Marketing Automation Gone Wrong

Person A at the bar: “Hi, I’m great. You should date me.”
Person B: “Please go away.”

I’m not going to name names, but I’ve noticed some companies doing a terrible job with their marketing automation lately. For the sake of this write up, when I say marketing automation… I’m specifically talking about automated email campaigns that get sent out when you become a target for marketing or when you become a new customer of a service.

Welcome, new customer!

A few weeks ago, I convinced the decision makers at my new job to let me sign us up for cloud based landing page software. It’s pretty much everything we worked to create at SocialWhirled: self serve, mobile optimized websites with A/B testing, integration into Salesforce, stock image libraries, and all the bells and whistles you could dream up. I was ecstatic about finding this service to create a great experience for people who click through our AdWords ads, and at a price point of less than $100 per month it didn’t take a lot of begging and pleading to get that corporate credit card entered into their system.

Since I spent pretty much a year and a half in the very same world as this service, it took me no time to get up and running on my own. Within a day or so, I had multiple landing pages set up with various integrations and was already hooking them into our live campaigns. It surprised me that I got an email a couple of days later: “Thanks for signing up for the free trial. We noticed you haven’t launched any campaigns yet. What can we do to help?” Um. Yes, I did. I’ve got three of them live in production. Did I not activate them? *checks really quickly* Yes, I sure did. There’s nothing wrong on my end. Oh, I see what happened. YOUR email automation is broken! At this point, I actually took the time to send them a quick note along the lines of “Hey thanks for checking in – I think your email automation is broken, as I’m actually pretty far along in creating campaigns. Thanks, though – I’ll let you know if I need anything or have any problems!” They got back to me pretty quickly, to their credit – saying thanks for the heads up. Cool. No biggie.

Two weeks later, I started getting more emails from them. “Hey, trial user. Why don’t you upgrade to our platinum package?” What? Oh, I’m only a premium user. Kind of odd that they’re asking me to upgrade already, but I guess I get it. I hope this doesn’t continue. Wait, did they call me a trial user? I already gave them my credit card info. What just happened? Ah, whatever. Later that week, I get another email about the platinum package? Ugh. *DELETED* The following week – “Your free trial is about to end – why you no platinum?” (I’m paraphrasing with these, if you can’t tell by now) Seriously guys? Again with the free trial thing? That’s confusing. But seriously. Why don’t you check in with me to see if I’m happy with your product? Why don’t you send me some helpful tips to make sure my landing pages are successful? Wine me and dine me a little bit before asking for my hand in marriage. I mean, seriously.

So I sent another email. They again responded pretty quickly, thanking me for the feedback and promising me that they are continuously trying to improve their email messaging. Well, yeah, guys. For your sake – I hope so. Lucky for you that your software kicks so much ass, or else I’d have moved on by now.

The leads aren’t weak. YOU’RE weak.

This morning, I got an email with a subject line of “Just Called”. Really? Nothing on my cell phone’s call history. Even though my work line automatically forwards to my cell, I glance over at the display on my desk – nothing there, either. So, you’re a liar. We’re off to a great start.

I open the email, and it’s two quick sentences telling me about how great their product is for digital marketing. They don’t explain what their product does or what problem it solves. They’ve clearly put no thought into the problems I may have on a day to day basis. This is literally, the person at the bar strolling up to me and saying “Hi, I’m great. Let’s do dinner.” Except they’re standing behind me and I can’t even tell whether they’re attractive. How do you expect that to work?

Here’s the lesson: FOCUS ON THE CUSTOMER.

What are the pain points of your target customer? Can you prove to them that you understand where they’re coming from? If you can do that, then maybe you can get to the point where you explain to them how you can help. Don’t make it about you from the very start. Just like interpersonal relationships, that’s not how this works. Empathy and showing that you care – or at least understand – can take you a long way.

Or at least buy me a drink first.

Grand Canyon R2R2R: Uphill, Both Ways, Through the Snow

About a year ago, I laced up my hiking boots and set foot on the South Kaibab Trail for the first time. I wasn’t sure how far I was going to go that day. I figured I’d at least make it down to the Colorado River, and back up the Bright Angel Trail.  However, by the time I got to Phantom Ranch, I was feeling pretty good. I decided to make the further trek to Ribbon Falls, most of the way to where you start climbing back out of the North Rim. I ended up hiking about 30 miles that day, and surprised myself a bit.

That hike ignited something in me. I had been running on and off for a few years – having participated in Ragnar, some mud runs, and even a half marathon – but that hike allowed me to prove to myself that I was capable of a lot more than I gave myself credit for.

I vowed to return to the Grand Canyon one day and complete the full double traversal – also known as ‘Rim to Rim to Rim’ or #R2R2R.  Since then, I’ve spent countless hours running across the mountains of Phoenix, Arizona. I’ve completed a marathon.  I’ve even managed to get a 50K in (57K, actually) just a couple of weeks before this year’s R2R2R attempt.  It’s been a heck of a journey, as I’ve lost weight (an unintentional but welcomed side effect) and met wonderful people along the way (shout out to the fine folks at Aravaipa).

