Email Automation for Your Personal Inbox

email automation

My best, current, and favourite email automation hack

If you’re like me you’re always trying to save more time with email automation and you’re always on the hunt for the best hacks and add-ons so you can do more work with less time and effort.

Well, here is one for any Gmail or Google Apps users that ties together your email and calendar. It’s called Boomerang For Gmail and it gives you a number of amazing email and calendar management features for your one to one communications.

If you use any email management systems or marketing automation systems that allow you to send, track, optimize email and calendar events then you probably understand the power of not having to manually follow up with every contact.

Boomerang For Gmail lets you perform the same type of automation but on a single point of communication. For instance, let’s say you want to send an important email to someone, well you would probably want to know if they opened it or clicked on it.

Depending on the settings you use it will pop up in your inbox to let you know what happened, or didn’t happen with the email. You can even set the date/time by which you want to be alerted about the status of that message.

A great use case scenario is when I’m emailing a customer that I’m responding to after they email me with a complaint. I can type in my response which usually has a link to book a follow up with me so I can ensure their needs get addressed.

With Boomerang I can then specify when I wanted to be notified or reminded about that message. If gets opened, clicked or replied to Boomerang will archive the message upon sending and then pop it back to the top of my inbox with an alert as to what did or didn’t happen either when it happened or if nothing happened.

It also allows you to insert your calendar availability into your message. I use this feature more than anything because when people want to book me for a meeting they always ask “let me know what works for you” well with one click I can insert my availability and say “here’s my schedule, let me know what works for you” thus putting the ball back in their court.

Additional, if they reply with a suggestion, Boomerang with highlight that meeting suggestion and with one click it will create the event, allow me to edit and then upon saving it sends the recipient a invite and even sends a reminder to them about the event first thing in the morning.

I also use this every day with hiring. Whenever I want to have a list of candidates I want to schedule on Friday for back to back interviews I send each of them a message with a dedicated time slot they can click to confirm and receive an invite and reminder.

This little app that costs $14.99/mo is replacing a person that would have to work at least part-time to help me manage my inbox and calendar.

I have to tell you, as a long time Product Manager I am in awe of how these guys simply nail it with the product time and time again. They have kept the tool basic, simple and though it has lots of features you learn about them at the right time and in context. It’s like they have ability to read your mind while you use the app. As you get to know it you’ll be like “oh, wow, yes I would like this email to do that..”

Here is a short list of the features I use regularly:
• Write an email and schedule it to go out later.
• Send out messages on a recurring schedule.
• Track opens, clicks, replies.
• Insert clickable date options in an email.
• Insert your availability.
• Send reminders to your appointment recipients the morning of the event.

There are many more features but these are the main email automation features I use pretty much every day.

If you have more ideas or other apps for hacking your inbox please but them in the comments below.

Why to use WordPress to build a SaaS product

use WordPress to build a SaaS product
People say the Internet is the greatest equalizer, dropping the barrier to knowledge for even the poorest and remote locations. Well, I can’t agree more and the reason I love WordPress is because just like the Internet lowered the barrier, WordPress built a catapult for people to launch themselves into a new existence.

WordPress started out as a simple blogging platform, nowadays it’s a full fledged development framework that can be used to create a completely new and novel Software product that can be sold.

As proof, you can look at which is a Software as a Service (SaaS) product I built and started selling while having no ability to actually code.

Ok, I have to be honest here, before I started building Hubbli I had been learning design level programming skills like HTML and CSS but all that means is that I was able to change the way things looked while still not being able to build a single feature that I sold.

So how is this possible? Well the amazing thing about the WordPress community is that there are thousands of developers making plugins for WordPress.

Get the bonus content: Quick Start Guide to Building SaaS on WordPress

Another way to think of plugins is that they are a feature or function you can add to your site, or a site that you sell to someone else.

Where the HTML and CSS come in is when you want to hide the branding or settings of an installed plugin so that your customers have no idea who made the plugin, or how to change the current settings configuration.

The analogy I always use to explain how I built Hubbli is to imagine if you wanted to build and sell a mobile carpentry workshop. So you wouldn’t start from the point of the engine or doors or breaks, rather you would go buy a basic utility van from GM or Ford and then you would buy different pre-built components needed for performing carpentry work like a work bench, and saws etc.

The reason why people are going to buy your product isn’t because you were the guy that engineered the engine it. It’s because you are the expert that knows exactly what they need as an industry expert and have removed the months of time it would take to do the research on the best vehicle, tools and configuration needed.

Just to make sure this analogy is clear, WordPress is the engine, the plugins are the tools and YOU are the industry expert.

With a little time and testing this whole process is easy. There are even plugins made for non-developers to white-label or rebrand every screen of your product. There are also plugins for non-developers to edit the menus in the WordPress admin dashboard so your customers only see what you want them to see.

Here are some WordPress services and plugins that I either use or recommend when using WordPress to build a SaaS product:

Get the bonus content: Quick Start Guide to Building SaaS on WordPress

Tips for building a SaaS sales team

building a saas sales team

Building a SaaS sales team is an art

Now trust me, I’m no Picasso but I have been around the block a few times with this task and I have enough bumps and bruises to offer some level of valuable information.

