Brian Curliss: Scaling the Human Touch with Handwritten Notes

Connecting with customers personally can yield huge results in business, but it’s difficult to connect with customers individually as your business grows. In today’s Infusioncast Joshua Millage talks with MailLift founder Brian Curliss about how to create a system to scale the human touch with direct mail and handwritten thank you notes.

Most people in sales have heard the saying that the fortune is in the follow up. But few people follow up like they should, either because they don’t have time, or simply because they don’t want to. In 2013 Brian saw the need for a service to handwrite letters for businesses, and he created MailLift to meet that need. In the first week that he focused on getting business for his new company, Brian sold $5,000 worth of MailLifts.

The staff at MailLift who handwrite the notes are all college educated and have teaching or artistic backgrounds. Robot technology does exist to write notes in handwriting, but people can pretty easily spot that the letters are too uniform to have been written by a real person. And faking a handwritten note with a robot can turn prospects off.

Sending a handwritten note is an opportunity to connect with a customer or prospect. And since people are constantly bombarded with electronic communications today, a handwritten note shows that you took the time and cared enough to put effort into your message. Handwritten notes also tend to make the recipients feel special, which helps build your relationship with them.

Businesses send handwritten notes when they want to retain customers or decrease attrition, when they want to have life cycle marketing, or when they’re prospecting. Using handwritten notes for prospecting can really get prospects’ attention and produce amazing response rates.

Brian discovered Infusionsoft when a customer asked if MailLift integrated with it. He did a screen sharing session with the customer to help walk her through the integration process, and he fell in love with the workflows in Infusionsoft. MailLift now uses Infusionsoft, and it’s helped improve their follow up process.

MailLift letters are customizable, so you could send a gift with your note, or you could send a handwritten long-form sales letter. MailLift also sends the letters so that they are postmarked locally.

A quick way to get started with MailLift and generate a return is to find an Infusionsoft campaign that’s either already successful or well tracked and find a place to drop in one more email, but have it be a handwritten letter instead of doing another email.

Thank you for joining us.

Connect with Brian Curliss

Brian Curliss

You can connect with Brian Curliss via email at brian@maillift.com or in the Infusioncast Confidential Facebook group.

Show Links:

MailLift

Infusionsoft

Infusioncast Confidential Facebook group

codeBOX

LifterLMS

[transcript height=”200px”]

Joshua: Hey, Everyone! Welcome back to another episode of Infusioncast. Today is all about scaling the human touch with direct mail and specifically thank you notes. Thank you notes have been one of the keys, I think, to my success at codeBOX and LifterLMS, because for one what it does to me personally, and two the connection that it creates with a customer. I think personally writing a thank you note is a great practice of gratitude. I try to do that at least once a week, write a thank you note to someone. It’s hard to continue to write thank you notes when you get tons and tons of customers. It’s just not feasible anymore, so it’s important to develop a system to allow this human experience to be scaled, and scaled in a way that’s non-robotic.

Today I had the opportunity and really the privilege of interviewing Brian Curliss, who runs a company called MailLift. They make it really, really easy to send thank you notes, among other things, to your customers or prospects. They have a really sleek integration. It’s easy to set up and get going. It’s a fun interview to do with Brian, because I think if anyone’s been listening to this podcast for any amount of time, you’ll know that I’m a big proponent of using Infusionsoft to scale the human touch. Brian’s company, MailLift, just makes it really, really, really easy. One of the things we talk about in the interview is the importance of the message in the thank you note.

I wanted to share with you the template that I use when people come to LifterLMS and purchase a copy of our plugin. I really think that the way that I’ve told the story of who we are and our vibe in the messaging of the thank you note has created a real connection with our customers, and we see it all the time. People will actually take pictures of a thank note and post it on Twitter and Facebook and other things. I want to share that with you. If you’d like to get a copy of that template, you can simply text the word “elephants” to 33444. Yes, that’s the word “elephant” to 33444. You’ll find out in the interview why I chose the word “elephants” to text and to receive that template, but more of that to come in the interview. I really hope that you go and check out MailLift.com and sign up for Brian’s service, because I know it will have a tangible impact in your business.

