Archive for the ‘Tutorial’ Category

Video tutorial on sending personalized mailing with Ofuz

Friday, November 19th, 2010

This is a quick video to present how to send personalized mailing to your Ofuz contact.

Ofuz is Open Source; what does that mean?

Friday, September 17th, 2010

Ofuz in an Open Source project.

For developers it’s clear what that means but for most of us it doesn’t. There is a lot of confusion on what the benefits are of an Open Source application.

So I will try to describe the four benefits that matter most for a freelancer of small business.

Long term stability

When you need to select an application for your business, you want to know that you’ll be able to use it for the long run … like forever.

All the software companies — at one point or another — phase out their applications, force you  to upgrade, or even go out of business entirely.

By selecting Open Source software like Ofuz you have the long term stability guarantee. Even if the current developer gets purchased or goes out of business entirely, you will be able to take all your data and the application itself to run it on your own.

This is unique, and the great advantage of Open Source applications over all the Software as a Service you can find online today.


By definition we are open; more than any other proprietary company, our development process is open and accessible to all, our source code is readable, and our documentation is open to all.

The open source model will guarantee we stay true and honest.


Our source code is open to thousands of eyes to review and give feedback. Overtime Ofuz will have a more secure design than our non-open source competitors.

This is critical as security problems and confidentiality issues of online software has just started.

Personalization and customization

I put it last because this is the most important of all.

Every business is different and we all have our secret sauce that make us serve our customer better than anybody else. By creating our base application with the core features that work for most businesses and then adding a simple but elegant feature to customize and extend it:  the plug-in API.

We invite other businesses all over the world to customize our base and make a Plug-In that will sculpt Ofuz to fit their specific needs.
Those businesses will get a custom application to perfectly fit their business model.

Customizing Ofuz by creating a Plug-In costs a fraction of what is involved in building a custom application from scratch.

The result will be — over time — thousands of extensions and Plug-Ins available to enhance Ofuz and make it fit perfectly into any business model and give you maximum productivity.

This model is not new; it has already been proven by other types of software. Take for example WordPress.
Look at all the plug-ins available: over 11,283 plug-ins available today.

Each of those plug-ins is a specific feature that will make your WordPress blog unique and fits your specific needs. Now look at the non-open source blogging alternatives and let me know how much you can customize them?

That what it means being Open Source. It means you will get an application with long term stability, security, openness and that’s customizable.

How to Create a Free Squeeze Page Using Ofuz, pt3

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

We’re wrapping up our three-part series on how to create a free squeeze page using Ofuz with two screencasts, walking you through the process step-by-step.

Creating a squeeze page on a free account:

Creating a squeeze page on a self-hosted WordPress blog:

Thanks for tuning in, and be sure to get a free Ofuz account to take advantage of over 90 enhancements, just released in Ofuz 0.5.8!

Create a Free Squeeze Page, pt. 2

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

In the first part of this blog post series, we talked about why you might want to create a squeeze page to build your mailing list.

Now, let’s talk about how to do it. Here’s what you need to get started:

First, we’ve created something of value to give away to people we think would make good customers. That Thing of Value is a short ebook we’ve written specifically to appeal to people who might make good paying customers.

All they need to do to get the free ebook is provide us with their name and email address, and permission to contact them in the future.

Second, we’ve got an account. That’s the other big part of this solution. You can sign up for mailing list management through Aweber or Mailchimp, but those products are often overkill for what the small business or freelancer needs to do. Ofuz, on the other hand, is just right for folks who need to manage several small or medium size mailing lists. That’s us, so let’s get started!

Here’s the process:

  1. We’ll create a WordPress page where potential customers can download our free ebook. It will be “invisible,” meaning that it’s not linked to by any page or post on our site.

    Note:, for security reasons, blocks all embedded forms, even safe ones like your Ofuz web form. So, to use this technique, use another free hosted blog service like, or use a self-hosted WordPress installation. We’ll show you both methods in the screencast later this week.

  2. Create an Ofuz web form. Directions for doing that are found here. Make sure the thank you page for the Ofuz form is set to the URL for the download page you created in the previous step.
  3. Create a WordPress page where your squeeze page text and the Ofuz web form will go. The squeeze page contains text that describes the value of what you are giving away, politely asks for permission to use their email address in exchange for the freebie, and contains the embed code for your Ofuz web form.

That’s all there is to it!

In the final part of this blog post, we’ll have a short screencast that walks you through setting up a free squeeze page using WordPress and Ofuz.

Stay tuned, and in the meantime sign up for a free Ofuz account now!

Creating a Free Squeeze Page, pt. 1

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

I recently was contacted by a potential customer who was completely off my radar. He hadn’t written me in months, but I had been keeping in touch with him. You, known, sending him the ocassional update on what I’ve been up to, what new things I’ve learned and think are cool. Like we talk about here. He never responded to these emails, but this week he wrote out of the blue to let me know I’m still on his short list for work.

