Examining Failure: Why my new book bombed

3267164904_5840eafb3d_bDoing everything better includes failing better. Failing better means a couple of things:

  • Accepting failure with poise
  • Avoiding similar failures in the future by examining why the endeavor failed
  • Understanding that failing doesn’t mean I’m a hunk of crap who can’t do anything right1

For that reason, I thought it might be worth taking a few minutes to explore why my new book completely tanked.2 [Read more…]

An Inside Look at My Crazy, Huge Customer Service Mistake

What follows is a post-mortem/explanation of a really dumb mistake I made. Hopefully, it helps somebody or at least gives you all a chuckle at what a doofus I really am.

Every now and again, people ask me if they can give away a copy of Evernote Essentials on their blog, usually as part of a contest or promotion. Normally, I’m happy to oblige such a request.

I was in the process of fulfilling a couple of these complimentary orders last night when I made a pretty fantastic mistake — a mistake I’m going to describe for you now.[1]

This will make more sense if I give a quick overview of how the plumbing of my sales process works.

When somebody buys Evernote Essentials, the sales and CRM software I use (called Office Autopilot) does a few things automatically:

  • Creates an username and password on the customer WordPress site where they can download their purchase.
  • Adds them to an automated email sequence that immediately sends them their download instructions, including the aforementioned login, and sends a follow-up email a couple of days later.
  • Tags them as a customer (so they can be grouped later, as needed for product updates and such).

(To clarify, tags are just text labels that can be applied to contacts within the software, but they can trigger all sorts of actions when applied — as you’ll soon see.)

These actions were pre-programmed by me to happen without my direct involvement. Normally, the whole setup works extremely well. Normally.

For giveaways, I have a special tag that, when applied to a contact, tells the system that they’re essentially a paid customer and to take the same actions as it would if the person had paid (create the login, send them the download email, etc.). This also works really well. Unless I totally screw it up, of course.

Which brings me back to last night.

Instead of applying the special “comp” tag to the people who had been awarded free copies of the book, I inadvertently applied the tag to many, many thousands of people including customers and newsletter subscribers (many of whom had never purchased Evernote Essentials).

You can probably see where this is going.

I had moved on to other things when I started noticing my email inbox was filling up with out-of-office replies, a common occurence when I send out a newsletter or a product update. In a bit of a panic, I switched back to my sales system and started looking for the problem. It didn’t take long to discover what I had done and it took even less time for me to imagine what the fallout would be. There may have been a little bit of crying.

Imagine you’re on the receiving end of one of these emails. An email appearing in your inbox thanking you for purchasing something that you either purchased a long time ago or had never purchased would probably raise a few red flags, right?

“I didn’t buy this! What the poop?”

“Did your email thingie get hacked?”

“I bought this thing [interval of time]s ago; why am I being charged again?”

Red flags. So many thousands of them.

Now, if you’re reading this and you’re one of the people who received this errant email, please know that the following statements are true:

  1. If you’re not already a customer, you didn’t buy anything. No transaction took place nor was any credit card charged.
  2. If you are a customer, you weren’t charged again or anything like that.

The moral of the story is summarized nicely by a proverb I’m going to get tattooed across my frickin’ forehead later today[2]:

Measure twice, cut once.

I’m really sorry for the confusion. If anybody needs me, I’ll be answering emails for the next couple of weeks. If you’re affected by this whole debacle and need help, send an email to this address. If you want to make fun of me, leave a comment below 🙂

  1. This is partly to help folks understand what happened and part cathartic effort for me.  ↩
  2. No, not really.  ↩

How poor planning and inexperience yielded me insanely loyal customers

Back in the middle of 2010, I was a few days away from launching the first version of Evernote Essentials. Sitting in my backyard, trying to figure out exactly how the sales process would work, making sure all of the pieces were functioning as expected, etc.

Then something occurred to me: what about product updates?

Would I charge for them? If so, how often? And how much would they cost? And how, exactly, was I going to implement paid updates?

This realization caused me no small amount of alarm; I hadn’t even considered this and I had a scant few days to figure it out before my product went on sale.

So, I decided updates would be free for everybody who bought Evernote Essentials, forever.

That turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for my business. [Read more…]