My Favorite iPhone Apps

December 18th, 2012

The other day I tweeted this:

That led a friend of mine to ask for some app recommendations since I had a lot of them.  I spent some time putting together a long email and figured it was good stuff, so I decided to re-create it here.  I was also correct:  @pennymoxie had 101.  Enjoy!


First off, I’m notoriously frugal…some may say cheap…and don’t buy many apps.  Just feel like there’s so much out there that’s free, why pay for apps?  That said, I have bought a few.  Here goes:

  • Pocket – This is my new favorite.  It integrates with apps like Twitter and lets you save to read later.  I have it on my computer’s browser, too, and then I read articles from it on my iPad.
  • Zite – Some folks love this news app.  It pulls content you tell it to and then it brings in related stories.  You can rate what you read so it should get better and better.
  • Instagram – It’s just flat out fun.
  • Cardstar – Store all of your store membership cards electronically.  No more crap on your keychain.  This app rocks.
  • GasBuddy – Finds the cheapest gas wherever you are (remember, I’m frugal).
  • GreatClips – If you’re frugal like me and don’t care where you get your haircut, this app rocks.  Just fire it up and it shows you all of the GreatClips around you plus their wait times.  Click one of them and you’re added to the waiting list.  It truly reduces your wait, especially when you’re bringing your two boys with you, too…
  • Most airline apps – Some of them allow you to have your boarding pass on your phone so no more printing out paper.
  • Pandora – it’s just awesome.
  • Shazam – Don’t recognize a song?  Shazam it for 10 seconds and it will tell you what song it is.  Pretty amazing.
  • IntoNow – Same thing but for television.  I’ve used this at hotels when I don’t have the digital guide.
  • Roku – Use your iPhone as your remote or to display your photos from your phone on your TV.
  • 100 Floors – It’s a puzzle game.  I love it.
  • Evernote – If you don’t use Evernote, you should.
  • PNC Mobile – RBC got bought by PNC and the best thing about it is that their iPhone app lets you snap pictures of the front and back of checks to make a deposit.  No more visits to the ATM to deposit the $32 your wife’s girlfriends gave her for dinner at that sushi place.
  • 360 Panorama – Only paid app on the list.  It’s so damn cool.  I took this panorama pic.
  • Lowes – Just got this one last weekend.  It links your MyLowes account with your phone and stores all of your purchases.  So, a year from now when you need to go pick up air filters for your new home, you’ll be able to see what you bought previously.  It also will handle returns.  Really well done by them..
  • Fooducate – Learn about the food you eat.  It’s scary but informative.
  • GroceryIQ – Scan your groceries and they automatically get added to your shopping list.  You can link accounts, too, so when you finish the mustard and scan it, your wife will automatically see it added to the list on her phone.
  • Moes, Chipotle and Jimmy Johns – All allow you to order food directly from the app.  Pretty slick.
  • Google – I’ve got 8 different Google apps.  All of them are handy:  Voice, Drive, Gmail, Authenticator (creates code if you use 2-step verification), Google (just a search app – but has the uber cool “Goggles” in which you take a picture and that’s your search query.  I took a picture of the skyline of Vegas and it brought me to relevant sites.  Blew my mind.), Chrome, Maps, YouTube.
  • BeepBoop – LOVE this app.  It’s a behavior reward/incentive thing for your kids.  You specify a goal (e.g. 20 points and your kid gets to go bowling).  When he/she does something good, they get a beep (1 point).  The app screams out, “BEEEEEEEEEPPPPPPP!!!”. They do something bad, they get a boop (minus 1 point).  The app says in a deep, dark voice, “Booooooooooopppppp!”  It can sync across phones, too, so when your kid helps you unload the dishwasher, you give him a beep.  When he hits his sister, your wife can give him a boop and both of your phones will update.
  • BONUS – This isn’t an app I downloaded but the default Reminders app that comes on the iPhone.  You can set it up to remind you of tasks when you arrive at a location.  So, I’m out doing something and I think, “Crap.  Forgot to call my mom.”  So I set the reminder and have it remind me when I get home.  When I pull into the driveway, the phone vibrates and tells me to call mom.  You can do it for multiple locations and anywhere you want.  It’s great.

