On January 23rd 2011, I gave a talk at PodCamp Halifax about my experiences in building my first iOS app, Remembary, and the first few months of trying to promote it.
One of the strategies that worked out well for me was an "autoresponder" program through MailChimp to help people get started with their diaries. I've decided to break it out into a topic-specific blog post. The rest of the presentation can be found here.
The problem with mass emails (and I've built my share of ill-fortuned mail-enabled CRM systems for various clients over the years) is that it only takes a few "This is Spam" flags for a server to get blacklisted. The days of mass mailouts of unsolicited mail that actually work are long past.
These new services can avoid spam flags because the addresses are double-validated by the recipients, and the emails that you send out have to contain very specific details about who you are and why you're sending them.
If you manage to play by these rules, MailChimp can be extremely useful.
MailChimp has a kind of campaign called an "Autoresponder" which is an email that gets send out on specific triggers - for example, a certain amount of time after the person signs up.
One of problems people have in starting to write daily diaries is that you need extra prodding to build the habit. I created a set of daily (and then weekly) emails that go for a month after signup that provide daily little bits of helpful advice about starting and keeping a diary - along with a sidebar about the Remembary app and a link to the website.
I then built a signup page on the site, and set up AdWords to point to this page. As people sign up after discovering this page (initially through AdWords and now even just through searches) they get the emails on their own schedule. The really nice thing is I don't have to be constantly writing new content - it's "new to them".
Since the email program is free and doesn't require an iPad, AdWords has worked much better for it, and it even scales well by the amount of money spent.
I now have more than 280 members on my list, from all around the world. MailChimp is able to guess roughly where the mailing list members are from, based on their IP addresses (and even more so if they fill in more information, such as their Twitter account). When the app wasn't selling well, it was heartening to see a few new mailing list sign-ups every day, from places as far afield as The Gambia, The Maldives, and Carthage, as well as Iowa and B.C. You can even click on the member's location and bring it up in Google Maps and Street View - usually showing the nearest ISP switching station, or random parts of suburban Texas or downtown Ho Chi Minh city.
I don't know how much of this (if any) converted to actual sales, but it's cool anyhow. It's a lot like having several hundred pen-pals.