July 8, 2008
Joe Pulizzi of Junta 42 wrote a nice post in his content marketing blog today about a great customer service experience he had with iContact regarding our second quarter upgrade sale which ran for the last five days of June 2008. The month of June was a huge success for us as a record number of new customers joined during the month, in part because of the sale. In fact, new customer adds in June were up 19% from the month of May. Wow.
Joe wrote about receiving an email for the sale pretty much immediately after signing up only to realize that he hadn’t been able to take advantage of the discount offer it provided because he upgraded his account before the sale began. He emailed our support team and was happy to learn that the discount had been applied to his account retroactively because of his request. From his blog post he mentioned “Needless to say, iContact will be keeping my business.”
Now that’s the type of experience I’m proud that we’re able to create at iContact. We’re all about making online communication easy but we’re also all about our customers and their success. It’s great to see both of these philosophies in action among our team at the same time!
June 16, 2008
I’m attending the Fortune Brainstorm Technology conference in California in July again this year. Last year’s event was incredible and the quality of the speakers and panelists is unrivaled by any event I’ve ever attended. This year they sent me a survey in advance to ask for answers to three questions, likely for use in selecting break-out session topics based on the collective interests of attendees. I’ve included the questions and my responses below:
1. What is the most exciting technology innovation you’ve seen in the past 12 months?
Technology that extracts complex concepts from video streams, IE: determines context for ads alongside streaming video by understanding what the viewing of the video is seeing. Also, wireless electricity. Current prototypes out of MIT are using resonant energy transfer to dial-in an induction signal from up to 15 feet. The potential among business and personal uses of this technology in practice is incredible.
2. What is your biggest hope or fear for the future, and how does tech relate to it?
My biggest hope for the future is that we can actually build enough clean and renewable energy generation infrastructure to support our demand at a reasonable cost. I think this is an area where the United States could become a worldwide technology leader if we cared enough to make the right investments at the right time.
3. What should be the top priority for the next US president?
Repairing our international reputation to restore the world’s faith that the United States cares deeply about innovating and investing to make the world a better and more peaceful place not just for us but for everyone.
June 13, 2008
Ryan and I were extremely humbled to be selected as Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneurs of the Year in the Emerging category in the Carolinas region as announced last night at a black tie ceremony that we attended at the Westin in Charlotte, North Carolina. A full list of winners was posted on the E&Y website today. Nearly 500 people were in attendance including a number of entrepreneurs, sponsors, and the folks from Ernst & Young. It was quite an event including two pre-dinner receptions, formal photo portraits, video interviews, a marching band, comedy segment, and a number of creative table accessories that kept everyone entertained.
We are extremely thankful for the nomination from our friend Laney Dale of Vaco and for the support of David Hood of Ernst & Young who visited us months back to compile the details of our profile and who was able to join us for the celebration. By way of our selection Ryan and I will now attend the national event competition in Palm Springs in November.
As I’ve mentioned in post-event media interviews I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished at iContact together. We have a world-class team that is delivering the future of web-based marketing solutions and truly empowering small businesses and entrepreneurs everywhere with a low-cost product that outperforms the competitive solutions. This comes from a team that outperforms as well.
The Emerging category finalists were all companies that call RTP home like us which was great to see. This region clearly has the people and resources required to grow many more companies like these. Finalists from some categories were much more experienced and well-known to say the least… including folks such as Matthew Szulik of RedHat and Thomas Millner of Remington Arms Company. It was flattering to just stand on the same stage as them. One was even kind enough to point out our juniority with an offer to “trade ages with us” as the group dissipated after the closing photographs.
Thanks to LocalTechWire for covering a question and answer session with Ryan and I immediately following the event.
June 12, 2008
I’ve just gotten set up at my mobile workstation en route to the Charlotte Westin where Ryan and I, our dates, and our Director of Corp Comm Chuck will be attending the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards dinner for 2008. Twenty four North Carolina entrepreneurs in a number of categories have been selected as finalists and the final winners will be determined and announced tonight. The five of us are riding in a huge black Lincoln Navigator, with black tie attire to match, cruising toward Charlotte down I-40 through the light haze of the smoke that has blown west from some open fires in Eastern North Carolina today. The sky looks cloudy from the smoke even though it’s likely a perfectly clear day just above.
I’ve sent a number of important emails and actually done a fair bit of work while on the road from my laptop with mobile broadband card this year. The rides in and out of Chicago, San Francisco, and New York City are all great times to finish up a work day while in the downtime inherent to taxiing around. My Bose headphones drown out any noise and I’ve found that as long I keep my palms pressed tightly against the laptop it’s possible to type rather quickly even with the bumps and breaks of the road. In May I sent my mom a Mother’s Day greeting email with photo attached as I cruised in a cab down Lakeshore drive just north of downtown Chicago. I was returning from a Chicago Cubs game and heading to Midway Airport on my way to Las Vegas for a conference. My foray with high tech was of course complimented by a long phone call to mom after I cleared the security line at the airport.
