Earth Class Mail

How we used Facebook and Twitter to Generate Cheap Leads

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Building a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) business, just like many other B2B verticals, is all about leads. Yes, Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) is the central measure for a business like ours, but it's a lagging indicator and can be a red herring when used to predict future growth.

Here's an example. You've been tracking two key performance indicators (KPI) for your business, MRR and Lead Volume. Let's say you look at the last 6 months of MRR and it's totally flat. It would be reasonable to assume that next month will be flat too. 

Now let's say you take a look at leads, and they jumped 50% from last month. If you know how long it will take you to get through those leads, and how many leads convert to sales, you can estimate that impact to your business in terms of MRR growth.

Same goes if your lead volume went down, or stayed steady. What's most important is, if you start looking at leads as the growth indicator instead of MRR then you can build strategy around lead generation that ties directly back to MRR growth.

That's exactly what we did, here's how.

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Podcast Crash Course

Get a 15 minute crash course from the B2B Growth Show with James Carbary. Listen to Mike Beck, Head of Growth & Marketing at Earth Class Mail, talk about getting started with Twitter and Facebook lead generation campaigns.

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The Setup

Facebook and Twitter are often overlooked by small B2B businesses, from a paid advertising perspective. 

It could be because they assume these networks are mostly recreational or because, at least in our experience, they aren't particularly effective at generating revenue directly. 

What's really important to understand, especially for experienced PPC operators, is that the advertising model is very different. 

Advertisers on networks like AdWords, Bing and the like generate the majority of their results from ads in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). 

SERPs are easy to target because someone goes into their browser and searches for something very specific, thereby providing the advertiser with a clear and explicit intent for ad targeting.

Here's a specific example for "po box in washington" on Google. We know exactly what the user is looking for and what to write in the ad.


On Facebook and Twitter, you are not targeting search intent.

Rather you are finding cohorts of users that are likely to be interested in your product. You then have to tailor messaging, including visuals, that resonate with the audience and convince them to take a step that they had no explicit intention of taking.

It's a lot like display advertising, but on steroids. Lot's of steroids, like the kind that would even make the Russian olympic program say, "Wow, that's a lot of f***ing steroids"!

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Why Ads On Facebook And Twitter Are Better Than Display

Traditionally, display ads have been poor performing media. They have some of the lowest expectations for click-through rate (CTR) and conversion rate (CVR) of any digital medium. 

That's why you need a lot of volume to even experiment with a campaign, much less see meaningful results. 

With Facebook and Twitter there are a few important differentiators:

  1. A plethora of reliable demographic targeting parameters.
  2. Meaningful control over ad serving.
  3. Unparalleled remarketing features.
  4. Robust, easy to deploy ad formats.
  5. Native lead generation.

These differences are key. They allow you to get useful data without needing to carpet bomb a broad audience with ads. 

You can deploy campaigns faster, and iterate on them faster. You can bypass the need for custom landing pages entirely with in-feed forms.

That's just a few of the immediate benefits. Moving on...

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Finding Your Audience

Who's going to buy what you're selling? Answering this question is going to involve two things, data and money. Here's what we looked at for the data part:

  • Who's coming to our site?
  • Who are our current customers?
  • Who are the influencers in our niche?
  • Who's engaging with our ads on other networks?
Bonus Content: Have a new product or business idea and want to test market demand? Read this first...

Who's coming to our site?

To figure this out you're going to need to setup some tracking. Both Facebook and Twitter offer proprietary tracking pixels that will collect data on the visitors to your site and group them into cohorts that you can define.

We wanted to know:

  1. All visitors to the site
  2. Visitors that submitted a lead form
  3. Visitors that purchased

If you don't have resources, or just have limited technical skills, then start with "all visitors". This will be valuable regardless.

Segmenting the visitors by how far they made it in the funnel was important to us for targeting purposes, but it's not critical to get started with this.

Who are our current customers?

This is exactly what it sounds like. We pulled a very large CSV file of all of our current and even canceled customers. We then segmented that list by customer status, again for targeting purposes, and pulled out the emails and phone numbers. 

Those two identifiers are all you need, and frankly email is enough most of the time. It's much more likely to be matched to an account than a phone number is. If you have both then use them, if not then just the email will work fine.

Who are the influencers in our niche?

We already have a good pulse on the industry, but there aren't a ton of people excited to talk about virtual mail. A much sexier and equally aligned niche is startup and SMB digital marketing.

There are lots of recognizable names that we can look to for targeting users down the line like: Noah Kagan, Gary Vaynerchuk, Neil Patel, and Tim Ferriss just to name a few.

