Some things just cannot be undone.

How many wrong, dumb, or intentionally hurtful things have left our lips that we wish we could get back the moment they’re spoken? I know there have been plenty of those times for me, and I’m sure there will be many more.

Even more wild, sometimes, are moments when we say or do the wrong thing without even realizing it and don’t hear about it for days, weeks, months, or years. We don’t hear about it in time to stop the bleeding, so to speak. We’ve unknowingly used a hurtful tone, or phrase with a hidden meaning, or misrepresented someone.

On top of that, add the pressure of representing a company. If something goes haywire, not only is your own reputation on the line, but the company’s is, too. Your boss might be upset. Customers might leave. Stakeholders could demand someone more “responsible” grab the reins.

Embedded Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt

As dramatic as it sounds, that can be the backdrop to someone hitting “Send” on a company email campaign. Once email is gone, it’s gone gone. Even if you realize within minutes, the best you can usually do is send a quick follow-up to the same people to set the record straight. And now you’ve stuffed peoples’ inbox with two emails, looking quite unprofessional.

It’s a scary moment! In a presentation on MailChimp’s voice and tone, Kate Kiefer Lee talks about this moment, and how it led to very particular copy accompanying their big, final “Send” button.

Now, take that context of sending things that cannot be undone and multiply it by however many actions you might take inside an automated marketing campaign. Interaction with one email can set off a chain reaction of further emails, CRM actions, prospect tagging, and more. This is the power of marketing automation and some of its truest value. By structuring these campaigns well, you can fill up a sales pipeline (or move people through it) with efficiency only dreamed of before. Yet, the pressure of getting everything just right can be extreme, and setting things in motion can be scary.

Pressing one of the most important buttons in a product I work on can be scary. Taking the most valuable action can easily be done while feeling fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

The problem is that we all can easily miss that as people working on our products. We’re excited to share the power of a feature, but we can often miss the places where users are taking important steps from a place of fear.

Uncovering Moments

At Dreamforce this year, we got to show off some of the cool stuff we’ve been working on at Pardot. One of those awesome new things is Nurture Studio, which is our reimagined builder for lead nurturing (and other types of automation). One component that got folks excited was a testing interaction where you can walk through your own campaign as if you were one of the people you’re sending to. It’s the most obvious place where we’ve chosen to fight embedded FUD for our users, but that approach is interwoven throughout the entire experience. Everything from the building interface to the reporting was designed for empowerment.

We knew we were on target after conversations with folks at Dreamforce who said it was “crazy awesome”. The thing is, we were already pretty sure we were on target, because we started the entire process by talking to users and finding ways to empower them.

We chose to spend time interviewing users before we designed a single thing or made any decisions. In those interviews, we were able to expose the areas that make people unsure of themselves instead of only trying to fish for desired enhancements.

As it turns out:

  • People often have a hard time quickly understanding what they’re looking at in visual workflow builders because there are so many similar things to look at and so many directions it can all go in.
  • People doubt that they put the right assets in the right places.
  • People doubt that the automation will start and stop at the right times.
  • People doubt that they will know when an accident does happen and will be unable to course-correct.

We could be pompous and assume that those doubts are inevitable in powerful applications—many companies do. It’s easier to talk about fancy features than conquering user doubt. But we choose to empower people instead of focusing our tools, which pays off in the long run.

Instead of experiencing negative emotions when interacting with key components of our product, people experience the positive feeling of confidence and excitement. People enjoy what used to terrify them. People are able to focus on what they do best (like content or marketing flows), instead of focusing on preventing massive errors.

It’s not an easy approach, but it’s the one that modern applications should take. Make your users feel like absolute, unwavering champions of what they do and they’ll do better work for their company—and they’ll be much more likely to keep paying you to help them do it.

October 31, 2014 — Leave a comment — In Blog, Email, Marketing Automation, Research, UX

On a frequent basis, we all try to complete a task online and get horribly frustrated. Forms are unintuitive, important pages are hidden, instructions are wrong—sites can be plain unhelpful.

When you have to force yourself through a task that’s valuable, but you have an unnecessarily difficult time, your bad experience can also give value to the people behind that website or service. As a UX Designer, I can tell you that clear, honest communication about what task was being worked on and why it was considered difficult is extraordinarily helpful and helps me make things better faster.

So, allow me to give you a boilerplate email that you can send that stands the best chance of creating change. Send it through a contact form for the company, or hunt down the best email you can find that might relate.

Not everyone will care, but I can promise you that this tone and level of detail will give your feedback the best chance of being heard and accepted.

Hello!

Please forward this message to your design/UX department responsible for [website/service].

Today, I was using [website/service], and I was trying to [task you were trying to complete]. I had more trouble than I think I should have. I hope this feedback might help you improve!

When I tried to [specific part of task], I was expecting to [define ideal experience for this part], but I ended up having trouble because [describe specific problem you noticed].

[Repeat the sentence above as many times as is needed. Try to be specific, but also try not to list more than 3-5 in this email.]

I [was/was not] able to complete all of what I came to do, but I believe some changes could make [task you were trying to complete] much easier for people like me.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reply to this email. I’m happy to help.

Thank you!

[Your Name]

This is a helpful format for two main reasons.

First, most people responsible for design/UX are interested in the dissonance between what someone expects to be able to do with ease and what they’re actually able to do. This can, oftentimes, be hard to measure without feedback. Structuring your feedback in a way that contrasts your expectations with reality helps a designer understand the situation quickly. It also lets them focus on your desired outcome, which is truly the most important thing to design for.

Second, a clear, but generally nice tone invites conversation. Quick, angry emails about how awful something was might get heard, but will lack the potential for true engagement and empowerment to make things better.

My hope is that having a boilerplate for you to come back to will help you avoid angry emails (or no email at all), so that you can send helpful ones instead. I encourage you to save this as a template in your email program and channel your frustration into feedback the next time your online experience is lacking.

June 6, 2014 — 2 Comments — In Blog, CX, Email, Research, Resources, UX

I used to simply mark unsolicited email newsletters as spam, unsubscribe, and report them to their email marketing company (if their company even allows it).

But, I’ve started finding an email address to reply to and sending them a brief message in addition to everything else. I decided it was worth my time to reply with a bit of education on the off chance that whoever’s sitting at the other end is just honestly ignorant. The consequences can be pretty dire depending on how many people report them, and I want to see online and email marketing get better.

Here’s an example of one I sent today:

I’ve marked this email as spam, unsubscribed, and have reported you to [email marketing provider].

Sending emails to people who never asked to be emailed by you is not going to bring you more business—it’s going to give you a bad reputation. I work for an email marketing company and would be glad to explain to you why this is, and how you’re going to begin doing damage to your domain by sending unsolicited mass newsletters.

Thanks.
Cliff

No doubt, email marketing companies usually do their due diligence when it comes to warning people about these sorts of practices, but one more reminder couldn’t hurt.

And, if someone does respond to engage and ask questions, I’ll answer. I want to see online marketing get better by helping companies use permission marketing and other ‘tactics’ that help them find the right leads at the right time.

Feel free to use my email as a template, and I encourage you to engage and help when you can.

February 8, 2013 — Leave a comment — In Blog, Email

There’s a great feature in Apple Mail I didn’t realize was there until I needed it today.

If you want to download the attachments from multiple emails, select the emails (using shift/control + click) and go to File > Save Attachments…

Voilà!

I was sent about 15 individual emails with photos in them, so this saved me some time. Feel free to share any other cool Apple Mail tricks in the comments!

November 30, 2012 — 3 Comments — In Apple, Apple Mail, Blog, Email, Tutorial