Why You Should Use Google Postmaster Tools

Studies show that Gmail represents over 36% of the email market share — so making sure your emails hit Gmail inboxes is crucial to reaching your customers.  There are some important metrics that Gmail doesn’t send to your automated messaging platform. Without that data, you could miss critical information about your campaigns’ performance — and early warnings about problems that could threaten your deliverability rates.

Using Google Postmaster Tools in tandem with your automated messaging platform (like Customer.io), you can get a better idea of how your emails are performing — and solve problems faster. Google Postmaster Tools also provides some additional data points that your automated messaging platform may not have access to, such as IP and domain reputation or spam rates.

That’s why we recommend that people pay attention to their spam rates and IP and domain reputation, which can be viewed via Google Postmaster Tools.

Spam rate and feedback loop

In Customer.io, we recommend keeping the spam rate on your dashboard below 0.1%, as high spam complaints can damage your IP and domain reputation. If your spam rate increases quickly, it can lead to increased filtration, reduced delivery speed, throttling, and bounces. Basically, your emails will stop landing in inboxes. 

Google does not provide a standard feedback loop to your automated messaging platform (unlike mailbox providers like Outlook or AOL). However, using Google Postmaster Tools will provide you insight into this information.

The feedback loop dashboard on Google Postmaster Tools gives you even more specific information about user-reported spam. It’s important to note that Google’s Spam Rate is only calculated based on emails that reach inbox as opposed to all emails that were delivered. When you implement this tool, you can identify specific campaigns that are getting a high volume of spam complaints. 

These two features of Google Postmaster Tools are especially important because Google doesn’t report user-reported spam rates to ESPs. So the spam rates you track in Customer.io don’t reflect when Gmail users mark messages as spam — and those metrics give you key missing insight about how your emails are performing. 

IP and domain reputation

Low sender IP or domain reputation is the most common reason emails are filtered as spam. Google Postmaster Tools assigns rankings based on the volume of spam that has come from your IP and domain in the past.   

  • Bad: pretty much all of your emails will be filtered as spam by Gmail 
  • Low: your emails are very likely to be caught in the spam filter
  • Medium: most of your emails will reach inboxes (unless there’s a notable uptick in people marking your emails as spam)
  • High: your messages will rarely be caught in the spam filter

You can also see changes in your IP and domain reputation over time. That can show you where any issues might be coming from, like how certain sends might have impacted your reputation. For instance, if you did a large send that had a lot of spam complaints, you’d see your reputation fall — and you’ll know you need to change strategies in the future. 

Other metrics

In my experience, marketers get the most important info from the spam and reputation dashboards. However, Google Postmaster Tools also allows you to monitor other metrics that affect deliverability, like:

  • Authentication: the percentage of your emails passing various authentication protocols
  • Encryption: the percentage of your traffic that’s encrypted 
  • Delivery errors: the percentage of your emails that were rejected and the reason why 

How to set it up

Good news: Google Postmaster Tools is free, and you can enroll at postmaster.google.com — you just need a Gmail address. You may need support from your IT department or domain host, as you’ll be asked to add the TXT record to your DNS configuration on your website so Google can verify your domain. 

After your domain is verified, you can give your team members access to view the metrics. Then it’s just a matter of tracking your data to understand how your campaigns are performing for Gmail users. 

Keep your deliverability healthy

Yes, sometimes it can feel like the most important thing is to get an email campaign out the door, but we’ve found that, long-term, your customer engagement benefits hugely from following these best practices for email deliverability. You likely have a lot of Gmail users in your audience, so make sure you’re hitting the mark for them. Take advantage of the metrics that Google Postmaster gives you to measure what’s going on in those Gmail inboxes, which you can’t get anywhere else. 

Email Verification: Keep Deliverability High By Keeping Undeliverable Emails Out

Jp Valery

When you hit “send” on a campaign, do you know how many of your emails will actually land in customers’ inboxes? If you’re not using email verification, you may be shouting into a void. 

You can wind up with undeliverable email addresses in your list for many reasons. Customers make typos, bots can sneak junk addresses into your forms, and people enter fake addresses to get a coupon code or free download.

Those bad email addresses are more than an annoyance—sending undeliverable emails can undermine your deliverability and, ultimately, your bottom line. 

Email verification uses an API to automatically check if an email address is deliverable. It answers the question, “Will this email actually make it into an inbox?” 

Why email validation matters

Better deliverability = protected domain reputation

Poor deliverability and open rates will hurt your domain reputation. To an inbox provider, lots of bounces are a red flag for bad actors. It’s usually a signal that it’s a bad actor either sending spam, or who bought a list without getting opt-ins, or who otherwise may be sending emails that people don’t want to receive. 

When that happens, email clients will be inclined to treat all other messages from that sender as spam.

So, even with all those good email addresses on your list, your engaged customers who want to hear from you could become out of reach. Email verification makes sure that undeliverable email addresses don’t get in the way of your connections with your customers. 

Valid profiles = reduced costs

It pays to validate emails, literally. Every spam profile is taking up space in your audience—so you’re paying your ESP to send emails that will never be received. It’s a bit like paying for postage to send a package to an empty lot.

The cost of an email validation API is usually nominal, and the savings you get from a clean list in your ESP are worth it. It will also spare you the expense of repairing a damaged domain reputation. Plus, you avoid the opportunity cost of winding up in your real customers’ spam folders. It’s like an insurance policy—nobody likes paying for it, but you’re happy to have one to protect you.

Cleaner data = better resource allocation

If your email strategy is based on bad data, you’re not going to get the results you want. From wasted time sending emails that will bounce to skewed lead scoring, undeliverable emails muddy your data and drain your resources. The more undeliverable emails in your list, the less understanding you’ll have of your customer base.