But when it comes to web business, emails and online communication tools like blogs are perfect for the traveling business person. With the power of the Internet and interactions and transactions happening literally everywhere, it’s just as easy to check in and be productive from anywhere. And in this case, a great distraction before the energy of the evening to come.
June 6, 2008
Tonight I attended the Council for Entrepreneurial Development’s 2008 Entrepreneurial Excellence Awards in Bay 7 at the American Tobacco Campus in downtown Durham, NC along with 15 of our closest friends from iContact. We had two full tables and a few people even overflowed to join nearby groups for dinner. iContact was a headline sponsor of the event so we were able to bring a ton of people. It was great to have a great showing from our team at the dinner.
The event was as it always is, one of the best I find each year to network with business people, entrepreneurs, vendors, supporters, and friends from the Triangle who support iContact and Preation and Ryan and I personally. I mentioned to Ryan as we sat down for dinner that it was amazing how many more people among the total attendance I knew and had relationships with than just four years ago when we first began to get involved with CED and really with any people outside of the UNC community. We speculated that we could together name 50% of the people in attendance and probably had established relationships with at least half of those. There are few regions of the country that I feel are as full of people as passionate and motivated and willing to help than as in the Triangle area of North Carolina.
iContact was honored with the CED Growth Company of the Year distinction for 2008 which was truly an honor. CED’s website provides the following description of the award: “The Growth Company of the Year award is presented to an entrepreneur of a high growth company who has successfully navigated the early stage waters and had a large impact on maximizing long term value for the company. The nominee should have played a major role in the company’s success and have a large part in crafting the company’s strategic focus for the future.” It’s hard to believe that we’re being considered a Growth Company now. For five years straight we’ve been called and proudly called ourselves a startup. I guess we’ve recently grown enough to graduate to the next level. Very cool.
Ryan and I had the pleasure of accepting the award on behalf of the iContact team. Video of the award announcement is now on YouTube. In our audio presentation, that we recorded at CED in advance, Ryan and I spoke about our strategy for success, how the team has contributed (as if any of this could have been possible without an incredible team), and our unique culture that values fun. It was a nice opportunity to speak briefly about the company and hit some of the high points in front of a local crowd that’s followed our progress for many years now. It’s incredible to think that we’ve been running iContact solid for nearly five years now… although I guess it’s only been called iContact for 12 months .
June 4, 2008
The folks at MailChimp had a good enough sense of humor to bring a hilarious side-effect of dynamic keyword insertion in an iContact CPC ad to our attention this week. They captured our inadvertent pat-on-the-pack in a screen shot they posted on their blog. This is a great example of how dynamic keyword insertion can get you in trouble, or at least cause your ad to say something you didn’t quite consider.
But all is not lost, our ad started what is likely to become a long standing romance between our CEO Ryan and the MailChimp team. That is unless they send us a Dear John letter on legal letterhead first.
Just in case this happens I want to go ahead and mention that… MailChimp, we do love you, ever since we got over that messy little misunderstanding at first when we thought we were getting hit on by a male chimp (ahhhhh, that was awkward) we’ve been really comfortable with you. I hope we can make this last, and yes, at some point it would only be fair if you said I love you too iContact with a CPC ad in response. I know we always say it in private but it really only counts when you say it in front of all of our friends. I know you’re still getting over that nasty break up with My Emma, but it’s really time we move on, together. At least consider it.
June 2, 2008
A few weeks ago the marketing team brought home a huge iContact banner from a recent trade show that iContact sponsored, and as luck would have it, it fit perfectly over the railing above the main entry stairwell. I couldn’t help but snap a shot of the massive banner in its new home. It’s fun to see as I pass by. It’s a great touch.
The banner has to be at least 12 feet tall and it references our booth number from the event as well which is sort of funny now that it’s hanging on the wall in the office. I hope we got our point across with the main tag line of “Really Easy Email Marketing” which I believe is wider than I am tall. That should get it done.
Just two weeks back I received a Google alert that pointed me to Mediapost’s coverage of their recent Email Insider Conference where iContact sponsored the opening reception on a private island. Nice work sales team… and apparently my invitation to help host got lost in the mail. These pictures surfaced shortly thereafter, all work no play, must be tough to work at iContact.
And finally, pictures don’t yet exist but an unnamed person at iContact will soon be getting an iContact tatoo after her recent loss of a bet with our CFO regarding 2008 milestones (which were reached in May). Oh, that hurts, literally.
After a recent phone system overhaul and upgrade (many many months in the making) our new phone system is in place. Many of the phones remain the same (some of the new phones look awesome) including this Cisco IP Phone but with one great upgrade. The iContact logo. I was walking through the lobby minding my own business when out of the corner of my eye I spotted the logo. This reception phone now displays the communication I from our logo to all who visit.
Shortly after moving upstairs in our building we installed this plasma display screen that rotates through a few slides including the primary one with the logo. The screen was updated with this message on the day we transitioned from the name IntelliContact to iContact in June 2007 and as we held an open house event to celebrate our closed series A funding round near the same time. It’s been left in the rotation as a reminder of that time and the event. It says “Welcome, iContact Family, The Future of Communication Begins Today.”
