too fast too quickly and careen out of control. There’s something to be said for moving quickly, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of your current customers.
Once I’ve onboarded the initial batch of customers and gathered more information, I’ll then be in a better position to determine what the priorities are moving forward and when we can schedule the next batch of customers.
It seems like a reasonable plan. Let’s hope it survives contact with the enemy.
Interested in learning more about Bluetick? Head over to the website. There’s a free, 5-part email course on how to automate your followups.