Qdoba’s Rainy Day Email Campaign

January 29th, 2011

This is reposted from iContact’s Official Email Marketing Blog:

August 19th in North Carolina was a rainy day.  It was memorable not because of that crazy memory thing that Marilu Henner displayed on 60 Minutes, but because I received one email that made me think, “Wow, that’s a cool attention getting idea.”  Qdoba Mexican Grill, purveyors of burritos, tacos and other fine Mexican fare, sent the following email that arrived in my inbox at 12:08 PM.

Other than the mysterious gaps in the images (they should have read iContact’s post about gaps in Gmail), this is a great email.  It has so many appealing aspects:

  • Relevancy – It couldn’t get more relevant to me.  It was raining, I like Mexican food and hunger had set in.
  • Customized – They didn’t use my name but they didn’t have to.  They knew it was raining here in North Carolina.  Impressive customization, no?
  • Urgency – You’ll notice that the coupon was valid only for August 19th.  I had to use it or lose it.
  • Call to Action – The clear message is to “Click here for coupon.”  I love it.  It is clear, concise and to the point.

In the end, had there been a Qdoba closer to my office, I would have grabbed a colleague and hit the road.  That’s where the praise ends because I’ve now received essentially the same email eight times. Eight. That’s once every 2 weeks, along with another 8 to 10 emails as well.  The offer sometimes changes a bit here and there.  Sometimes it’s a BOGO, other times it’s $2 off or a $5 meal, but it always has the same “Remember that spare change” headline.

What at first was really clever, timely and relevant has ceased to be any of those things.  The last time their email arrived was this past Thursday and it wasn’t raining, but snowing.  The time before, it wasn’t raining at all.  I suggest it’s time for some new creative strategies from Qdoba.


Since I wrote this Qdoba made a few small changes to this weather-related campaign that were good improvements.  First, on 12/30/2010, with snow in the NC forecast, I received this email:

Unfortunately, they still haven’t fixed those Gmail image gaps but thankfully they moved on from the rainy weather message.  Then on Jan. 7th, a very cold day around these parts, the following landed in my inbox:

I’m glad that they decided to switch things up and go with some different weather messages.

Posts from The Official Email Marketing Blog

December 28th, 2010

Wow.  It’s been months and months since I last updated this site.  For all three of you that have been following and wanting an update, sorry that I’ve let you down.  :o)

That said, I’ve actually done a little bit of writing for another blog, namely, The Official Email Marketing Blog from iContact, where I am the director of account management.  I’ve been meaning to link to those posts for a while, so here they are.  I’m also going to re-create them in their entirety in separate posts.  Anyways, here you go:


To Send or Not to Send? That Is the Question.

December 28th, 2010

Originally posted on The Official Email Marketing Blog on Dec. 17, 2010, at iContact.

If you’re a perfectionist when it comes to your emails, then sending out mistakes drives you nuts. But, as we all know, mistakes are part of life. They happen. So when they inevitably occur, what should you do? Here’s a quick checklist of things we consider when our clients experience “broken” emails.

  • Severity — How important was the mistake? If it’s not a big deal, then don’t do anything to correct it. People understand that mistakes happen. Raise your hand if you’ve never made one. Since both of your hands are still down, ask yourself “is it worth sending another message to correct the mistake?” Here’s a recent example where we recommended to not send a correction. A small retailer sent a message on a Friday morning for a sale that was the next day, Saturday. The message unfortunately gave the wrong date (December 5th, when it should have been the 4th). Since the message prominently featured “Saturday Only” about 4 times and mentioned the date just once in smaller print, we didn’t expect much confusion. No correction was sent. The sale went off without a hitch.
  • Customer confusion/inability to do something — If your email mistake prevents the recipient from doing something noteworthy, an apology message is totally appropriate. Let’s say a coupon code doesn’t work or your site is down, by all means, let your clients know you’re sorry. If you have caused inconvenience for your customers or provided them a bad experience, saying “Ooops, we goofed” and solving the problem will, more often than not, be welcome.
  • Brand — What kind of apology will work well with your brand? Depending on your business, you should tailor the message accordingly. Check out the correction message that one of our agency accounts, Red Crow Marketing, sent on behalf of their client, Candy House. This is a great message because it admits error but does it in a fun, light-hearted way that works perfectly with the brand. It gave subscribers the ability to like the Candy House on Facebook (also very well done, but that’s a social media post that needs to be written) and used the persuasive language, “You like this.” Indeed, I do. If you ever find yourself in Joplin, MO, be sure to try the Sea Salt Caramels (or you can buy them online).

