Arlen: David Wachs is a serial entrepreneur, his latest venture, Handwrytten, is bringing back the lost art of letter writing through scalable, robot-based solutions that write your notes in pen. Developed as a platform, Handwrytten lets you send notes from your CRM system, such as Salesforce, the web site, apps, or through custom integration. Used by major meal boxes, eCommerce giants, nonprofits and professionals, Handwrytten is changing the way brands and people connect. Prior to Handwrytten, David built up and sold Cellit, a leading mobile marketing platform used by major retail brands.
David: Hey Arlen. Thank you for having me on.
Arlen: Yeah, not a problem. Yeah. I’m really excited to talk to you because the handwritten notes is, there’s definitely a lost art for sure.
I’m a little old school, I guess you could say. My parents probably got me that way and they always telling me to write thank you notes and things like that, so I still try to do it, but I probably have been doing a poor job of it lately, you know, after I’ve received gifts. These days I sometimes I fall victim of it, reverting to text message, thank you notes or phone calls or voicemails, but I think we all do fall victim of that.
David: And that is exactly why we started handwritten. It’s because I got lazy. You know, I’d buy birthday cards with the best intention of putting them in the mail, but then I’d never get around to adding a stamp or finding a mailbox or whatever it is, and it would just, it would end up crumpled up in my laptop bag instead of getting put in the mail.
And. That is exactly why we started the company, and you are certainly not alone there. I mean, that’s exactly it. Yeah. I mean, the whole idea is to make sending handwritten notes as easy as sending emails or tweets or text messages, and we’re getting pretty close.
Arlen: That’s awesome then. That’s good to know.
And um, yeah, you know, read your intro. Of course, you consider yourself a kind of a serial entrepreneur, and I’m curious as to really a little bit more about your background before you kinda got into all of this. I know you worked for another company prior to that, doing some mobile marketing with a mobile marketing platform, but prior to all of that, really tell us a little bit more about your background and then how you really got into where you’re at today.
David: Yeah, for sure. So I always wanted to run my own. Show. And so when I went to school, I studied engineering, computer science, engineering, and business thinking that the easiest business, and this was 25 years ago, but the easiest businesses to start would be software businesses because you don’t need capital expenditure to get them off the ground.
So, and I was a computer nerd, so that helped too. But. So I, I kind of studied computer science and finance and all that stuff. And then when I got into the workforce to pay the bills, I went to a big consulting firm. This was in the height of the.com bubble. So everything was looking fantastic from a job perspective.
And then I got into the workforce and, uh, the bubble kind of burst. But luckily I continued with the consulting firm for a few years. Left that because I did want to get into venture capital and starting my own thing, and I worked for a large investment paying credit Suisse first. Boston hated it there.
I was kind of doing equity analysis, that type of thing. Basically writing, buy, sell recommendations on stocks, and then I had the opportunity to move to San Diego to work for a venture capital firm. Little did I know the guy was nuts. And he ended up firing me like four or five months later without cause he blamed some stock transaction on me that I had no idea what was about.
But, and kind of the, the problem was, is I had used all the prior years, I think I was out of the workforce like four or in the workforce for like four years at that point, three and a half, four years paying down school debt. And I did a great job of that, but I didn’t. Save any nest egg for rainy day fund.
So when I was out on my butt without a job, I had no savings. It was all less debt, but no savings. So I kind of, with my head, between my legs, I moved back to Phoenix, Arizona, where I grew up, and I actually moved into an apartment that my dad owned. I was still kind of a kid at this point, but I moved into an apartment and.
With a bottle of mountain Dew beside me, a two liter bottle of diet mountain Dew. I started programming a service called a house for sell. And the idea back then was when you drive by a house. And you want like a house that’s up for sale and you want information on it. There was no way at the time to get that information.
There was no iPhone out there, Android phone, and there was all, there was was like a flyer box hanging below the sign sometimes, and that flyer box was typically empty. So the service was called house for Sal and you’d see a little sign, it would say, text in for info on this house. You’d text in. And get in back on on the house.
We are the first people that did this type of offering. Now there’s a few companies doing it, but that got me into the mobile marketing space. And then I took that and I. Realized they didn’t want to just be a niche real estate play. And I started a second service called coupons app. And the idea with coupons app was if you go to a restaurant or bar, you’d want to get alerts on drink specials and stuff like that.
