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Newsletter #1052: The “Lessons from Blue Apron” Issue

[Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.]

Blue Apron is a subscription-based service that delivers to your house all of the ingredients you need to make a few meals a week. The ingredients are seasonal, healthy, and sometimes include the hard-to-find stuff you can’t usually get at your grocery store. It’s a fun concept that gets couples and families cooking stuff they wouldn’t normally make each week, and they have plenty of great marketing ideas, too.

Here are three clever lessons from Blue Apron:

1. Give your customers referral tools
2. Teach people something
3. Share the spotlight
4. Check it out: COLOURlovers

1. Give your customers referral tools

Every Blue Apron customer can give three friends a trial week of the service. Then, if those friends sign on, they each get three weeks to give away too. And since Blue Apron is a subscription service, a free week is like a sample — if they like it, they’ll sign up for the real deal. This referral system lowers the barrier to entry for new customers and makes it easy to track where your best word of mouth is coming from.

The lesson: Word of mouth tools like these not only give new customers a great first experience, they also help your current customers look good in front of their friends. How can you help your customers give someone a gift?

2. Teach people something

One of the unique features of Blue Apron are the ingredients themselves. The meals (which include exact amounts of ingredients you need) feature stuff you’ve never cooked with before — things like heirloom eggplant, choy sum, and stone fruits. They also have how-to videos for the basics like mincing, dicing, and caramelizing, and their recipes have pop-outs that give some background on a certain ingredient and its typical uses and flavors. Every meal is an adventure, and you learn a new technique every time.

The lesson: When you teach people something, you give them something to talk about. It’s a long-term word of mouth topic they’ll share with their friends the next time they bring a caramelized onion and butternut squash goat cheese pizza to a dinner party.

Learn more: Blue Apron Videos

3. Share the spotlight

On their site, Blue Apron shares information about their suppliers like the farmers that grow their peppers, the dairies that make their goat cheese, and the noodle makers that supply their ramen. They also feature their customers’ in cooking video compilations and photos customers submit from the meals they make.

The lesson: Blue Apron knows that to get people to talk about you, you have to make them look good, too. The more they highlight the people around them, like their customers and vendors, the more networks their message will spread to.

Learn more: Blue Apron Partners

4. Check it out: COLOURlovers

This community shares ideas and inspiration for colors, palettes, and patterns for stuff like weddings, home decor, fashion, and web and print design.

Check it out: COLOURlovers

Newsletter #1051: The “How to Create Better Experiences” Issue

[Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.]

Recently, Fast Company shared an article on “The Science Of Why You Should Spend Your Money On Experiences, Not Things.” According to a study by a psychology professor at Cornell University, experiences connect us to other people, give us stories to tell once they’re over, and are harder to compare against when it comes to keeping up with the Joneses.

With that in mind, we’ve dug up some examples of how to make customers happier and earn their attention by creating better experiences. Here’s how they do it:

1. Make it more comfortable
2. Make it more interactive
3. Make it more daring
4. Check it out: Texter

1. Make it more comfortable

Casper, a small mattress company that sells the majority of their stuff online, has an office and showroom in SoHo that feels more like an apartment. The beds are made up to feel inviting — so inviting, Casper says plenty of customers fall asleep. The store also includes a living room and kitchen, where they make snacks and drinks for their customers. On weekends, they hand out mimosas.

The lesson: Most mattress stores are big, open, white, and full of bare mattresses. Shopping for them can feel awkward with a salesperson following you around as you lay on each one to test it out. That’s not how we sleep, so why is this how we shop for beds?

Learn more: Digiday

2. Make it more interactive

A quick glance is typically the most interaction recruiters and hiring managers give resumes. And with more applications submitted digitally, they’ll probably never even touch it. But one designer got his portfolio into potential employers’ hands by making it the “World’s Tiniest Portfolio.” His postage-stamp-sized portfolio included minimalist graphic designs to represent his best work with a short description and a magnifying glass included. It forced companies to hold it in their hands, take time with each page, and pay close attention to the details.

The lesson: How can you get your customers to slow down, interact with your stuff, and really pay attention to it?

Learn more: Fast Company

3. Make it more daring

We’ve mentioned the Alamo Drafthouse in this newsletter a few of times before — sorry, this company just keeps doing amazing stuff. And their screening of Jaws on the water is no different. For the movie’s 40th anniversary, the Drafthouse showed the film on an outdoor projection screen while moviegoers watched from inflatable tubes on a lake.

The lesson: This is the kind of experience customers can brag about. You’re brave if you watch a horror movie about shark attacks on the water — plus it’s just really cool. So you tell your friends about it.

Learn more: Alamo Drafthouse

4. Check it out: Texter

Texter allows you to turn text into a drawing. In the black box on the right, change the text, size of the text, angles, and colors. Then start drawing with your cursor anywhere on the page.

Check it out: Texter

Newsletter #1050: The “Kids in Restaurants” Issue

[Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.]

There’s been plenty of negative stories in the news lately about clashes between frustrated parents, frustrated customers, and frustrated restaurant owners when it comes to kids and going out to eat. But let’s focus on the places that are doing it right.

Here are three great ideas from restaurants that welcome kids:

1. Give them something to take home
2. Don’t forget the bigger kids
3. Make a time especially for them
4. Check it out: RGB

1. Give them something to take home

Monk’s Bar and Grill serves kids’ meals on frisbees with a liner on the inside and their logo on the outside. It serves as a plate at the restaurant, then as a word of mouth tool when the family goes home. It’s that simple.