You might think, "why does that matter"? Well, Mr. Question McQuestionFace, you can actually target fans and followers of other profiles on these networks! 

If you don't know who the influencers are, you can cheat a little with a tool like BuzzSumo. Search a topic that's relevant, then dig in to the top sharers for the most popular content. 

There's a free trial, so if you plan ahead you can get all you need without any added expense.


Who's engaging with our ads on other networks?

If you're already running PPC ads on AdWords, Bing and the like then you have data to lean on. We're not going to deep dive into website analytics for this, sorry that's for another series. 

Simply put, we used Google Analytics and applied segmentation to our audience demographics so that we could see what the PPC visitors looked like from that perspective.

You can do this with pretty much any website tracking application on the market, Google Analytics is the most popular and it's free.

We figured out very quickly that our audience leaned heavily Male, older, and within a more affluent income bracket. We also learned some things about their interest and affinity categories that helped later on in targeting.

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Finding Your Message

This part is tricky. If you've never run ads before, you're going to burn some money getting a baseline message. You should lean on every piece of marketing data you have to come up with a test set.

Bonus Content: See how we optimized the landing pages on our site and squeezed more revenue without any more traffic.

We looked at the best performing PPC ads, the best email campaign messaging, and the top landing pages on our site. 

Here are a couple of easy tactics you can use if you feel like you have nothing to start from:

  • Survey your existing customers. Just ask them "How would you describe our service to a friend?", or "Can you explain the value you get from our product?". Make sure to offer an incentive if you want a good sample set, and stick to open-ended questions.

There are free tools like Wufoo and Survey Monkey that can help collect info.

  • Search on Google for keywords related to your business and click on the ads. This will give you insight into what advertisers are using in their ads and, more importantly, on landing pages.

Nailing down the imagery

More important than the marketing copy are the visuals you choose. We know, from past surveys and feedback, that we have two primary demographics: 1) nomadic professionals, and 2) SMBs that hate dealing with paper mail.

To start, we narrowed down two images that we felt represented the main value proposition to each segment. Then we added in a few stock photos we already had laying around from previous design work.

To start, two images and several variations of copy are plenty to test for your first run. You will need to create more as you optimize campaigns and if you have stock photos you can repurpose, even better.

Another great feature of these networks is that you don't need a ton of design work for the ads since you have plenty of space to write copy around the visual. 

Below is one of our ads with just a stock photo and marketing copy.

You will very quickly see which images perform better than others, and the difference is usually clear. However, you want to remain data driven so you should rely on testing for statistical significance in your results.

Tools like the Get Data Driven calculator from Kissmetrics make it exceedingly easy. 

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Setting The Mood With Landing Pages

Ads and targeting are half the battle, you will need to optimize the other half as well. You can have fantastic ad performance and terrible conversion because your landing pages are being neglected.

Now, the beauty of these networks is that you don't necessarily need to start with landing pages at all. Native lead collection means you just have to figure out audience and messaging to start.

A few big differences between native lead forms on these networks:

Twitter

  • Lead forms collect email addresses only. They are high quality though, because a lead can only submit the email on their account.
  • You pay per lead, so impression volume is irrelevant from a cost perspective - especially in the beginning.
  • Depending on the audience type you select, your reach may be throttled by Twitter until they collect enough data on campaign relevance.

Facebook

  • Lead forms have many fields, and are totally customizable.
  • You pay cost-per-mille (CPM), so if you get a ton of impressions it will cost you even if you don't get leads.
  • The full reach of your audience is available immediately, assuming your budget allows for it.

Optimizing your landing page can be pretty easy

Honestly, we're not making light of a difficult task here. We use Unbounce, it's a powerful tool that lets us test outside of the walls of our main site. 

They also have built-in responsive templates, dynamic text substitution, and a lot of cool integrations. If you are really trying to bootstrap, then you can always just create a custom page on your blog with Wordpress or whatever your blog service is. 

The least work, but least flexible, is to choose an existing landing page that works well with the messaging in your ads.

Most importantly, you want to preserve context from the ad to the page. The tone should be the same, the fonts should be the same, imagery should be related, and the page should really extend the ad's message while closing with a strong call-to-action (CTA).

In the beginning, with lower volume, you want to test big changes to see if there is meaningful impact. Changing one line of copy, or the text on a CTA button isn't likely to yield significant results (remember, we're looking for statistical significance with our optimization).

We had three very specific pages we wanted to test: short form, long sales letter, and video supported.

