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This is the story of how a tweet about three rogue punctuatioA Small Orangen marks bagged me a free T-shirt, a Moleskine notebook and a handwritten note from the CEO from one of the world’s best and brightest web-hosting companies.

It began with an email I received from A Small Orange, the hosting company I’ve been using for most of my websites since 2009. I don’t even remember the content now, but one thing stuck out: A triple exclamation mark. It made me cringe. In my writing rulebook (and bear in mind that when it comes to the English language I am firmly a descriptivist, not a prescriptivist), exclamation marks are almost always unnecessary, and when used indiscriminately, they look tacky. Triple exclamation marks are almost unforgivable.

I expect a lot from A Small Orange — they’ve successfully marketed a sophisticated brand to me and tens of thousands of customers. So, when I’d recovered from my exclamation mark trauma, I took to Twitter with tongue in cheek:

Tweet: "Triple exclamation marks threaten to shatter my faith in @asmallorange."

The joke, really, is that I love A Small Orange and often tweet or Facebook about them and recommend the service to friends and followers. CEO Doug Hanna, however, tweeted straight back asking if I could share some more about the email:

Tweet from A Small Orange CEO: "We agree that's going overboard."

I emailed Doug and forgot about the whole thing — once I’d noted my pleasure at the incident’s outcome on Twitter, that is:

Tweet: Pleased with A Small Orange's speedy response to my complaint

Then, over two months later, I received an unexpected email from Paula at A Small Orange. Doug had wanted to thank me for my feedback and had sent a parcel of goodies to my address in St Catharines, Ontario. It had been returned, and ASO would like my new address so they could ship my reward. Yesterday, at my old/new home in the UK, I received a package containing an A Small Orange T-shirt, a Moleskine notebook and a handwritten note from Doug, thanking me for “helping keep our copy elegant.”

Moleskine. I’ve always wanted a Moleskine. It comes with a booklet telling me exactly why I’ve always wanted one:

Moleskine is the legendary notebook used by European artists and thinkers for the past two centuries, from Van Gogh to Picasso, from Ernest Hemingway to Bruce Chatwin. This trusty, pocket-size travel companion held sketches, notes, stories and ideas before they were turned into famous images or pages of beloved books.

Kathy Sierra used to blog about marketing under the title Creating Passionate Users. A Small Orange has followed this philosophy and made a passionate user of me. It wasn’t the freebies that did it; my surprise package pushed me to blog about my experience, so kudos for an inspired marketing move. But I was passionate about A Small Orange long before that, for three reasons that I think would please Doug and the team.

First, the hosting is reliable. Second, it’s affordable. Third, and most importantly, the customer service is second to none. Submit a query, and someone at A Small Orange will get back to you pretty much straight away. I’m looking at a random email exchange with A Small Orange’s help desk in my inbox: 1.46am, I get an automated response to acknowledge my ticket; 1.55am and a staffer has personally responded to my query. Ten minutes and I’m talking to a real person. They’ll work with you until your problem is resolved. I love it.

I can’t guarantee you will all get free Moleskines if you sign up. Identify some poor copy (an increasingly difficult task, due mostly to ASO’s awesomeness and partly to my vigilance), and you may be in with a shot at a free T-shirt. But invest a few bucks a month in hosting with A Small Orange, and I can confidently say you won’t be disappointed in the product or the service.


Douglas Hanna, February 29, 2012 Reply


Thanks for the very kind words. We work hard to ensure we’re providing high quality service and it’s always nice to see that customers appreciate the result of that hard work. I’ll be sure that our team sees this post.

Thanks again,

Douglas Hanna
CEO, A Small Orange

David L Rattigan (post author) , March 1, 2012 Reply

Cheers, Doug.

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