Episode 19- We speak with Dennis Kelly CEO of Postalytics. Dennis shares his story of pivoting from a niche related technology provider to offer a full service SaaS Digital Mail Automation Platform in the Cloud.
Dennis covers several trends in the market that are moving organizations back to personalized direct mail due to a proliferation in digital email marketing initiatives that are falling short on deliverability and becoming less effective without a complimentary channel like direct mail.
Learn how to utilize key CRM and Marketing Platforms such as Salesforce, HubSpot and others to incorporate effective mailing campaigns directly into the sales and marketing process. Sophisticated mailing campaigns can now be delivered with a click of a button from the CRM via the Postalytics Platform.
A team of marketers and technologists who know how effective targeted, personalized, and tracked direct mail marketing can be. We also know that traditional direct mail production processes are slow, expensive, and disconnected from digital channels.
We are also the creators of Boingnet, the award-winning pURL marketing automation platform. Since 2008, we have been helping direct mailers generate personalized, multi-channel campaigns across mail, web, and email channels. Our patent-pending personalized URL tracking has been deployed on millions of mail pieces and has helped marketers understand direct mail response more deeply.
This podcast is sponsored by OMI the company that makes CRM work. My guest today is Dennis Kelly, the CEO of Postalytics. Dennis, I'd like to start, because I know you have a background in software, and tech background, but Postalytics does direct mail. I'm really interested in how a guy like you comes to run what I think most people think of as an old fashioned business in a relatively old fashioned industry. Which of course you're gonna tell us how it's back again. Why don't you start there?Dennis Kelly:
Absolutely. Well, thanks. I'm excited to speak with you here today. So Postalytics, as you said, is focused on the direct mail industry and, and what we're doing is we're really bringing a technology layer to a very large, I guess we call legacy industry that hasn't really had a lot of technology investment. And so, what we saw kind of at the beginning of Postalytics is an industry that is, uh, able to be very effective for its customers. And so, in other words, people that send direct mail are able to get great results, but it just hadn't been improved upon. There hadn't really been any software invested in the space for a very long time. And, and so we saw a little bit of a hidden gem, I guess. We pivoted out of an older software company that we had built, we've been able to grow, really exponentially over the last five years since we've done that.Play the King:
Briefly, did the previous concept have anything to do with what you do now? I'm always interested to hear how, you know, one thing becomes another. Yes. Yeah, definitely. So, uh, back in 2013, I was approached by a really, really smart software architect who I worked with a couple times in the past, and he had a little side project he was working on, that was helping to measure the response to a direct mail marketing campaign by kind of measuring the people that go online to respond to a, a postcard or a letter. And he built it really for himself, like every great engineer, no product out there is good enough. They could always build a better one. So, so he had kind of built this software that, he was using for both this, own marketing of business that he had as well as he started to sell it. And, we were taking a look at what was happening in marketing technology at the time.Dennis Kelly:
The amount of capital flowing in the growth of the marketing automation sector was exploding. And we thought, you know, direct mail is still about a 40 billion a year industry in the United States. And there's not really a lot of software and automation being applied to this. So, so we took that initial product that my partner had started, uh, uh, built a company. We called Boingnet and brought it to market. And we were selling to, the incumbent, direct mail industry. We were selling to agencies and to big brands with direct marketing departments. We were selling to printers that were offering marketing services on top of their printing and mailing services. And, you know, after a couple of years, it just felt like we were banging our head against the wall that, we had felt a great product. But that the adoption was a lot slower than what we would've liked. The amount of services required. To get client up and running, were significant. And, you know, we're scratching our heads and said, you know, this is just not what we envisioned here. And then around that time, we had some customers come to us and say, you know, Hey guys, you know, you're kind of living in this space between, the CRM and marketing automation worlds and the direct mail world. Is there any way you can help us make this a lot easier and faster integrated with the investments we've made in Salesforce or HubSpot, or the big marketing automation tools that businesses were investing in. And, and so we'd heard that a couple of times, while we're in this process have reevaluated what we're doing with Boingnet. We thought, you know what, we can take a lot of what we've built with Boingnet and go reposition it, come out and try to solve a different problem. And there are a whole heck of a lot more companies out there that are investing heavily in their marketing tech stack with tools from Salesforce and HubSpot and others, than there are older school direct mail service providers. We thought maybe we can take those people on with a new product. And, and so that's really what kind of shifted us over to Postalytics. So what we ended up building is a software tool for a marketer to be able to log into a cloud based tool, drag and drop, pull a campaign together in just a few minutes, and then press send just like you would with an email campaign. So anyone who's done email marketing can now do direct mail marketing by sending in front of a computer in a Starbucks, anywhere in the world and build a campaign that can be printed and mailed throughout the United States and now Canada and not have to leave their seat, get it done in 20 minutes. So Postalytics is really about simplifying that process, integrating it with a marketing tech stack and providing analytics about what happens after you send direct mail.Play the King:
