At the end of the street the school bus rumbled as it pulled around the bend, leaving a small cloud of black fog in its absence. I could feel the sun shining on my face as I waved goodbye to Taylor.
With a quick shrug I threw the other strap of my backpack over my shoulder, and shuffled under the old pine tree, just in front of the crumbling rock wall.
The mailbox squeaked slightly as I opened it, giddy with excitement. It was the first day of July, which meant my birthday was a mere 16 days away. There might be something for me in there!
“Bills… bills… bills…” I murmured to myself. Each flip of the envelope brought a disappointing crinkle of cellophane. One long, narrow envelope after another, with a clear window displaying my parents’ names inside.
Until, there it was! A blue colored envelope, with a handwritten address: “Master Jordan Skole!” I threw the rest of the envelopes back in the mailbox with a slam, and scurried down the long driveway to the front door, where my mom was waiting with a pitcher of sugary lemonade on the front porch.
* * *
Remember the days when mail was fun? The expectation of the mail person as a friendly courier bearing good news is all but a hazy memory. What was once reserved for an update from a grandparent has faded, replaced exclusively by the same phrase as our childhood: “bills… bills… bills…”
But it doesn’t have to be that way! Not for your customers at least; In this article we are going to outline 6 different ways that you can bring delight back into your customers’ mailbox.
The best part? It is easier than you think, and with a dash of webhook and a sprinkle of marketing automation, you can get a process setup in an afternoon that will last you the rest of the year.
Let’s dive in!
What should you send?
Send a handwritten note
A whole handful of companies have sprung up recently, offering a programatic way to send personalized correspondence. They vary, some are actually handwritten by a real human, and others digitize your own handwriting and have a CNC style robot write the cards for you.
Either way, each is a unique greeting that you are able to personalize with specific templates just like you would an email. We recommend sending a hand written note as a thank you to your most loyal customers.
For example if you run an e-commerce store, send a personal message after a user has spent more than $1,000 all time. If you run a subscription software company, send a personalized message after a user has been a customer for more than a year.
Prices range from $2 – $6/card, and some require an additional monthly membership. Here are a few examples of online services that will send “handwritten” greeting cards on your behalf.
- Thankster – I’m not sure what process Thankster uses to process your cards, but I assume they utilize a CNC machine. They provide many handwriting style fonts, or you can print out a formatting guide and create a font from your handwriting for free. Individual cards start at $2 and Thankster already has a Zapier integration.
- Fountain Greetings – Fountain Greetings takes it up a notch with wax-sealed handwritten cards. They also fit into the gift basket category (below), allowing you to send custom curated gift boxes starting at $25/each.
- Thankbot – Thankbot is a misleading name, since they claim to be 100% handwritten. Pricing starts at $5/card and decreases at volume.
- Maillift – Maillift is another option that claims to be 100% handwritten by a human. Pricing starts at $6/card and comes with a bunch of pre-built integrations. Maillift has several add-ons including the ability to “send” from your local address, and have the handwriting professional write your letter with a Montblanc pen.
- Lob – Lob doesn’t send “handwritten” letters, however they do allow you to programmatically send typed mail, letters, and more. Pricing starts at $0.70/postcard with no monthly requirements.
- Letterly – Letterly promises to write handwritten cards by a real human, not a machine. At the time of this writing, all of their cards were sold out, so I am not sure on pricing. Their Facebook account was last updated in June 2015…
Send some swag
Sending some swag is a great way to keep your company top of mind, and to continue to increase the surface area of your awareness efforts. Stickers end up on laptops and shirts end up on shoulders.
Swag is a bit more expensive so you want to make sure that you aren’t wasting it. Send swag to your loudest and proudest customers. These are likely the ones that tweet, post, and blog about you the most. If you have a referral program in place, consider sending a swag kit after a user has referred their first three people, or immediately after they sign up for a yearly plan.
Logo T’s are fine, but your effort will go further if you spend some time coming up with creative concepts for your campaign. You want to create some swag that people are excited to actually wear.
Here are a few places that allow you to programmatically send branded physical objects like t-shirts or socks.
- Printful – A store API that programmatically prints and ships items like t-shirts, socks, posters, mugs and more. Printful has a friendly API that makes it easy to order and ship objects via a webhook or Zapier integration. $0 upfront cost, prices vary.
- Printfection – Printfection requires a higher up-front cost as well as an ongoing monthly membership, but lower per-unit fees and more product diversity than Printful.
- Startup Threads – Startup Threads comes with a Zapier integration, making it super easy to send a product to your customers. The range of products is limited to mostly t-shirts, tank tops and hoodies.
Send a gift basket
Gift baskets are far more expensive than some of our other options, but are a nice touch, especially around the holidays. Who doesn’t love delicious pears, cheese, and summer sausage?
