December 31, 2019

December Retrospective + a lil' cold email advice

Josh Sherman @joshtronic

End of the year tends to be a slow time for most businesses. Not in the calendar / holiday data business though.

This month shaped up exceptionally and exceeded all of our expectations in terms of growth. We still experienced the usual drop off during the week of Christmas, but the first part of the month was absolute fire.

From a morale perspective, I couldn't be more excited about this year's growth but more so, next year's potential. Talking to customers has yielded a ton of new ideas, and being open about revenue and the ups and downs of how I am feeling as a founder as been great and something I want to continue into 2020.

I didn't start dropping these retrospectives until middle of the year, but for those in my accountability circle, you know that this year was the "make it or break it" year.

In 2018 I had put a different startup to rest and after a bit of soul searching for the better part of 2018, I decided that 2019 was going to be the year I actually took Holiday API seriously.

Prior to that, the project was maintained regularly and was a nice passive income stream, but was always treated as this cool little side project of mine. Into 2019 I decided to not only treat it like a business, but also made the decision that if I'm not able to move the needle in terms of growth, I should probably move it back to back burner status and work on something else.

Fortunately, a bajillion conversations and growth hacks and improvements later, the needle really started to move favorably. Granted, we always saw organic growth year over year, but things really started to move. If nothing else, the number of customer conversations I've had went from a few month to a few a day.

These customer conversations have helped ensure that I'm working on the right things. They've ensured that I've addressed the confusing parts of the service. They've ensured that messaging as improved a ton.

With such growth though, I feel like the big negative about being transparent about things, especially here on IH, is that the bulk of the feedback I tend to receive is in the form of an unsolicited email half-heartedly congratulating us, and then immediately falling into some sort of customer development or sales pitch for whatever thing the person is selling or trying to figure out.

I don't mind it, and probably not being a good community denizen here, but I do ignore most of those inquiries. With that, I wanted to take a brief moment to address something that I see with I'd guess is about 6-8 out of every 10 emails I receive that appear to be from fellow IHers:

Most of your emails are going to spam. I know this, because I check my spam bucket regularly to help ensure that I'm not missing important / mislabeled communication.

During the day, I work for a cold-email tool, so which not a complete expert in things, I do know how to troubleshoot this one.

Often times, these are missing critical headers like SPF and DMARC signing, which should be an easy thing to correct.

The content, while not always sketchy, could be improved and there are tools out there to help you grade the content to ensure you're flying below the spam trap's radar.

Other times, everything actually looks pretty solid, which I suspect means that the person on the other end is sending too many emails either without warming up their email / domain, or just sending too many of the same messages in general.

Customization of email can help a ton. Even just including the person's name or a sentence or two that's wholly related to them and not generic can help improve deliverability.

Anyway, while I may not respond to make of the cold emails I receive, mostly due to my own time constraints (if you haven't, read Boundaries), I still want to wish everybody a successful 2020, and I think by improving your email communication, a lot of y'all are going to rocket to the moon.

Happy holidays, happy new year, let's kick some ass in 2020.

p.s. Let the deluge of cold email course writers commenting on this thread begin!

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