All posts by Annabel Youens

Annabel Youens

About Annabel Youens

I'm a co-founder and CMO at AE. I believe that truly successful internet businesses have to connect people. {wave} When I'm not online I'm exploring beautiful Vancouver Island. Things I love: everything scifi, literary fiction, coffee, Google Music, my workhorse sewing machine and board games.

“Morning, team!” I call out as I swing into my office. I run a technology startup company with my husband. We’re co-founders, growing our company in the close-knit tech community of Victoria BC Canada, and we’re parents. We’re raising a business at the same time as we’re raising a preschooler. It’s everything we wanted… and it’s all happening at the same time.

My brain sometimes fizzes over with a potent mix of thoughts related to running the company and managing our family life. Here’s a glimpse at some of the thoughts typically running through my head, before little feet pitter-patter into my bedroom:

Okay, first I’ll answer that question from Tom about the problem he’s having with his account.

Anthony needs the final copy for that marketing piece.

My mum is calling.

What am I going to make for dinner tonight? I think we have one onion left…

We need to get that form in for A’s preschool.

Oh man, there’s an alert from Google telling me I have a Skype call in 10 minutes.

Is there any more coffee left in the kitchen?

Does that sound familiar? For most of us who work online, our work lives and personal lives are colliding, at an overwhelming rate of speed. It’s exciting — and exhausting. From the moment I open the doors of our office, until the time I bundle up in my coat, I’m fizzing like a coke float. Most days I love being switched on, but at 5 pm, I don’t want any more stimulation. I want to be more like a mug of earl grey tea.

An old-school hack to unplug, de-fizz and find my focus.  

Last year I tried something I’ve been meaning to try since I was 8 years old — sewing.

When I was little, I was terrified on Halloween by our fun-loving neighbours down the road who jumped out at me from the bushes. I screamed and laughed… and loved it. Halloween is my favourite fun holiday. What’s better than being a completely different personality for a night?

I start thinking about my costume in early January — yes, right after all the tinsel and mince pies. My favorite part is planning, looking at ideas, thinking about the key pieces of the costume and then figuring out construction methods. I’ve always been a stapler, papier mâchée, and glue kind of costume maker — which gets the job done, but can be very limiting. But I’ve envied the home-sewn vampire cloaks and patchwork Raggedy Andy outfits.

Every year, I’ve vowed, ONE DAY I WILL SEW MY OWN HALLOWEEN COSTUME. So when I turned 40 last year I figured it was time to get that needle and thread stitching.

Darth Vader Halloween costume in high schoolDarth Vader in Junior High — notice the cape, a tied piece of black fabric. Yeah, I’ve always been a Star Wars fangirl.

Why sewing works for me:

I’ve tried many “hacks” to de-stress from the startup lifestyle. Meditation, walking, knitting, cooking and going out drinking just don’t have the effect of working on a sewing project that’s meaningful to me.

Sewing is the perfect foil for my startup life. It forces me to slow down because I’m a beginner. I’m deep in the early stages of mastering a skill and I have to use my whole brain to figure out how a one-dimensional picture on a website becomes a two-dimensional group of pattern pieces and then I have to turn that into a three-dimensional piece of clothing.

Sewing patterns for digital marketersTrying to sort out adjustments across 8 seam lines with the help of Nancy Zieman.

I am forced to think about one thing very intensely for a long period of time. You can’t just switch over to answering a text message when you’re figuring out how to add 2 inches to your waist pattern across 8 seams without a marked waist point — sewists in the house give me a boo-yeah!

How it benefits me:

After spending deep time with my scissors (seam ripper!) and trusty 1972 Husqvarna, I am calmer. I don’t have that fizzle in my brain — or my stomach. That deep gut fluttering, so common after one hour in my email, disappears. I’m also more focused and less keen to pick up my phone and check out Instagram, my social media addiction of choice. The less information I consume, the less I want to consume. It’s a nice feeling to have and one I’m determined to hold onto as much as possible.

Sewing machine for digital marketerMy mother’s 1972 Husqvarna in my care.

What would work for you?

Is there a complex skill you’ve always wanted to learn? Woodworking? How to play the guitar? Cooking indian food from scratch? I say give it a go. I know you don’t have time and you feel exhausted when you get home from the office. But, I know it will support you to be more productive.