I recommend keeping gift baskets reserved for your highest value customers. Send them at the holidays, or after a major milestone like if a customer crosses a $100,000 mark.
- FloristOne API – Send a wide variety of floral arrangements or a gift basket with the FloristOne API.
- Fountain Greetings – Fountain Greetings has a wide selection of high-end gift boxes available, or can help you curate a personalized one. Prices start at $25/box but scale up quickly.
Send a donation
A donation is a nice way to form a more intimate connection with your customers, without all of the knick-knacks and tchotchkes that comes with sending physical clutter.
- Donately – Donately uses Stripe on the backend to process your payments, but it should be possible to make contributions on behalf of your contacts using their API.
- Google Donation API (coming soon) – The Google Donation API is currently only available to “trusted testers” but promises to allow users to integrate with over $1.1M US Nonprofits
Send a gift card
Gift cards are nice, but less personal, since many can’t actually be physically mailed. Gift card services like Tango Card will only generate and send custom codes. Additionally they lack the personal touch a physical product can provide. In order to personalize it up a bit, consider integrating a gift card API with an API like Lob.com to send your code.
- Tango Card – The Tango Card RaaS® (rewards as a service) API allows you to programmatically email your customers either a gift card to a specific retail location, or a balance that allows the contact to choose.
Send a physical product
A physical product can be a great alternative to a handwritten note, especially if you don’t feel comfortable outsourcing your handwriting to a robot. A physical product can be relatively inexpensive, and has the potential ship really quickly. For added personalization, consider matching different gifts with different customer personas.
Programatic mailing of physical products, however, requires a lot of overhead and up-front work to implement. Unless you plan on using the Zinc API (below) then the process only appears to make sense at a really large scale – thousands of recipients or more.
- Zinc API – I think the primary use of the Zinc API is to help facilitate Ebay arbitrage, however it is a great way to expose Amazon’s broad product catalog as an API for programatic ordering. Zinc costs $1 per API call which is easily offset by the cheap prices on Amazon.
- Amazon FBA – Fulfillment by Amazon is a program for retailers that will manage warehousing and fulfillment of physical products by Amazon. The pricing is complicated, but relatively inexpensive. You would need to order all of your products in advance and then provide them to Amazon ahead of time in order to take advantage.
- Doba Dropship API – Doba is an online directory of dropship suppliers. They primarily exist to provide information on products to ecommerce drop-ship companies, however you could use it to find and order products that you intent to pay for yourself.
How to send it?
The easiest way to get started utilizing many of these APIs, or any API for that matter, is to create a webhook as an automation action.
When you create a webhook in ActiveCampaign, you will be able to send the contact’s information anywhere on the web; to Zapier, to your own API for pre-processing, or directly to one of the APIs listed above.
The easiest (but least flexible) way to begin sending a physical gift to your contacts is select one of the providers listed above that already has a Zapier integration; Lob, Thankster, Printful (a la Gumroad), Startup Threads (a la Gumroad) to name a few.
The next easiest way is to either send the contact information to the service directly, if the service supports that (you will need to be able to save your payment details with the service provider directly). As an alternative, if the API is clean enough, you can add the service provider to Zapier as a private trigger yourself.
The final way to facilitate mailing physical products to your contacts is to write a simple API processor, that accepts an ActiveCampaign webhook as a POST request, formats it correctly and adds whatever additional authorization is required, and then forwards the request on to the service provider’s API. Although flexible, this will be a challenging undertaking without a developer.
Send a postcard on a high-value customer’s birthday
This is a relatively straightforward automation. In order to accomplish this functionality, you will need to collect information on your user’s birthdays.
You can do this manually, during the sales process, or the information could be a field populated by the user via a form.
Send a t-shirt after a milestone is achieved
This automation requires the use of Goals. If you are not yet taking advantage of Goals in your automation sequences I highly recommend reading The Importance of Goals in Marketing Automation in our education center.
Send a handwritten card to your high value customers on the holidays
If you have experience building our automations, you might be tempted to create a “date based” trigger in order to accomplish your task of mailing a holiday letter. Instead, start the automation when a tag is added, for example “CUSTOMER: VIP” or when a contact is added to a customers list.
Then take advantage of the “Wait” action to wait until the date 7 days before the holiday to trigger the mailer.
Pro tip: many of these services get bogged down around the holidays, so send your card a few days earlier than you would for a birthday.
Conclusion: Customer Experience Automation
Incorporating a handwritten letter or personalized gift into your automation sequence can be a nice way to surprise and delight your contacts.
Keep it simple at first, and add a webhook to your automation that triggers a Zapier integration. Cards and T-shirts can be great way to show long-term contacts that you care, and birthdays can be a great time to show your contacts you are paying attention to them.