After consulting with people on Facebook who’ve spent many hours on these trails, I determined that I should schedule my return visit for October or May – not too cold at the top, and not too hot at the bottom.  Technically, people go at all times of the year – but you have to be ready to face the elements.  Originally, we did plan a trip last October.  But then I had a slight tear in my plantar plate after some ill advised Spartan Race training, and needed some time to rest my feet.  So we set our sights on April of this year, and I figured it’d be a nice way to celebrate my birthday.

I figured our plans would be tentative, depending on how the weather forecast looked. But as the date drew closer and friends started making plans to come in from out of state – we figured we’d make it work one way or another, even as rain seemed likely.

My friend Beck and I arrived at 4am on Saturday morning at the South Kaibab trailhead to get started in the dark before the mule trains hit the trail.  Side note – thank you to Christine and Kimmy for agreeing to wake up so early for us! It was a pretty easy going descent, though there were certainly moments where you could feel it in your knees.  There was one guy doing the full R2R2R solo with trekking poles whom we started leap frogging from the start – I never did catch his name, but he had a blue parka on – so he’s Blue Parka Guy to me.  Blue Parka Guy made quite a few appearances throughout my day.

Baby goat on a rock

As we made our way down, I made mention of ‘Baby Goat Moments’ – to me, those are the moments where you find your bliss on the trail, and you feel like you’re just effortlessly gliding across the dirt, over the rocks, to and fro. Those moments were short on our descent, as you didn’t want to get too crazy with the steep drop offs, and besides – there was a long way to go.

The first moment you see the Colorado River is a magical one.  You still have a couple miles before you get to Phantom Ranch, but it’s a great sight to see as the sun begins to come up and add light to the Canyon.

Colorado River bridge

After crossing the bridge and making our way to Phantom Ranch, Beck and I parted ways. That was as far as he had planned to go. He had thoughts of making it a little further down the trail just as I did the previous year, but I didn’t encourage those thoughts. A few hours later as he was drinking beers at the top, I think he came to feel no regret over the decision. I had more than a few hours left before I’d experience that same luxury. Onwards and upwards!

After a few nice miles of gradual incline, I came upon the turnoff for the Ribbon Falls detour. I still haven’t visited them, as it hasn’t seemed worth the side trip in the midst of these long excursions, but I’d like to stay at the bottom and make a day trip out of it eventually. Regardless, there was already a sense of accomplishment to meet the same distance I did a year ago.

Grand Canyon walls

By the time I started climbing the north wall’s trails (with thoughts of Game of Thrones bouncing around in my head), it had started to rain. Wonderful. But then again, I had to be thankful that it had taken that long to start. Through the mist, occasional downpours, mud, and puddles – I made my way. Eventually, my pace came to a crawl, as it had clearly been raining heavier towards the top and the mud became so thick it was hard to get through. I learned that if there was water running down the trail to step directly in it, as it finds the path of least resistance (in other words, the path with the least thick mud).

North Rim snow

Soon enough, the rain started to turn to sleet, and even snow. What a sight, to be honest! I took my phone out to take some pictures. What if it melted by the time I got back down? Oh, what a foolish thought. I had no idea what was coming..

It snowed more. And I got cold. I think I actually had my rain jacket tied around my waist up to this point – it felt nice and cooled my body down as I exerted effort to make it up the side of the Canyon. But now? Gloves on. Jacket on. Hood up. Let’s keep moving before I freeze to death, okay?

I got closer to the top, and the trail was literally covered in snow. I met fellow R2R2R runners on their way back down, each of whom shared words of encouragement: “Almost there!” “There’s water at the top!”


Oh, there was water at the top, all right. Also, a lot more snow! I guess I was decently prepared for this, as I wore leggings under my shorts. I saw several others who had shorts and no sleeves, and they somehow managed. Regardless, it was a quick stop to fill my water and turn around to head back down where it’d eventually be… well, not warm… but less cold. Taking my phone out to snap a few shots up here was something I didn’t want to do as it required removal of my gloves and at least another minute or two at the top – but I HAD to do it. Worth it, I guess.

A photo posted by Joshua Schlag (@schlizzag) on

If I thought heading uphill through the snow and mud was rough, downhill wasn’t much easier. My pace was turtle-like, as I did everything I could to not slip and fall. I only fell on my butt once on an icy patch. Overall, not bad. Things could be worse. I met a guy who had lost his contact lenses. I couldn’t imagine. I mean, I guess I could, as I was prepeared for such a situation with spares in my pack – but I wasn’t about to brag about my preparation to that poor soul.

Eventually, the trail started to appear less muddy. My shoes started to dry out a little bit. Wait, is that the sun?

SUNLIGHT! DRY TRAILS! Baby Goat Moment engaged! At this point, I noticed a couple of guys catching up to me on the downhill. Not today, Junior! I got to open up the throttle and fly down the hill for a few miles before getting to the next water stop. IT. WAS. AWESOME.

At that point, I changed out my socks to some dry ones I had in a Ziplock. My feet have looked worse, but it was nice to dry them off a bit. What a time to be alive.