After being a sales rep for an internet company on and off for 5 years, in 2009 I was put in charge (rather somehow convinced the CEO that I was the guy to make this company grow) as the Director of Sales and Marketing of a niche LMS and eLearning company called Expert Online Training. This was back in the days when you might still use a locally hosted CRM like ACT and you would have never heard of SDR’s or Customer Success reps.

We also didn’t have access to tools like or GotoMeeting, instead we would simply cold call prospects, get them to open up their browser and guide them through the site like a seeing eye dog. And it worked!

Fast forward to today where I am the CEO/CTO/CMO/CFO and founder of a currently quasi-bootstrapped SaaS company called Hubbli when I am going to share some lessons I’ve learnt along the way.

So let’s talk about recruiting

I don’t know what exactly has shifted but thankfully I have been having a much easier time finding solid sales candidates then ever before. In fact they are finding me, literally on a daily basis I have sales people reaching out to me telling me they are interested in a position.

I’m going to chalk it up to SaaS sales positions becoming really sexy and that we are a startup so a lot of people understand that in a sales role they can join a new company, make great money in the short term, and actually see some benefit when and if the company has a successful equity event.

I would say that if you are a SaaS startup that is selling something with a price tag of at least $500/mo your best bet for recruiting sales candidates are places like, or anywhere else startups hangout online.

Get the bonus content: SaaS Sales Hiring Checklist

Don’t do what I just did

So here’s a painful lesson I just learned. If you are a founder and are trying to build your initial sales team DO NOT even think about hiring inexperienced sales people. I don’t know what I was smoking but I actually thought that since I was able to hire, train and coach large sales teams successfully in the past as a “Director of Sales” that I could also do it today as a Founder.

Well I was wrong, very wrong and it almost killed my business. After experiencing great growth for 5 months we lost our amazing sales guy and I was so busy maintaining the roadmap, managing developers, supporting customers, paying bills, etc etc etc I had no plan to onboard any more sales people to ensure continuity. Not only that, I was approached by a couple of hungry, motivated, capable but inexperienced sales candidates and I actually thought I could teach them how to close.

That was a stupid and egotistical thing to do. And there began our 3 months of no growth. Well, to be fair, these guys did a great job of booking and doing demos, but they had no sense as to when to drop a lead or when to push for a credit card.

Compare that to the new sales guy we have that just took a 5k deal and turned it into a 100K deal on a 3 year contract… ya, he knows how to do that and could write a book on the subject. That is who you want to hire, someone who can teach you how to close a deal and turn it into a front-loaded 6 figure whale.

Oh and we’re on-boarding a cohort of two more experienced sales guys every quarter so we’ll never get caught with our pants down. The way we are doing this is dedicating one day a week to continuously running new candidates through a well thought out and rather long hiring process.

I picked Friday as my interview day which means every Friday we meet, interview, test, hangout with new candidates. Now we can always be relaxed and know that at any point in time we can pull the trigger and hire the best one or two candidates in our pipeline.

The Interview Process

Here’s my process and I’m sure it could be better but it’s working well. Each one of these steps is done a no less than a week apart.

Step 1: 15 minute phone interview

This is just to see if they are worth meeting with. You should approach them the same way you might do a short discovery call before deciding if a prospect is worth a demo. You don’t owe anyone 30-60 minutes of your precious time. One thing I like to see is if they candidate ask me questions and gets me to go over the 15 minutes without noticing it.

Step 2: 30 minutes in person interview

So this one is perhaps the hardest one to do right. It’s really easy to fall in love with a candidate way to quickly without knowing nearly as much as you need to. You simply can’t learn enough about someone in one sitting so don’t even try. This is the time when you want to ask them how they handle different situations and try to get enough of a gut feeling as to whether they have what it takes.

Step 3: Mock demo

There are many ways to make this happen but I like to have them come back into the office after a week of preparing a demo of our product. They job is to sell us our product in the same way we sell it ourselves. We aren’t expecting them to nail all the features or value propositions, rather we want to see if they know how to handle a demo and secure the next goal of the pipeline.

If they do happen to nail the features and value props then you know they did their homework. In fact the two guys we just hired in our most recent cohort did such a good job learning the product that we could have literally had them start that day.

Step 4: Reference Check

Do not skip this step, it’s really easy to drop the ball on references once someone kills it in the interview and mock demos but I think this is crucial and I simply won’t hire someone unless I speak to 2 appropriate references.

Step 5: The Offer Meeting

At this point you have hopefully already discussed the way you structure your employment agreements so there are no surprises and this offer should align with that. I like taking another week before making the offer while letting them know they are in the final stages and that we are making a decision between them and other good candidates.

If they are solid candidates out in the market then they are probably fielding other offers and this gives them the chance to make a decision to go with you. Again, this was the case with both guys in our most recent cohort and it’s comforting to know that we have to new sales guys that picked us as much as we picked them.

Get the bonus content: SaaS Sales Hiring Checklist

Well I think that will do for this post but if you want to be notified when I write more then make sure you sign up for my newsletter. My next post will probably be something like ‘How to structure expectations for the first three months’

If you have other questions about building a SaaS sales team please use the comment section below.