Hello – I thought I would get out a quick post and give you and update as of July 15. We completed numerous hurdles this weekend. We have cemented some repeatable install approaches that take less then 5 minutes to get rich reporting working for your calendar invite. See here to download the preview calendarsnack.com debrief. We will be be launching soon!
Over the past couple years, my whole thought process has been about making things easier for the market person in charge of managing something as complicated as a webinar. There are lots of moving parts, and dozens of small details to manage. It doesn’t matter if it’s a “big” webinar or small one – it takes times to bring it all together.
And one of those details is getting the webinar on someone’s calendar. In our technology driven age, you would think that small detail has been solved, but it hasn’t. It’s gotten better, but it’s not solved.
It should be as simple as sending an email. Or as simple as clicking on a single button on a webpage. Because we have very simple goal – to get OUR webinar on THEIR calendar. But that simple and easy goal is extremely difficult to achieve – in the world of technology, what seems simple, can sometimes be a monumental task.
From a technology standpoint, the primary hurdle we are dealing with a delivery service (email) that doesn’t exactly know what to do with a the specific “package” being delivered (calendar invite). Although they are connected, they are actually two different types of technologies, operating under a common umbrella.
Email can be seen as a generic text message (albeit a highly evolved text message), that actually has a very well defined format. On the other hand, a calendar invitation has a different defined format, which needs to be inside the email. And this format can be a bit tricky, and if it’s not “well formatted”, it will just not work. Which is why most people give up, and just send the invite as an “attachment” to the email – eliminating most of the complexity.
What that does is shift the responsibility of getting the invite on a calendar to the invitee. I’ve always thought that was the wrong way to do it. I’m asking them to attend, and ultimately asking them to buy something – therefore, I should make is as easy as possible to remember to attend my webinar. The less work I ask of them, the higher probability of them attending.
So, we go to work everyday on solving the easy problem. We believe it’s our responsibility to take on the hard technology challenges and make it as easy as possible to get an event (in this case a webinar) on someone’s calendar.
We have worked and reworked the solution hundreds of times. We are getting closer to solving it – not just for those using software we like, but across all calendar software. We are almost there in solving the first problem – making sure we send (email) a well formatted invitation (calendar invite), that just works when it shows up.
Stay tuned for more info – because in a few weeks, we will have a solution that can be put on any webpage, and just work. And we are going to make it simple to create and simple for someone to opt-in on your webpage. And when they do, they will get the calendar invite on their calendar without having to do anything else. Our beta site is called Calendarsnack is located here.
So I started off my ISV journey 7 years ago. Just an innocent attempt to get people to my events by sending them a Calendar Invite. If they accepted, I knew that they were coming. Or at least had a better chance of showing up to my events. Along the way I had a Web based Calendar engine built by a local contractor on an old Cold Fusion stack. It worked and we were off on many use cases on how I thought it should work. Some 2200 hours of personal time in testing, UI design, and disastrous blunders on my part as a weekend and after work project I needed break. If this was going to be bigger idea I needed help. Enter a friend named Arnie. Arnie came into the calendar “Thunder Dome” 2.5 years ago. Or about 1800 hrs ago. It has been a part time project for him and he caught the bug as indicated that those hours are after work and weekends.
He helped with so many things – testing , coding , web site, blogging and overall front end animal. I voted him to Co-Founder last year. He is a true inspiration. Then we decided to blow up the old site and start over -literally scrap all the code some – $80K in custom contract coding down the drain.. Not easy. We were both at a loss for 60 days. We knew after talking with several large test customers we needed to get to scale on AWS with SES.
We then started our Pizza Journey into AWS in August 0f 2017. About 3 months ago in February of 2018 we were fortunate to recruit Jonn , who is our lead developer and CTO. We have been iterating using Slack, and brain storming on how to use SES, Python SDK, SNS, Lambda and Arnie’s Vue front end with his run time engine. We have the prototype running now in AWS. Pretty exciting to see the Pizza project running! The test site will be up and running in a few weeks. www.calendarsnack.com. More to come as we attempt to give every marketeer in the world their own calendar server for sending and tracking of Calendar invites!
Yes, I know, that’s a click-bait-type headline. Nothing I can do about that, because it’s a true statement – and if you are doing any type of time-based marketing activity (and most of what we do is time based), you need to realize that simple fact.
Take a simple example of an email campaign, once the email is sent, the clock is ticking – and it’s a count down clock that runs in minutes. From my experience, the first hour after sending, will provide you with about 80% of your responses (and that’s an optimistic view) and 99% of your opens/clicks will happen within 24 hours of send.
