Anybody got a story of something good that happened yesterday?

"We trained our supervisors, to ask everyday, 3 times a day. Hey, anybody got a story of something good that happened yesterday?" - Steve Wynn

What I love about this is the idea of getting your employees to tell stories of about something good that happened the previous day. I feel that most of the time we are so focused on fixing customer problems. More of our work needs to be about the positive and good things that are occurring for our customers.

Watch 5 minutes from minute 12 to 17. This video will start at minute 12.

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Next Level List Management with Drip

At Meal Mentor, we organize our Drip email lists into campaigns. You do this by setting up a campaign with no emails.

The main benefit is that customers can individually subscribe and unsubscribe to a specific email lists whether it's a newsletter, event announcements, product webinars, or a members only list.

The main benefit is that customers can individual subscribe and unsubscribe to a specific email announcement list whether it's a newsletter, event announcements, product webinars, or a members only list.

Here is a detailed walkthrough of how we manage our email subscribers at Happy Herbivore.

If you are interested, sign-up for Drip.

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Making Generalizations About Your Customers Is Good for Business

Your parents raised you not to make generalizations about people.

But I think making broad sweeping generalizations about our customers is good for business.

I work at a company called Happy Herbivore; were we make most of our money with Meal Mentor. My wife Lindsay founded Meal Mentor about 3.5 years ago.

Meal Mentor sells meal plans which is basically just a pdf. But we do most of the work for you by providing all the recipes, a shopping list, and instructions on how to prepare all your meals for 1 week. As a customer you can buy one week at a time, a monthly subscription, or an annual subscription.

Our monthly subscription business declined for 5 consecutive months from July to November 2014. We lost more monthly subscribers than joined.

In a fit of frustration, Lindsay did something ridiculous. She sent an email to 30,000 people asking why they stopped buying our meal plans.

She responded to over 1,700 emails! But what came out of it was an insane amount of information about our customers.

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The Leverage Podcast

I'm happy to announce I've started a Podcast. I'm calling it the Leverage podcast.

Leverage Podcast

I picked 'Leverage' because it's part of my renewed focus to leverage business systems to grow our existing businesses but also to create new ones. Leverage comes in many forms and can be anything from automated systems to hiring someone else to do the work for you.

The podcast is about our self-funded online businesses. I plan to share the many stories I have from running Happy Herbivore and our meal plan business Meal Mentor. I plan to occassionaly interview others or have guests on the podcast.

I've learned so many things over the years running our business and I have wanted to share my experiences. I really suck at finishing blog posts, and speaking and edit audio is for me so much easier. I hope to use this experience to become a better speaker and communicator.

You can subscribe on iTunes.

Or listen online at my Simplecast website.

Please let me know if there are any topics or questions I can answer.

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Automating Your Business Receipts

I've created about a 10 minute video on how to automate your receipt capture. Why? The IRS requires documentation of any expense; you can read more about the requirements in Publication 463.

For us the two primary ways we capture receipts: the first is using the Shoeboxed phone app to take a phone of physical receipts and the second is taking email receipts and turning them into a pdf which are then emailed to Shoeboxed. The real problem for me was in the second part of that capture process: turning email receipts into pdfs that are email to Shoeboxed. This seems easy the surface but after processing several of these everyday you soon realized there has to be a better way.

I've looked at many different solutions one being an Automator script which required you to use Mac Mail. While this worked well, I don't use that app for email normally, so I had to open the app when I wanted to process receipts. So again I looked for an alternative, I was convinced I could find a service that turn emails into pdfs: nope, I still have anyone that does this.

I had tried a few times ...

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Drip vs. InfusionSoft: Marketing Automation

I've created about a 10 minute video that compares the same email campaign in Infusionsoft and Drip.

TL; DW: Drip is way simpler to use than Infusionsoft and a lot cheaper too.

I promise a few friends I'd write about Infusionsoft but I was never really happy with the product made me not want to write about it.

I recorded in HD so you'll probably want to watch in it Full Screen.

If you are interested, sign-up for Drip.

Let me know if you have any questions! I'm happy to help.

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How Happy Herbivore Used Google Analytics to Acquire New Customers

It seems every blog post I write is a "draft" and nothing gets published. So I've taken Amy Hoy and Alex Hillman's challenge to heart which challenges you to write to one person.

Several times in the past year, Justin Jackson has tweeted his frustration with using analytics to effectively make business decisions.

After his tweet, I emailed him because I wanted to better understand his frustrations. Justin said

Any information that gets presented to me has to answer the question: "How do we get more customers?"

I can certainly relate to this frustration. However, we've been able to use Google Analytics to find real answers that help us make actionable decisions.

I run a business my wife start called Happy Herbivore where we sell digital products and cookbooks to consumers. Social media has always been an important part of how we engage with our customers.

When planning our goals for 2014 we certainly asked: "How can get more customers from Facebook?"

Now, we ...

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Why Should You Use Retargeting Advertising and Avoid AdWords?