Left to right: Short form, sales letter, video supported

As you can tell each page is very different in layout and focus, but they all tie-in to the ads that are being served. You don't need to be this aggressive, but the more effort you put in the more reward you get out.

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Putting It All Together

The first step in setting up your campaigns, on both networks, is going to be your audience. You will want to upload CSVs of your existing customers and any other prospect contact information you have. 

Make sure that the tracking you implemented for remarketing is working, and that the audience is large enough to market to. For low traffic sites, this may take a while so you are going to lean on building new audiences in the beginning.

Why existing customer lists are valuable

You can use existing customers for a few really beneficial purposes:

  1. A list of active customers can be used to create Lookalike audiences of similar users for targeting.
  2. A list of canceled customers can be used to try to win them back with special offers.
  3. The combined lists can be used to exclude these users from seeing your ads, and potentially wasting money.

The same goes for users in your tracking cohorts, not only can you retarget them, but you can create Lookalike audiences from those users as well.

On Facebook specifically the Lookalike audiences are really large, no less than 2 million potential users. That's way to big, so this is where all of that other data comes in handy.

You will want to narrow that by using demographic data. In our case we excluded gender, geo, and age groups. Similarly, you will want to narrow by interest and affinity data where it makes sense. 

An example audience might look something like this: Lookalikes of our current customers, Male, 25-55 years old, on the West coast of the U.S., that also like Tim Ferriss. 

You will want to narrow, within reason, to an audience that is less than 100,000 in potential reach to start. This will be easier on Twitter than Facebook. It's a unique challenge, because you don't want to accidentally filter out a big cohort of good prospects.

If you're skipping the landing page

Your next step is the imagery and copy for the lead generation ad. Take what you worked on and set a couple of variations of each visual.

You should test:

  • Promotional messaging and special offers
  • Different CTA language, like: Free Trial, Learn More, Buy Now
  • Value propositions 
  • On Facebook, you should have multiple variations of the form with more or less fields

For those using a landing page

The most important thing you can do here is to make sure you are collecting data. Without it your efforts aren't valuable.

If you're not using a landing page service like Unbounce, then add UTM tracking parameters to all of your links. Set a proper tracking taxonomy so you can dig into campaigns later and know what is going on.

If you're using Unbounce, integrate all of the tracking pixels directly. They have great help content on this, so it's actually pretty easy. Similarly, here is what you should be testing on any landing page:

  • Form length and position
  • Quantity of supporting content
  • CTA language
  • Value propositions

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Let It Fly

You've got all of your assets in place, now it's time to see it work. You will need to spend some money, and in the beginning it may feel like you aren't seeing results.

Give. It. Time.

This is a process, and optimization takes time. Pull data from your campaigns regularly, not just in the canned reports but that actual raw CSV files and segment it yourself.

You will learn things you never new you could learn. Take that knowledge, and build new campaigns. Then learn some more.

A safe budget expectation is at least $1000 to learn something from your first run and hopefully collect leads. It will take some multiple of that to optimize the campaigns further, find new audiences, and grow the channel. 

This process helped us cut our lead cost by 50%, and in some cases generates leads at one-fifth the cost of what we expect to pay. You can do it too.


The Fatal Mistake 99% of Entrepreneurs Make


A little background...

Doug Breaker here, CEO of Earth Class Mail. One of my favorite video clips is a South Park episode where a few entrepreneurial gnomes come up with the next great startup idea. Their plan goes something like this: Step 1. Collect underpants, Step 2. ?Step 3. Profit!

I love this because it illustrates really plainly the most common pitfall budding entrepreneurs make, that is how they're actually going to make money. I'd find this funnier except that almost every entrepreneur and founder I know has fallen prey to this. 

I know I did, multiple times, stubbornness is both a strength and a weakness. 

The pattern goes like this:

Inspiration hits, "Wow, I've got it!".

The soon-to-be-rich-and-famous founder jumps immediately into building, planning, strategizing, and daydreaming. Big funding rounds and massive success here we come! 

Months or years later the business launches, woohoo! They'll shout "My creation is alive!", "Revel in its beauty!", "Kneel down to its glory!". Then some time passes...a week, a month, maybe a few go by. 

In that time some customers trickle in, just a few, if at all. "Where are all the customers?", asks the founder. Oops! Sounds like someone forgot Step 2.

What is Step 2?

I've personally had to survive more than five failed product launches: a monthly pickle service, an accent training service, a moving company website, and I could go on. It took those failures and more for me to break this habit and finally focus on Step 2.

So again, what is Step 2? It's customers! More specifically, it's finding a lot of customers at a profit. That is Step 2.