Thank you so much for listening and without further ado, let’s get into it.

Announcer: How the heck do you use Infusionsoft? How do you make it work for you? Welcome to Infusioncast, the only podcast that show you the tricks of the trade and teaches you how to be an Infusionsoft expert. Join your host, Joshua Millage, as he sits down with Infusionsoft pros to hear their stories and experiences making Infusionsoft work for them. Ready? Here’s Joshua.

Joshua: Hello, Everyone, and welcome back to another episode of the Infusioncast podcast, the only podcast that teaches you how to be an Infusionsoft expert. My guest today is Brian Curliss. Brian is the founder and CEO of MailLift.com, a handwritten letter service for sales professionals. I have to say I absolutely love this service, because of how easy it is to integrate with Infusionsoft. Brian, welcome to Infusioncast.

Brian: Thanks, Joshua.

Joshua: I am really excited to hear about really the founding of your company and in that journey, how you found Infusionsoft.

Brian: Yeah. MailLift was founded in 2013. It all started just like everything, with an idea. I had an idea for handwriting letters for businesses. In the past, I did everything I could. Previous companies have kind of built that high touch and thought handwritten letters is one of those things that people don’t want to do that makes them successful. I went around pitching the idea. I wasn’t really working on anything specific at the time. During South by Southwest, there was a tech reporter from Forbes who really liked MailLift and picked it up. He said, “Hey, I’m going to write about it tonight.” Like any entrepreneur, I went in and created a landing page really quick and give myself a presence. That was kind of the start of MailLift. It was an idea around handwritten letters by an API. At first I thought it was going to be for more developers and businesses.

Over the next six months, I sat on the idea; I didn’t really focus on it. I was still working on other projects. I was ready to take the next step and focus. Everyone kept on saying, “Why aren’t you focusing on MailLift? Why aren’t you you focusing on MailLift?” I loved my projects I was working on, but decided to give myself a two-week test. Within the first week, I sold $5,000 worth of MailLifts.

Joshua: That’s pretty impressive.

Brian: Yeah. That’s when I knew I had a business. At the time, I was like how many companies out there really want handwritten letters? I doubled the cost, more or less, of what I’m charging now. I made it near $10 per letter and sold a couple of hundred of them.

Joshua: Wow! That was a pretty strong validation early on that you had something special.

Brian: Yup. Exactly. That is what gave me the confidence to move forward. When you get that adrenaline from that first sale, it just goes from there. Within a few months I was doing 5,000 a month and then about a year later, it multiplied again a couple of times. We ended up finding Infusionsoft, because we had a major problem with following up with leads. I don’t know if this is common across people finding Infusionsoft, but for us, the reason we joined … not how we heard about it, but when we joined was we had people who would sign up for the first time on our site; we’re completely inbound. We’d take the call and either they would buy then, or we would never talk to them again. We just did not follow up. Infusionsoft fixed that big hole in our funnel.

Joshua: That’s huge. Yeah. I think that’s one of the most important thing that anyone can really benefit is there’s that old addage, the fortune’s in the follow up, and it’s so true. We create a relationship with a phone call or some sort of touchpoint, and we need to check in with people, so that’s really cool. It started with follow-up for you.

Brian: Yup. It started with a follow-up. I had no idea Infusionsoft existed a year ago. We had someone sign up for MailLift and say, “Hey, do you integrate with Infusionsoft?” I said, “Yeah. Let me take a look really quick, and I’ll give you a call right back.” I went and got on Infusionsoft. I realized that I couldn’t quite log in without having an account, so I told them, “Hey, I think it integrates pretty easily. What I’m going to do is I’m going to set up a screenshare and I’m going to walk you through integration.” I’ve never done it before.

Joshua: I love that.