Let’s all band together with a rallying cry for less distractions and more focus. Go forth and learn my friends!

Handmaid's Tale costume Halloween 2017This year’s Halloween home sewn cape and cap for a Handmaid. Praise Be!

I spend most days working across the table or down the hall from my husband, who happens to be my co-founder in a data-driven tech startup.

This month, the company we founded together at the beginning of our marriage is being re-engineered. We’re in beta-launch mode. Previously, we only worked with enterprise-level clients. But now, we’ll be offering a new social login solution aimed at a much wider market.

My husband and I have been working in the startup space together for almost 10 years and this is our second go at it. The advantage of working together as co-founders is that we both understand the challenges of running a startup. It’s easier to put in long hours and tag each other in and out of personal life as needed.

That’s not to say it hasn’t been a rollercoaster! Here are three of the many lessons we’ve learned while mixing marriage and ambition in the tech space…for those who might dare to try it.

1. My first piece of advice is simple. For any company founder, know that mistakes will be made.

Accepting this as a couple, we’ve learned to trust each other more. We’ve learned our own decision-making process and worked out together why something feels right, or doesn’t. In both business and life, we’ve made choices that others may not understand, knowing they’re the ones that meet all our goals.


Know that mistakes will be made

2. My second piece of advice is practical. Go out and buy yourself a new bed.

For sleep. Your sleep is going to change radically, yet a good night’s sleep is probably the glue holding your relationship together. You’ll come to know several new sleep-types:

  • Exhausted Sleep (sleeping in your clothes next to a bowl of cold noodles)
  • Nerve-Wracking Sleep (toss, turn, how will I pay my team’s salary next week, toss, turn — repeat all night long)
  • Angry Sleep (what a jackass that guy was today)
  • Depressed Sleep (will this ever get any better)
  • Excited Sleep (I hope I don’t mess up my pitch tomorrow)
  • Some normal sleep (if you’re lucky)

Through all of this you need to arm yourself with the best tools — I promise the bed will help.


Go out and buy yourself a new bed

3. My third and final recommendation is to get creative with logistics, and get support as you need it.

We’ve spent the past 5 years schlepping our small family across the country. Back and forth. From our quiet West Coast life to the towers and corporate offices of our enterprise clients on the East Coast. This has only been accomplished with the support of friends and family and an understanding that we can adjust to each other’s schedules.


Get creative with logistics and get support as you need it


There’s always been tension between the life we want for our company and the life we want as a family. We’ve made decisions to move out of big city life, in order to have the family life we envision. I know from experience that if you want your business to succeed, you have to be content with your personal life. Only then will you feel supported to take those big risks.

A core part of the “founder condition” is that we need to learn from the mistakes we make. That includes learning bit-by-bit how to design our lives as well.

This week, we will quietly start inviting the wider public to buy from us. The challenge was to turn a highly customized software solution into a turn-key offering that’s reasonably easy to use. There’s still plenty of work to do, beyond working on the software itself. This new iteration of the company means documenting everything, automating our user on-boarding and training, and of course, learning a lot about our new market.

Having my husband as a co-founder means that he truly understands this unplanned, always eventful and never-normal journey we’re on. And that makes it the adventure of a lifetime.

Thanks Jeff xxoo

Spotify offers users a toolbox of buttons, including the much-loved Pre-Save option. But not everyone takes advantage of all the data that’s available from Spotify. There are more customer insights to be gleaned by implementing your own custom Spotify Pre-Save.

By customizing your Spotify Pre-Save, you get valuable data about your fans, including customer behaviour information you just don’t get anywhere else.

A Custom Spotify Pre-Save option in action.


Here’s how you can use AE Spotify data to segment your fans.

AE will show you exactly which fans are loving a particular artist right now. You can enter multiple artists into AE and our engine will do all the tracking and fussing around with the data. Our dashboard presents a clear picture of which artists your fans are engaging with.

A user's Spotify activity shows which artists she's into.



Some of the smart ways you can segment your fans:

  • Fans who recently pre-saved an album on Spotify
  • Fans with your artist in their top 25 artists this month on Spotify
  • Fans who added your artist or another artist you track (Artist X) to a collection on Spotify

This kind of rich data about your fans and how they are listening on Spotify is not available in your Spotify for Artists page. AE will help you move the needle on your campaigns with this secret sauce.