Following Ryan to the restaurant for our executive team lunch last week I realized that the back of his Mercury Mariner Hybrid had recently become a driving billboard for iContact. Before being installed on the vehicle I had seen the iContact license plate in his office and had cautioned him that he would now be projecting an iContact brand impression to others on the road by the manner in which he drives. He responded that he would be curbing his driving technique accordingly. Of course the license plate wasn’t enough and it needed a logo sticker on the bumper below and the full color photo of the entire team as well. Good form sir!
And finally, admittedly this one doesn’t have the iContact logo in it, but it does have Ryan our CEO and Jeffrey and Brandon who run our marketing team so I’m gonna let it slide. At a recent conference iContact sponsored a mini-kiss band event where a rather wild looking group of face-painted costume-wearing little people rocked out at a performance for conference attendees. I cannot remember if this was at Ad:Tech or maybe Search Engine Strategies but one thing is for sure, it was rockin!
An original iContact brand name celebration backpack from our name change from IntelliContact to iContact in June 2007. It was on the kitchen floor of one of our original shareholders’ apartments in Chicago. The backpack had recently been taken to the beach along Lake Michigan and had seen a few hours of beach volleyball on a sunny summer afternoon in downtown Chicago… hence the folded net sitting beside the backpack and the backpack’s sandy appearance. It probably had some sand inside as well.
Earlier this year we sponsored ad:tech Miami and had this fantastic setup at the entrance to the event. The vertical signs on each side of the main ad:tech board were all about iContact and had some really neat little offshoot signs that read “booth # 404″ beside each. It’s sortof hard to miss the fact that iContact makes email marketing really easy when it’s written on two 25 foot signs at the entrance to a conference with thousands of attendees.
June 1, 2008
The iContact team spent Friday night at the Durham Bulls minor league baseball game in downtown Durham, North Carolina. We watched the game in a private pavilion in the right field corner as the Durham Bulls played the Pawtucket, Rhode Island Red Sox. We had about a hundred people in attendance including friends, significant others, and children. There was free food and drinks and two levels in the pavilion for people to watch the game.
The highlights of the evening included iContact team dancing to YMCA, Wool E Bull doing a go-cart lap around the baseball field, and a Bulls home run landing on the deck above us and bouncing straight up to then land right in the middle of our group. The weather was perfect for a spring night, warm and clear and most people stayed until the end of the game for the about Fireworks at the Durham Bulls athletic park.
May 12, 2008
David, Frank, and I are at the annual Warrillow conference in Las Vegas this week Monday through Wednesday. The tabletop booth looks really nice and the side presentation which involves an on-screen web-based value calculator. Thanks to the Preation team for a job well done there. The calculator application been rock solid all day and the graphed results have been received well, several have been sent which is exciting!
Today was registration and some general presentations that were really all pre-conference content, much being lead by sponsors. Overall the content was good, some of the coverage of new marketing methods (online) was a bit outdated but probably appropriate for the audience members who are typically in charge of both traditional and new media marketing to small businesses.
Google’s presentation abused the term small business a bit while trying to prove that new media channels including YouTube contain lots of content and lots of visitors interested in finding information about small businesses. I found this to be odd considering all of the research that Warrillow has done to prove that small business don’t enjoy being called small… they prefer terms like business owner and entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur myself (and small business owner ) I completely agree. So, Google is a sponsor of the conference but isn’t paying attention to Warrillow research. I enjoyed the irony.
For a pre-conference day the foot traffic was exceptional by our booth. I took this picture after walking a round of the exhibit floor during a really slow spell. I was excited to return to the iContact booth two minutes later and see a crowd of three talking with David and Frank when I bet there were less than 10 people talking with exhibitors in the entire space at the time. A lot of good connections have been made already.
May 1, 2008
Team Preation/iContact placed third out of 65 corporate teams at the 2008 Plane Pull at RDU to benefit the Special Olympics of North Carolina. Five team members representing both Preation and iContact pulled an American Airlines Embraer Regional Jet (weighing 40,000 lbs) along a 25ft course in a record 10.00 second time.
The pull time of 10.00 seconds qualified us in the top ten overall and we got to pull again to determine the top three placing teams. In the first round of pulls our time ranked 2nd among all teams, including the 10 additional law enforcement teams. In the championship round our second pull time of 10.14 seconds was good enough for fourth overall and third among other corporate competitors. These two pulls were the only attempts our team has ever done since this was our first year to compete in a plane pull competition and since no one could turn up an extra Regional Jet for us to practice on before the competition. Bummer.
Video of our second plane pull is on YouTube. Also, video of some commentary from myself and my wife Sarah our photographer/videographer between the two plane pulls for the event is on YouTube as well. Team members on the rope in the second pull video are (from left to right): Dwayne Taylor, myself, Wes Garrison, Lynn Morehouse, and Justin Rauschenberg. The event was held on April 19th at the Raleigh/Durham International Airport in North Carolina.
Special Olympics of North Carolina raised over $150,000 this year from the Plane Pull event.