Even a small number of bad addresses can create big problems. Imagine: you offer a free gated PDF on a landing page, and you create a nurture campaign to the segment of customers who download it. Say a lot of people want that PDF, but not many of them want to give up their contact info—so you get a lot of fake email addresses. Even if they make up a small percentage of your overall list, they’ll be a big chunk of that segment, so you waste a lot of the resources you devote to that campaign. And when you look at the performance of that operation, you’ll see skewed numbers that won’t play in your favor.

How email validation works

Step 1: verify format

This step is simply checking that text entered in an email form field is in the correct format, such as name@domain.com This catches some typos, like if someone forgets to include the @ symbol, but it can’t tell you if the address is spelled correctly or if the address truly exists. This is a necessary step, but is limited in scope.

Step 2: verify deliverability

The most important aspect of email validation is ensuring a message you send to an address will actually be delivered. Simply use a third-party API, which will do the work for you. 

You can use any email verification API. I’ve found Kickbox to be the best bang for the buck, but any similar service will achieve the same results. You can do this right in Customer.io with our Kickbox integration, or you can add it into the code on your sign-up form using Kickbox API (or whichever email verification API you choose) .

Engagement starts with deliverability

If the metrics from a campaign or broadcast show high bounce rates or low open rates, there’s a good chance that undeliverable addresses may be muddying things. And even if your deliverability is healthy now, it’s a good idea to protect your domain reputation and data integrity in the future.

At the end of the day, your goal isn’t to send emails—it’s to have people actually receive your messages. Deliverability issues are incredibly common, and they’re potentially very costly. If you set up automated maintenance of your email lists, you’ll knock down one more barrier preventing you from landing at the top of your customers’ inboxes. 

Double Opt-in Best Practices

Emails should never be sent to people who did not sign up for them — that’s a sure way to get your emails marked as spam, which can eventually tank your domain reputation.

Using double opt-in helps ensure your readers have enthusiastically agreed to receive your messages — and that produces higher engagement, increased deliverability, and better conversion rates. It’s also essential to remaining in compliance with local regulations regarding spam if you have international customers. 

While double opt-in might mean you lose some people who don’t take the extra step of confirming their email address, the benefit to the health of your email list is worth it.  

Double opt-in set-up and best practices

If you have an existing customer base, you don’t need to send them a double opt-in form. Assume they have already opted in, update their unsubscribed attribute to false (if this is not done already), and set up a Sunset Policy to ensure that non-engaged profiles are regularly removed from your list. 

Moving forward, you can use a double opt-in for any new customer joining your email list. You’ll need four elements:

  • Sign-up form 
  • Sign-up confirmation page
  • Confirmation/double opt-in campaign and email 
  • Opt-in confirmation page

Sign-up form 

Any page a potential customer regularly visits could include a sign-up form, such as your homepage, sales pages, and checkout pages. In addition to asking for an email address, consider including fields for other demographic data you could use for personalizing future campaigns, like name and location. 

Sign-up confirmation page 

Once a user completes a sign-up form, the sign-up confirmation page or pop-up needs to make it abundantly clear that further action is required. 

Double opt-in campaign and email

Use the sign-up form on your site to trigger a Campaign in Customer.io. The trigger can be that a person completed the form (event triggered) or a set of conditions that match once a new profile is added to your system (condition/segment triggered). The double opt-in campaign sends a confirmation message immediately. 

Design your opt-in confirmation email to focus recipients’ attention on the one action that you want them to take: click the button to confirm their subscription.

Once a customer clicks the confirmation button, update their unsubscribed attribute to “false”.  Alternatively, you can add a custom attribute “has_confirmed_subscription” to track if a customer has subscribed or not. Check out more details in our recipe here: Double Opt-In

If the customer does not click on the confirmation button in the email, send a reminder within two days. If the customer doesn’t confirm after the second email, it’s best to remove them from your list; that ensures healthy deliverability and engaged customers moving forward.

Here’s an example of how you can set up your double opt-in Campaign in Customer.io: 

Opt-in confirmation page 

Once a customer clicks on the confirm email link, the opt-in confirmation page should clearly acknowledge that they are now subscribed and drive the relationship forward. 

Make the new subscriber feel welcome — whether that’s asking them to complete their user profile, presenting them with a welcome offer or discount, or giving them useful information.

Deepen relationships with double opt-in 

When a customer takes time to both sign up and confirm their interest, they’re giving you a powerful signal that they want what you have to offer. Don’t leave them hanging! 

In fact, you can see this moment as the beginning of lifecycle planning: the first opportunity to lead customers down the path of long-term engagement. Think about what you want them to do next, use your confirmation page to lead them forward, and consider what kind of lifecycle emails will support their journey. 

Setting up double opt-in is fairly straightforward, and the payoff can be tremendous. You’ll wind up with a healthier list and connect to customers with messages they actually want to receive.

How Mysa Revved up their Revenue by 592% Through Email Marketing

Lucy Wen

Mysa makes smart high-voltage thermostats that allow their US and Canadian customers to have full control over the heating and cooling of their home all within the Mysa app. Their thermostats can be purchased online through their website. 

Mysa was previously using Klaviyo to send their marketing messages but decided to switch to Customer.io for our ability to segment audiences more granularly and incorporate customers’ product usage into their messaging strategy.

By using Customer.io to create a more targeted email strategy, Mysa has seen its revenue skyrocket over 592% from just their email marketing.

The Road to Purchase

Purchasing a smart thermostat is more complex than the average eCommerce product because it needs to be compatible with the voltage and setup of a customer’s household. To ensure customers are suited to purchase their thermostat, Mysa embeds a Typeform compatibility quiz on their website. Results from the quiz determine if the thermostat is suitable for their household.

For the people who complete the compatibility quiz and are deemed qualified, Mysa asks if they’d like to opt-in to their newsletter. Once opted-in to these newsletters, they see that 19.2% of leads end up purchasing a thermostat. A huge conversion!