That’s one small example of the power of repeated contact. All advertising is based on the principle that familiarity is a big part of the decision to buy. That principle can apply to freelancers, small businesses, and anyone else who wants to increase their sales. Before we go any further along this line of reasoning, let’s look at some of the things that good marketers take for granted:

  • On average, it takes 7 contacts within 18 months to make a sale. Reference
  • 2% of sales are made on the first contact, 3% on the second, 5% on the third, 10% on the fourth, and 80% on the fifth to twelfth! Reference
  • You better have two things before you contact someone:
    • Their permission
    • Something of value to offer them

The takeaway: If you want to convert a contact into a customer, you need to make repeated contacts to do so. An opt-in email list can be the best way to stay in touch with contacts, contact them repeatedly, and convert them into customers.

One way to build an opt-in email list is a squeeze page. This is based on what’s known as the give-get exchange. You give something of value to people who are likely to want what you have to sell, and in return they give you their email address and their permission to receive emails from you.

If you’re going to create a squeeze page (and we recommend you do, or at least work on building an email list of potential customers), then keep the following things in mind:

  • The difference between spam and email that will help you get new customers is value (and permission). The email must have something of value for your list.
  • Be careful how often you contact your list. Remember that “familiarity breeds contempt,” so keep your emails to-the-point and not too frequent!

In the next post, we’ll walk you though building a squeeze page using Ofuz and WordPress. Stay tuned, and sign up now for a free Ofuz account.

Keeping in Touch: Micro Mailing for the Solo Entrepreneur

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Keeping in Touch: Micro Mailing for the Solo Entrepreneur.

As a small business, very small business actually, we have to always keep one eye on business development. We always want to be the first person that comes to mind when potential customers have a project that we can do. You  could create a mailing list and send out bulk emails with any of the email marketing tools that are out there. However, email readers are notoriously unwilling to read another generic, nicely formatted newsletter. If you are sending these out, you would be fortunate if one fourth (25%) of your recipients actually read your email.

That is not what we are looking for in customer contacts.  We want to have personal communication with potential clients.  So, instead of collecting a thousand email addresses of questionable value, we send out “micro mails” using Ofuz.

An Example Micro Mail:

Hey Josie, I just wanted to send you a quick email to keep in touch and let you know what I have been up to.

The past three months have been a pretty busy time for us .  Philip has been deeply engaged in white papers and other collateral on virtualization subjects, including deep technical dives and sales focused documents to show the value of virtualization in the new IT environments.  He is working so much on virtualization that he has started to act virtual himself.  On really busy days he loses his normally shiny presence and I can actually see through him.

We tried to make the case with the IRS come tax time that since he was virtual he did not need to pay actual taxes.  They did not go for it.

Meanwhile, I have been working on some more marketing focused clients.  For our friends at BlueVolt, I wrote this new video (shown here on their landing page) to demonstrate the value of their rather complex marketing and learning tool.
That is what the Word Lions do: We explain the complicated things.
Both of us are working on documentation and messaging for our new friend Philippe at Ofuz. We are really excited about his tool to help freelancers manage clients, tasks, time, and money.  The Word Lions are using Ofuz and are finding that it helps us to track our many tasks quite effectively.
With Spring, we are starting up on some new exciting opportunities to apply our fierce technical communication chops to other project .  In the next few months we are planning
  • A Learning Management System  and courseware for a client that is developing a complex — but really really cool — software tool that will help to control the Bonneville dams.  A lot of people need to be ramped up on a whole new mission critical user interface and we are going to build a learning tool to get them all ramped up.
  • We have been investigating podcast, both audio and video, as a way to deliver our customers’ message. Research has shown that by adding podcasts to your marketing delivery, you can increase your exposure.  We see that as a way to multiply the value of content across multiple platforms. We could take your white paper and affordably turn it into a podcast that appeals to a whole new audience.

We hope your endeavors are keeping you just the right level of busy.  What kinds of things are you working on these days?

Joel Barker

Tips for Your Micro Email Campaign

  • Keep it brief or they won’t read it at all.
  • Let people know what service you offer.
  • Give them ideas of how you can help them.
  • Give them something of value or something entertaining
  • Ask about how their business is going.
  • Like any good marketing piece, end with a call to action.  Some times I like to couch this in the form of a question as I did in the example above: “What kinds of things are you working on these days?”