So you’d text in, get subscribed to a text message list, and then get alerts on your phone. And this was back in 20. Oh, for early 2005 when that type of thing was big. So coupons, app, house for sale never really became something huge. I just didn’t focus on it that much. And coupons app started attracting larger clients like Sam’s club, toys R us, Abercrombie and Fitch, that type of thing.
We did a lot of work in Broadway shows and the circus and and all sorts of stuff. And that really became the backbone of the business. And we were doing about a million to 2 million text messages a day on behalf of these brands. And then I sold that company in 2010 and I worked for the new owners that come to called hello world until 2012 and then I was.
Done with that. And when I finished up my time at hello world, I wanted to send thank you notes to all my clients and customers and employees and all that stuff. And I started writing handwritten notes and my, it didn’t work so well. My hand would cramp and I got distracted and bored and all that, and I thought there has to be a better way.
So the day after leaving hello world, I picked up and I started. Handwritten and handwritten. It was like starting all over again. Going from an office of couple hundred employees at hello world to an office of one employee on my kitchen table with a purchased handwriting machine. Did that for two years and kind of regrew it up.
I also made some money when I sold the last company, so I wasn’t totally focused on handwritten. In the beginning. I was kind of also focused on playing a little bit, but I got handwritten. Back up, moved it back to Phoenix just because I was done with living in Chicago and we, after about two years, we made the decision to, to build our own robots.
And then when we, we put about two years of investment into building those robots and now we’ve got 90 of them in our own proprietary robots run the show here. So, so the way it works is you visit handwritten.com. You can, or the iPhone app, Android app, Zapier integration, all these different ways, and you submit your handwriting, order on the card you want and that type of thing.
And then we use robots to write it out. And then we mail it on your behalf. And we’re doing about 120,000 of these a month currently. And we’ve been growing pretty rapidly for the last three or four years. The first two years were slow, but then it’s really picked up
Arlen: well. Yeah, that’s awesome. And that’s quite a story that you have there as far as your background.
And. The beginning of your kind of a four way into the kind of tech space and entrepreneurial-ism is similar to mine. We kind of can’t guide into things about the same time and early two thousands I graduated from, from school and by 97 and then went into. A consulting firm where I worked for a couple of years.
I was, I guess you could say I was a computer nerd, probably still am. So I was doing some coding, different projects, different assignments, and um, you know, myself and my business partner really kind of saw where the internet was going at that time and how it was going to really explode and we wanted to take advantage of it.
And that’s when we kind of. Both jumped ship, so to speak, from our consulting gigs and, uh, started our business and went full steam ahead with it. So, um, yeah, similar timing. Definitely. Um, some similar experience and, um, yeah. So for today, you know, it really am excited to talk to you about this because, you know, on the podcast we’ve talked about, you know, just a whole host over the years of different eCommerce marketing strategies, and the majority of them are.
Digital marketing related type strategies, and you’re kind of flipping things. And whereas most people these days, especially eCommerce business owners, they’re thinking about ways to touch their customer digitally or electronically somehow, either through the internet or some type of electronic correspondence.
But your take on things is a little bit different. And I think kind of bringing it back to the kind of old methods of. Touching your customer is definitely something that you know, we can’t forget about because I think these days people are, can be a little bit exhausted by just technology in general.
And it is refreshing to have something tangible and see that somebody is taking time to write a note and a, yeah. So as far as your handwritten process comes into play, why do you think a post-purchase followup just generally these days is so important?
David: Yeah, so I think. In this day and age of everything being electronic and the whole relationship being electronic.
Like you don’t go into stores anymore and meet the store clerk. You go online and place your order or some people even place orders via Facebook chat messenger. Bots and stuff like that. The fact that everything is so electronic. I think it’s just refreshing when people receive what looks to be a personalized, handwritten note in the mail.
There’s a lot of stats. You can visit handwritten.com. Slash resources to see them all. But there’s a lot of stats that customers, after a good B2B experience or BTFC experience, if they have a good experience, they’ll end up purchasing more. So to kind of reinforce. The purchase process, making that investment and sending a handwritten note, which kind of makes it look like you took the time out of your day to be thoughtful and think about this client.
It drives repeat purchases and loyalty. And in a day where there is like zero barriers to entry, you know, everybody’s available 24 seven via the internet. Your store is, and everything’s delivered anywhere in the world. Thanks to Amazon. Having something that really differentiates you and makes your customers feel like you care about them, I think is very, very important.