Brian: Yeah. I got in. We have a thing called maildrop, which allows people to send handwritten letters through email. If you send email in a specific format to a personalized email address we provide you that only you have, it will trigger a handwritten letter be sent from your account with your specifics – stationery and pen type and handwriter style, etc., etc. I get in, and I start walking her through. I get into workflows in Infusionsoft. It’s like, I was so in love. I think that’s when they had me sold is the workflows.

Joshua: Yeah. This how easy it was to generate an email. That’s a really cool feature that you provide, so I can send an email to a specific email address you give me, and as long as it’s according to a format, you guys will pick it up and send the handwritten thank you note or letter out.

Brian: Exactly. Our code will parse or break down the email that you send and automatically put it into our system, reflecting your mail account that you just sent a handwritten letter, and you could see the letter. We’ll send alerts. If you want to see the letter before it’s sent out or after it’s sent out. We actually send you a photo of the letter for quality reasons; not by default. Anyone can turn that in in their dashboard. All triggered just by setting up an email in Infusionsoft. With that person, within 15 minutes, and that was my first time to ever integrate it, within 15 minutes it was done.

Joshua: That is awesome. That is so cool. You’ve got all this awesome technology around it, but it’s still handwritten, right?

Brian: It is still handwritten. We have a staff of writers here on Austin, Texas. They come into our office every day. We’re open 9AM to 9PM, and they love it. They write. The person who runs our handwriters actually used to be a teacher. She once started off as a handwriter. We found out later that most of our handwriters actually were either … they’re all college educated. They’re all teacher background or artistic background. They love doing it. It’s an art that they practice their whole life that no one appreciates, and they get to come in, and they get paid well to handwrite.

Joshua: That is so cool, and it is. That’s a really meaningful job, because you’re helping the message that I love to spread to the world is scale the human touch. I think there’s so much power in the handwritten side of a handwritten letter. I’m curious, because why not just use robots? It seems like it would be easier, right? What’s so special about a handwritten note?

Brian: There’s a really popular article by Clyde on handwritten versus robots. There’s toy robots out there. We actually invested a significant five figures in industrial robots that will handwrite letters, and we compared it. There’s some videos on our site; once you actually sign up you can see them. There’s a video on the difference between it. With the robot, you have consistent letters, so anyone that’s skeptical quickly can tell that it’s not written by hand. Luckily, a robot smears. If you print a font, it doesn’t pass the smear test, we can look at your finger, but robots will always fall in line. The spacing is different than a human would write. It doesn’t arch properly. I think robots will be there in maybe two to ten years. When they are, we’ll be there with them. Right now, when you’re talking conversions and turning off prospects, because they could see that you’re faking it, robots are not a good choice yet.

Joshua: Yeah. That’s a great compare and contrast. I’m excited that you really thought through that, which is cool to me. I like that you’re also providing some awesome opportunities for people to express themselves through handwritten art. You just mentioned something that I think is really interesting, and we talked a little bit about it in our pre-interview chat, but the idea of high-end prospecting using handwritten letters. Talk to me a little bit maybe about some use cases where you’ve seen your service used to do this high-end prospecting.

Brian: There’s three times when people come looking for handwritten letters. They come looking for us, because they want to retain customers or decrease attrition; they want to have life cycle marketing, that’s more along the lines of birth days when they’re not tracking ROI; or they’re prospecting. I love the prospecting letter, because I think that where you get to have the most fun. An example of a prospecting campaign we recently did is we sent a letter out from Nick to ICPs because our target customer in the Infusionsoft community is getting the partners involved. He’d sent a letter out personally saying, “Hey, here’s a very custom message to you on why I think you would be a good fit for us. Then four days later, I sent a handwritten letter, again, it’s automated, but I sent a handwritten letter saying, “Hey, Nick keeps on telling me about you.” Now if they see this, they’re going to know it’s automated but … “Nick keeps on talking about you and how awesome you’d be to have as a partner. Would you mind taking his call?”

