I forget who I was reading, but they mentioned that one of the first pieces of a pitch deck should be a “We believe…” statement. It’s not so much what the product does but why we think it will be successful. Today I met Brad Feld at work and I was inspired. I can at least get the material for the first slide done.
This is a post and not a simple slide that I can talk to, so I think it needs some color. This all started about 5 years ago. I was trying to rebel against the stoic and stiff culture at Fido. Specifically, I was sick of the formulaic vacation auto-replies. “Hi, I am out, will be back x, contact so-and-so for any issues while I am away.” B-O-R-I-N-G. So in an effort to inspire people to be creative, I bought www.ccooors.org which is now defunct because I wouldn’t pay the yearly fee. Citizens for Creative Out-Of-Office ReplieS (the last capital S was a tribute to Club GROSS from Calvin and Hobbes). The idea was to get people to do something out of the ordinary. In one reply, I wrote a poem “Ode to Data Management”, in others I would post links and have trivia questions. I had a scoring system for rating replies and our long term mission was to get the email providers to add auto-reply functionality.
It never really got that far. Maybe 15 people actually participated in being creative. I think it was too hard for people to rebel against the machine and/or actually be creative. But more importantly, people would email me when I was away, just to see what was in my auto-reply. I’d get at least 10 messages with “Test” as the subject line, with no message.
When someone sends an email, it is a direct attempt at communication. In the absence of a reply, people have no idea what you feel about their note. The auto-reply is a welcome form of communication and serves the purpose of educating the receiver of your status and why you can’t communicate on your own. The auto-reply has meaning, it has purpose, and the receiver is interested in its content. The sending of this note is an automatic response mechanism tied to an intentional inquiry. The auto-reply has power.
At CoolReplies, we believe that the auto-reply is an underutilized channel for creating useful and meaningful communications back to an email sender.
Our first deliverable will focus on vacation auto-replies, as they are the most common. When you book a vacation, you should be able to set your auto-reply right from the vacation web site. An embedded picture of the site you are visiting will enable you to brag to your friends when you are away (who doesn’t love doing that?) through your auto-reply. What’s more, it is a useful advertising channel that will probably have a higher click through rate than buying meaningless border inventory through Adsense. Who clicks that stuff? But a personal endorsement of a hotel or resort (with a sub ad for where you booked the trip) has meaning. And that endorsement has usefulness to the hotel, who would probably pay more for that ‘ad’.
Later iterations might enable you to update your auto-reply with a picture taken from your phone while on vacation… “Look where we are suckers!” Thinking broader, the auto-reply can be a virtual assistant that can be updated from an iPhone app or customized by a foursquare/facebook checkin… “I’m having lunch at x and will respond in a few hours, or come join me for a bite! [insert link here]”.
We believe there is huge potential for the auto-reply to really disrupt the hotel/resort advertising world. As they say…coming soon.