Lob Blog

Lowering Simple Area Mail Pricing

By Lob Team on 2015-01-29

Lob is excited to announce that we have have reduced Simple Area Mail ("SAM") prices across all tiers up to 28%, making it that much more affordable for our users to send postcards to entire zip codes automatically through the API.

Consistent with our virtuous cycle philosophy, Lob continuously monitors scale to identify and pass on cost savings to our users where we can, further reducing any friction in transitioning to mailing via an API and enhance overall customer experience.

Advantages of Simple Area Mail

  • Affordable marketing - SAM is significantly (50%+) cheaper than sending postcards via simple postcard service. Our derivative product makes it affordable to send out mass mailings.
  • Geographic targeting - SAM enables users to target businesses and residences down to the delivery route level and send postcards to every single deliverable address selected. By surveying localities that fit your users' demographics you can market to entire neighborhoods and localities with a simple API call.
  • Higher response rates - With 85% of consumers reading their mail daily and 40% reporting that they've tried new businesses after receiving a mail advertisement, direct mail has consistently shown higher response rates than email, making it an extremely effective form of advertising.

If you have any questions about Simple Area Mail or would like to start sending today, please reach out to sales@lob.com.

Just as software has changed the world, we believe that APIs will soon become the fundamental building blocks of all companies. Twilio enables powerful telephony capabilities, Stripe gives simple access to complicated payments infrastructure, and AWS allows businesses to perform the most complex computing process in the cloud. With the APIs available today, businesses can start operating and scaling faster than ever before.

At Lob, we believe that communication in the offline world should be as effortless as it is digitally. By giving developers an API for printing and mailing, we hope to empower businesses everywhere to reach their customers in a more creative and high touch manner.

Email is Powerful & Everyone Uses It

Mailchimp did a great job explaining the concept and utility of "transactional" email. Triggered emails are a tool that businesses and marketers have long used to engage with customers and encourage particular behaviors. They are emails based on an action taken by, or directed towards an individual. We've all seen them before:

  • Email verifications received after setting up a new account on any website
  • Notifications received when friends tag you on Facebook
  • Confirmations received after making purchases on Amazon.com
  • the list goes on...

The beauty of triggered email is that it enables businesses to automatically send personalized communications to customers at a specific time based on actions taken. By performing a specified action, customers identify themselves at a certain point in the business's sales funnel. With this knowledge, the business can tailor content to fit that specific customer. Engaging customers in this manner ultimately drives dramatic improvements in conversion and customer experience.

With the emergence of services such as Amazon SES, Sendgrid, and Mailgun, it has become easy for companies of all sizes to build robust tools around email that serve as their primary channel for customer communication. When is the last time you signed up for any service, online or offline, and didn't receive an email in your inbox shortly thereafter?

This begs the question, why aren't these tools available for physical mail?

Is Direct Mail Dead?

In short, no. Direct mail is very much alive. It remains arguably the most powerful communication channel in terms of open-rate and conversions. Of the $42B in direct marketing spend in the US, direct mail is the #1 channel (bigger than search and display combined)! The problem is that physical mail has been lagging behind digital channels in terms of modern technical innovation. The main things that have scared companies away from direct mail are the difficulty to get started along with the lack of flexibility and agility. Indeed, if used incorrectly, direct mail can become a costly and ineffective endeavor. Technology should give you the tools to overcome these challenges.

Difficulty in Getting Started with Physical Mail

Partnering with traditional printers and mail-houses is a long and strenuous process. In addition to finding the right partner and negotiating pricing, businesses need to spend significant time, money and resources to develop the custom automated solutions that they need. These relationships often cost thousands of dollars and eat up months of time before you can send a single letter. Also, be ready to commit to sending large volumes of mail right off the bat whilst hoping for the results that justify your expenditure.

Testing Creatives and Launching Multiple Campaigns

After setting up something that works, the day-to-day execution of mailings brings additional challenges. Complications often arise around setting up different templates, making minor changes, approving proofs, and checking quality, all taking a considerable amount of time. It can take you up to 45-60 days to set up and fully test a single mail template, and just as much time to set up a different template or product. Even requesting minor tweaks in artwork may take much longer than you'd like because you are at the mercy of the printer, who controls and builds the mailpiece. This makes it incredibly difficult to A/B test creatives and rapidly launch new campaigns, things everyone expects by default to justify any sort of marketing or operational spend.

Skip the B.S. & Start Sending

With Lob, all you have to do to get started is a quick and free sign up. After creating an account at Lob, you can immediately start sending mail. It's as simple as that. You can mail a single postcard and it will only cost you $0.70 all-in, no strings attached. It is a simple as sending out an email using the SendGrid API. Take a look below for a comparison.