Suppose a lead is unsure whether they can take their old thermostat off the wall and replace it with a Mysa thermostat (a common drop-off point on their form). In that case, Mysa asks them if they’d like additional information regarding uninstalling their current thermostat. This allows them to capture leads who might have otherwise fallen off and convert them to customers. Through this flow, they see a 10.8% conversion rate for leads who initially marked themselves as unsure if their household was compatible.

Smart Thermostat, Smarter Automation

Mysa uses events taken by both their leads and customers to understand the actions and messages they should send to them. 

One example is how they trigger abandoned cart sequences with their Shopify integration (via Zapier). Using JSON in the builder, they dynamically include the picture, description, and any accompanying discounts directly in the email copy to send to leads who added a product to their cart but didn’t check out. With tens of thousands of abandoned cart emails sent, their 2.2% conversion rate yields them sizeable revenue that would otherwise have been lost. 

Another automation they’re able to incorporate into their strategy is by triggering an onboarding campaign when a customer has paired their mobile app to the smart thermostat. When Customer.io detects this, Mysa knows that that’s the cue to start sending a series of onboarding emails to help the customer get the most out of their product and know what to do now that they’re connected. 

In addition to this onboarding activation flow, they also set up messages to send out an NPS survey 30 days after a customer has paired a thermostat to their app. They’ve even gone a step further to delight their customers by making this point of entry simple. They build their email to appear as though a customer can vote directly in the email. Based on the numeric score they vote on within the email, they are brought to a specific Typeform survey already associated with that score to prevent customers from having to input the information twice. 

Data Housekeeping: The Energy-Efficient Way

Mysa also uses Customer.io as their primary CRM tool and as their single source of truth to base lead and customer communication on. From the continuous stream of actions and non-actions taken by leads and customers, they set up automations in their campaigns that keep their audience data clean. Beyond just campaign-related events, when events happen in the backend of their app, that information also updates a user’s profile within Customer.io. For example, if a customer adds the number of Mysa units on their account to their app, it updates their Customer.io profile in real-time so that they can create segments on it later.

“Customer.io is our main source of truth for anything related to marketing or eCommerce details. We take actions taken by leads and customers on our website, app, and Shopify, and funnel it into Customer.io instead of manually updating anything.” 
Performance Marketing Manager, Mysa

They also use information stored in Customer.io to help make informed business decisions. Through an automation that captures the moment a lead becomes a customer, Mysa is able to uncover how long it typically takes for a lead to convert to a customer. This has helped in their lead acquisition strategy by knowing how long they should reach out to leads before their efforts become futile. 

In a similar vein, they used to run contests where leads could win various freebies. Mysa then studied the results of the contest to see which of these leads eventually became customers. Through the data, they learned that this strategy wasn’t yielding significant results, so they stopped running this contest to focus on other approaches.

“Through data analysis within Customer.io, we’re able to learn about our lead acquisition strategy and understand whether it’s worth it to focus on a specific group or tactic, and if it is worth our time and money.”
Performance Marketing Manager, Mysa

Black Friday

Like many other US and Canadian-based eCommerce companies, Black Friday is an important day at Mysa. To run their Black Friday deals, they’ve set up amazing configurations within Customer.io to ensure the right offers get to the right leads. 

As one of Mysa’s Black Friday promotions, they partner with specific utility providers to offer rebates to customers. To do this, they use Customer.io to segment and target leads who live in the locations supported by those utility providers. They then take their sophistication one step further by segmenting out users who have used a rebate in the past, and acknowledge that in their messaging. Compared to their regular Black Friday promotion that targets users on a more general level, they see a 3x higher conversion rate, which they attribute to the personalization based on localization.

Final Thoughts

Through the use of sophisticated configurations led by smart automations, Mysa has been able to push their messaging personalization strategy to the highest degree to increase sales and revenue. By transforming every user attribute along with actions taken by leads and customers, Mysa sculpts the best messages to increase sales.

A Woman’s Place is in Tech

Lacey Budd

VP of Engineering Kitt Caffall is on a mission to diversify Engineering teams, “The (tech) industry is more diverse than when I started, but not nearly as diverse as it should be.”

Kitt’s family moved to Silicon Valley when she was in junior high, right when PCs were coming into homes.* Kitt was fortunate she had access to a computer at home and was able to take a computer course in high school—one of the first ones they offered—and later went to UC Santa Cruz, which has a great software program. Kitt’s worked in Silicon Valley, moving from telecoms to startups to e-commerce back to startups, focusing the latter part of her career on engineering management.

Kitt joined Customer.io as the first Engineering Manager and a year later moved into the VP of Engineering role after demonstrating the necessary skills and drive. Starting with a team of 20, she’s doubled the size of the Engineering department and plans on doing it again this year.

VP of Engineering Kitt Caffall

“We have some of the smartest, brightest minds who are always willing to answer questions and help in a situation, whether that question is coming from another engineer or marketing or technical support. One of the things that I like best is that all of our folks respect skills the other teams have, recognizing that those are not the skills that we (engineers) have, but that those skills are super important for the success of the company, for all of us working as a single team.”

Kitt shares what it’s like to work on Customer.io’s Engineering team and her thoughts on getting more women into the tech industry.

What attracted you to the Engineering team at Customer.io? What work are you most proud of? 
Matthew Newhook (CTO) recognized some gaps in our Engineering team. Our tech leads were really good at architecture and technical aspects but didn’t have a lot of interest in people management. 

Matthew and I worked together to put in an engineering management layer. To grow the team, we need to be disciplined on onboarding, setting expectations, succeeding, and having opportunities to work on interesting problems as they come up.

I’m proud that we have hired great Engineering Managers who have come in and helped their squads work well together. We’ve seen an increase in the velocity of squads, the types and number of product features coming out, fixes, and improvements across the board. 

The job also includes keeping track of what folks are working on, whether they need help, are getting blocked, or pulled into a million different directions. It’s sometimes hard for individuals to recognize, whereas engineering managers have a better overview of the squad. Doubling the size of the team provides everyone with more bandwidth, so folks can concentrate on a single thing without constantly being interrupted.