Think about that, your email campaign has the lifespan equal to that of the May Fly – the real truth is, if you don’t get your numbers within the first couple hours, you won’t recover. And then there is the dismal fact of the general numbers – industry averages say only about 25% will open your email, and 2% will actually click your Call To Action.
So, for every 1000 names on your email list, 250 will open, and 40 will click. Email is a tough gig, but in reality, it really is the best type of “direct contact/direct response” marketing activity. No other activity will generate the same results.
You have mere seconds to get their attention and get the click. Some of this can be controlled or tested, but always make sure you keep everything within a “is it worth another hour?” parameter. If you spend 2 hours, coming up with headlines and alternate text (or design) – what’s the overall benefit? From my personal experience, it might increase incrementally, but there are so many dynamics, it’s hard to figure out which one really made the difference – because it might just be an anomaly.
You’re better off spending your time on the “backside” of the click, rather than trying to get more clicks – more is not necessarily better, focus on quality, rather than quantity. Help people de-select from clicking – make it apparent what they will get once they take that next step. And the deliver on it.
That’s why we’re developing 31Events – to make the click more valuable to you and to your customers. If you have a time-based activity (like a webinar or coupon), getting that info on their calendar will help your customers – and if they can get it without any effort, even better.
Once we are ready, it will be that simple for your customers. One click or one input box – and they get a calendar invite that just works, no more action on their part required. And you will get a way to track their actions (numbers you didn’t have before), when they do take action, by accepting, declining or even marking as tentative. You’ll know how many, and what actions they’ve taken – which allows you to focus on only those customer who are interested – helping you save time and effort. Update June 2018. You can find our beta test site here called CalendarSnack . https://calendarsnack.com
To be completely honest, the last (almost) year has been tough. We had a working version of 31Events – that accomplished the goal of sending a very well formatted iCal/ICS file, that could be “consumed” by all the major email & calendar clients on the market.
So we had a decision to make – Either make the existing platform work or to completely re-invent/code to work within an ecosystem we knew would both (1) scale and (2) be around for a very long time.
So we decided to burn it down, and start over.
What we’ve learned in the process of moving from a Coldfusion/MSSQL environment, is that AWS Serverless Architecture gives us both flexibility with the ability to scale – without us having to manage any servers, storage, or infrastructure. It’s been an interesting 9 months of learning for us — first, it’s a complete mindshift from our backgrounds (both Greg and I have spent our professional lives within “infrastructure” and services for large companies) in that we didn’t need to worry about the “backend”, that it would just work – regardless of what we wanted to do.
Second, it forced us to really think through what 31Events does – and start breaking it down into smaller and smaller pieces, because serverless architecture is about “micro” services and functions – no longer did we need to think from an end-to-end standpoint and create functions to handle it. We now shifted to smaller functions.
Third, it forced us to re-think the front-end (user interface), and what we wanted to accomplish – first as we roll out Version 1, but also what we could do as we proceeded down the enhancement and development path.
I like to talk in analogies, it helps me put things into some sort of context and understand complex “things”. To wrap my mind around the direction we had planned to take, I started thinking of our new AWS Serverless backend as setting up a dominos. Our dominos can start off as a simple line … knock over the first one, and it just knocks over the next. But as we learn and grown, we can add complex patterns, or create side tracks that go simultaneously. And each “domino” is a fraction of the whole, and if it breaks, we can go back to the specific place and fix it. It really is a great way to create an application (which is what 31Events is) and have it work right from the beginning.
Right now, we are still working through creating our micro services, and we’ve made some significant progress in doing that. Although the concepts are “easy” to understand, the implimentation is always going to much harder than originally thought.
The other problem faced, as you march down this brave new world of serverless, is finding people who really (and I mean really) understand it – and can make it work. We’ve been through a few people along the way, but hopefully have found the right team to help us going forward.
We all have “day” jobs at the moment – so 31Events is a sideline project. That doesn’t mean it’s not important (because it is, Greg and I both see examples every day where we could help people), what it means is that we can’t necessarily publish a roadmap with dates. Our first priority is to ensure we have the same functionality we had a year ago. After that, we will re-launch. Because we know, once it works, it will just work regardless of how many users we have creating and managing events & invitations.
We hope to be back with Version 1 by July – that would market a one-year absence of 31Events – but I’m not putting a timeline on it. So, stay ready, because once we re-launch, it will just work – and you will then be able to send a calendar invitation to anyone, and will just work.
Because we are here to change the world of “Add to Calendar”.