In this episode, we confess our most embarrassing moments that make the business of 'making a difference while making money' less daunting and more entertaining ...
Well, 2020 is coming to a close. And before we move into 2021, I thought it would be a good idea to have a good laugh about all the mistakes we made.
All right. 2020. I think everybody knows we’re excited to have this year come to a close. And we wanted to memorialize a particularly blunderous year with all of our big, best business blunders and just have a confessional and a nice chance to kind of sit around the digital fire with you guys and laugh and hopefully get some lessons learned out of our mistakes. So we’ve got six of them, I think. Let’s jump right in, man. Do you want to take the first.
[00:01:10] Oh, yeah. This one gives me so much pain. So just to set the stage at HigherU we have a program called Market Your Movement and we have an application process. We want to make sure that we’re right for you and you’re right for us. We don’t want anyone coming into our program unless we believe that you’re going to be successful. And so we spend a lot of time cultivating all of you on our list and sending you lots of good things and then leading up to the application. And then once you apply, if you choose to apply, that’s really special for us because it says that you’re interested in what we do. And when we read over those applications for those of whom we believe will be successful, we send you an email that says your application is approved. And that is the email that we sent.
We made a ridiculous mistake where we had not one but two typos in this email subject line. Instead of “Your application,” we said “Y-o-u’r-e,” and instead of application, we said “applicated.”
So we said, “You’re applicated is approved.”
We sent the subject line that basically said we are incoherent and we can’t spell and we don’t know grammar, but you should really trust us with your marketing.
Yes. And your money. And I guess that’s a good lesson learned.
Spell check is not going to catch everything because your as “you’re” is a word.
Enrollment was way lower than we had initially projected. And now we know why in that particular case. Because of that fallacious subject line.
[00:03:22] Yes. And there’s a few lessons learned there. QA, which “quality assurance,” is not a nice-to-have. It’s a must have. It is a must have and it feels tedious sometimes. And as entrepreneurs we have to go fast. But remember, it’s at your own peril. Things that have to do with sales, that’s something I would definitely prioritize, making sure you get right. And of course anything that is as consumer facing or customer facing – any place where you could have egg on your face, make sure you put all of your attention there.
Next we’re going to reveal a technological blunder or two. And I’m sure everybody listening has had one to 10 or 100. But these are the ones that were silly mistakes, easily solved — so we wanted to share them with you.
The first tech blunder that we are an email-based business, meaning that we pay spend money on paid advertising to go the best people and bring them in through our funnel.
Our whole business model hinges on something called CPL, which is Cost Per Lead. A lead being somebody that comes in, lands on our website or landing page and subscribes because they’re going to get our our free digital gift. We call it a movement magnet. We have metrics in place that we can pay up to X dollars and still be profitable by the time one out of one hundred people purchase, say, for example.
Ours was down at $4. Right. So Manders like high five, we rule, we know we’re doing and we kind of set it and forget it. And then after checking in a few weeks later, we realized it was at $12.
It was our page speed load. And for whatever reason, we didn’t pay attention to the page load speed. We thought it was our copy. We thought maybe we had fatigued our audience.
And we started rewriting our landing page copy and maybe evaluating the overall desirability of the email growth guides that we were sending. 6 weeks — 2 months in, the light bulb went off.
[00:11:41] Amanda, remember when we spammed everybody? As we talked about, we pay very close attention to those of you who apply for Market your Movement because you’ve expressed interest and you’ve been reading emails from us for months and months and months. And you’re really, really special to us because you’re interested in what we do. So we want to treat you really well, not the way we treated you back in August, which was when because I handled the tech, I get to take all the blame for this.
I put an extra trigger in an email automation that had the it’s time to enroll on the waitlist. The automation ran over and over and over again. And we just flooded everyone’s inbox with like six to 10 different emails, some of which weren’t even finished being written yet. And once again, made us look like complete disasters when what we’re selling is email, marketing, training, like we’re the experts.