The lesson: This sounds like a story that starts with, “Well, we ran out of kids’ plates, but we had all these frisbees…” Sometimes it can be that easy. Are you trying all kinds of things to get word of mouth tools in your customers’ hands?

2. Don’t forget the bigger kids

Applebee’s menu has a “Really hungry” section for kids and a “Really really hungry” section for bigger kids with bigger appetites. (Notice they know children well enough not to call it the “big kid” and “little kid” menu.) And while children might not notice little details like these, their parents do. Now, they don’t have to order an adult-sized entree they know their child either won’t finish or won’t really like, and they don’t have to have the “but I’m really hungry” argument either.

The lesson: What small details can you change to really think like your customers — even the small customers?

3. Make a time especially for them

A lot of parents stress about bringing their kids and babies to restaurants because they’re afraid of bothering other patrons if their kids get loud or if their babies cry. But to ease that stress and cater to both families and customers without kids, the Perch Cafe in Brooklyn held kid-friendly events during their slow hours. That gets families in the door when the restaurant’s slower and keeps parents from having to navigate their busy hours with kids.

The lesson: Get creative to fill your off-hours. Think of the people who would appreciate a smaller crowd and make something just for them.

4. Check it out: RGB

Turn your sound on and mouse over each letter.

Check it out: RGB

Newsletter #1049: The “Lessons from Connected Cities” Issue

[Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.]

City governments are a lot like businesses. Their customers are their citizens, their product is their town, and their competition is just down the road. And some city governments have gotten creative to connect with their residents, humanize their work, and create a community.

Here are three lessons from cities in Australia, Louisiana, and Spain:

1. Trees with email addresses
2. City workers who tweet
3. Police departments on Facebook
4. Check it out: Where are the jobs?

1. Trees with email addresses

In Melbourne, Australia, trees are assigned ID numbers and email addresses. It started as a program for people to report issues like fallen branches. What they didn’t expect was a virtual guest book for the city’s foliage. People have been sending in questions about the trees, greetings from visitors, and love letters. And sometimes the city responds back. For example, when one person asked if the tree was “Mr.” or “Mrs.” Willow Leaf Peppermint Tree, they got an unexpected lesson on tree gender from the city writing as “Mr. and Mrs. Willow Leaf Peppermint.”

The lesson: What can you learn from tree-mail? Your customers want to talk to you. They want to send you feedback, say hello, and send love letters. Are you giving them every opportunity?

Learn more: The Atlantic

2. City workers who tweet

The entire town of Jun, Spain, is connected through Twitter. The mayor tweets, the city electrician tweets, law enforcement tweets, and even the school lunch lady tweets. In fact, the town’s street sweeper has become a local celebrity on Twitter. It’s allowed them to handle issues like replacing a streetlamp out in the open: Someone tweets the mayor about it, he tweets the electrician, and the electrician tweets back a photo of the fixed streetlamp. Residents say it’s about more that reporting problems though — they read the town’s tweets like they read a newspaper. It’s created a strong sense of community for them.

The lesson: If an entire town can do it, you can too. Put your work out there for everyone to see and talk about: the problems you fix, news about your company, and the mundane stuff you do every day. The more open you are with your customers, the more opportunities you have to connect with them.

Learn more: TIME

3. Police departments on Facebook

The Baton Rouge Police Department is pretty active on Facebook. They post things like important news updates and safety warnings. But their most popular posts are the ones about their employees. Every day, they salute an officer, a retired officer, or fallen officers with a short bio and some photos. And sometimes they’ll just share a piece of their everyday jobs. One of their posts about an officer’s kindness to a family in a wreck even went viral.

The lesson: People care the most about the stories that make your company human.

Learn more: Facebook

4. Check it out: Where are the jobs?

This map shows every kind of job you can find in America mapped out by where they’re located in the city and color-coded by the type of job.

Check it out: Where are the jobs?

Doing it right vs. Doing it on time

You have a choice how to get there: Launch quick, launch big, or launch great. 

  • You can hit a deadline, feel proud, and get a thumbs up from the boss (or investors). 
  • You can follow the very trendy strategy of “minimum viable product” and launch something that’s just OK and make it better later (if people will give you another chance).
  • Or — you can do what you need to do to get it right, which takes patience and enough cash to hold out until you’re ready. (Like this.)

In the end, the great product that makes happy customers is the one that wins. 

How do you want to win?

Service through technology (We’re going to the White House)

We’re in a time of crappiness in politics — endless roadblocks, complaining, and negativity. But there’s a bright spot in Washington: The amazing work of the US Digital Service. They are teaching government agencies how to build better software. This matters, because each improvement makes life easier for millions of citizens. Faster care for veterans, […]

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Better is better than new.

Beef jerky might be the oldest form of prepared food. But that doesn’t mean that entrepreneurs can’t find a new way to make it special. The folks at ThinkJerky.com are doing delicious things with star chefs (sriracha honey!) — along with a lot of clever marketing. (They sent me some excellent samples – check out […]

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Newsletter #1048: The “Lessons from Drybar” Issue

[Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.] We were inspired by this conversation between Inc. writer Liz Welch and Alli Webb, founder of Drybar, a mobile salon that […]

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It could have been so great

We were staying in a beautiful seaside resort. It was nice. But it fell just short of great. We probably won’t be back. It would have been so easy to be impressive — fix the toilet paper holder and loose doorknob, a little WD-40, a few towel hooks.  The difference between OK and GREAT is […]

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