What has been your biggest challenge at Customer.io?
Getting to know folks, identifying the root problem, and what process might help. You want to put in enough process to provide guardrails, but not so much there is red tape. Small teams are very nimble for a lot of reasons. It’s hard to integrate new folks into a team that’s been working together for a long time. 

Why do you choose to stay working at Customer.io?
I love working here. I have the utmost respect for our Engineering team. It is by far one of the most collaborative, open teams that I have ever worked with.

I’ve spent a lot of my time in Silicon Valley. I know what a company full of tech bros looks like and how detrimental that can be—folks who aren’t willing to help, not willing to share, and are not interested in talking to engineers, much less to other people within the company.

We have some of the smartest, brightest minds who are always willing to answer questions and help in a situation, whether that question is coming from another engineer or marketing or technical support. One of the things that I like best is that all of our folks respect skills the other teams have, recognizing that those are not the skills that we (engineers) have, but that those skills are super important for the success of the company, for all of us working as a single team. 

What advice would you give to other engineers looking to join the team?
Do it. We’re solving interesting, hard problems as a team. We like to experiment and work fast. We make mistakes and correct those mistakes as we go along. The stuff we’re working on is fun.

Anything else you’d like to add about what it’s like to work at Customer.io as an engineer?
The culture Customer.io has rooted throughout the entire company, but the People Operations team, in particular, does a great job and works hard to cultivate it. All the hard work with retreats, Sip n’ Sees, VR game time, etc., get my team working, playing, or watching something together and with folks from other departments. This builds a collaborative, strong, and diverse team across the board. 

Our engineering culture is a little different than cultures from other teams, but all departments have that base Customer.io culture led by Colin (CEO) and worked so hard on by the People Ops team.

Why do you think it’s important for more women to join the tech industry?
I think the tech industry is solving the wrong problems. When you solve problems for only one half of the population, you don’t view all of the things that can be solved. You’re leaving money on the table. Having more women in tech provides a different perspective. It’s not just what problems you’re solving, but how those problems get solved and how they’re thought about. How collaborative a team is. Whether a team works together as a team, or just a set of individual stars. It’s not just a gender thing. It’s important to have different views and ways of working and thinking about how a problem is solved. 

What advice would you give to women entering the tech field? Anything you wish you had known?
Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Don’t believe the fables around imposter syndrome. Everyone feels like maybe they don’t measure up, but it’s true in some places. It is harder for women to move forward in their careers. And if you are in one of those places, leave. Come to a place like Customer.io, and don’t sell yourself short. Don’t get stuck somewhere. 

This article, Stop Telling Women They Have Imposter Syndrom, by the Harvard Business Review rang very true to me. 

Be your authentic self. Bring yourself to work. You have strong ideas; say them. Be at the table. Talk about what needs to be done. Again, if you are in a place where you are not given the opportunity or cannot make the opportunity for yourself, go somewhere else because there are places where that happens.

I spent the first part of my career being closeted, passing as straight, and even still had lots of opportunities that were not available to me. I enjoy what I do far more when I can bring my entire self to my work, to my team, where I can talk about my family. All of those things make a difference. 

What do you believe young women need to know/hear/see to consider a career in tech?
Young girls need role models and opportunities. You need to see your dream to envision being a step or two beyond that. We’re doing some of this as we go along, but we need more women in the higher ranks, on boards, as CEOs, and having mentors, asking questions, and having conversations about what someone wants in their life.

*NPR investigated what happened to women in computer science and found a correlation between PCs being introduced into homes and marketed as toys for boys.

Customer.io is people-first with a globally distributed team across 34 countries. Our Engineering team is always hiring. Check out our open positions!

Easy Date Formatting With Liquid

Jp Valery

Personalizing your messages with Liquid can increase conversions and build stronger customer loyalty. Including specific dates in your emails can be a powerful way to connect with customers — celebrating a milestone, reminding them of renewal dates, alerting them when they take certain actions in your app, and more. With Liquid, it’s easy to transform and display dates to add that personal touch.

Using dates to personalize messages

Imagine you’re sending a birthday discount to a customer. You could say, “Happy birthday! Here’s a discount code.”

But you could easily go one step further and say: “We want to help you celebrate your birthday on March 9. Here’s a discount code valid March 9-16. Wishing you a wonderful birthday week!”

Both messages pull the data about your customer’s date of birth, but the second example uses Liquid to insert the specific date — and, importantly, formats it to match your brand style and customer needs. For instance, you’d want to display “March 9” for U.S. customers and “9 March” for those in the U.K.

To put this into practice, you first need to understand how computers count time using timestamps.

Timestamps: how computers mark time

Dates in computer-based systems are typically stored as timestamps. To the human eye, they look like a meaningless string of numbers:

Timestamp321436800
Human-readableSunday, March 9, 1980 at 8:00 a.m., Coordinated Universal Time

The timestamp above is in UNIX format which identifies dates by counting the number of seconds since January 1, 1970 at 12:00 a.m. Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). 

UTC allows computers to all speak the same language when referring to dates. To determine the local time in various time zones across the world, we use a positive or negative offset of UTC. When New York City, for example, is on Eastern Standard Time, or UTC-5:00, it’s five hours earlier than UTC. Similarly, when Tokyo is on Japan Standard Time, or UTC+9:00, it’s nine hours later than UTC. 

Epoch Converter is a great tool to see all this in action and convert timestamps into human-friendly date and hours. I use it all the time! (It also explains the difference between UNIX time and the UNIX epoch, if you’re curious.)

Converting timestamps into human-readable dates

To transform timestamps into dates that make sense for readers, you’ll use a Liquid date filter. There are countless options for how Liquid can display dates; here are some examples:

Your inputOutput
{{ customer.date_of_birth }}321436800
{{ customer.date_of_birth | date: “%D” }}03/09/80

The top row above shows the Liquid code for pulling in the customer’s date of birth attribute, which is a timestamp. In the second row, we’ve applied a filter: that’s the code after the pipe character. In this case, we used an argument that displays the date in MM/DD/YY format. 