  • Offer — In the unfortunate circumstance where you have to send a correction email, consider including an improved offer. For example, I recently received an email from (I know you’ve perused their catalogs on a recent flight). They were running a 20% off promotion when their site went down. To make up for it, they extended the sale and increased the offer to 25% off. Even if the offer is small, think about the goodwill that can be generated by a solid, improved offer.

Sending an additional message to apologize for an issue or correcting a mistake can be very effective. Just be sure to consider the points above before you send so that you don’t needlessly fill up your customers’ inboxes. The last thing you want is to have good contacts unsubscribe because you’re sending too much.

Offline Email Address Collection

December 28th, 2010

Originally posted November 26, 2010, on The Official Email Marketing Blog at iContact.

Offline Email Sign Up Poster A group of Account Managers headed out to a local pizza joint for lunch recently.  Thursdays are their 2 “signature” slices and a drink special, so it’s a good deal we can’t pass up.  But, that’s not the point of this post.

The point is to highlight some great and not so great offline email address collection.  If your business is a retail establishment or a restaurant, take a look at the picture.  This was a 4-foot sign next to the door as you were headed out of the restaurant.  These folks are doing a great job advertising their email marketing.  What exactly works here?

  • V.I.P. Club – People love to feel important and we’ve found that exclusivity complements email marketing perfectly.  With some personalization, you can make folks feel like an email was sent only to them, and at the core, it actually is being sent just to them.
  • Value – Their entire message relays value and explains why you want to be on their list.  Whether it’s a free meal (more info below) or members only awards (more exclusivity), they make a compelling case that you really need to sign up.
  • Free Meal on Your Birthday – This is a great way to get someone (and their co-workers in the case of our little group) to come into your establishment.  The goal isn’t to give away the free meal but to build up the customer’s loyalty and have them spend more money at your restaurant.
  • Monthly Coupons – Who doesn’t love coupons?  Why pay full price when there’s a coupon available?  In these troubled economic times, digital coupon usage has soared.  Customers clearly use them.  Wouldn’t you prefer they spend their money with you instead of a competitor?
  • Expectation Setting – Not only do they have all of these great reasons to sign up, but they also set an expectation that they won’t send you too many e-mails.  You know they mean it because they used 4 exclamation points.  Joking aside, it’s a great way to tell your customers that you’re going to be responsible if you’re granted the permission and privilege to send to them.  Having that age restriction further demonstrates that responsibility.
  • Visibility – This was a huge sign right next to the door.  We just had a satisfying meal and we got hit with a huge visual.  You can’t miss it.  They positioned it perfectly.

So, all this is good stuff, but there’s one terrible failure and it negates everything I mentioned above.  Look closely at the table and you’ll see an empty box that had their sign-up forms right next to the empty cup that presumably holds pens.  Five of us that are in the email marketing business (and are on hundreds and hundreds of email lists) walked out without signing up because this place couldn’t keep their form and pens stocked.  It’s a shame because we all love their pizza, with the notable exception of our co-worker that got a plain turkey sub with lettuce.

Get Into the Rhythm

December 28th, 2010

Originally posted September 22, 2010, on The Official Email Marketing Blog at iContact.

