Great Email about Raising Prices

Raising prices always sucks. It’s one of the hardest things to do, and for whatever reason online consumers are unusually vocal about higher prices. We got an e-mail from ZenDesk that was really well written and they’ve clearly thought through the process.

Dear Rashmi,

At Zendesk, we’re committed to delivering a great product that continues to evolve each week (literally!). We have a weekly release schedule and today, based on your feedback we are pleased to officially announce new features for community support and knowledge base sharing.

We’re also committed to transparency which means giving you all the facts. So, along with the new features, we’re changing our pricing for all new customers. New packages and pricing are listed on our website as well as new terms of service.

As a valued customer, we’d like to grandfather your current pricing for an additional full billing cycle after July 1, 2010. It’s your choice how long that billing cycle should be, but you need to make that choice before July 1st. Your second full billing cycle after July 1st will be at our new prices.

You can lock in your current price for at least another year by changing your account to an annual billing cycle by July 1, 2010. To ease the transition even more, we’ve recently increased our annual billing discount from 10% to 15%.

We’ve put together information to help answer any additional grandfathering questions.

We appreciate your business very much and if you have questions or comments, we’d like to hear from you. Please feel free to reply to me via email, via Twitter @mikkelsvane, or email our support team at


Mikkel Svane, CEO
Zendesk, Inc.
410 Townsend St.
San Francisco, CA 94107

You don’t need to ‘help’ great idea so much

“I have a great a idea,” Laura says to you. She speeds through her thoughts clearly excited.¬†“What do you think?”

“Cool,” you respond. “You know, you should try…”

And in those six words, you might’ve killed the idea. And you might even be suggesting the greatest addendum ever to Laura’s idea. The problem is that when we add on to someone else’s idea, we often take away ownership. The great idea no longer is her idea, it is more of our idea.

Now you don’t always kill commitment when you do this, but I’m sure it happens far more often than we are even aware of. I know I do this all the time. I mean, I’m being helpful aren’t it? In actuality, I probably would be more helpful with just a smile and nod. Maybe a thumbs up. It is hard, but sometimes we need to stop from being too helpful.

This post was inspired by Marshall Goldsmith’s talk at Google around the 9 minute mark.

By adding to someone else’s idea, we might add 5% or 10% of value to that idea but we may very well kill that person’s commitment to it. We transform the idea from his/her’s or well our’s.

Flexible goals & umbrella metrics

Social Media campaigns don’t always turn out the way you expect them. Sometimes you get a lot more of X and virtually none of Y. Usually you can spot it early on, and if you really have an all-start cast, they’ll figure out how to drive your ROI, even if it isn’t exactly the way you planned it.

It can be tempting to measure a team’s aptitude by their ability to hit preset targets. But I’d argue, real challenge is recognizing when you’re wrong and improvising. So, how do you switch from plan A to plan “i dunno yet?” and how do you know when to switch?

First you need to be measuring and collecting a lot of data. It’ll help give you early indicators and let you investigate inconsistencies. Second, it’ll show you what might be working unexpectedly.

It’s also helpful to set up an umbrella metric. Some sort of broader defined goal that can be attained through several dimensions.

For example, you can run a campaign for brand engagement. Instead of just counting views, you can count page views you can count tweets, video plays, comments etc. By defining the value of these before hand, it’ll be easier to be agile later on. If you were planning on driving tweets, but instead find a comment crazy audience, don’t be afraid of encouraging it.

Be flexible, and give your social media time the leeway to improvise.

Small Campaign, Big Campaign

Instead of launching big campaigns all at once and hoping that they’ll work, perhaps we can take a page out of the lean start up playbook.

Let’s launch small campaigns based on that one idea. And instead of one, let’s launch a handful. If we’re worth our salt, at least one of these campaigns will work. At least one of them will stick and be something we can then put a big budget behind. This means we do some more work upfront with smaller budgets before taking a big bet with a big budget

Good day, bad day

Sometimes the smallest thing can change a bad day to a good day. When it happens, take note because those little things are priceless.

Banner Ads turn 15 years old

Today marks the 15th birthday for digital advertising. Which means banner ads are just a year away from a driver’s permit. Scary thought. Adage has an interesting article on the first online banner advertising campaign.

So while I haven’t been doing banner ads for 15 years, here are some pointers on if you’re putting ads up on your site.

  1. Know your audience – It is worth doing one site surveys, some pixel tracking and other sometimes seemingly fussy activities on getting to know who is on your site. It’ll help you optimize AdSense, what other ad networks might makes sense, and help immensely with direct sales. And direct sales are where higher CPMs are.
  2. Design layout with ads in mind – Don’t throw your ads on the page without regard to design. If your ads are integrated with the page, they will perform better. To some extent you’ll need to put ads near content where it’ll interrupt your users. But good design can minimize how annoying your ads are.
    1. Ads along the outside perimeter of the page get lower CTR
    2. Ads above the fold command both a CTR and a branding premium
  3. CPL vs ¬†Branding – There are two very different types of people that buy direct sales. There’s CPL, people who are looking for leads or conversions. Then there are people looking to help with branding, and the two are basically opposites in terms of what they look for. Figure out if your site performs well for either and shoot for that one. Don’t put too much effort into the other
  4. Tweak Adsense – From ad sizes to color schemes to channels, sometimes small changes can make a big difference. If you can break out traffic into segments that advertisers really care about, then they’ll bid up the CPM. PlentyOfFish excels at this and offers different demographic segments that really help drive advertisers to spend more without having to increase inventory.
  5. Get creative with ad packages – Yes there are homepage takeovers, but you have to be a size-able site in order to get people interested. There are other little things you can do such as roadblocks that are simple but can be effective. Custom units are tricky because advertisers dislike having to make custom creative. But you can throw it in as a value-added (read freebie) and offer to design it yourself. If your custom size is small and/or has a photoshop template, it can be pretty quick and easy. Custom spots are good for tapping into site specific mechanics and can have pretty good CTRs

Fred Wilson calls Baloney on ‘We Need To Own’

Was just browsing and really loved Fred Wilson’s latest blog post. Remember, if a VC or any investor is more concerned about their share of the pie rather than growing the pie, then forget about them. You want someone who cares about your company (and to some degree cars about you). Otherwise you’ll be in for a terrible, unfortunate ride.