If you were to start a traditional online advertising campaign today, it would require a huge set of additional skills that you probably don’t have. You probably don’t have time to learn how to: perform keyword research, building keyword lists, create highly tailored ads, implementing conversion tracking, or effectively tracking CPM or CPC costs. As a small business owner you have outsource tasks that are not your core competency. You are most likely outsource one or all of this skill sets: accounting, design, programming, marketing, system administration, and legal. If your business gets big enough you hire employees with those skills but you certainly don’t try to do everything yourself.

I operated an online business for 4 years which relied solely on Google AdWords to acquire new customers. We sold one product for $29, so we had to keep the per conversion costs under $20 to make any money. Google Adwords ads are what you see in Google’s search results. Based on my first hand experience, I can attest that successful Adwords campaigns requires spending a ton of time tweaking everything from lists of keywords, creating audience specific ads, and babysitting existing ads to make sure we didn’t lose money. ...

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What I've Learned Writing My First Book & Why Your Customers Need Reminders

The biggest thing that surprised me was how completely unprepared I was to actually write a book. It started so disorganized. I initially thought that the subject of retargeting wouldn't be any more than 20 or 30 pages. But without even trying I ended up at over 60 pages of content.

The goal of writing this book was never about making money for me; it was purely about writing a book and providing something that was really useful to people. I'm a huge admirer of Kathy Sierra's work. And my only goal was creating a product that would make people badass.

How can my book Return and Retargeting Advertising make you badass?

Retargeting Ads are reminders. These reminders are badass because it gives you a 2nd chance you did not have before. When you retarget, you present ads to people who have already been to your website and that have much more likely to buy from you.

They won't work for everyone but even can't get everyone to buy on each visit.

You need to stay present in the minds of potential customers. Not everyone to going to join your email list or like you on Facebook. ...

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How Excellent Customer Service Can Be Delivered Over Email But Without Gmail

I love helping people but I hated providing Customer Support with Gmail.

I’ve recently talked to dozens of online small businesses and it seems that at least half are still using email for customer support. I imagine most small business start this way. Happy Herbivore used email exclusively for over 5 years before we decided we need a better way to support our customers.

For our business, customer support got a lot more complicated when we began selling monthly subscriptions. Subscriptions are more involved than one off sales. We have a host of new issues that need support: credit card issues, email product deliver, switching plans, cancelations, refunds, most of which is handled by a custom software application. After a few months of helping customers out of my own work email account, I very much wanted to isolate customer support so that support emails didn't intermingle with my other work. You can hack together ways to turn email into a workflow system and support multiple customer support agents but there are many clear advantages to using professional tools over a kluge of hacks.

Our customers would rather email us for support than log into a website. I suspect ...

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Gumroad Sales Tracking with Google Analytics Goals

I'm going to show you how I used the Gumroad created events to complete Google Analytics Goals. Why? Because this is the only way that I can then associate conversions to a MailChimp Campaign. As of this writing, Gumroad's conversion tracking is currently limited to sending Google Analytics Events. Now you could create a custom report to display clicks and purchased events but that's not helpful if you want to see that information in your last MailChimp campaign.

Google Analytics Goals is feature that helps you keep "success metrics." You will most likely use Goals as a way to track a customer purchase but you can also use Goals to track newsletter signups, creating accounts, or when a user uses your contact form. Google even added an number of suggestions to the Goals wizard as you can see below.

Goal Suggestions

The Google Analytics Ecommerce feature is specifically focused on tracking shopping carts and sales with much more information such as each item purchased, SKUs, tax, shipping etc.

The steps I show are for new Universal Analytics accounts from Google Analytics but should still be helpful for either version.

On Gumroad Settings page, ...

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Microconf helped us add 33% more revenue

One of things that makes Microconf a great learning environment is the collection of great speakers that share actionable business strategies that will help your business grow.

At the 2013 Microconf, several speakers hammered on two themes that every business should consider implementing. 1. Raise prices. 2. Sell Annual Subscriptions. In the 9 months since Microconf, we used these recommendations to add 33% more revenue and now annual subscribers make up 40.4% to our Meal Plan business ( I doubt we are the only success story.

Once I’d been properly motivated, I had to go home and convince the CEO. It’s a bit tricky because the CEO is my wife and Happy Herbivore Inc is her business. My role is mostly operational, support and technical; I do get involved in strategy but Lindsay has the pulse of our audience.

Our Business

So I should properly introduce Happy Herbivore. My wife Lindsay Nixon started blogging 6-7 years ago. She started first by selling digital cookbooks which then turned into a traditional book deal with a publisher. Her cookbooks have sold really well that she’s now published 4 cookbooks. In October of 2012, she released her first meal plan ...

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Struggling to Write

Why am I mad? Well, today I decided to get back on the horse and start writing again. But I started with a really unrealistic article to write. I'm trying to punch above my weight class and just getting my ass kicked. I should just be trying to get the wheels going and do a little research for this post along the way.

So I tried to switch gears and write a different post but I think my patience was just gone at that point.