The goal of any for profit business is to collect more money than you spend. To collect that money you have to find customers that will pay you money. Let me hammer that point home...

You. Have. To. Find. Customers. That. Will. Pay. You. Money.

Your business must find enough customers that pay enough to cover everything your business needs to operate in the black, i.e. above breakeven. That is salaries, benefits, technology, the costs of goods sold, taxes, rent, and etc.

It's also important to remember that it costs money to find those customers. You must figure out how to find enough customers at a cheap enough cost so that the money those customers pay is more than all the other costs to run the business. Sounds pretty simple right?

To understand Step 2, ask yourself:

  • How many customers can I get to buy my product or service?
  • How much will it cost me to do that?
  • Will the money left over be enough to run and grow the company?

Only AFTER you understand that should you start building. Put those daydreams on hold, and let Dr. Math tell you what your idea is worth.

Great smartypants, so how do I do that?

Ah! Great question. I love the internet. It's the perfect tool to answer Step 2 cheaply, quickly, and confidently. You can get your answer for less than a $1000, a few hours of work, and few weeks of testing. Which option sounds better to find out if your idea works?

  1. Spending tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars and months or years
  2. Spending less than a thousand dollars and a few weeks

I am going to save the specifics for my next post, so I can get to the point of this one.

What the heck does this have to do with Earth Class Mail?

As CEO of Earth Class Mail I own ultimate responsibility for how awesome our product and service is, and how much value our customers get from it. We want to make SMBs, startups, independent entrepreneurs, and digital nomads more amazing. 

We especially want to knock it out of the park for our business customers who crave efficiency and reliability. We want them to spend more time growing their business, not stressing about mail.

The best way I know to do that is to walk in their shoes and use Earth Class Mail ourselves. We already use Earth Class Mail for all our inbound company mail, but I want us to really feel what our customers feel. I want us to experience their joy, and their pain.

To make all that happen we're going to go through a real world example of starting a business, from idea to launch. We'll start with testing if our idea can attract enough customers, and share all the things we learn along the way. 

Then we'll walk through everything from the techie things like creating a website and the actual service, to the mundane like registering a corporation and setting up a bank account. 

Along the way we'll dig deep into the Earth Class Mail service, and the ways it can make running a business easier.

Hopefully this process will help a few entrepreneurs launch more successful businesses. I can’t wait to see how it helps us build a better service for our customers.  

Case Study: How HealthyHearing.com Uses Earth Class Mail to Increase Online Review Volume

HealthyHearing.com connects its 2,000,000 visitors to a national network of hearing centers and clinics. They also provide industry leading thought leadership on hearing loss and hearing aids. It's estimated that 28 million Americans are impacted by some degree of hearing loss.


The Setup

With a demographic that trends older, 55 and over, HealthyHearing.com struggles at times with generating the online engagement they need from their users. 

Although that age group can be tech savvy, it's still a generation that appreciates a handwritten note over an email. - Dr. Paul Dybala, President at HealthyHearing.com

In 2011, Healthy Hearing rolled out a new feature allowing users to leave reviews for the more than 2,000 clinics in their directory. The review process was simple and completed entirely online.

The jury was still out on whether users would remember to come back to the site and leave a review after visiting a clinic. Would they respond better if they had the option to submit a handwritten review instead?

The Experiment

To give their users a more traditional option for leaving reviews, Healthy Hearing implemented a solution that allowed clinics to provide postcards to their patients. The patients could write their review and then mail it in. The postcards would then be transcribed and published online.


Since the Healthy Hearing team is completely virtual, they initially used a PO Box located near one of the editors. Hundreds of postcards started to roll in, but managing all that wasn't ideal.

The Problem

It worked ok, but there was a delay as the editor would pick up mail once a week from the post office and then it took a while to get the information from the postcards entered into our system.

Soon, Healthy Hearing would learn of another pitfall. The editor in charge moved to another company, leaving behind thousands of postcards and a PO Box nobody else could access. This would inevitably lead to delays, and likely frustrated consumers and clinics.

They needed a solution that was scalable, accessible for a virtual team, and reliable.

The Solution

With a real problem on their hands, Healthy Hearing reached out to Earth Class Mail for a solution. They needed a physical address with virtual mail management for their team.

New postcards were printed with the Earth Class Mail address. Those were distributed to the clinics in the network, while the old ones were recycled. 

Knowing that not all of the old postcards would be dropped from the network, mail forwarding was setup from the old PO Box to the new address.

