One of the most useful pieces of feedback I’ve gotten from my mentors is “You rock. Don’t be so uncomfortable calling yourself an expert.” I hate talking about myself – it always feels like an exercise in self-aggrandizement, even if I’m just saying “Yeah, I guess I make a pretty good cup of coffee.” So every time I have to come up with any sort of bio, I agonize over it way more than I should, worrying that I’m not quite dialing the mixture of  my skills, knowledge and expertise with my punk/rock ‘n’ roll/DIY/gearhead roots and attitude.

Anyway, I had to write a new bio this week. Here’s my rough draft:

“Surj is a seasoned, passionate ecommerce devotee with experience in many industries. An online marketing generalist with deep experience in all forms of customer acquisition and retention, he’s most passionate about email marketing, search marketing, and affiliate programs. A die-hard gearhead, if he’s not contemplating his latest world domination perfect customer acquisition plan, Surj is most likely riding his motorbike in search of good rock ‘n’ roll or coffee.”

Aw crap, I forgot “Likes to play poker, but not very well.”

Maybe it’s just daylight savings time that has me a bit grumpy this morning. I prefer to wake up when it’s still dark, or at least gray.

Or maybe I’m grumpy because my iPhone – an allegedly smart phone – failed me this morning.

I knew, or at least suspected, that it was going to happen. Both Angelica and I have iPhones, and reset our alarms last night, but just in case, I set the regular old alarm clock too. This morning, I was awakened by the beeping of that dinosaur, not either of our iPhones.

Look, I get that software is extremely complex. Mistakes are made, and missed in QA. Fine. I’m not a developer, so I’m not even going to bother theorizing about the nuts and bolts of why my alarm clock didn’t go off today. (Even though I’d have thought there’d be some best practices in place by now for automatic handling of alarm clocks and Daylight Savings Time. It’s not like this is bleeding edge stuff.)

Apple has been aware of the issue for at least a month, and even created a support article about it. But in typical Apple fashion, they were pretty quiet about it. In fact, if I hadn’t heard about it from Angelica, I wouldn’t have known about it at all. I’m a busy guy – I don’t pay attention to all the iPhone/Apple chatter. I shouldn’t have to – this thing is supposed to just work, right? Judging by the noise on Twitter this morning, I’m not the only one who didn’t notice until too late.

Just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything, I connected my iPhone to my MacBook Pro and fired up iTunes. Nope – no software update, no warning, no messaging at all. I did have to agree to YET ANOTHER iTunes Store Terms and Conditions update – maybe there’s a new clause that explains that the alarm clock doesn’t actually work.

This is a missed opportunity. Apple should have sent an email campaign with the workaround instructions, rather than relying on the blogosphere and the media, maybe even done some PPC marketing on keyword phrases like “iPhone alarm clock fix” with the support article as the landing page.

Hell, even AT&T could have done it, by email or text message. It’s not like they don’t need every bit of goodwill they can get from iPhone users.

Instead, we get a support article that doesn’t even make the iPhone Hot News page. Instead, we get people waking up late for work. Instead, we get people pissed off at Apple and maybe looking at one of those slick new Android phones instead of following the default next-gen iPhone upgrade path.

Listen up Apple. I love your products. I’ve sent a lot of cash your way. But dumb errors like this (and even dumber handling of them) makes me want to drink someone else’s Koolaid.

I’m a big fan of Hello Lucky. They make awesome letterpress cards – nice heavy paper and cool designs, especially the cards with monkeys on them. I’ve purchased lots of cards from local shops when I’m short on time, but I mostly I order direct from HelloLucky.com. Angelica has also ordered directly from their site.

Last night, we found two envelopes from Hello Lucky in our mail – one for me, one for Angelica. Each envelope contained a “Happy Halloween From Hello Lucky” postcard and a blank Halloween card with envelope.

The postcard has a playful poem that basically says “Hey, it’s Halloween now, but soon it’ll be Christmas, so send this free card to someone now and make sure to plan ahead so you can send awesome cards for the holidays. Oh, and by the way, here’s a coupon code.” There are two codes: one for 3 free samples of holiday cards, and another for 15% off site-wide. The coupon codes have a pretty tight expiration date, which is good. This should help drive home the point of “It’s go time. Order your cards now.”

This is very interesting to me. I’m a jaded online marketer, so of course I immediately started dissecting their strategy. But I’ll admit I was totally jazzed to get a Halloween card from Hello Lucky, even if Angelica did get the cooler card.

I like to imagine that companies that are truly driven by passion for making awesome stuff and creating delightful experiences come by these kinds of marketing ideas in a “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool to just send some cards to our customers?” kind of way, with the number-crunching and ROI scenarios coming afterwards. Look, I know that this is essentially a free sample mailer. Not exactly a groundbreaking concept, but kickass in execution. I seriously doubt the average Hello Lucky customer who receives one of these is going to say, “Well, duh, they’re just sending me a free card so I’ll but more stuff from them.” They’re going to say, “AWESOME!”

  1. The sample is an excellent reminder of how great the Hello Lucky cards are. I get points for sending someone an awesome card, and Hello Lucky gets their cards in front of another potentially new customer.
  2. The timing is perfect – close enough to Christmas that it makes sense to buy holiday cards, but not so close that anyone will worry about whether the cards will arrive in time to mail out in time for Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Festivus.
  3. In spite of having not one, but two coupon codes, the whole thing feels more like I just got something from a friend, not some smarmy hard-sell marketing materials. Plus, I get the option of using coupon code A to get more free stuff, or coupon B to get 15% off. Beautiful, and a nice test to see what folks will respond to.

Hello Lucky faces significant challenges in getting folks to order directly from them online. I don’t have any data on this, but I’d bet I’m not the only person who picks up cards on the way to the event the card is celebrating. It’s easy to grab a crappy, last minute greeting card at the grocery store if I’m not planning ahead. Mailing cards in a timely fashion? Very difficult for me.

This campaign short-circuits those issues, with a physical reminder of the very high quality of Hello Lucky’s cards and a sensible nudge to get a jump on the holiday season. I’d bet lots of folks will be thankful not only for the coupon, but for the gentle reminder as well. Nice work.

© 2013 Surj's House of Awesome

Surj's House of Awesome

Surj Gish – eCommerce & Online Marketing Expert / Gearhead / Musician