How I’m getting real, actionable feedback from my first 500 users

A couple of weeks ago I started sending out this email a day after new users signed up for my app, BabyList.

From: Natalie Gordon
Sent: Sun, April 24, 2011 6:04:39 AM
Subject: Any questions about your new BabyList baby registry?

Hi,

This is Natalie from BabyList. I saw that yesterday you created a new baby registry on BabyList.

<link to your babylist baby registry>

BabyList is a new site and I want to make sure that everything is working as expected. How was your experience using it?

Please either get in touch with me by replying to this email (it’s my real email address), or, if you have any ideas on how to make BabyList better and you think others might like the idea too, add it to our feedback forum where others can vote for and discuss your idea – http://babylist.uservoice.com.

Best,
Natalie Gordon
Founder of BabyList and New Mama
http://babyli.st
http://www.facebook.com/babylist

If the user had created a baby registry but not added any items to it, I sent them a variant of this email that had the subject “Do you need help with your BabyList baby registry?” and asked if the user was able to install the bookmarklet.

The results of sending this automated email have been astounding.

babylist_responses

The numbers:

Since starting to send out this email 120 registries have been created on BabyList. I have received personal emails from 40 users, so 1/3 of new users took the time to reply to the email.

All but a few of these emails are more than a paragraph long.

As a comparison, in the month before sending this email I received user emails from 4% of new users.

This has been great because:

1. They are helping me keep momentum. The emails go out at 6am PST. One morning I woke up to 6 emails telling me that I was doing a great job. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish in a day when you start out feeling so proud and energized.

Laura: “Thanks so much for the warm welcome. So far, I am loving BabyList.”

Casey: “I LOVE your website!”

Amanda: “Thank you for your email. I was so excited to hear of such a great site!”

2. By using gmail + rapportive to view and answer emails I have a much better picture of the user demographic of BabyList. It’s pretty easy to tell that my power users are mainly professional women who have a strong grasp on technology and the internet. A lot of women also mention their due date (something I don’t require them to enter when they sign up) so I have a better picture about how early women are registering and how they are using the site.

3. Bugs have been found and squashed. Some have been really small, others have been not so small, but either way I get to squash bugs and then email them back telling them that I have fixed the site based on their feedback. That’s how you get dedicated users.

4. I’ve gotten some great new ideas. Lots of users are asking for things that would add complexity to an app that we’re trying to keep very simple. One user sent me a long email outlining the tools some real power-user features. A 1/2 hour later I got a follow-up email that basically said, “Scratch all that. I get the simplicity of the tool a lot more now. But I think with this one small feature it would be killer.” I also got an amazing email with the idea for a viral facebook app that I now have in the works.

5. People often tell me how they heard about the website. While I get a lot of good information from analytics it’s also nice to hear that people are telling their friends about the site. Word of mouth is hard to measure with google analytics and this gives me a better idea about how many people are hearing about the site from their friends/family.

I know that getting feedback like this isn’t scalable, but I do believe that it’s the key to understanding my first 500 users.

I actually got this idea from signing up for http://bufferapp.com/. The automated welcome email from Joel was the best I’d ever seen.

 

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