We then had mail forwarded from the old mailbox to the new ECM address and monitored what addresses were listed on the postcards coming in. 

About 3 years later, with virtually all of the postcards coming direct to the Earth Class Mail address, they shut down the old mailbox. 

More importantly, the postcard reviews don't live in a silo anymore. They can be accessed from anywhere, making transcription scalable. 

The Results

Postcards now account for 50% of all reviews posted to HealthyHearing.com, and it's increasing. There are two team members currently monitoring and managing the program, both completely remote.

The use of these postcards are important for the demographic that we serve and ECM has enabled us to do this in an efficient way. 

The Healthy Hearing team focused on what their users wanted and, based on their research, found that the paper reminder and process would resonate well. 

They also knew that the address transition would not be a clean one for the clinics, and the time it took to filter out mail from the old address confirmed that.  

ECM helps us to deliver on our promise to help serve the consumers and clinics that use our website and to do this efficiently with our virtual team. - Dr. Paul Dybala

Earth Class Mail and Google Smart Mailbox

A partnership made in heaven if there ever was one. Combining the powerful tools from Earth Class Mail with the technology power of Google. Watch the video to learn more.


New Feature: Now Offering SHREDDED Service

At Earth Class Mail we take pride in the high level of security we provide to customers and their confidential information. That's why we've spent a lot of our resources on securing our cloud storage and mail handling operations. 

Now we're excited to announce a totally new security feature, a whole other level of Secure Shredding (already available for free on most accounts). For just $15/mo you can get true peace of mind when you securely shred documents with SHREDDED. 


In case you ever wondered what all those Gym Rats did when they weren't in the gym, well now you know. They've been here, at our Headquarters in Beaverton tearing mail to teeny tiny pieces.

"It's just way more effective than what secure shredding services can deliver" says Doug Breaker, CEO at Earth Class Mail. "A shredding machine can only do so much, but the team we have here for the SHREDDED service takes it to an extreme". 

We aren't kidding either. The SHREDDERS take a team approach, one doing the tearing and the other spotting and shouting "come on, one more"! Unlike a machine that might give up, the team won't. At least until someone collapses or we turn the lights off.

Jocko, our Project Supervisor says, "It's really about the passion more than anything. We want to do this. We dream about it at night". Adding later that "once you get your first uncontrollable muscle twitch it just becomes like an itch you have to scratch again".

This Guy is the Reason You Get Junk Mail

Junk mail. It's the reason you dread going to the mailbox every day. It's why your mail carrier has back problems. Simply put, it's the source of all the frustration in the world.

If you've ever wondered "why the hell are they sending me this"? Here's the answer: Derrick S. of Wyoming, he's the reason you treat your mailbox like it just told you it tested positive for VD. 

Derrick refused to go on the record with his full name and address. We assume it's to protect his parents' home from hordes of pitchfork wielding citizens. He also asked us to hide his face for fear of retaliation.


From the basement of the home he has lived in for 42 years, Derrick has been patiently printing postcards, coupon books, and pretty much any piece of junk you can imagine. In fact, he's very proud of the work he's been doing over the past couple of decades. You can thank him for:

  • Those sweet stacks of coupons in your "random sh**" kitchen drawer, all expired now because it's been 6 months since you got them in the mail.
  • Postcards from your mortgage broker telling you he can get you a lower rate than the one you just got from him.
  • That letter you thought was important because it said "IMPORTANT!" on it, only to find a credit card offer from the Bank of Ridiculous Fees.
  • Birthday cards from your Aunt in San Antonio with $5 checks in them and a message to "buy something nice!"

Ultimately though, Derrick understands the pain he's causing the rest of the world. When asked why he does what he does, he said...

"At some point in my 20's I realized I don't have any friends anyway, so why the heck not"?

There is an upside to all this. Since Earth Class Mail was able to track down Derrick, we've partnered with him to help reduce the junk mail you get. All it took was a fat check from us and Derrick's agreement to wear a Wi-Fi enabled shock collar. 

Why you ask? Well, for only $19.99/mo you can unlock the "Zap Derrick" feature on your account. It's really simple, just choose the option in your account anytime you get a piece of junk mail and Derrick's collar will go off with a 120 volts of reminder that what he does is neither acceptable nor appreciated.

You're welcome world.


How We Unlocked The Hidden Revenue in Our Site

Earth Class Mail has been around for a long time, longer than most tech startups at least. In that time the product, site, and marketing strategy have gone through a lot of iterations. It seems though that the longer an organization exists, the easier it is to neglect the things that seem to "just work".

