In this episode, I talked with Ryan Hartman, Founder & CMO of Thanks.io. Thanks.io provides a platform to integrate automated handwritten postcards with APIs.
Much of our conversation centered on how and why handwriting in direct mail works to drive traffic.
Ryan also observed how mail has staying power compared to other forms of communication:
Some of the other topics we covered:
- Why handwritten direct mail stands out in the mailbox
- What industries benefit most from handwritten direct mail
- Why direct mail works
- Trends for 2022
BONUS! Ryan also made a special offer to viewers of this video as a thank you. Look for details near the end of the interview.
Here are some questions and answers (edited for clarity and space):
- Can you talk a little bit about the ways that handwritten postcards and even letters can be personalized and more importantly, why they should be?
Well, for me, the biggest reason to do it was the pattern interrupt kind of effect.
It’s just, how do we get this read. As a digital marketer, I was thinking a lot about getting ads clicked on, getting engagement, and getting your emails open. And, it just occurred to us that, “Hey, if we’re going to send something physical to the mailbox, we don’t want it to look like every other mail piece that looks like an advertisement, you know, looks commercial, and something handwritten”.
We knew that if we could affordably do something that was handwritten that didn’t cost an arm and a leg that we might be onto something.
And we knew that the human eye is drawn more to the handwriting and the print. It’s just kind of obvious.
- What is it about handwriting that you really think stands out to consumers?
Well, if it’s done right, it doesn’t look too bad, if it looks like somebody took the time to send you something…I don’t know if it’s subconscious, or if it’s reciprocation, but you almost feel like they put the effort in, and this isn’t a routine that’s running consciously in your head, but if they put the effort and they sent me something and your eyes just go down to what you want to read it.
You might say the same thing about regular digital fonts, but I don’t know, there’s just something different when you get something that you could see smudging or different angles and the brain likes it.
- How much personalized data do you use in the mail piece?
We don’t go too heavy. I mean, we have name, email, phone. We have a couple of custom fields that you can merge into the platform, and there are places where you can inject that into the body of the message. There are some workarounds to do dynamic in the creative.
But one of the more interesting places where using the data is in the URLs that we’re driving people to through our QR tracking feature. So our more advanced users, bill a pen, you know, a first name to the, and pass it through to the URL on the scan, you can say, “Hi, I Paul, thanks for checking out XYZ”, and it becomes more personal.
- What industries would you say are most likely to really benefit from using handwritten direct mail?
Real estate is a big one. We have a lot of insurance and e-commerce. You know, the specific use case that we built this for, where you’re thanking somebody on an order or an action that they took out of your shopping cart and e-commerce sending a follow-up, “Hey, thanks for the purchase! Here’s a promo code to buy the next one for half off” or whatever, has proven to be really powerful.
The truth is, and I’m sure other direct mailers would say the same thing, I rarely meet a business owner who couldn’t use us in some way. It’s a traffic channel.
One of the things we’ve tried to do is say, “Hey, this can be “set it and forget it”. I know a lot of direct mail traditionally has been about customer acquisition and lead generation, and we’ve taken the, “Hey, this is more about rounding out your full marketing mix and you’re just adding this, so tie to your CRM, tie to your shopping cart and you kind of forget it and just let it run”.
- What you would say is the best value proposition for direct mail? Why does direct mail just in general still work?
Yeah. Well, I think a little bit of it is zigging while the competition is zagging, right? Everybody’s so obsessed with Facebook ads and Google and all those budgets have been allocated to digital. And I know my mailbox is usually only a couple of things in there, you know? Maybe a credit card offer, nothing from a family member.
That’s one of the things I’ve started doing, I started sending my grandmother and I sent them pictures of the family on a postcard and they love it. There’s a relationship aspect to this too. People aren’t used to getting something in the mail anymore.
And then, I think it’s a combination of less competition, and if you’re crossing channels and you’re complimenting your digital, you can really reinforce what you’re doing with that Google display retargeting ad. If the same message shows up physically in their hands, you appear to be on top of your game. Your business appears to be everywhere. It’s just a no-brainer for me, especially the retargeting aspect.[Trackability through URLs or QR codes is another value proposition]. Or just using plain URL . QR codes, we have built into our system as an out-of-the-box functionality. You put a URL in when you’re creating your message and it automatically creates the QR, you’re notified when they scan it and you can even push through our API, you know, if you’re more sophisticated use Zapier to kind of push that back to your CRM or shopping cart.
But it doesn’t always need to be QR …Text response codes, vanity URLs that you set up just for the purposes of mail. And I have seen and heard from some of our users that they do get a better response when there are two calls to action that are going to the same place. You’re giving them two ways.
- What do you think are the trends for 2022 to look for?
I’m a very frustrated pay-per-click marketer right now, especially with Facebook, a little bit with Google.
And I think there are a lot of people feeling that pain, some of these channels, there’s a shift going on where they’re getting more restrictive, unreasonable, more expensive. So I think that going into 2022-2023, from what I’m seeing more and more businesses are gonna be looking for alternatives, and direct mail advertisers’ services like ours and others are going to do well.
It’s not like we’re going to say, “Hey, you need to switch totally away from Facebook ads to digital”, but it might make sense to try a test.
And then, our platform, we have some exciting things coming. We just launched a retargeting, kind of a website visitor tracking. We always had a feature, but we really beefed up the feature we had, where if somebody visits your website, it grabs some of their data, so you can automatically mail them a “Thank You” whether they interact with your site or not. And we have gift cards coming.
And what I’m seeing from some of our competitors is there’s a lot of people innovating and doing these kinds of things. And I think you’re going to see a few solutions like ours emerge that are really providing a full suite of automated responses.
Here is our conversation. We’ve added timecodes for your convenience.
Thanks again, Ryan, for an interesting and informative chat! To learn more about Thanks.io, visit www.thanks.io.
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