    Lob.postcards.create({
  name: 'My First Postcard',
  to: {
    name: 'Joe Smith',
    address_line1: '123 Main Street',
    address_city: 'Mountain View',
    address_state: 'CA',
    address_zip: '94041'
  },
  front: '<h1>My first postcard using HTML.</h1>',
  back: 'https://lob.com/postcardback.pdf'
  }, function (err, res) {
    console.log(err, res);
});
    
  
  Sendgrid.send({
  to:       'joe@smith.com',
  from:     'other@example.com',
  subject:  'My First Email',
  html:     '<h1>My first email using HTML.</h1>'
}, function(err, res) {
  console.log(err, res);
});
  
Example postcard request using the Lob Node library and an example email request with Sendgrid Node library

Doing it For Real

Lob is developer first, meaning we build our APIs in a RESTful manner following modern best practices, provide clear documentation, and keep our wrappers up to date and readily consumable via Github. Each API request in our Printing and Mailing API takes in a "to" address and content. Instead of an email address and HTML body, you provide a physical address and HTML. That's all it takes to create a physical mailpiece. Every individual request is completely independent. By integrating Lob's APIs, you can start sending sending physical mail in a programmatic fashion. You can also take advantage of open source libraries such as Prawn, PDFKit, and Django to start creating dynamic creatives. Plug these creatives into Lob's API to start sending mail on-demand.

Now that everything can be done in house, companies can make changes on the fly, rapidly launch new campaigns, and scale their mailings up and down on-demand. By integrating Lob, a single developer can now build and control their company's entire print and mail workflow, regardless of size, directly from their terminal. You can now truly send physical mail as effortlessly as email.

What Can I Do With This?

The possibilities are endless. Direct mail is very powerful. It gives you a personal touch which email lacks that is necessary to close new customers, nurture fragile leads, and win key customers back.

Pretend for a minute that you are a company that offers peer-to-peer lending products such as Lending Club. There are several points in your customer's lifecycle where they can drop off, never to be heard from again. You have probably identified these points of drop off and discovered how far a customer needs to go before they become a valuable long-term customer.

Perhaps you notice that a sizable chunk of people that reach your website and apply for a free credit quote never actually take out a loan. These are customers who have expressed interest in your product, but just never got there. It would probably be smart to send a triggered letter with a promotion code to these people, giving them that extra nudge they need to convert into a paying customer. You can activate this trigger after 7 days, 14 days, 30 days, or X days, testing cohorts to see what has the best conversion.

Harness your customer data by turning your bits into atoms

Many of our customers have set up triggers such as these, helping them to win new customers and keep leads from leaking out of their conversion funnel.

Why is this Important?

Mail may be more expensive on a per impression basis than email, social media, or other digital ads, but it is a medium that is worth the money spent if done correctly. According to the Direct Marketing Association, response rates for an existing customer average 3.4% vs. 0.12% for email, a roughly 30-fold difference.

Ideally, you should be running all of the available communication channels in parallel because each has its own benefits. We believe that choosing between online vs. offline doesn't have to be an exclusive decision. You should leverage both appropriately. For example, you can use email to reach masses in the online world in a very cost-efficient manner. On the flipside, you can reach those who operate primarily in the offline world or need a higher touch in a cost-powerful way with physical mail.

Be Smart

Our customers have put our API to work in many effective and creative ways. The most successful ones have followed four general principles.

1. A Beautiful Creative:

Be sure that your mailpieces embody your company's brand to the fullest. Create artwork that is bold, yet welcoming. Think about a mailbox the same way you would about an inbox. You want the subject line to stand out from the rest of the emails, but not seem spammy. Take advantage of a less crowded mailbox by focusing on color, imagery, and bold messaging.

Ubiquiti World Network Postcard

2. Personalization:

Make sure each mailpiece is customized and dynamically generated based on the recipient. Everyone is unique, so you should make sure each individual mailpiece is customized as much as possible. Don't be afraid to use customer data to personalize and make a statement with your mailing.

3. Clear Call-to-Action:

Make sure everything about your mailpiece is measurable. Place a clear call to action within each mailpiece so you can clearly track the effectiveness of any campaign. This could be a redeemable promo code, a tinyurl link, etc. Be data oriented and measure ROIs so you can make the best decisions going forward.

4. A/B Testing:

Make changes to your creative and messaging frequently - you never know what works best if you haven't tried it.

Run multiple campaigns and measure performance

More Features

We want to make sure all businesses have all the information they need to maximize their spend. To do this, we believe that everything needs to be measurable. By exposing things such as mail tracing from the postal system via our API, we enable users to know not only when they send the mail, but also the time it takes for a customer to respond to any single mailpiece.