Our site did exactly that, it just worked. The common pitfall there is that your audience changes over time, even more dynamically over a 10 year span. For some added perspective, 2006 was the year that: Amazon launched Web Services, the Nintendo Wii debuted, and Google bought YouTube. 

Now our site definitely had some facelifts since its inception, but we never really sat down and focused on making the site better at doing what it's supposed to do - sell the product and get people to sign-up. Partly that's because the tools that make it easier have only really evolved in the last few years, and partly because it just worked.


In early 2015 we reached out to Conversion Rate Experts to help us get the most out of our site and implemented some shiny new tools like Convert.com, Hotjar.com, and live chat. Working with the CRE team, we conducted a lot of due diligence on our audience and existing user base. Tools like Survey Monkey helped with that, as well as diving deep into our web analytics.

Just like any business we have to prioritize and allocate resources to our projects, so we zeroed in on the three most impactful visitor touchpoints on our site: the home page, the pricing page, and the first step of our sign-up path (our "Basic Info" page). 


What resulted is an iterative approach that seriously impacted our site's conversion rate and revenue potential, without driving any significant additional traffic to the site. That's right, we made more money without investing in marketing just by doing this. It's something any business can do and, frankly, should do.

See the detailed case study from CRE here.


Meet Katelynn Minott, Partner at Bright!Tax

Our customers rock. We love to share their stories, and are thrilled to introduce you to the next customer in our customer spotlight series. Katelynn Minott, CPA is a Partner at Bright!Tax, the cloud-based U.S. income tax prep firm for Americans living abroad.


Thanks so much for sharing your story, Katelynn. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your company? What does Bright!Tax do, and what sets you apart?

I began my expat journey outside the States while I was at University in Vina del Mar, Chile. During my exchange, I met my husband, a Green Beret officer in the Chilean navy, we married and now have two beautiful children. I travel often to the States and I am thrilled that my kids have the opportunity to grow up bi-culturally. I am an actively licensed American CPA and am a partner with the firm, Bright!Tax.

For Americans overseas the annual filing of US taxes can be daunting, if not impossible from a personal standpoint. We have clients in over 150 countries worldwide that count on us to file their U.S. expat taxes, and we are very good at it. At Bright!Tax we have developed a perfect blend of cloud technology and personalized approach that allows us to create long term and meaningful relationships with our clients.

How did you get started and why?

I was a practicing CPA in Chile when Bright!Tax's founder, Greg Dewald, and I happened upon each other. We found that we had a tremendous synergy and developed a working relationship that has been unique. Greg and I both share many of the same ideas about the experience we wish for our Bright!Tax clients to have, and we're both perfectionists. This has evolved into a process that is clear, precise, and exacting to our clients' needs.

Do you have an incredible customer success story you can share?

Bright!Tax's niche is quite interesting in that we serve American clients living overseas who need to file U.S. taxes every year. The U.S. has enacted new laws that have significantly ramped up their compliance efforts and a large percentage of our American clients overseas were simply not aware of their obligation to file taxes every year (the U.S. is about the only country on the world that mandates this).

One of the most fulfilling aspects of what we do is helping many clients out of their state of despair. They have just discovered that they need to be filing U.S. taxes and are often completely disoriented, wondering if their lives will now be disrupted by an overzealous IRS. We are always able to offer a reliable and safe path forward to tax-compliance for our clients, and it is often easier than many clients think at first. By the end of our projects our clients are happy, satisfied, and some even overjoyed that they have put something that was once frightening successfully behind them.

Can you share a tip, trick, hack, tool or service with our readers that makes you better, or makes your days more effective?

Answer email, and fast! One of the client service points that we pride ourselves on is our responsiveness. By answering client emails within 24 hours we are able to keep projects moving efficiently through our production process, and also create a client relationship based on support and communication. Despite working with 99% of our clients via our cloud-based infrastructure, we've found that our quick & friendly communication provides a client service experience that actually feels quite personal.

What was the situation before you used Earth Class Mail, tell us how EarthClassMail makes you better at your job, or your company better at what it does?

For the most part, before signing up with Earth Class Mail we were relying upon the kindness of a few trusted individuals to receive and forward mail that was coming to our mailbox. We had our company's mail as well as clients' mail coming in faster than we were able to keep up with. Earth Class Mail brings us our physical mail electronically, and allows us to stay paper free in our practice.

What has Earth Class Mail been worth to your business in terms of $?

This may be hard to quantify and yet, as time is money, we have realized a greater efficiency and peace-of-mind knowing that our mail is being handled securely and professionally by Earth Class Mail. Just the time we wasted processing physical checks in the past, for example, makes our relationship with ECM worthwhile.