There are many possible specifiers you can use to display dates, and you can combine them in countless ways — whatever elements you want, in any order. For example, say you want to display the same date above in the DD/MM/YY format. Here, we’ve used three arguments and added slashes between each element: 

Your inputOutput
{{ customer.date_of_birth }}321436800
{{ customer.date_of_birth | date: “%d/%m/%y” }}09/03/80

Because the timestamp is a quantity of seconds, it contains all the data you need to display times, too. 

Formatting dates and times in Liquid

There are dozens of specifiers for formatting dates in Liquid. Here’s a cheat sheet of the ones I see most often.

Dates

FormatOutputLiquid date filter arguments
MM/DD/YY03/09/22%D
DD/MM/YYYY09/03/22%d/%m/%y
Day abbreviation., MM/YYWed., 03/09%a., %m/%d
Day, Month, DDWednesday, March 9%A, %B %e

Times

FormatOutputLiquid date filter arguments
12-hour time (HH:MM)8:01 pm%I:%M %P
24-hour time (HH:MM)20:01%R
12-hour time (HH:MM) with am/pm and time zone abbreviation8:01 pm PST%I:%M %P %Z

Date + time

FormatOutputLiquid date filter arguments
Full date/timeThu Mar 09 20:01:00 2022%c
Day, Month, DD at 12-hour time (HH:MM) with am/pm and time zone abbreviationWed., 3/09 at 8:01 pm PST%a., %-m/%d at %I:%M %P %Z

As you can see above, some specifiers return a value with multiple elements (like %D for the full date in MM/DD/YY format), which is a handy shortcut. Other specifiers just display a single element; you can combine those to display the elements you want and add punctuation and text between them. 

Here’s another cheat sheet of common specifiers you can combine for displaying dates in different ways.

FormatOutputLiquid date filter arguments
Day
Full nameThursday%A
Shortened nameThu%a
Number with leading 009%d
Number without leading 09%e
Month
Full nameMarch%B
Shortened nameMar%b
Number with leading 003%m
Number without leading 03%-m
Year
Full year2022%Y
Shortened year22%y

A great way to explore how this works is to play with the Strftime.net tool; clicking the various date and time elements will show you the correct code and what the output looks like. 

Get started! 

Once you get going, formatting dates with Liquid is simple and, in my opinion, pretty fun — there are so many options and use cases. You’ll likely use the same formats frequently, so create cheat sheets of your own as you nail them down. For reference, here’s a list of all Liquid date filter arguments.  

As you put this into practice, consider experimenting with A/B tests to see how your audience reacts to different approaches. Over time, you’ll likely come up with a handful of formats you use regularly and can make a cheat sheet of your own, then easily build them into your templates. 

Attack of the Bots: Why You Need reCAPTCHA

Are you using reCAPTCHA on your site’s forms? If not, you’re taking a major risk. reCAPTCHA helps protect one of your most valuable assets: your domain reputation. If I could tell every one of our customers to implement reCAPTCHA today, I would!

Some marketers worry it will require too many resources or frustrate their users. However, the truth is that reCAPTCHA presents very few barriers — and the benefit of protecting your domain’s reputation is priceless. 

When bots attack: a cautionary tale

Here’s a real-world example that illustrates how skipping reCAPTCHA can cost you. Company X (not their real name, of course) had an automated workflow set up for their emails, but no reCAPTCHA on any of their forms.

One night, a bot poured junk emails into one of their forms — hundreds of thousands of addresses. The automated workflow did exactly what it was supposed to do: sent Company X’s automated emails to all the junk addresses. 

Since most of the emails were fake or spam traps, the majority of the messages bounced or were sent straight to spam. The result: a low domain reputation with Google Postmaster Tools. That meant all the emails they were sending to real customers began landing directly in the spam folder.

Eventually, they got their good reputation back, but it took a long time — and damaged their sales as they tried to rebuild.

The case for reCAPTCHA

As the case of Company X demonstrates, the cost of a bot attack can be huge. If they’d had reCAPTCHA in place, they could have been better protected. 

Your domain reputation is your most valuable asset

Without a strong domain reputation, you’re cut off from communicating with your customers. All the revenue you gain from email marketing instantly dries up until you recover.

In the case of Company X, it took months to rebuild their domain’s reputation. reCAPTCHA could  have prevented the crisis — perhaps a few junk addresses would have gotten into their workflow, but that’s a relatively minor problem. Bottom line: if a bot attack tanks your domain reputation, you will lose money. 

Rehabilitating your domain is costly

Restoring a domain’s reputation takes weeks or months. And while you’re rebuilding, you’ll be losing sales and working double-time to rebuild existing customer relationships. 

At the same time, fixing your domain security eats up considerable resources. For instance, Company X had to build segments of highly engaged recipients for very small sends — 200 or 500 at a time — then slowly scale back up. It’s a painful process, especially if your email list is in the hundreds of thousands.

Overcoming barriers to reCAPTCHA

The two biggest concerns I hear from marketers are that reCAPTCHA creates a bad customer experience and that implementing it requires too many resources. However, I’d argue that these worries are not worth the risk of compromising your domain reputation.

Your customers expect reCAPTCHA

It’s true that reCAPTCHA adds an extra step for customers, but in my experience, it doesn’t create a barrier to engagement. These days, it’s a standard practice, and people are accustomed to it. In fact, it’s far less intrusive than other common practices, like pop-ups. 

The benefits outweigh the costs

If you have highly customizable forms, it may take extra time and resources to implement reCAPTCHA. I advise customers to think bigger-picture. The resources required to implement reCAPTCHA pale in comparison to the cost of rebuilding your domain reputation. Think of it as an investment in protecting a critical business asset. 