Fifteen minutes later, though, the sky would start dumping rain down the Canyon again, and I once again became soaked from head to toe, slogging my way through the mud and puddles.

At this point, it was somewhat miserable. The majesty of the Grand Canyon had been lost on me – I just wanted to finish the journey. After a brief pitstop at Phantom Ranch, another hiker asked if I was headed all the way back up. I responded with a question of my own – “That’s the only way to the top, right?”

After leap frogging each other all day long, Blue Parka Guy passed me one last time as he headed up Bright Angel Trail, and I continued on back the way I came at South Kaibab. On the way up, I met a nice young couple who seemed to share the experience I was going through. They were just heading down to camp, but were friendly and wanted to make sure I was well equipped to finish the journey. Headlamp? Check. Snacks? Check. Water? Check. Will and determination? CHECK.

As I got nearer to the top, the sun was setting. No matter how tough things got, this moment stopped me in my tracks. I’ve seen some great sunsets in Arizona, but this one was unique. I spent the entire day in the Grand Canyon, and by the time I got back to the top the sun will have called it quits before me. I came across a couple of guys from USC and took their picture in front of it. I didn’t think I was going to pass anyone on my way out, but the desire for a supreme pizza from Pizza Hut and an IPA started fueling my pace. I bid them adieu and pressed on.

At this point, I think I was going a little crazy. I couldn’t get Jefferson Starship’s “We Built This City” out of my head. I don’t know where it even came from, but it wouldn’t go away. Just a few miles left. There could be worse things to be singing on a loop. I wonder if anyone heard me…

After 16.5 hours, a little after 8:30pm, I called Beck to come get me. I was shivering and wanted nothing more than to get a warm shower and put dry clothes on (and eat pizza and drink beer, of course).

I got back to the hotel, did all of that stuff, and fell asleep with a slice of pizza in my hand while texting my girlfriend about the day’s events. Yeah, I guess I earned those Z’s…

The recovery process from such a thing has taken a couple of days, but I think it’s gone about as well as I’d hoped it would. My knees were a wreck that night, but by the next afternoon I was sitting and standing without a ridiculous amount of effort. My feet started to swell up and become even more sore than they initially were. I don’t know much about how the body works, but I’d guess the initial focus was to fix my knees and then send help to my feet. As of Tuesday, my feet are MUCH improved, and I’m looking forward to going on a light recovery run soon.

We saw this book in a cafe before we left town. It’s probably good that I didn’t read it before this effort, but I’m glad I won’t be in a future edition.

Will I be back to do this run again? Yeah, probably. I’d love to see how much time I could shave off with better weather and trail conditions. But ultimately, I’d love to spend a little more time in one of the most beautiful and wondrous places in the world.

Strava GPS Info: (and yes, I maintained satellite connectivity for just about the entire trek!)

Race Report: Whiskey Basin 57K


After last month’s Mesquite Canyon fail, I was determined to get another 50K lined up so I could get that notch in my belt. Of course, the good folks at Aravaipa Running just happened to put together a new race in Prescott. And of course, I already had friends who’d be there. Game on!

First of all, this course was (mostly) fantastic:

  • Amazing views – coming up on mountain passes was something to look forward to, as you always got a new perspective on Prescott and the surrounding area
  • Not a ton of steep grades – there was certainly climbing involved, but it was mostly through lengthy switchbacks
  • Did I mention the views? The finish was at Watson Lake, which itself is a sight to be seen, especially for this desert dweller
  • Trails were very runnable, with the exception of a rock bed area past Goldwater Lake. I mean, that part could be runnable too – but certainly a bit dangerous. I heard stories at the following aid station of people showing up bloodied from falling over the rocks. But hey, that’s trail running!

I guess I would say my run was satisfactory. I could do better, but I did about what I was shooting for. A touch over 9 hours at a 15 minute / mile pace.

I was pretty happy with the way things were going in the first half of the race. Decent enough pace. Leap frogging with some new friends and other runners. Great stuff.

By the second half, I realized I wasn’t taking in calories as I should have. And then IT band issues started up. And then the rock bed came into play, and THAT slowed me down a fair bit. It is what it is. Just kept moving, though, and soon enough I was back on nicer trails and hustling to the finish.

IT band issues and other things will happen.  But I can keep training, building in proper recovery time, and doing things like using my foam roller to decrease the likelihood.  Nutrition shouldn’t be a problem, though. I had extra gels and other things in my pack I probably should have eaten along the way. I just need to simplify that plan and not just wing it along the way. By the time you realize you need it, it’s too late.

Overall, it’s pretty cool to know that just a few months after logging my first 26.2, I was able to put in 36+ miles on trail with a few thousand feet in elevation gain along the way. The human body is capable of amazing things, and I’m excited to keep seeing what people are capable of in that regard. I’m thankful for the friends I’ve met through trail running, as well as my other friends who I’ve run with over the past year. Next up? A return trip to the Grand Canyon! This time I’ll be bringing my running shoes… Stay tuned.

Here I am while doing a recovery hike the next day. Am I doing it right?

A photo posted by Joshua Schlag (@schlizzag) on