Having that second tough from someone’s boss has gone … we should have tracked a little bit better, but amazing response rates. Prospecting, you can do so many creative things. We’ve had people send gifts, everything from bamboo custom boxes that are hundreds of dollars with gifts inside to … we have someone that sells a product that has a high commission. They had to write a six-page testimonial of handwritten, so that’s your long-form letter.

Joshua: I wish this was like a video podcast, Brian, because I have a smile on my face, ear to ear. I think everyone needs to head over to MailLift.com and check out your video, because it’s really cool, and he does a great job explaining the service. I’m joking with you, because I want to see an elephant get sent out from your service.

Brian: Yeah. We had some early inspirations around elephants, and we’ve been wanting to figure out how to ship it. My understanding so far is that’s one of the few things we cannot ship.

Joshua: Yeah.

Brian: I think that’s all I’m saying.

Joshua: I have a hunch that there’s probably some really key regulations about shipping elephants over state lines and country borders.

Brian: I mean, the country border is not a problem for us. It’s just elephants.

Joshua: It’s just elephants. Right. That’s a good point. In terms of postmarking, you can postmark from a lot of different places, right?

Brian: Yeah. When we started out, the big differentiator between us and even direct mail was that all of our letters are first class that are stamped by hand and are postmarked local. Whether you’re in Paris or Ireland or Australia, New Zealand, San Francisco, the letter will be postmarked from your business. We postmark local.

Joshua: Wow! That’s really cool. Have you seen that really help with conversion and things?

Brian: Oh yeah. We’re right now running a campaign, testing the return where we actually postmarked the resident’s address no matter where they are. We’re just doing this one in the United States. The reason I think this one’s going to be impactful while it’s a high-cost campaign, because we’re postmarking at every individual state and city, I think it’s going to be great, because when you call someone from a local number, you see 60% higher connect rates. According to a Harvard Business Review and an MIT Review said only 45% of people have a caller ID. In the handwritten letter, the postmark is right there on the front.

Joshua: Yeah. It’s one of the first things they see, so the authenticity there is pretty cool. I love all this data, Man. You guys are really focusing and testing, and I’m excited to … What was that?

Brian: It’s all a numbers game.

Joshua: Yeah, it is. It truly is, and I think that that’s one of the most important things and one of the coolest things about being Infusionsoft users is we have the ability to do a lot of great tracking. It’s really cool to see that you’ve taken that data-driven mindset into the service and are doing these types of studies. That’s really cool.

I want to jump back, because you talked a little bit about that ICP prospecting campaign, which I think is really awesome. I love the messaging in that letter from you. It’s totally different. What are some tips that you can give to people around messaging? I think that a lot of people are like, they get into the checkbox mindset, where it’s like, “Okay, I made the sale. I probably should send a thank note. Okay, we’re going to hit up MailLift to send out a thank you note,” but they’ve breezed over the actual messaging that goes in the letter itself, and that can have a real impact. What are some of the things that you would suggest people who use your service to think about when they’re thinking about those messages that go in those letters?

Brian: You know Joshua, that’s a huge problem. As people find cool tools, and they sign up for it … I’ve done it before, too. They just find something that’s really cool, they sign up for it, they plug it into their business, and they don’t think about anything other than the medium. The message is very important. Handwritten letters is a great medium to build a relationship. You shouldn’t make it your about page. When you open a handwritten letter, you open it … It’s a like a good subject line in your email. If you see, “Oh this is great, I’m going to open it,” and you open it, and it’s a spam with a bunch of links, you trash your market as spam; or in handwritten letter world, you throw it away. If it’s, “Hey, I’d love to get on the phone with you,” or “Thank you so much for taking the time to call. It really means a lot,” or even asking for a referral in a friendly manner like, “I know that you’re in the same neighborhood as us,” or etc. The more personalized you can make the message to the person and the less it feels like you’re trying to get something out of them, the more effect you’ll have.

Like when we had a campaign that’s all it did, and it was one that we did was a … Oh no. Actually we had another one where someone just said, “Hey, I’d love to get a call with you. Here’s a $5 Starbucks card,” and for every dollar they spent handwriting letters they made $40. It had amazing returns. $40 for every dollar spent.