There’s other stats too. I’m just pulling them up on my website for you right now. What customers want from your communication. You know that in addition to if you’re sending different followups to people, because the average consumer gets over a hundred emails a day, you don’t know if they’re going to open that thank you email from you.
Plus you probably don’t have there. You may or may not have their opt in to send them a text message or something like that. So if they’re receiving. A hundred to 200 emails a day. Not only, you know, let’s say they do open that, are they gonna think it’s really genuine? If it’s an auto generated email that comes out of mail Chimp or Shopify or whatever, but.
If you send them something in the physical mail, maybe they’ll, they’ll look at it. And in fact, handwritten notes have a three times average open rate compared to print pieces. So if you have a junk mail piece and a handwritten note, that handwritten note is going to get open three times more often.
Arlen: I can definitely see that.
David: Yeah. And there’s just like a lot of stats that 71% of shoppers are frustrated that shopping has become so impersonal. So just that you’re making that a little bit of effort to follow up post-purchase, it really kind of is a warm fuzzy for the consumer. Additionally, what we’re finding, and I might be, you might be asking about this down the road, but what we’re finding are people.
Are using these handwritten notes to request reviews. So whether that’s an Amazon review or a Yelp review or Trustpilot or whatever that is, these are a great way to, a request reviews and B to head off bad reviews. So if you send a handwritten note to somebody saying, you know, if you had any issues with your purchase, please contact us.
You know, maybe they’ll contact you instead of just going back to Yelp and, and writing a one star review of you. So that’s kind of the number one use case we’re finding these days. In addition to just being grateful for the purchase. Gotcha.
Arlen: I can definitely see how it makes a difference. Number one, people aren’t expecting it, you know, nine times out of 10 whenever they order something, they’re getting just their package and their product in a box, you know?
That’s it. Then there’s usually maybe a thank you follow up, but nine times out of 10 that’s not getting read or it’s going into spam or it’s going into their trash immediately. So those are what is typical. So yeah, I can definitely see how that. It makes a difference. And this whole kind of taking it back to these old school methods of touching your customer are something that I’m seeing a lot more of.
Even there are even ways to do it, even in the digital world. One of the things that I see a lot more of these days, and you’ve probably seen it as well, just unique ways to touch people, is creating, you know, those personalized videos for your customers. Where. You have somebody on your team recording a brief video, nothing super polished, maybe on their iPhone or their Android phone and sending it to a customer.
It could even be a thank you. Or it could be an acknowledgement about them, maybe telling them something else that could be beneficial to them. So I’m starting to see a lot more of that. Those personal touches. And even with the additional correspondence, a lot of times I’ve gotten, I’ve received emails where, you know, even though it’s probably not from the CEO, it’s written as if it is from the, the head of the company.
And then, you know, these days, as far as that personal direct touch, that’s not really digital. You have the, the direct phone calls from people like the founders or the. The CEO’s they hand pick a certain number of people to, to make calls to. And that’s just, just a way to kind of return to those older school methods of touching people.
And I think, um, you know, brands are, are aware of that and are seeing how they can get good results because a lot of times people are, again, like you said, just kind of exhausted from the whole digital world.
Arlen: you mentioned that, of course, with these handwritten thank you notes, of course, it’s personalized.
It’s a thank you note. Did you can. Thanks the person for the purchase. You also mentioned that you can give them some type of incentive or bonus for purchasing something else, maybe a discount on future purchases, but what are some other things that your retailers typically mentioned in these handwritten notes?
David: We do some referral codes. So kind of getting into your world of, so we do that where those referral codes could be unique, you know, Hey, tell your friends to use this. Or it could just be a generic discount code to help tracking. We do a lot of insertions of business cards, that type of thing. So yeah. And that could either be a business card or that could be a gift card.
For instance, we just worked with a bespoke suit companies. They make, you know, made to order suits for their customers. And let me pull up those stats for you right now. So that suit company sent out 700 gift card coupons, all notes. And they, you know, obviously we included a handwritten note with each of those gift cards.
The gift cards had a 16.8% redemption rate and a return of investment return on investment of over 300% for the brand. So those coupon gift cards have done very well. You have some people with high value clients that are doing other types of fulfillment with us as well, such as books. So we have two clients currently that are sending out books that have stickers in ’em that with a little handwritten note him on the sticker, you know, that just basically says why we’re sending you this book.
