May 20, 2013

Tofugu’s Simple, Motivational Autoresponders

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Tofugu is a self-described "wonky blog about the Japanese language and culture" based out of Portland, but they’re more than that. The three gentlemen behind the site also help people learn Japanese via their online textbook, Textfugu, and their kanji learning application, WaniKani. "Learning a language is so hard," Tofugu founder Koichi says. "Especially if you aren’t motivated to do so. Once you’re motivated, it’s a lot more fun and you really feel like you’re doing something great."

To help Tofugu’s customers feel great, Koichi investigated MailChimp’s autoresponders. Inspired, he started crafting simple, motivational nuggets to send to new learners in the hopes they wouldn’t get discouraged. "The content is really varied," he says. "Sometimes it’s a ‘get off your ass’ sort of email. Other times, it’s a ‘Did you know this is how people actually learn?’ sort of email. I try to write things that would motivate me."

The first Tofugu autoresponder is sent a week after signup, and the second comes two weeks after that. Koichi says he likes to spread them out so as to not annoy the busy people who are trying to fit a new language into their lives. Also important is the fact that these emails aren’t selling anything—they’re encouraging someone to find happiness in a product they’ve already paid for, happiness in learning something new.

Sometimes, he’ll send an inspirational quote followed by a call to action:

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Other times, Koichi presents an easy challenge:

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Occasionally, Bruce Lee’s intensity is evoked to help motivate the learner:

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How are they working? "We get around a 50% open rate, sometimes higher, which is well above the industry average," Koichi happily reports. "I also get emails at the end of the autoresponders. Usually they’re sad people asking what happened and when they can expect the next one. Maybe I need to re-read the emails to motivate myself to write more of them for people!"

Koichi says email is the perfect medium for keeping Tofugu’s learners focused. "People read all of their emails much more consistently than they read their Twitter or Facebook timelines," he says. "Email has allowed us to more effectively reach our learners, and I think it has helped a lot of people to stay motivated and learning, whether it’s with our products or someone else’s. MailChimp has made it possible to do something I wouldn’t have thought to do otherwise."