What to do if reCAPTCHA isn’t an option

Most platforms support reCAPTCHA, so if you have it, use it! If it’s not available on your platform, find another protective strategy.  

For instance, if you have custom forms, you can add a line of HTML that helps weed out bots. Another option is an email validator service, which checks incoming email addresses and sends only valid ones to Customer.io. While these approaches might add extra cost or steps to your workflow, the security of your domain reputation is worth it. 

When you can skip reCAPTCHA

For forms behind a sign-in or paywall, reCAPTCHA is not needed. Only those available to anyone are vulnerable, like sign-in, contact, and newsletter sign-up forms. 

Also, if you’re a solopreneur, bots aren’t likely to target your business, so reCAPTCHA is less crucial. That said, it’s still worth considering as a best practice — imagine the headache of sorting through a load of junk, even if it’s just a small attack.

An ounce of prevention saves you a world of pain

Unfortunately, the internet is full of bad actors. When Company X was attacked, they kept asking themselves, “Why us? What did the bot get out of this?” Causing havoc is often the sole motivation for these kinds of attacks — and the company suffered the consequences. 
Bot attacks are entirely unpredictable. You can’t know if or when you’ll be targeted, but you can protect yourself. Adding reCAPTCHA to your forms protects your business so you can focus on building great products and improving your customers’ experiences.

Locking Users into Segments to Unlock 20% of Monthly Upgrades

Lucy Wen

Guardio is a cyber security company that provides protection to users through a browser extension. Driven by the ideal that security software should be easy enough for our everyone to use, they develop creative tools and products to combat modern web and browser threats. Guardio offers a freemium model along with a paid subscription-based browser extension that protects over 1M users from malvertising, phishing, scams, malicious extensions, and other web-based threats.

Guardio’s journey to Customer.io started when their marketing team decided to focus more on the end-user experience and their customer lifecycle journey. Previously, they had grown frustrated with the limitations of using react for their emails and how heavily they had to rely on developers to create, test, and send their emails. It became hard to manage their customer experience when it came to knowing who was getting what messages and when. Additionally, with their flagship product being a Chrome Extension, context-aware in-app messages were an important channel Guardio wanted to incorporate by implementing with Customer.io.

The Challenge Needing to create a more harmonious customer experience journey where members of the Guardio team could easily see & control the lifecycle journey

The Fix Customer lifecycle-based segments

The Result Over 20% of all monthly upgrades came directly from a Customer.io campaign

Securing their Customer’s Accounts to Secure Upgrades

Guardio uses Customer.io to send <10 million messages a month to < 3.5 million devices across their 1 million users. With Customer.io webhooks and analysis from our metrics dashboard, they’ve learned from their own customers when they’d prefer to hear from Guardio and have perfected their timing for the best results. In this message, they informed the user that they had blocked a security threat and suggested they explore their premium product to unlock even more potential. They’ve seen that 20% of all their direct monthly upgrades come from a Customer.io campaign. These upgrades also account for 20% of their total revenue.

“One of the biggest successes I’ve seen with Customer.io is being able to have multiple teams use the platform to generate value. Because the UI is so intuitive, anyone can go in and start building complex campaigns.”

Sharon Blatt Cohen, Senior Marketing Lead

Guardio also harnesses the power of Customer.io’s segmentation to target their premium users who experience a lot of cyberattacks (which Guardio blocks) to ask their customers to leave honest reviews to attract more customers.

Remote Control Viewing for Lifecycle Management

One of the most important factors that pushed Guardio away from their previous provider and to Customer.io’s platform was the ability to create sprawling campaigns based on where the customer was in their lifecycle journey. 

In the past, they had worked with siloed campaigns, and it was difficult to control message frequencies when a single user would be a part of two or more campaigns at once. 

Their 10 major lifecycle campaigns, which cover every part of a customer’s journey include the following:

Each campaign has one ultimate action they’d like the user to perform. For example, the segment titled ‘Installed’ encompasses users who have installed the product. Their end goal for users in this campaign is for them to complete their first malware scan. Once a user has completed the scan, they graduate into the “Upgrade” campaign which, as its name suggests, aims to upgrade users.

By running users through different campaigns meant for each stage in the lifecycle journey in a controlled way, they have been able to tighten up their communication strategy. With some of these campaigns spanning 3 months, Guardio can guarantee the flow and timing in which their users hear from them. They even implement logic regarding iteration counters that make sure if a user re-enters the same campaign, they receive content variations. 

Through these campaigns, Guardio now has a clear view-from-above of where people are in the customer journey, what messages they’re receiving and when, and where they stand in regards to conversion goals and outcomes. 

A Super-User of Event Triggers and Liquid Tags

To say that Guardio is a super-user when it comes to event triggers and attribute values would be a humble description. Guardio actively uses 400 event triggers across all their lifecycle journey campaigns with countless unique user attributes . By turning event actions into attributes, they’ve been able to supercharge their messaging personalization.

A prime example of this is when a user cancels. First, Guardio asks them why they’re canceling. Depending on the reason, they use Liquid tags to personalize which funnel of their reactivation campaign they will flow through. If someone says they canceled because the service was too expensive, their reactivation messaging focuses on discounts. If the user said they canceled because they couldn’t get the hang of how to use the product, their reactivation campaign content focuses on helping them understand how to use the product. 

Final Thoughts

By creating campaigns that utilize event triggers, segmentation, attributes, and liquid tags based on where customers are in their lifecycle journey, Guardio sends hyper-personalized messages to their audience to inspire them to take actions such as completing a security scan, upgrading, or leaving honest reviews. Even our own team was impressed by the extent of personalization they’ve managed to execute by leveraging events and attributes. 

Customer.io Raised our Series A

Startups often raise a lot of capital early. Large fundraising rounds shorten the time you have to thoughtfully build your business. In 2017, I talked about our approach, fundstrapping which still represents how we’re building the business today.