Email marketing works for organizations – large and small – across practically every industry out there.  As the director of account management here at iContact, I see a huge variety of clients.  Some are frequent senders that send multiple times per day while others send once or twice per month, and sometimes less.  Sending Frequency most often depends on the nature of our clients’ business models and the engagement of their lists.

There is one type of client, however, that I have noticed struggling with email marketing: the “new to email marketing” client.

Let’s pretend that Billy Bob’s Super Toupee Store just signed up with iContact.  The proprietor, Billy Bob himself, has built up the business from humble beginnings and has become a successful, growing company.  He’s decided that it is time to get into the email marketing game.  His clients have asked him for updates on the newest trends, hot products and the latest toupee industry news.  As a recipient of several email newsletters himself, Billy Bob recognizes how powerful email marketing can be.

Now Billy Bob is a stickler.  He’s built up a good business by paying attention to details and carefully crafting his branding, messaging and visuals.  Of course, that carries over to his new email marketing efforts.  Billy Bob wants the “perfect” template.  He wants the “perfect” headline.  He wants the “perfect” text.  And he won’t send until everything is, well, “perfect”.  Therein lies the mistake.

There is no such thing as a perfect email – never has been, never will be.  What Billy Bob needs to do is start sending. Imperfect headlines, imperfect text and imperfect layout are all acceptable.  What’s more important is that Billy Bob gets into the rhythm of sending.  He needs to set a schedule, say one or two emails per month, and start sending.  All of those imperfections are simply stepping stones to getting it right.  Once his recipients start to open and click on his messages (or maybe they’re not opening and clicking), he will quickly learn what works and what doesn’t.  Then he can adjust.

The beauty of email marketing is that you can get concrete feedback about how a message performed.  Open rates and click rates give you instantaneous information.  Reviewing what did and did not get clicked gives you even more granular information.  You can start looking for trends such as best subject lines, best calls to action, what types of images perform best, which days of the week to send, and so much more.

None of the above is possible if you’re holding out for the perfect template.  A perfect draft email that is never sent is worthless.  A terrible performing email is golden; it gives you solid information that you can act on to improve.  Once you get into a sending rhythm, you’ll have actionable data to use as the basis for constant, incremental improvement.

Billy Bob is his own worst enemy when it comes to email marketing.  By not sending, he’s not only missing the opportunity to learn what does and does not work, but his list is also getting stale.  Most importantly, he’s missing out on selling more toupees.  Don’t be a Billy Bob.  Get into a sending rhythm!

Brotherly Love

May 31st, 2010

Ironically, Ben’s in his room right now for being mean to his brother.  But, this is great.

Ben’s Book

Things Jack Says

February 7th, 2010

Over the last few days, Jack’s come out with a new funny comment each day. Thought I should share…

  • Thursday – “I would drink my pee if I had to.”  We’ve been watching Man vs. Wild and saw Bear Grylls do this.
  • Friday – “I like hot stuff…and Anna.”  Anna is one of Jack’s daycare pals.
  • Sunday – While watching squirrels run around chasing each other, “Maybe they’re playing freeze tag.”

Pics from the Hurricanes game

December 20th, 2009

We went to the Carolina Hurricanes the other night and I took a few pictures with the new iPhone. Here they are.

Speaking of Home Depot Kids’ Workshop

December 5th, 2009

Being the first Saturday of the month, I got the kids in the car and went to the local Home Depot for their Kids’ Workshop.  This is where the store supplies a small kit to make a bird house, trivet or something along those lines.  We got there around 10:30 (the event lasts 9:00AM – 12:00PM) but as soon as we walked in, the greeter told us they were all out of kits.  The kids were disappointed but I figured we’d head over to another Home Depot.  We got there and quickly found where they were holding it.  We walk about to the woman at the activity desk (it’s now about 11:15) and she informs us that they’re all out of kits.

Usually I have nothing but good things to say about this program.  It’s teaching the kids to do things for themselves, let’s them see the product of their labor and is great daddy/kids time.  And the kids have become quite fond of Home Depot.  Not today.  All of us were mightily disappointed.  I can understand one place being out, but two, c’mon.  Home Depot is better than that.