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Is Direct Mail dead? I'm hoping not!


#1

So I’m about to launch a product for mailing letters. Pretty simple concept… What if you could send a letter or multiple letters as easily as sending an email(s)? So my product can handle all of that!

My questions to all of you good folks is… Do you guys have a need for a service like this? Does anybody even use direct mail? When was the last time you sent a letter(s)? Any feed back would be great! Thanks you guys!


#2
  • I never send JUST a letter.
  • My wife occasionally sends postcards or thank you notes.
  • We occasionally send care packages via postal mail.

That’s about it.


#3

I launched a service like this a few years ago. We made a nice web app and invested a bit into printer hardware, etc. We even got a few customers. After a while, I realized that, if this thing became successful, I’d essentially be running a printing/mailing shop rather than a software company, and I closed the whole thing down.


#4

Interesting. How much automated was it?

I imagine there are two distinct part of it – what a managing software can do (print letters in nice handwriting font, postcards, …) and manage the hardware (add paint, …). The second part can be outsourced, is it not?


#5

Most of it was automated through various in-house tools - web app CRM talks to printing servers, that talk to the printers, etc. The only part that was manual was requesting mail pickup. That could be automated too, I think, but I only ran the thing for a few months before shutting it down.


#6

I believe you pretty much validated the concept then. :slight_smile: And promptly freed the space for @dev_gar, so there is no excess competition :smiley:


#7

@rfctr Well I like the sound of that! :wink: Hopefully it’ll perform well!

@andrey how many customers is a few? What was your best method of traction? I’m pretty invested into doing this thing at this point and am going to try and follow it through the whole way!


#8

This was years ago. I don’t recall how many customers we had. Less than 10. We hadn’t done any marketing beyond the initial announcement to our circle of friends and other business owners, so it was all word-of-mouth. I think there’s value there, it just wasn’t the type of business I wanted to run.


#9

Yeah that makes a lot of sense. Something I’m trying to get my head around is marketing it. I don’t think the usual ProductHunt, HackerNews, Twitter, and Facebook combo will work. But I’m sure I’ll figure it out!

Do you recall what kind of features your app had? Just curious to see how my MVP stacks up against it. :wink:


#10

It was a CRM-based web app, where the user could order a single or a repeated delivery of a promotional mailing, etc, to a set of people or businesses that they imported or entered. The app then spoke to various scripts, etc, that formed a chain that talked to the printers. Then we mailed everything. :slight_smile:


#11

There’s a ton of apps that do this. I think you’ll want to consider carefully your angle to somehow stand out from all the rest. I don’t mind that a ton of apps do it, but it seems like a very low margin business so you’ll really need to have some stuff nailed down.


#12

Thanks! That helps a ton!! :wink:

@ian what other apps are you referring to? I think I’ve got a pretty good niche going w/ just mailing letters at first… I think there is a lot of space in this industry though. On top of that I think the analytics I’ll be able to provide will be a game changer for compared to the competition… BUT - I have been wrong before. Several times in fact.

Thanks for the responses guys!


#13

Are you implying you think you don’t have competitors :slight_smile:

Just search direct mail printing and there’s a zillion. Here’s one http://www.letterprinting.net/ but there are many.


#14

Whoa! Sorry didn’t mean to say I didn’t have competitors…

But I’m going for a specific niche of letters and ideally quantities of under 50. For instance, the link above has a SUPER complicated website and it won’t let you do quantities under 50.

I think the pain point I’m trying to solve with my niche is for people who are mailing such small quantities that mail houses really aren’t interested. (Also, I probably should’ve stated all of this before… Probably would’ve been helpful.)

Does that seem like a reasonable niche @ian? Or are you still unconvinced?

To tell you the truth I’m feeling my way through a dark room. I feel like this is something that should exist, but I think I’m also mentally leaning towards a point of view of “Am I really building an app that lets you mail a letter?” The struggle is real… :wink:


#15

Hey, I’m unconvinced about a lot of things that work so don’t go by me :slight_smile:

I just think how can you ever make any money without 50+ type volume? How much can you charge for one printed letter? There’s even hand written letter services now that will write and mail for you for not too much.


#16

Hahahaha. You and me both!

That’s very true… I can’t say that I disagree with you, honestly… Well we will find out though! Fingers crossed that it’s a huge success and that both of our doubts are misguided!


#17

$4.

That’s how much I’d pay to NOT go to the post office when I need to send a postcard to my relatives.


#18

I recently started working for a company that sends handwritten letters (yes, written by real people) on behalf of clients. We’re letterfriend.com. You can find us and our competitors if you Google “handwritten letter service”.

By far the most common use of mass (handwritten) direct mail is in the area of real estate. If you’re looking to do small batches you could probably do wedding invites, as we get occasional requests for those. Google Adwords would allow you to target those people.

If you want any other ideas for niches, ask. I can take a look at some of our smaller requests.

FYI, real estate people (prospectors especially) are all about ROI. They will usually not be happy to pay $4 per card, even it is handwritten. People are paying around $1 for a printed letter. Super fancy wedding invites may be different.

Us, and our main competitors all have web apps that allow people to send small batches of letters.


#19

Only when communicating with the German tax authorities. :wink:


#20

This is an old thread, but I’m surprised no one has mentioned lob.com
I think they came out of YCombinator a few years ago. They have a very extensive API for sending physical mail. I tried them once, and it worked fine, except for one surprising property. (You can send letters in quantity one.) I mailed a postcard, and it took seven or eight days to reach me. That delay eliminates a bunch of uses I might have, such as mailing time sensitive offers. I searched the docs and they fail to give the estimated delivery times, which I think is somewhat sneaky.