What would you say to someone considering Earth Class Mail as a solution?

Try it! Use it! And realize all the benefits that your business (and even individuals) can get by utilizing ECM's comprehensive solution.

What feature can we add or improvement can we make that would make you say, "shut the front door, I need that!" ?

As we often send correspondence to physical mailing addresses within the U.S. & around the world, we would greatly benefit from the ability to turn electronic documents provided to ECM into physical mail correspondence to be sent on our behalf. That being said, ECM has already created huge efficiency in our system and we wish we'd found the service sooner!

Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us today, any parting words or advice for our readers?

Yes! For those of us who are overseas, we all know that living abroad involves a number of necessary and time consuming pre-arrangements. Word of advice (and a plug for Earth Class Mail!) - Try ECM's service and realize the peace of mind that comes from knowing that all your matters mail-related Stateside are in good hands. You guys have been great and we are so pleased to have had the opportunity to utilize and expand upon your excellent solution!

Study: Majority of SMBs & Startups Mismanage Their Back Office

Back office work tends to be the red-headed stepchild of items on your to-do list. No one wants to deal with it, but it has to be taken care of. Your business mail is at the center of that burden because in it there are important notices, invoices, and checks from your customers. 

All that gold is buried in a mountain of junk. Once you're done sorting and opening your mail, the job tends to only be half done. Now you have to scan the important stuff or head to the bank for a deposit.

You are not alone... 

  • 70% of small businesses burn over an hour each month managing mail,
  • 40% more than three hours, and 
  • 20% waste six or more hours each month*. 

That's a crazy amount of time to spend on dealing with snail mail. In a recent survey, jointly conducted by Earth Class Mail and GetApp, 500 small business owners answered the question: 

How much time do you spend managing your business' mail each month, including: depositing checks, scanning, and distributing to recipients?

*Survey results adjusted to exclude "None of the above" responses, and percentages normalized.


There is a real cost to all this waste

Sometimes you don't know something is a problem until you take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Managing your business mail can turn into a routine pretty quickly, and you can probably go to bed feeling like you've accomplished something. But at what cost?

Fred Wilson, a famed VC investor and entrepreneur, suggested in 2011 that the average burn rate for a fully burdened employee at a startup is $10,000 per month. Marc Andreessen suggested it was in excess of $16,000 per month in 2014. Even the median income for a small business owner in the U.S. is $60,000 per year according to payscale.com, not including all of the added cost burdens that can more than double that figure.

All of that means that it's costing businesses real money each month, from $100 to $1000 or more, and that doesn't account for the opportunity cost of working on tasks more directly tied to business growth.

Earth Class Mail plans start at $49/mo. Learn More


Sometimes business mail is just a pain in the a$$

When mail becomes white noise it can lead to real problems for businesses. Today's companies are dynamic, ever-changing machines. They move often as they expand and hire, they work with a myriad of vendors, and they focus on the things that drive growth. That means that minutia like updating an address with an insurance provider or the secretary of state can easily get overlooked.

"We didn't receive a renewal notice at my last company because the insurance provider had an old address. It cost us a lapse in coverage." Jeff Judge, Founder @ Bright.io

Missteps like that can lead to big problems. Lapses in insurance coverage, missed incorporation renewals, and worse.

Then there is the new breed of entrepreneurs that choose to run their companies without walls or borders. A 2015 Gallup Poll revealed that 37% of workers telecommute on some regular basis, and some predict that 50% of the workforce will work remotely by 2020. That sentiment is surely overrepresented in the entrepreneur class, with tech startups leading the way.

As a small startup, we didn't have physical office space until a few months ago. Earth Class Mail took care of that and our mail, so we could focus on our business. Matthew Juszczak, Founder @ Bitlancer.com

This trend will only continue as the workforce moves to more flexible location opportunities and the cost savings of remote work are realized by larger organizations. 


Thinking ahead on the future of the back office

The need for digital solutions that mirror the benefits of traditional services, while offering more efficiency and cost savings, is only growing. Physical addresses and snail mail are still required to legally operate a corporation. 

As archaic as it may sound, there is definitely a superficial need for professional contact information as well. Just like businesses want a public facing phone number that isn't the founder's personal line, they need a public facing "physical" presence that isn't also someone's home. 

There is no shortage of tools and resources that solve these common back office problems around phone, mail, and communication. These solutions make back office operations better, and do it cheaper. There's certainly a lot more to come, and the future looks bright for both entrepreneurs and employees.