How to Make A Micro Email

First, you can import your existing contacts from Gmail or another source. Ofuz supports both Gmail and Google apps. More information about managing contacts in Ofuz is available in the article
  1. Click Settings (top right of the page).
  2. Click Sync.
  3. Click Google.
  4. Click Import Contacts.
  5. In the Email field, type your Gmail address and then click Import.
Then, tag the contacts that you want to email.
  1. Click the Contacts tab.
  2. Click in the white space next to each contact you want to tag.
  3. The white space around the selected contacts will become light yellow.
  4. In the text box above the selected contacts, type the tag you want to assign to those contacts.
  5. Click add tags.

When it is time to create a message, use the Search by Tags feature to select all of your prospects.

Then, send a simple, readable email to these prospects. Don’t go overboard with formatting; this is a personal email, not a bulk newsletter. Use the Insert Merge Fields to add business name, contact name, and the contact’s position wherever it is appropriate in the email.

Every freelancer and solo entrepreneur that I speak with is challenged by the demands of business development.  While Ofuz does not take all of the leg work out of selling yourself, it does mean that we can be more successful while committing less time.

Time management with Ofuz online time tracking

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

Timesheets made their official appearance in Ofuz a few weeks back.

We’ve been playing around with the concept for some time. So today we decided to release the first draft of what will become a powerful time management application.

In this first version we’re covering:

  • Tracking your time on a contact or client.
  • Tracking time on tasks in a project.
  • Viewing your and your co-workers’ daily work logs,  notes, and time recorded.
  • Total time for all client & project tasks, weekly or monthly.

Online time tracking, time management, and timesheets are wide subjects so the goal of this initial version is to offer very simple, non-intrusive features to cover as much usage as possible. They are tons of good reasons to track your time and no reason for not doing it. Time is the most precious resource we have.

Homer Every Day from Noah K. on Vimeo.

Time tends to just pass, so tracking time is a good start. But being able to come back and review what was done during the recorded time is precious.

So we attached a time entry section to notes. You can add a note to a Contact or in a Project discussion, and using that note you can enter an amount of time, in hours, related to the time spent.

The idea is to not only track time but to be able to come back to it and see, “where did my time go?”

I often have that feeling that the day just flies by and at the end I get this frustration of not having done anything.

So I keep a record of all my activity throughout the day. For each client or task I work on, I enter a short description of what I did along with the number of hours I spent doing it.

This creates a kind of work log that’s very useful. If I go in my Dashboard and click “Notes & Discussion” I can view all the daily activity like a chronological journal of the day’s events.

If I share project or contacts with my coworkers, I can also see their activity on those contact and projects.

Ofuz daily discussion and note view

Daily work log of project discussions and contact notes

To get a total of all the time spent by contact, I click on the Timesheet tab where I can filter by Month or Week.

It will display all the time I’ve recorded and all the time recorded by my co-workers on the projects and contacts we share.

Ofuz Timesheet

Monthly Timesheet

Timesheets are used to record time you spend on a contact or on tasks in a project.

To record some time you spent on a contact or  in a project task discussion, start by adding a note and click on the ” More Options” link.

Expend notes options

Expend the Notes options

It will pop up a long list of options associated with your note including the Hours Worked.

Ofuz Record time

Record time in the Hours Worked field

Type the hours with a short summary or note related to those hours entered as a reference.

It works the same way on project discussion notes. For each note you can add time and adjust that time when you edit the discussion.

Get emails automatically attached to your contacts

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

This is a short tutorial on how to use Ofuz’s drop box feature to get sent email messages attached directly to your Ofuz contacts.

Once set up, when working on a lead, prospect or even a client, you will have all your associated notes and emails in one central  location.

Previously, to add a note in Ofuz you needed to type it in or copy and paste text. To make this simpler for email messages that you send and want to keep in Ofuz, we’ve implemented a drop box.

A drop box is a special email address that’s generated only for you. You can then use that email address in all of your email messages as a CC or BCC to keep a copy of your emails in Ofuz.

Ofuz will automatically detect to whom you are sending the message and then attach your email to that contact.

If that contact doesn’t exist it will be created and the email message attached to it.

This makes life much simpler – as we are working a lot with emails, it’s convenient to be able to create new contacts or organize your email messages without having to open another application.

You can find the Add Note drop box in Settings → add note drop box.

Email address to add notes in offuz

Email address to add notes in offuz

Ofuz drop boxes are like normal email addresses.

In the example below, I use my drop box to add a message I sent to Abhik via Ofuz.

Add note drop box

As seen above, I’ve added the add note drop box as a BCC. Doing so will add a copy of the email as a Note on Abhik’s contact page in Ofuz.

Add the BCC to new emails and the emails you reply to, and you will be able to keep a pretty accurate copy of your conversations.

If the contact doesn’t exist in Ofuz, it will be created and then your email will also be added as a Note.

This is a feature that I use a lot because it enables me to find past conversations and information in a Contact-centric manner.

I didn’t want to have to add a drop box for each email I wrote, so I used a feature of my email software that will automatically add the add-note drop box email address as a BCC to all the emails I send.