The real problem is that I haven't been keeping to my goal to write everyday. I've been out of practice for almost a month. I have almost nothing written for the last month. Fundamentally the lack of a habit and not making the time to write each day is what's been holding my back.

On the positive side, I found a good book that is already helping improve my writing and I think I have a plan.

So here's my plan

  • Write everyday; with the goal of 500 words
  • Read Writing Tools and do the workshop lessons at the end of the chapter; Rinse and repeat.
  • Write an outline before I write ...

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How to filter Django Forms by the User

Today I'm going to tell you a story about how to add a custom filter to your Django Forms.

In the not too distance future, you'll be jamming to "White Snake" while you setup your own ninja searchable FAQ, you'll want your questions and answers to only show-up on your website. But right now we have a problem, I'm seeing other peoples domains because the Django ModelForm just pulls all websites in the Website table. is one of my wife's businesses but belongs to my Jesus loving friend Jack. ¡No bueno!

"All uri's included"

I read and tried several solutions for customizing the view and form but nothing seemed to work. The most promising seemed to be to use

self.fields['website'].queryset = Website.objects.filter(organization__primary_account=self.request.user) 

The tricky bitch of it was that the request object wasn't accessible via self or a directly passed parameter.

Because this shit works; well it works for 1 person yet at the same time is a giant security issue for that user.

self.fields['website'].queryset = Website.objects.filter(organization__primary_account=1) 

So after much hand wringing and searching I couldn't find a solution that worked for me. I know I should be ashamed to call ...

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10 Tips to Increase Donations and Sales

This time of year many non-profits are emailing for donations. I typically support a few organizations at the end of the year one in particular is the Application Trail Conservancy. Their donation page is really bad. It's bad because it appears that it was slapped into their existing website. I'm going to assume that two primary most important reasons for this website are 1) to take donations and 2) to be an information source.

Mistakes they make on this page:

  • Selecting "Same as above" checkbox failed to copy my address
  • Make it easier for people to donate money. (Paypal buttons, Stripe, SMS to donate)
  • Pre-fill a donation amount no matter where they come from to say $100.
  • Make the form more compact so it shows above the fold. Hide all the navigation on top and in the bottom. I think WWF does a great job with this form.

ATC donation form

I did a little looking around to find them the good example of the WWF and I emailed them my list because I truly wanted to help.

Normally, I wouldn't recommend using a modal window when someone visits your ...

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Learning to Program Django: Getting Started

Django is a set of programming tools that allows you to quickly and easily build a website. If you were building a house you would use power tools such as table saws and nail guns to quickly build your house. Power tools not only save you a lot of time; they also help you do a better job. Think of Django is a large collection of power tools that will enable you to build an entire website. If you want to program for the modern web I highly recommend you build your house with a modern set of power tools. If you don't use Django then use Ruby on Rails. Not convinced? Read "Why you should only use modern programming tools for building a website!" You must follow along and type out the commands to learn. Get started by first following the quick install guide to have access to Django.

 scott$ python Python 2.7.1 (r271:86832, Jul 31 2011, 19:30:53) [GCC 4.2.1 (Based on Apple Inc. build 5658) (LLVM build 2335.15.00)] on darwin Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information. >>> import django >>> print django.get_version() 1.4.1 >>>
If you can run these command then you can ...

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Learning to Program My Advice as a Mentor

I recently started to mentor a young friend that is interested in transitioning from a skill-less office worker to future web developer. She's re-orienting herself with html and css for now. In the next few weeks, she'll start to learn how to code. My built-in language bias will no doubt steer her training towards subjects I'm already proficient with. I am primarily a python/django web developer so there is a very strong possibility that she will learn python and django first. Being keenly aware of my own bias I've been strongly considering recommend she learn ruby and ruby on rails. The Rails community is very active, growning, and seems to be one of the largest communities of web developers. Based off my own job searches, there also seems to be many more job postings for Rails developers than Django. Here's my oversimplified summary of popular web dev langages much as I explained it to her.

  • Java & .Net == Large Enterprises. Overly complex for the task at hand.
  • PHP == Awesome Open Source tool. No dominate web framework. PHP's best days are probably behind it.
  • Ruby on Rails and Django == Modern Open Source web frameworks. Rapid development. Large ...

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Do you want to make an extra $4000 a year?

If you could make an extra $4000/year and it would only required 40 hours of work a year, would you do it?

I like to ask this question when I meet people because most people say Yes; of course, we want to make more money with little effort. The vast majority of people probably will never even start because they are scared to fail. I'm not perfect. I've failed. I've had false starts. Currently I'm sitting on a project called ContextKick because I don't really have time to work on it and the user feedback on the idea has been mixed. So I'm scared too, but I'm also considering the opportunity costs of not working on products that have a large opportunity for Happy Herbivore (my wife's primary business). Our $4000/year business is, and I wish I could say that this was our first real business because it would make for a better story. Lindsay had already sold 1 or 2 eCookbooks via the fledgling Happy Herbivore, which made PasstheMBE our second business. Our experience with PasstheMBE is interesting because we didn't have a built-in user base. ...

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