So they can be used for a lot of reasons. And other way people are using us is they’re actually inserting our handwritten notes. With the purchase itself. So in this case, they’re not customized. It won’t say like, dear Arlen, it’ll just be, Hey, thanks so much for your purchase. If you have any questions, contact on us, that type of thing.
But what’s cool about this is because we’re not. Doing, how do I say it? We’re, we’re not digitizing, dear Arlen, dear Frank, dear David, that type of thing. Instead, we’re copying exactly a handwritten note that you would write. It can get much more organic. So instead of just being words, you could do like a little doodle or you could scrawl it and we’ll recreate that scrawl.
For example, for a major online mattress company that use us, uses us, um, they include a little handwritten note. In each box, and those handwritten notes vary. So I think they’ve got like 10 or 15 designs, but each one has a little doodle on it and a very short little message, like have a wonderful night’s sleep on your brand new mattress.
And then like maybe a picture of a little drawing that somebody did of somebody dreaming of cats or something, you know, like something silly like that. But what happens is it’s not only is this a feel good, it makes you realize, Oh, this company really cares about us. People start. Instagramming and sharing those pictures on social media.
So there is kind of a viral effect there too. We have one of the largest. Daily YouTube shows using us, and they have a fan club, and they were trying to create a revenue source off this fan club. So if you’d paid, I don’t know, I think it’s like five bucks a month. You’d get a whole bunch of schwag from the YouTube show, and the first thing you get in the mail is a handwritten note from the host of the show.
And people were Instagramming these and tweeting these left and right, which is kind of silly because they didn’t vary the note up at all, which I found a little. Little crazy, so everybody was getting the exact same note. But F I was so excited about it. It was like, dear Jean, you know, be beyond, you know, thank you so much for joining this YouTube fan club or whatever.
And thousands of those would go out. But it was just a great way to kind of build loyalty and get the word out via, you know, the social element is kind of an, it’s wonderful when it happens. It’s hard to count on, but it’s wonderful. Happens.
Arlen: Yeah, definitely. And one of the things that you mentioned I wanted to kind of circle back on actually is, cause I know the business owners are kind of thinking, okay, it sounds great.
We can definitely, it adds a unique touch. But as far as kind of tracking the results of it, I know one of the things that you talked about of course is, is a great way to do it. And that’s going to be through the use of promo codes. You know, given those out in the actual notes because you can track the uses of that.
Other than that, is there anything else that can be done to really track. Whether or not people are really opening these and reading these. Yeah,
David: so most of our clients do AB testing to start, so they’ll, they’ll pick us a sample set of their users and send them the handwritten notes, compare that user base to those that have not received the handwritten note and see if there’s any lift in sales or loyalty or lifetime value, that type of thing.
Just to give you some idea examples here, we have one client that’s a snack box, so they provide office snacks, and what they did was when people received the wrong snack box or had a delay in the order or something, they’d send them a handwritten note, follow up with a small additional snack gift, and they found that the customers that had this bad experience.
We’re actually more loyal than customers that never had a bad experience. Now, I’m not going to say that this is all due to the handwritten note. I mean, receiving a bunch of extra goodies, extra snacks probably had a large portion to do with it. But you know, having that handwritten note also is kind of, Hey, we care about you.
You’re not just a number to us. That’s certainly important too. So, you know, I would say it’s kind of the combo that, but yeah, I mean, a lot of our clients start. By AB testing and saying, you know, are we going to see lift? And then they just kind of roll it out to everybody after that. So
Arlen: I’ll kind of gotcha.
Yeah, that, that really makes sense. You know, you have to, like you said, start with a small subset of your, your customers and then kind of go from there and you know, kind of see the results. But yeah, I would say yeah, they’ll use the promo codes are definitely something that can be great way to track it.
Now. As we get ready to kind of wrap things up here. A lot of this and what we’re talking about as far as these handwritten notes, the personal touch is kind of taking things back to the old school methods of following up with your customer. A lot of this also kind of ties into. The physical nature of what you’re presenting to your customers, and I know you’re dealing with a lot of eCommerce vendors out there that are sending, you know, a variety of different things.
What are some different kinds of unique ways that you’ve seen these vendors kind of present their products as far as like the packaging in addition to, you know, sending out the followup thank you notes. So what are some unique things that you’ve seen?
