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The Product Business Case for Direct Mail APIs
May 9, 2017

The Product Business Case for Direct Mail APIs

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Joe Singh

Lob was founded to be the infrastructure provider of the API future. A key piece of our founders’ vision was the idea of enabling others’ visions. Lob’s goal is to enable tech platforms across many verticals to send timely, personalized and intelligent direct mail with the least work possible.

What we’ve seen is a variety of product teams across a multitude of industries building direct mail services into their offering using our API, saving the time, hassle and "hack-y" integrations that they typically face when working with traditional print and mail vendors.

What we’ve also seen is product teams building our services into their offerings to improve their own margin. If you’re curious about what an API is, see our last post in this series. Otherwise, read on to see why Lob’s APIs are your product’s missing piece.

Product Teams That Have Seen the API Light

Consider a platform automating pest control. They might use Lob to send invoices on behalf of independent exterminators. Imagine the hassle of batching invoices weekly, reconciling hundreds or even thousands of different exterminators’ schedules, and manually matching records to individual exterminators for billing.

Instead, they can use the data they have on employment start and finish dates to dispatch invoices. An exterminator marking a job ‘complete’ will automatically trigger an API call to mail the invoice through Lob. Using metadata, they can automate the billing process and upload direct mail costs to their customer’s dashboard in real-time.

How about a platform automating lead generation for lawyers? If Bob drinks a little too much on Saturday and gets a DUI, he’s in the public record by Monday. His address would be available for lawyers to reach out and offer their services. Instead of a law firm manually sending a CSV to vendors, the law firm's automation platform can automatically trigger mail to people needing representation.

The platform product team can now trigger letters based on public record updates, using the arrest charges to personalize the letter. The legal advertisement will be delivered within 4-7 days of arrest, and the client law firm knows exactly when the mail pieces arrive so that their sales team can follow-up. Lawyers can now focus on keeping Bob out of jail instead of managing manual direct mail campaigns day to day.

Lob isn’t necessarily the only way to automate direct mail. It’s just the easiest. We have seen clients nurture a relationship with a vendor, build up the volume doing manual CSV dumps, and having a dev team automate these processes. This automation always comes at massive cost, both in terms of man-hours and in terms of dollar expenditure. How much easier would this automation process have been if a company starts with Lob at the foundations?

Building Product Workflows with APIs

Consider the example of a real estate platform helping individual agents with their marketing efforts. If each agent sends 5,000 mail pieces a month, that’s enough volume to justify outsourcing fulfillment and execution.

A product team might therefore decide to build in this direct mail component into their platform. They might find a vendor, agree on a price, and do a manual CSV dump weekly. Once the collateral is printed and mailed, the vendor will send along a notification that the product team can pass on to customers (manually, of course).

This works fine for your first 100 users, but what about your first 1,000? That constant back and forth will become a drain on man-hours. In fact, as more and more time is tied up playing phone tag, the opportunity cost to the product team increases exponentially.

This is where APIs come in. Product teams can streamline the complexity of managing direct mail for customers. In turn, those customers receive superior agility and data-driven capabilities traditional print and mail vendors cannot offer. Your life is made easier and your clients get more features. Sounds like a win-win!

With personalization webhooks, and automated triggers, you can automate direct mail as thoroughly as SMS and email. The value add long-term to product teams building in this functionality is simple. You just don’t have to worry about it. Offer customers an easy way to incorporate direct mail with the three most powerful words in product marketing: it just works.

Moving Forward

Operational use cases for direct mail abound; that’s why Lob has seen so much success in the compliance space. However, operational use cases are about minimizing cost. Product use cases are revenue-generating. No matter what your target market is, be it law firms, real estate agents or autobody shops, an API approach to DM unlocks a new revenue channel for you. Your customers won’t complain when they don’t have to worry about execution or fulfillment, either!

Still not convinced? Give Lob a try and see just how quickly you can offer your customers built-in programmatic DM.

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