Tracking events from a Lob GET request
Tracking events shown on Lob user dashboard

This is just one of the many features that are always in the works here at Lob. As always, if you have any questions about our product or how it could work for you, please do not hesitate to shoot us a note at support@lob.com, we'd be happy to hear from you!

Cheers

The Lob Team

Driving True Data-Driven Marketing at DMA

By Lob Team on 2014-11-24

The team at Lob was lucky enough to travel to San Diego to attend the DMA14 Conference to showcase our print and mail APIs. DMA is one of the largest marketing conferences where over 200 global marketing leaders from some of the world's top brands presented ideas, innovations, and case studies. Even Magic Johnson was in attendance! Armed with our punny API shirts and marketing materials (see pictures below), we got the opportunity to show attendees how APIs can be used to enable true data-driven marketing.

With many of our customers and partners in attendance, we focused our efforts on educating marketer show to set up direct mail campaigns just like they set up email campaigns today. Our APIs enable companies to harness customer data to set up custom drip mail campaigns, triggered notifications or messages, and achieve true operational automation.

Today we want to share some of the insights we gained from speaking with customers and other vendors as well as our own experiences designing positive ROI direct mail programs!

Keys to Successful Direct Mail Programs

  1. Utilize existing customer data to create customized and relevant content

    One of the biggest differentiators of marketing materials that increases the chances of a potential customer taking action is how relevant the content is to the recipient. You've already seen this adopted in email marketing today (abandoned shopping cart emails or recommended items based on behavior) - yet it still hasn't been effectively used in direct mail because of the complexity of setting up templates. Typically you see the use of one or two templates that are the same, and the only thing that changes is the customer's name! If you're ever wondering why Comcast has never changed the look and feel of their letters, it's because traditional direct mail tools have made it very difficult and time consuming to modify or A/B test templates.

    The common thread we found after speaking with industry experts at DMA, and through successful campaigns run on Lob, is that each piece should be customized for each distinct recipient. This means leveraging CRM data about user engagement, actions a user may have taken on your site, and segmenting users into different categories.

    At Lob we work with our customers to create content dynamically by using images, generating PDFs, and even HTML to create the design for printed pieces. Each piece doesn't require a template, but can be entirely customized on the fly, making it easy to change content whenever you wish. This means each customer gets a perfect piece of mail that looks like it was created just for them. Look out for our guide on how to send your physical mail as effortlessly as email in early December!

  2. Timing is everything!

    Another aspect of direct mail that is traditionally managed poorly is the timing and execution of campaigns. Simply put, folks are waiting to batch together requests in order to hit minimum volume requirements or to get the best price. This means that customers are getting random marketing letters or postcards possibly weeks after they have engaged with a company! Imagine if the welcome email you receive after signing up on a website came three weeks after you signed up - it simply wouldn't be effective.

    We've found that being able to trigger mail based on a customer action or request and having it arrive only a couple of days later in their mailbox can increase conversions dramatically! This is because the product is still top of mind and, with mail as an additional touch point and call to action, the customer is much more likely to convert. With Lob, there are no minimum requirements for sending a letter - you can have a single piece of mail go out immediately after a user performs a certain action.

  3. Invest in building repeatable programs, not one-time campaigns

    One of the common ways folks have traditionally done direct mail is by deciding on a particular campaign, such as a "holiday" or "sale" promotion, and building target lists for the mailing. In some cases, this may be effective. However, it's not a scalable or repeatable process and requires people to constantly monitor and manage these campaigns.

    Attendees at DMA told us that the key to continued success is not only to run successful campaigns, but to create scalable programs that can be easily replicated. This means closely measuring ROI on each letter that is sent out and finding out the key factors that make a campaign work. Once those factors are identified, companies can scale the process to run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and continue to drive positive ROI.

Putting it all together

Imagine if you could set up an automated win-back campaign that didn't require constant employee management. This is now possible using Lob's APIs to automate triggered offers that are sent based on specific actions or behaviors that are identified. Companies that Lob has worked with in the past have identified the key offers and behaviors and, using our APIs, have implemented automated solutions that send out offers when a possible user has been identified. This keeps marketing managers from spending time figuring out the execution of how the mail gets printed and sent and allows them to focus on perfecting content and finding new campaigns that can be run constantly.

We hope that these tips help you think differently about direct mail and how to create successful programs moving forward! We're excited to be part of the DMA community and network, meet, and connect with many of the experts out there. If you're interested in hearing more about how Lob can help you, please contact us at sales@lob.com!

