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I look at and review a lot of apps and services trying to find the best ones to recommend to you.

But a slightly different view of scanning these websites occurred to me the other day and I thought it might be useful to you as well.

I was looking at the IFTTT (IF this, then that) website, which I had scanned quite a long time ago. In its early days, it didn’t make much of an impression on me, but it’s grown up quite well.

Before I go further, let me quickly explain what IFTTT does. This site allows you to create little apps – like macros – that often link up two web-based services. For example, a simple IFTTT app would be IF it’s going to rain today THEN send me an email. The site provides a relatively easy interface for assembling these little apps.

Today, when you go to the site, you immediately start scrolling down a lot of “pre-built” IFTTT apps that you can use immediately, with no need to piece them together yourself. And it was scrolling through these samples that this thought hit me: These are all examples of things that are possible to do, and I might need some of them.

Then I took this thought one step further: Whenever you review the features of an online service, you are learning about things that can be done and they could be things that you should be doing. Another way to put that is like this: See the features described in a service as a kind of “tutorial” on what you should be doing. Let me give you an example.

There’s a good marketing automation SaaS called Drip. Here’s a screen shot of part of the site’s homepage:

drip diagram

You can see that it has a workflow defined here. Let me turn some of the information on this workflow into questions for you:

  • Send drip campaigns: Do you have any email drip campaigns written? Do you have more than one? What should they look like?
  • Define your goals: What would be your goals in these campaigns? Can you start with small goals and move to larger goals?
  • Get your timing just right with delays: Where would you start your timing? Would sending an email every day be right, or too frequent?
  • Perform actions based on subscriber criteria: What kind of different criteria would fit your subscribers? Do you have different actions to take for different kinds of clients or prospects? If not, maybe you haven’t segmented well enough.

Further down on their features page they talk about three types of targeted emails:

  • Drip campaigns,
  • Broadcasts, and
  • One-offs.

Do you know the difference? Do you use each of these?

I’m not pushing you to sign up for Drip; I’m using it as an example of what you can learn by carefully studying the services provided by various companies. When you review the features and functions provided by an online service, turn them into questions for yourself. Use them as paths to do more or do things smarter than you currently do.

As you do this, you may find ways to accomplish those things yourself. And, I might also mention, you could discover that you can use IFTTT to cobble together some of the functions various services perform.

At the very least, when you decide it’s time to subscribe to any online service, you will have a good idea of what it can accomplish and what you need to have in place to be prepared to use it. That way you can hit the ground running and not be wasting your money during a lengthy learning curve.