I'm curious about the interplay between, the effectiveness of strategy related to direct mail. Maybe it's been a bit neglected by companies in recent years and like the familiarity and comfort level of people who are actually using your product these days. Because I imagine many of them are used to sort of performance marketing, you know, looking at dashboards, doing it all digitally. Do you find that, that those are both items that you guys needed to solve for or selling points that you have? Or how do you think about those two things?Dennis Kelly:
Yeah, very much. So there, there were a couple of macro level trends that are, are driving marketers to come back and take a look at direct mail marketing. So we'll start there. So there are a few things, email has exploded as everybody knows, the email inbox is just overflowing with more messages than we could possibly deal with. And, and as a result, open rates and click rates on email marketing have been on a steady decline over the last decade. So marketers are struggling to perform right with email, digital marketing as everybody knows, is absolutely explosive. What marketers are doing now is competing with each other over the same keywords over the same audiences. And so the cost of digital marketing has absolutely exploded. And, and while direct mail is no longer a primary channel for a lot of brands, it is still a well established and well understood marketing channel. It's just been very difficult to manage from a production standpoint. And, as you said, there's been no ability for digital marketers to really understand what the heck has happened after they accept the mail. There's no there's been no interface like that. So those are the problems that we have attacked with Postalytics. So now we have a, a quick and easy way for marketers to just deal with the production of direct mail in a way that, as I mentioned before, it kind of looks and acts like email, you know, you send an email campaign, you're not out there negotiating with the email server on the other side of the country, right. You just press sent and it goes, and it's done. So we thought, well, why did marketers need be dealing with print partners to get this stuff distributed? Why do they have to figure out postage and all this complexity just kind of take care of that, simplify it. And then we take the basis of that first product that we built Boingnet that was designed to help measure the response to direct mail. And we've built up some intellectual property around that. We've got a couple patents and we have built some other analytics tools. So now every direct mail carrier Postalytics have its own dashboard. And you can see exactly where are the mail is sent and when it was delivered. If it had a bad address, if it kind of bounce back in the return to sender way, and then who's responded to that mail using our proprietary patented, QR codes and personalized URLs to measure the specific response to a campaign.Play the King:
Yeah. So you started to get into that a little bit. I'm curious about the measurement aspect of this, it's not only important, right. For judging the success of a campaign, but for the people who are using it for justifying their own,<laugh> their own roles and jobs and,work that they're doing. Take us a little bit more into detail there, that seems like the crux of the improvements that you guys have figured out. I mean, there are obviously the other stuff that you mentioned, the one click to print and send. But talk to me about the measurement stuff. Just dig into that a little bit more.Dennis Kelly:
Sure, there are a couple of components there first from a delivery standpoint. Marketers are accustomed in email marketing to having a dashboard that says, well, here's all the people you sent to. Here's all the people that have their emails delivered here are the people whose emails bounce back or have soft bounce or hard bounce, unsubscribed all these kind of metrics around deliverability. So how do you replicate that at a physical channel? What we discovered is that there's a little known tool that the US Postal Service provides called the intelligent mail barcode. And it's a little barcode that goes on commercial printed mail that the post office actually uses for their own internal tracking of where all these letters and postcards and mailers are, are being shipped around the country. They've made that publicly available to people that can figure out how to use it.<laugh>. So what we've done is we take that barcode, and we attach it to a contact that is being mailed through Postalytics in a particular campaign. So if, if you're getting a postcard from me, that's saying, Hey, do you know, sign up for a free Postalytics account? There's a little barcode attached to it. And, we know the exact status of George's specific postcard and this campaign by the scan events coming in from the postal service, every six hours or so. So, we understand exactly where the mail is in the delivery cycle. And then we've created this technology around QR codes, primarily that allows us to measure specifically who has responded. So when, when you create a, a QR code in Postalytics, that goes on the mailer, it is a unique QR code. So every single QR code is different. And so George, if you were to scan that postcard and hit the response in and on your phone and fill out the form or buy the eCommerce product or do whatever the call to action is, we know, Hey, this is George from this specific postcard, from this specific campaign. And we're able to illuminate that all in great dashboards and they'd even synchronize it back into the CRM so that, you know, an email can be sent, they can, or sales rep can pick up the phone or whatever the case, whatever the marketers wanted to do.Play the King:
Yeah. Okay. That's really interesting. I want to just sort of dig in on that specific point as well, talk about the limitations, like, what are you butting up against here that makes this like, great, but Hey, this is the next thing we gotta figure out. I am specifically thinking about the sort of the demographics of people who might respond to direct mail, like, I assume they're slightly older, they're homeowners more or less, right. They're moving less often. You have their addresses. Maybe, that's a mistaken assumption! How do you connect them to their digital identities so that you can retarget if you can via QR codes, I'm thinking about my own grandparents here, I'm not sure they know what to do with this. So I assume there's like sort of an age range that you're targeting here. I'm just sort of giving you a bunch of maybe these are objections, maybe they're just thoughts of, Hey, how do you solve these problems?Dennis Kelly:
Yeah, those are great questions. Yeah. So starting with kind of the audience, how that's developed with Postalytics, typically in the older style of direct mail marketing campaigns, markers go buy lists from these list brokers and have name addresses, and you could slice and dice the data, target people based on income and a whole lot of other things. So you can do that with Postalyitcs but what we provide that is really unique is the ability to tap into your CRM and to use that as the basis of your direct mail campaign and the CRM ends up being often the focal point of all of the marketing programs that the marketing team was pursuing. So the digital marketing email marketing is already driven out of that CRM. And so by tapping into that same data source and then synchronizing the campaign results back, we understand, Hey, George, in our contact record failed to open the following last three emails that were sent to him. So, well, if he's not open his email, let's try into the channel. So what we're gonna trigger a piece of mail to go out based on the fact that he hasn't opened last few emails. And, and then if George would, when that mail is delivered, the CRM knows. And so the CRM can say, Hey, sales rep to pick up the phone and call the same data. A piece of mail is delivered. The CRM knows when we capture the response, the CRM knows that, right? And so it can act intelligently. It can act in as a step in a multichannel workflow to optimize, the response of the marketing team to whatever events are happening in the campaign. So,that's really, I think, a really important distinction on, the QR code side. What we've seen, there was a couple of events that had happened that have really drastically grown QR code usage and understanding first, both Apple and Google started bundling QR code readers in their native camera software a few years ago. So it used to be, you have to go download a separate app and like load it up and scan a QR code. That way you don't have to do that anymore. You just put your camera. But the big change that has happened in the last couple of years is the pandemic. Since the pandemic, anybody's been at a restaurant anybody's gone out anywhere, you have to use a QR code to get at a lot of the information. And so everybody's getting comfortable when using QR codes and, you know, we bundle them as a part of our platform for free. We've seen a 50% year over year growth over the last three years in QR code usage. And we think it's primarily because of the pandemic.Play the King:
That is, that is really fascinating. Just given the way that the world works, maybe, maybe soon, you know, companies will abandon an email and then there'll be a swing back.<laugh> some smart guy like you will figure that out. That's amazing. So, Dennis, you convinced me, I'm on your website right now, actually thinking about how I can use this for my own company. Where andhow do people find you? How do people get started? What do you recommend? What do they need to know when they come to you? Take us through that.Dennis Kelly:
Absolutely. So we designed Postalytics so that marketers and business people can sign up for free and use the software on a really self-served basis, much in the same way you would with a tool like a MailChimp or any of the other, really easy to use approachable marketing tools that have just blown up over the last decade. We have a sales team that can assist. If you've got more sophisticated campaigns, you want to do integrations with your CRM. We've got an ability to help you be successful with lots of different resources. But the primary thing is go to Postalytics.com, sign up for a free account, and you can get started with just a few clicks. It's very, very simple.Play the King:
Fantastic. That's Postalytics.com. Dennis, this has been really fascinating. I feel like we've barely s cratched t he surface so much to dig in here. I want thank you for your time. This has been great!Dennis Kelly:
George, thank you so much for the chance to speak with you today. I'd really enjoyed it. And I hope that the audience finds it helpful.