Eat, Pray, Lob

By Lob Team on 2014-11-03

As we grow our team at Lob, we've been thinking a lot about the environment we want to foster for our team. We've thought about our engineering and design process, recruiting, team bonding events, office setup/layout, and a whole lot more.

As our team grows, it is important to us to preserve the parts of Lob's culture that we love. Through our conversations over the last couple of months, we've realized how important employee health and wellness is to our team.

Here are some simple things we've put in place to ensure that our team stays healthy and happy as we grow:

Team Building and Celebrating Success

At Lob, we aim to have one team bonding event every month. Previous events have included Escape the Room, Urban Putt, and even cooking classes!

This brings the team together for bonding, and also lets us celebrate our successes. We know that it can be tiring and it's important that we get out and have a great time with the people who are in the trenches working hard every day.

Healthy Snacks and Meals

Lob always keeps the fridge stocked with drinks and plenty of healthy snacks so that we always have options.

Everyone adds their favorite snack to our team food order every week. I always make sure we're stocked with almond milk, peanut butter, and quest bars; you know, the essentials!

Our focus is on making sure that Lob provides healthy alternatives to your standard snack foods. We believe that eating healthy is an important part of ensuring you feel great every day. While energy drinks can get you through a long night, we aren't encouraging folks to load up on junk food/drinks! Ultimately by providing healthy options we can ensure that everyone is productive, happy, and energized.

Exercise Stipend

Regular exercise improves mood, boosts energy, and promotes better sleep to name just a few things. Getting some physical activity in does wonders for your health, especially for us desk workers!

To emphasize the importance of exercise at Lob, we provide employees with two options:

  1. A fitness stipend - enough to cover the cost of most gyms. That said, we know some people prefer other forms of fitness (bouldering, yoga, martial arts, dance, etc.) so we keep our definition of fitness flexible. In fact, many of our employees participate in a variety of physical activities to keep things interesting.

  2. Unlimited classes at Barry's Bootcamp - take classes during the week at Barry’s and Lob will cover it! This is hands-down my favorite perk at Lob. Barry’s is across the street from Lob’s office and provides the best workout in the city (I feel strongly about this). In addition to enjoying all the benefits associated with a great workout, I've found that that group workout classes with teammates is a great bonding experience.

Here are a few Lob-sters after a morning working with the one and only Erica Stenz at Barry's:

Striking the Right Balance

As our company has grown, we've realized that the constant day to day grind can take a toll on folks. As such, Lob has put in multiple policies in place to make sure people are staying sane and take time off work as well!

Research has shown that working too much without taking vacation can be detrimental to your physical, mental, and work life. Everyone needs to set aside some time for themselves; that could mean taking time to travel, or to see family. We don't want people to burn out so we encourage taking a vacation every so often.

As such, we keep an open vacation policy and flexible hours. The focus for our employees is the amount of throughput and work that gets done. We believe that the priority should be getting work done on time, and, so long as that is being achieved, we want to make sure employees take time off for themselves as well. We want people to enjoy the time they spend at Lob, but also spend time with their loved ones and friends as well.

-----

It's important to think about the values that are important to your company early on and to implement policies that ensure them. We've thought a lot about these policies and urge all companies to develop a Health and Wellness Program. If you have questions or concerns about what policies to implement or how to implement them, reach out to us!

Be sure to tweet at us if you or your company has tried anything similar or think we should add something else to our Health and Wellness program. We'd love your feedback!

Announcing Logo Support for Checks

By Lob Team on 2014-10-24

Today we are excited to announce a new feature being added to our check offering - logos! Logos can be added on any check with no extra charges and the feature is available immediately.

This is the first significant step in our effort to provide customers with more ways to customize their checks generated through Lob. We've also upgraded the check paper that we're using to look even more beautiful than before. Check out the product shots below!

Here's a sample request you could make to get a check created with the Lob logo in the upper left.

curl https://api.lob.com/v1/checks \
      -u test_0dc8d51e0acffcb1880e0f19c79b2f5b0cc: \
      -d "name=Demo Check" \
      -d "to[name]=Harry Zhang" \
      -d "to[address_line1]=123 Test Street" \
      -d "to[address_city]=Mountain View" \
      -d "to[address_state]=CA" \
      -d "to[address_zip]=94041" \
      -d "to[address_country]=US" \
      -d "bank_account=bank_3e64d9904356b20" \
      -d "amount=2200" \
      -d "memo=rent" \
      -d "logo=http://assets.lob.com/lob_check_logo.png"

Feel free to shoot us an email at support@lob.com with any questions. We're continually looking to improve our product and offer our customers even more features. Let us know what you think!