David: The example of the book. We have one client, they’re a Canadian consulting firm or something, but they’re including these books.
And then there’s a little band, a little paper band around the book with the handwritten note inserted in that. So when people receive those, they’re like, wow, this is really nice. This is from the CEO of the company, or the author of the book, or whatever. You know, we don’t get too much into the packaging, although like the example of that mattress company where.
The handwritten note is the, basically the first thing you see when you open that online, you know, that mattress. That has been a great way to kind of improve the customer experience as well. But I’d say that the fact that most of our nodes go out in the mail, not with the package, is a reinforcement. So you get the package, you get, you know, your whatever your widget in the mail from Amazon.
And then a couple of weeks later, all of a sudden this envelope shows up at your door with a return address of the brand you are dealing with. And you’re like, well, what’s in here? So unlike a postcard, we do have some very high volume clients that are doing postcards with us. I personally don’t think a postcard and a handwritten note are the same thing.
But when you open that handwritten note, you first have that. One or two seconds where you’re like, Oh geez, what is this? You know, as you see the handwriting on the envelope and then you recognize the name on the return and then you open it up and you see that, you know, the handwritten thank you on the inside.
That’s a whole micro experience, right? Like it’s a whole additional touch point that was completely unexpected in a way to surprise and delight clients. So. I think it’s a really nice addition to the standard ways people are presenting their products. Like I said, unfortunately we don’t get too into the client product presentation, but just having that additional touch 0.2 weeks later of getting that handwritten note in the mail, we think is a nice reinforcement.
Arlen: Yeah, definitely for sure. This has been great, David. I appreciate you coming onto the eCommerce marketing podcast and kind of sharing this kind of unique touch that the eCommerce businesses that are listening can and try to implement, and it kind of gets people thinking about alternate ways to touch their customers other than digitally.
And um, yeah, it’s really, I think I’m really just going to grow and grow over the years. Like instead, again, people are getting more and more exhausted of the the digital
Arlen: Yeah. I think that’s kind of where things are headed. What I like to always do is I kind of end off with this kind of changing gears here, and just so our audience can get to know you just a little bit better.
If there’s one kind of closing fun fact that you can let our audience know about you, that maybe they would be surprised to know that if you could share that, that’d be
David: awesome. Well, probably the, when I graduated college, I, you know, again, it was in that.com boom. And they kind of threw money at us, and then they didn’t want us to S as a signing bonus.
Then they didn’t want us to start work right away. So I took that, uh, and I’d always kind of wanted to do something crazy. So I took the . Money, and it turned out to be the exact amount I needed to go to cooking school in Paris. So I went to court on blue in Paris and then worked in, one of geese have was restaurant.
Geese of wa is a Michelin star chef. He actually now owns, has a place in Las Vegas too, but I worked in one of his little, uh, French bistros filleting fish, gutting fish de membranes, livers, and all this crazy stuff. For a couple of months in Paris, which was completely out of my realm.
Arlen: Yeah, I can imagine.
Well, that’s definitely interesting. That’s definitely something I probably wouldn’t have guessed, but yeah, I’m sure you had a blast doing it. Yeah, I’m actually a fan of cooking myself and uh, you know, maybe I’ll have to add that to my bucket list and get over to the corner on blue and they take some cooking classes and you know, see where that takes me.
Well. Yeah. Thanks for sharing that. I really appreciate that. And, uh, you know, if our audience members and listeners want to pick your brain any more about my handwritten notes are touching their customers differently, what is the best way for them to contact you?
David: Twitter is great. I’m David B as in boy Wachs was C H.S on Twitter, LinkedIn. I’m just David Wachs could always visit handwritten.com email me David at handwritten and that’s handwritten with a Y. H. a N D. w R Y. T. T. E. N. feel free to check out handwritten.com and if you sign up and use discount code or sign up code rather eCom, eco M M. You’ll get $5 in credit for your first purchase, so when you go to sign up, just enter that out as the signup code and you’ll get $5 on your account.
Arlen: Great. We have, thanks for providing that. We appreciate that. And uh, yeah, thanks again, David, for joining us today on the eCommerce marketing podcast.
David: Thank you Arlene. It’s been a pleasure. Thank you for listening to the eCommerce marketing podcast. You need to get more feedback and reviews from your customers and improve your customer retention.
Founder of Handwrytten