We have taken the time to do things right and Customer.io is ready to scale

In subscription software (SaaS) businesses, if you can keep the lights on, time can be your friend. 

  • Time helps you figure out scaling issues a few years in when your largest customers start leaving because your performance is no longer good enough.
  • Time helps you address product issues from first principles rather than doing quick fix after quick fix. 
  • Time helps you figure out scalable repeatable growth – something we were chasing for years before we got there. 

Over 10 years in business, we’ve made a lot of mistakes. Taking the time to correct mistakes led to stronger product market fit, a deeper understanding of our customers, and greater confidence in our long term vision.

As a result the business accelerated without using external capital. Customer.io ended 2021 profitable for the year with annual recurring revenue (ARR) of $29.9m, up 78% from a year ago.

Cohorted Recurring Revenue of 30m ARR

Accelerating our pace of innovation is how we will win for customers

We’ve always tried to make decisions that are in the best interest of our customers and partners. When most companies reach critical mass, they stop innovating and choose instead to extract more from their customers relative to the value they provide. We’ve done the opposite. We increased our pace of innovation so that we can give more to our customers every day

The focus on innovation over extraction is what makes Customer.io an interesting place to work as well as a great company to bet on as a customer*.

Customer Engagement is a large opportunity we’re uniquely positioned to go after

Our customers have big ideas for how we can better serve them. For example, based on customer feedback, we recently added Shortcuts to link into the same customer profile in their other services. Customer.io is the first place many of our customers go to understand what someone is doing in their product and what messages that person has received.

Based on feedback from customers and our understanding of where the market is going, we created a new vision for what we’ll be for our customers in 2030. This vision increases the surface area of our Customer Engagement Platform and leans into helping businesses use their first party data to power product led growth. Now is the time to add some fuel.

We Raised a Series A round of financing from Spectrum Equity

To increase the odds we’ll keep delivering for our customers, we’re adding both expertise and capital through a Series A round from Spectrum Equity with participation from Oregon Venture Fund. Pete Jensen, Managing Director at Spectrum Equity joins our board.

I chose Spectrum Equity because they showed me they understood the nuance of our business  and are proven partners of founder led businesses. They helped us create a deal that was right-sized for Customer.io and supports my focus on creating long term value for all stakeholders. I’m thrilled we found a great match to join us on the next part of our journey.

Pete Jensen, Managing Director at Spectrum Equity

“Colin and team have consistently taken the long term approach to company building by being focused on product and customer experience over the last ten years. During that time they also have built a very successful hybrid self serve and sales assisted model which allows frictionless onboarding and an ability to seamlessly grow along with their customers.

We have seen first hand how Customer.io has enabled their users to be more product centric in their growth and to unlock the value of their first party data to drive meaningful customer interactions.”

Pete Jensen, Managing Director Spectrum Equity

We’re investing across the board — more heavily in marketing and engineering

Today our team has 165 people worldwide. We’re planning to end 2022 with over 250 people on the team as we continue to grow across geographies and time zones. Please help us paint the map purple!

We’re doubling our product and engineering teams this year. Last year we built a team focused on Mobile Push notifications. After releasing our iOS and Android SDKs in January, Mobile Push is second only to email in volume and our fastest growing channel.

We’re also (unfortunately) still the “best kept secret in marketing tech”. We’re scaling up our marketing efforts to address that. There is a massive community of 30,000 expert marketers using Customer.io and we want to better connect everyone both in real life and virtually. Our Customer Advisory Board connects a small group today and we can’t wait to create more opportunities to interact.

This is just the beginning

Customer.io has a uniquely large opportunity to serve our customers who might be at the earliest stage of their life to being a publicly traded company. It has been a privilege to be on this journey with many customers who have been with us since the beginning and many long tenured team members as well. 

Even after 10 years, we’re just getting started. Let’s go!

Lifecycle Planning in 6 Simple Steps

Colin Nederkoorn

People often reach out to us for advice on how to design an awesome lifecycle email plan. Lifecycle emails can be really powerful in building long-term relationships with customers, so I’d like to share here some tips that customers have found helpful—especially those starting from scratch. 

1. Think audience

Who is your audience? 

You’d describe your product to your teenage nephew differently than you’d pitch it to a prospective buyer—that’s why knowing your audience is so important.

Think through the characteristics of the people you’re talking to. What are they like? What do they need? You might include things like demographics, behaviors, and attitudes. If you’re marketing a time management app, your customers are likely to be super busy and maybe looking for something to bring calm to their life. If your product is a pairing app for coders, the developers in your audience are probably skeptical and easily turned off by communications that feel too sales-y.

What roles exist within your audience?

Clarify the important differences among your audience members. People are not all the same. For example, if you have a freemium app, you should send different messages to people on free versus paid plans.

Audience profiling—knowing exactly who your customers are—is key to writing messages that people will actually want to receive. Once you’ve created your profiles, you can use them to build meaningful segments based on behavior, demographics, or other customer data. 

What problems does your product solve for your audience?

Now that you know who your audience is, put yourself in their shoes. What problems are they trying to solve? Tie the needs and goals of your audience to what your product does to create messages that resonate.

A freelancer using a time management app might want to earn more money or spend more time with family. A business using a pair programming app might be after better quality code or improved skills transfer from senior to junior developers.    

2. Think journey 

What’s the first step in the audience’s journey?

Now, shift your focus to the customer journey. Start by identifying how someone first encounters your product; that’s your chance to start building a relationship.

For example, a time management app might have three possible entry points:

  • Admin-role customer creates account
  • Non-admin goes to app, creates account, and links to admin’s account
  • Non-admin receives email invitation from admin 

Think about all possible entry points for your product, such as:

  • Signing up for your email list
  • Starting a free trial or signing up for a free service tier
  • Contacting sales with a question

What’s your Aha! moment?