Now that you’ve found a perfect segment of fans, send them a message that resonates.

Here are a few message ideas:

  • Send a thank-you email to the fans who pre-saved and give them access to some behind-the-scenes album recording content
  • Advertise upcoming tours across Facebook and Google to the fans who have Artist X in their top 25
  • Send an email with the top 5 tracks of all time by Artist X to fans who recently added a track by Artist X to a collection
  • Advertise Artist X to Facebook and Google fans who “look like” those who have Artist X in their top 25

With Spotify’s data, you’ll see how your artist is performing. But with our custom Spotify login, you see how your users are performing so you can target them the right way.

With AE, you get both kinds of data: on your artists and your fans.

You’ll see Smart Marketer results.

Our customers see email open rates jump to 60% using AE’s segmentation. That’s because we show you in real time that your user is into your artist right now. Yep, that’s precision targeting at scale.

Appreciation Engine's segmentation will get you 60% email open rates.

Use Spotify Pre-Save fans to create lookalike audiences on Facebook.

Lookalike targeting on Facebook generates impressive numbers. The Portland Trail Blazers used lookalike targeting and saw a 21x return on ad spend, which was a 77% higher return on ad spend than through their other channels. To master lookalike targeting, you need the power of owning your customer data… and that’s what you’ve got with AE.

Lookalike targeting can get you 21x return on ad spend.

Install AE’s custom social login today and get the power of owning your customer data.

Everybody’s using social login these days. When knowing more about your customers matters, it makes sense to pick up as many insights as you can about them.

I’m sure no one is surprised that Facebook is the #1 social login provider. It’s quick to set up, it looks professional and it gives you a bunch of insights about your customers.

Facebook's social login on a mobile device.

But what are you missing out on when you use Facebook’s social login?

Facebook gives you great data to show how your advertising campaigns are performing and tips on how to improve them. Facebook offers a lot of tools for digital marketers; however, Facebook doesn’t show you the total picture. Using Facebook’s data can’t beat owning your own customer data.

How do you do that? Own your own customer data?

The value of using Appreciation Engine’s custom social login is that you can access a lot more information about your customers than by using typical insights and analytics.

With a little bit of effort you can set up our custom Facebook login and start to see a full picture of your customers, in real-time —  not just the tiny sliver that Facebook wants you to see.

What’s missing from Facebook’s insights?

You may not realize how much data Facebook doesn’t let you see.

Facebook knows an awful lot more about your customers than you will ever have access to from their insights. Facebook tracks users all across the web, yet they only show you the tip of the iceberg. My question is, why are you letting Facebook gate what you can see about your customers?

Stop giving your data to Facebook: How custom social login gives you more insights in real time.

By implementing Appreciation Engine’s custom social login, you can capture your customers and get access to everything that customer does across multiple social networks. Appreciation Engine’s social login goes beyond what our competitors do — you get a 1-click customer acquisition tool that gives you a real-time view of your customer and how they change over time, so you can precision target with confidence.

Appreciation Engine's sign-up function.

(That’s right — you can get insights across multiple social networks from just Facebook. Facebook is a brilliant aggregator!)

Top 3 insights smart marketers can get from custom social login:

1. Insights from other social networks

Facebook is a brilliant aggregator. Lots of people post their Instagram snaps, Spotify listens, and tweets. You get access to all this information.

Appreciation Engine's social dashboard reveals customer insights.

2. Real-time insights

Sometimes Facebook is just giving you out-of-date profile information. With your own social login, you’ll know your data is real-time and relevant. After all, none of us want to be mis-targeting because of bad data.

Appreciation Engine tracks customer activity across multiple platforms.


3. Direct access to customer data

Building your customer list is the name of the game. By doing your own social login, you know you have direct access to your customers, their email addresses, and their data. By owning your customer, you can start to focus on the right people at the right time, without having to guess.

A customer's profile as it appears on Appreciation Engine.


Taking some time to implement your own custom social login is a bit of work up-front, but the long-term benefits make this a no-brainer. So, all you smart marketers out there, get to it!