Let us spam you with entirely blank emails and make you unsubscribe so fast your head spins. Awesome. That was a beautiful one to discover. Yes. So that was good. So what’s the lesson learned there?
The lesson learned is, again, it’s quality assurance. Don’t release something to an entire list until you have released it and tested it internally to an internal list because it is so easy to have a hiccup in your process if you haven’t tested it. It always comes back to quality assurance, not doing things at the last minute.
[00:14:54] And that reminds me of the massive tech blunder that we had over Thanksgiving. We were running a big push on Market Your Movement because the price was about to go up and because it was Thanksgiving, we didn’t want to just send our typical emails around enrollment. We wanted to make it special to Thanksgiving and this shift in our business. Well, one of the things that’s always plagued me and Jen is neither one of us are great managers of other people, especially me. I’d rather just do it myself, even though I know that that is a curse and a barrier to growth and a barrier to being able to expand one’s business. But Jen, rightfully so, said, hey, you should give these emails to our associate to build so that you don’t have to build everything.
And do you remember what happened when there was zero content that went out?
The reason for that was we personalize the emails to you in some cases, like if we have your first name in our database, we include first name. And if we don’t have your first name, we say something like, “hey, movement builder.” And when our associate, whom I did not serve as QA, was building these emails, he inadvertently replicated a content block that had a condition.
If the recipient has “first name,” don’t show this content.
Translation for anybody that doesn’t code, there are so many little things that make a little gotchas.
[00:26:38] Ok, so which one shall we do next?
Amanda, remember when you were running digital fundraising for Marianne Williamson for president and she had given you just a bunch of her raw thoughts.
[Amanda] I forget what was going on. I’m a single mom of two kids. I’m now living with my partner in quarantine. But at the time we were living separately and there was just the kind of the chaos of driving everybody around. This was 2019 when we still left our houses. And I remember that Marianne sent me a beautiful piece that was to go out to her full list of about 350,000. But it needed a lot of edits because it was a really quick write up by her. And my job was to edit it and to make it really cohesive. And we spent probably two hours on the phone that day, debating word choice and figuring out what punctuation goes where. And then I put my computer away and then for whatever reason, I never hit send. And I came back to my house two hours later and was like, OMG, I never hit send on this. I opened up our email platform, I hit send. And then I realized I sent the unedited total mess version to 350,000 people. That was a really sad, tearful day for me.
Did you did you do like a retraction type email or what did you do?
I just I crawled under a table and stayed there for about six hours. Yeah. I had no graceful recovery from that one.
[00:32:42] On the topic of blunders, also, I think it would be really fun to share your story about when Disney had just acquired Ideal Bite and you were with the big executive. Do you want to tell that one?
[Jen] Yeah, Disney acquired us in February of 2010, and so we’ve only been there for a few months.
We were kind of like the darling child we were. We became close with the top muckety mucks like the CEO and his wife and the CFO. They were on a plane on their private Disney jet going somewhere.
[00:33:34] On April 1st, Heather (my Ideal Bite cofounder) and I having a lot of chutzpah were adamant that they would not change our editorial voice.
We did our email on April 1st on “recycling your condom.”
Obviously, it was a joke, but one that Planned Parenthood did not find funny. Disney did not find it funny.
We got a little bit big for our bridges and maybe didn’t really calculate all of the risks involved and not acquiescing just a little bit to their culture and preferences. There was something that we could have done that would have been funny and not so off the mouse ears brand. But there you have it. So, yeah, that was a good one.
We hope all of you listening appreciate hearing these stories. We’ve had an amazing year with HigherU. Yes 2020 has been an absolutely bizarre year. We hope you have enjoyed this and we wish you a blessed, successful, even a slightly messy 2021, onward to a whole new year.
Remember, mistakes will happen. It’s not if, it’s when. And how you handle them after. And we’re still learning after twenty plus years in this business. And we hope that you’ll come learn along next to us in 2021.