Meet Matthew Juszczak, Owner of Bitlancer, LLC

Our customers rock.   We love to share their stories, and are thrilled to introduce you to the next customer in our customer spotlight series, Matthew Juszczak, Owner from Bitlancer, LLC – a cloud automation and management consulting firm.

Matthew Juszczak, Owner from Bitlancer, LLC


Thanks so much for sharing your story Matt. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your company? What does Bitlancer do, and what sets you apart?

We started Bitlancer in 2010 as a systems and database consultancy, helping companies manage and maintain servers that powered their websites. As times have changed our services have evolved and we now focus on software-based cloud solutions, particularly around an industry term known as “DevOps”. Without getting into too much technical detail, we essentially help organizations move to and succeed in the cloud, and we’d like to think that our approach to DevOps sets us apart. 

DevOps is hard to define and means something different to everyone mostly because it’s new and unfamiliar, but also because it’s meant to be a unique prescription: a plan targeted towards a specific company based on a high-level view of the whole business, not just immediate technical pain they’re experiencing. We really like to get to know our customers before we get too deep into a project. A lot of times they think they know what they want and need, but once we get to know them, their business processes, and their infrastructure, we are able to truly cater our services. I guess you can call us DevOps doctors!

How did you get started and why?

Off the record? I have trouble focusing, so full time jobs usually aren’t for me. Building a business around consulting allowed me to do what I love, work alongside some of the best talent in the industry (I’m biased) and, most importantly, keep things dynamic by helping multiple organizations succeed in what is today known as The Cloud. 

Prior to 2010, I had been performing independent consulting for a few customers and had begun to see patterns in the work I was doing – organizations were having the same issues and experiencing the same pain. I thought it would be best to productize some of the services I was offering and scale to multiple people: a team of “we” can be so much more productive and successful than a team of “I”! Five years later, we’re strong and still growing. For the record, I explicitly remember Earth Class Mail being the very first service I signed up for on that chilly winter day in 2010 when Bitlancer was born.

Do you have an incredible customer success story you can share?

Is it wrong to think every success story has been incredible? In all seriousness, our customers are great. We’re a boutique company by design, which means that we strive for long-term relationships with our customers and focus more on quality than scale. We want to actually solve problems our customers are facing, not just with their technical debt, but also related business processes.

What’s the best business decision you made in the last year?

The best business decision we made in the last year was to fail on our Bitlancer Strings (“Puppet-as-a-Service”) configuration management offering and focus solely on consulting services. We realized that, while Strings was a great product when we first built it, we were focusing so much energy on maintaining it that we were not able to focus on consulting – which is what we really enjoy and where our team thrives. Since we have concentrated our efforts on the consulting end of the business we have grown significantly. Strings is still great software, and if anyone is having trouble with configuration management, I highly recommend you check it out — it’s open source and available on Github!

The second best decision we ever made was to get new office space. There’s something to be said for working from home, but there’s nothing like working next to your team every day. You can solve problems quickly, look over each other’s shoulder when there’s something to read, and have quick discussions about simple things you’d normally need to schedule a call for. If you’re working from home, are you really as efficient as you think you are?

Can you share a tip, trick, hack, tool or service with our readers that makes you better, or makes your days more effective?

Yoga, I can’t recommend it enough! I think in our fast paced world it’s hard to take an hour to just breathe, but it’s so important. Taking that hour for myself in the morning makes me feel like I’m ready to take on any challenge, plus it’s a great workout. Also, and this one I owe to Bob Buda one of our partners, it’s important to take 5 or 10 minutes per day to just look outside at the world around you. Go for a walk, grab a coffee at the local café even if your office offers it to you for free. Remember that a world exists out there, and it’s important to continuously take notice of it!

Tell us how EarthClassMail makes you better at your job, or your company better at what it does?

As a small startup, we actually didn’t have a physical office space until just a few months ago. ECM not only made it possible for us to receive mail, but the scanning means we don’t have to waste our time opening and sorting through physical letters. That gives us the time to focus on growing our business, and if we move again we don’t have to change our address!

What feature can we add or improvement can we make that would make you say, "shut the front door, I need that!" ?

We need a junk folder! Stop sending us magazines with delicious looking fruit Harry and David!

Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us today, any parting words or advice for our readers?

The best advice I can give you is to be passionate about what you do and passionate about the people you work with. Life is short! There is nothing better than coming into work every day excited to talk to your customers and co-workers and feel like you’re making a difference. If you’re happy with what you do now, write down how you feel. Come back to that note every 6 months and make sure you still feel the same way.