Joshua: Wow! That’s huge.

Brian: Just from using it as a relationship medium.

Joshua: Yeah. I love that. I mean, that’s powerful stuff right there. $40 for every dollar spent. I think we’d all like to have that type of ROI in our businesses. That’s really cool.

Brian: I guess the biggest tip is keep anything that’s in your About page off of the handwritten letter. I’m also not a fan of Dear or anything that you wouldn’t say if you’re messaging a friend.

Joshua: Yeah. Would you say it’s keeping it conversational?

Brian: Yeah. Keep it conversational.

Joshua: I always think about it this way: It’s like, how would I say thank you, for instance, in person. What would that actually sound like, and I write that down, and I always …

Brian: In person, you don’t say “sincerely.”

Joshua: Right. “I’m sincerely thankful.” No, it’s just like “Hey, thanks,” then you go into it. That’s really cool. Brian, we’ve come in to the end of the interview, and one of the things I love to ask when we wrap up an interview is what are some of the things you do or things that you focus on to get into that success mindset?

Brian: One of the big ones that everyone on our team lives by is we ask, “Is what we’re doing adding more value than we’re taking?” We’re taking a phone call with someone, will this call provide so much value that they feel that they stole our time. That’s one of our big mindsets. Then the other one is, “Are we doing something that makes people money?” If we have a new product offering, or we’re making a new, even as little as changing the copy on our site, “Are we moving it towards something that is beneficial to another business?” I was raised believing that if you are making other people money, you’ll always have a job. Those are two mindsets that I go into every day with.

Joshua: I think that’s brilliant. I know I shared with you on the pre-interview, but I want reiterate it here, that my father’s taught me the exact same thing. It was always the idea that “Joshua, learn some sales skills, because someone’s always going to need something sold, and if you can make them money, then you won’t go hungry.” It’s really basic, but it’s powerful.

Brian: Yeah. That’s why we’re using Infusionsoft. You get on Infusionsoft, and every hour you spend on there, the idea is you’re going to make 10 times more in long-term than you would if you spend that hour selling your product.

Joshua: Yeah, and it’s true. Utilizing services like the one that you offer can really, I think, pour the nitro fuel on some campaigns that people already have in place by setting something up at the end to trigger your service. You can really see even a dramatic increase in ROI.

Brian: That’s probably the quickest hack to getting a return is find a campaign that’s either already successful or well tracked, finding a place we could drop one more email in, but instead of doing an email, have it be a handwritten letter.

Joshua: Oh, that’s brilliant. I’m just going to get-

Brian: There’s no need to create a whole new campaign. You just plug it in to an existing one.

Joshua: Right. In that email, they would specify the exact address to send it to, and then they’d input the format that you give them when they sign up for your service.

Brian: Yup.

Joshua: Man, that’s simple. I love that. Well Brian, this has been a fantastic interview, and I know there’s so many valuable nuggets and knowledge that people can walk away with. If someone wants to get in contact with you and learn more, what’s the best way for them to do that?

Brian: Either email me – brian@maillift.com – it’s Brian with an I and maillift is M-A-I-L-L-I-F-T .com or you can find me in your Facebook group, in the Infusioncast Confidential. I’m pretty active in there as well.

Joshua: Fantastic. Fantastic. I’ll put all of these and more on the show notes at infusioncast.co/maillift. Brian, thank you so much for coming on the show.

Brian: It’s been a pleasure, Joshua.

Announcer: Thanks for joining us on this episode of Infusioncast. Struggling to embed Infusionsoft web forms in your WordPress website? Head over to Infusioncast.co and download our free WordPress plugin FusionForms. FusionForms allows you to easily embed beautiful Infusionsoft forms into any WordPress website with a simple shortcode. Thanks again for listening, and we’ll talk to you in the next episode.

[/transcript]

[pp-module id=”832″ name=”Brian Curliss Tracking Pixel”]