To enable this in Mozilla Thunderbird, go in Edit -> Accounts -> Copies & Folders  then check the box “Bcc these email addresses” and enter your add note drop box.

Thunderbird, send copy of email in Bcc to the drop box

This setting  will add a copy of all the messages sent and attached it to the  contacts in Ofuz.

Some email software like Gmail will also allow you to add a copy of all the email you receive.

In Gmail, go to Settings -> Forwarding / POP3/IMAP, and then in “Forward a copy of incoming email to”, enter your add note drop box.

Add to Ofuz all incoming emails

You can also adjust this with filters and only add specific email messages to Ofuz.

That’s all on this feature.

To summarize, the add-note drop box can be found in your Ofuz settings in the Note Drop box tab.

It can then be used when you send emails to keep a copy of that email in Ofuz.

Nudge a participant in a project discussion

Friday, December 4th, 2009

We have added a new notation in project discussions to address a specific participant. It looks like this: @firstname. It’s like a ping or a nudge.

You see, Ofuz has an approach to project management that’s very much oriented around discussions.

For us, managing a project is primarily about communication and secondly about metrics. Most of the project management software I’ve personally used in the past were mainly metrics oriented: hour per hour estimates, hourly rates, time line Gantt charts… Those are very cool features but most of the time they get in the way of doing the real work, which is communication.

Project Tasks

So in Ofuz, projects are firstly a discussion with everybody involved in the project and secondly about metrics (yes, we have them, but it will be the topic of a future blog post)

In Ofuz, the project tasks have a flow of discussion; to make sure we do not miss anything it’s integrated with emails. So each new comment in a Tasks discussion sends an email to all of the project’s participants. The discussion can then continue with emails – if one of the participant does a Reply All, that email response will also be added to the Tasks discussion.

Discussion in a Task

The result are very well documented tasks, with all the details, progress, and changes that are happening. Yet, it can also be overwhelming.

If you want to get the attention of a particular participant, you can address the discussion note to him.

Example of Using @

Thus, we created a special notation. For twitter users it will look familiar: it’s @firstname or @lastname.

If you nudge a participant, s/he will receive a special email alert that is different than the regular tasks discussion alert.

It starts with: {Ofuz:Nudge}


The participant will receive it even if they have the email alert discussion turned off.

Inspired by the twitter notation, we felt that the “nudge” enables quick internal dialogue within a project discussion, limiting the message overload.

That’s all for today…

Let us know what you think.  Are you using the feature the same way we do ?

Email merge in a targeted email marketing campaign

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

Most email marketing solutions today are limited to anonymous lists of emails to whom you blast general newsletters.

For your email marketing strategy to be efficient, it’s important to send the right message to the right person. The best way to do this is to organize your contacts by category, and then send personalized emails to each of those categories.

In Ofuz we call these categories Tags. They can be used as a category or list and are very flexible, and you can apply as many tags as you want with a contact.

Click on a contact’s name (below, see an example of a contact with Tags):
Contact Tag view

Now click on the Edit tags or Add tags link, and it will change to:
contact tag in edit mode

Here you can remove tags or add new ones. For example, I am adding the tag “new product info” to this contact to send him information and news about our products.

Once you have attached different tags to your contacts you can send a personalized email message to all of the contacts with a specific tag.

Ofuz email sending capabilities are simple but quite powerful. You can send personalized messages by first name and last name to as many contacts as you want, and create and reuse email templates in HTML with rich text formating. A cool feature unique to Ofuz is that you can send Facebook notifications for Facebook friends without email addresses.

To send a message to multiple contacts, go in the Contacts tab and click on a tag that contains the contact you want to send a message to.

Then click in the white part of a contact line. See the screen shot:

Select a contact
Select a contact

It will highlight the contact line in yellow and open a menu of options. Click the same way on all the contacts you want to send the message to.

If you want to select all of your contacts, click on the select all link.

Then click on the send message button and it will open the message composer.

Create an email message or customize an email template

Create an email message or customize an email template

You can see in this example the [firstname] placeholder that will be merged with each contact’s first name.

On the top right you have a drop down that may be empty at first; it’s all the messages you have saved as templates.

You can manage your email templates in Account Settings → Email Templates.

Just below the template list you have another drop down with a list of “fields”. Select one of them and it will add a special code in your email message that will be replaced by the contact equivalent.

For example, add first name and it will add this weird [firstname] code. Place it anywhere you want, and when you send your message it will replace that code with your contact’s First Name.

If you are not ready to send the message yet you can save it as a draft and come back later to finish it.

If it’s an important message that you plan to send to a lot of users, it’s better to first test it. To do that, save the message as draft, go into Contacts and select yourself, and then send the message to your self.

Once you are satisfied with the result, send the message to your appropriate list.