Think of the Aha! moment as the thing that will make someone say, “Wow, I really get the value of this product and I want to continue using it.” Facebook famously designated “7 friends in 10 days” as its Aha! moment, observing that people who added seven friends within 10 days of joining were more likely to stick around. 

Aha! moments must be explicit and measurable. If you haven’t already defined yours, this would be a good time to do it.  

What experiences do you want various roles to have?

Think back to the different roles you identified in your audience. Each type of customer will likely have different needs along their journey. 

For example, if you have primary and secondary account roles, you might push a notification to the primary the first time the secondary logs in. With a freemium structure, you’ll want a drip campaign to nudge people from free to paid and a renewal campaign for those on paid plans.

What action do you want customers to take at each step of their journey?

Once you’ve got your Aha! moment pinned down, think through the steps your audience must take after their first engagement to reach that point. Let’s say you have a collaboration app with a free trial period. For the admin role, the steps and actions might look like this: 

Customer journey stepDesired audience action
Sign up for a free 14-day trial (entry point)Complete their profile
Complete their profileCreate a team workspace
Create a team workspaceInvite 4 collaborators within 7 days 
Invite 4 collaborators within 7 days (Aha! moment)Purchase paid subscription

In this example, you’d also want to consider the journey for the team members the admin customer invites—what experience will get them to their own Aha! moments?

What’s the complete customer lifecycle?

One thing people often overlook in lifecycle planning is the long-term relationship with customers. It’s easy to get caught up in the first Aha! moment that converts someone to a paying customer, but retaining people over time is just as important. 

Think through the experiences you want your audience to have after they’ve come on board. You might consider things like:

  • What will make your product indispensable to them? 
  • What will make someone so happy they tell others about you? 
  • When and why might they stop using or leave your product?

The idea here is to imagine the entire lifecycle of a customer so you can create experiences that address specific points in their journey. 

3. Think product

How does your product solve your audience’s problems?

Knowing the answer to this question is the basis for showing people why your product is valuable to them specifically. It’s not enough to explain why your product is innovative or disruptive. You need to explicitly connect the dots for each audience. 

One way to define this for yourself is to complete this sentence: Our product solves ____________’s problem of  _________________ by _____________. 

What information does your audience need, and when?

Consider what kinds of information will speak to people at various times in the customer journey. For instance, leads high in the funnel might want feature/benefit lists, new customers might need how-tos, long-time customers may benefit from spotlights on features they’re not using.  

Looking at different segments is important here. Admins will need different info than non-admin customers, for example. 

4. Think content/messaging

What content does your audience need at each step in the journey?

People like messages that are relevant and relatable, so your content should be driven by the audience’s needs, their location in the customer journey, and the action or outcome you want.

Make sure you can justify why you’re sending an email—why it will matter to your audience or help them at a particular time. Consider email campaigns that:

  • Welcome and onboard new customers
  • Help people get more out of your product
  • Request feedback from customers (including those who abandon your product)

If you’re already sending a few lifecycle emails, you might start by looking at where the gaps are. It’s probably not sufficient to just get people to install your app; you’ll probably want to know what meaningful actions they need to take to really get value from your product and support them with useful content at each step. 

What messaging does your audience need at each step in the journey?

The tone, length, and wording of your lifecycle emails should line up with both your brand’s personality and the characteristics of your audience. 

At the end of the day, businesses should make a human connection by sending messages people actually want to read. Here’s a quick guide with tips for doing that. This is a good time to think about personalization, too. Liquid logic opens up a whole world of how you can match a message to a customer. For example, if you ship pet supplies, you can customize order confirmation depending on the owner’s pet:

Liquid for Marketers Hero

5. Think data

What data do you have? 

You should use your data to build segments of similar people and send targeted messages  to them. The People in your Customer.io account have attributes, events, page views, and devices associated with them. That might include renewal dates, location, recent logins, customer feedback, app version, OS version or architecture, and so on.

For instance, say your data shows you that people who don’t open your app for 14 days are the most likely to stop using it. You have an opportunity to catch them before they abandon entirely: a personalized drip campaign that leverages data about their actions to remind them of why they signed up.

How can you use data to boost personalization?

Data allows you to incorporate everything from simple courtesies—like greeting people by name—to advanced customization—like mining bulk purchase histories to send restock reminders. 

By leveraging data about actions a customer takes, you can offer the right encouragement at the right time, like:

  • After someone downloads your app, send an onboarding series that helps them get value from it right away
  • When someone uses one feature of your product, send an introduction to more features they haven’t explored 
  • If a customer stops using your product, send a request for feedback

6. Think iteration

Now you have the info you need to build out a simple draft of your customer journeys and decide what messages you want to send when—and why you think they’ll resonate with customers. 

You don’t need to build an entire lifecycle strategy all at once. To start, you might target a specific chunk of your customer journey. If getting new customers is your highest priority, you might focus on moving from initial engagement to the Aha! moment. Or if your biggest issue is cancellations, you could remind customers of your product’s value during the month before their subscription renews. 

After that, you can measure performance and iterate. SaaS and viral-loop style apps usually have certain outcomes they’re trying to drive people toward, so identify those to see what email metrics will show you what’s making a difference (open rates, click-throughs, forwarding rates, etc.) 

As you iterate, it’s a good idea to A/B test things like subject lines, send times, and call-to-action buttons. Testing just one component at a time will give you the most useful insight. 

Lifecycle planning creates long-term relationships

At the end of the day, emails should make a genuine connection with your customers. Start simple, and evolve your lifecycle plan as you test and learn. Remember: 

  • Put your customers’ needs first
  • Show people why your product matters to them
  • Understand every step in a customer’s journey
  • Use personalization to meet people where they are 

You want customers to stick around for the long haul. Start sending messages people want to read—right when they need them—to build relationships that last.

Our mailing list is chock full of tactical lifecycle marketing how-tos, interviews with trending internet businesses, and product updates.