Outbox: Digital Snail Mail and Reputation Management

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This is the first post in a new series of blog features dedicated to tech start ups and how they could affect Reputation Management as we know it.

outbox_logo_@2x.665154Today when we talk about Reputation Management, we refer to a lot of different digital media sources (e.g., social networks, review sites, online directories, blogs, etc.). The list is growing everyday, thanks to a long line-up of starry-eyed dreamers who are all trying to make it big with their Next Big Idea. One of these new services hoping to get some attention is Outbox: a “digital snail mail” provider.

To most of us, digital snail mail might sound like a paradox, but to Will Davis and Evan Baehr, it is a unique vision that is already on its way to becoming a reality. To give you a quick idea of their business, Outbox provides a service wherein they pick up your snail mail from your mailbox, digitize it, and present it to you in an electronic Inbox. You can login online to see your mail, request to receive important stuff at home (or leave it in the inbox if reading it is all you wanted to do), unsubscribe from something, or discard it altogether.

For those of us who are constantly on the run, this could be an interesting service, because now you don’t actually have to be home to find out if you received that important piece of mail, nor do you have to open every envelope to find out what’s in it. Plus, no more junk — forever!

However, those are benefits for the consumer. For the companies that do a lot of direct mail marketing, Outbox could be an annoying gatekeeper that stands between them and their audience. But you know what, that could be a good thing (from VendAsta’s side of things, at least). It could just be one more avenue for reputation management.

Think about it: there are few things more important than consumer feedback. And what could be bigger feedback than a consumer unsubscribing from your service? Moreover, what could provide a better opportunity of knowing which of the people in your list of direct mail recipients are actually interested in receiving your communication?

This is pure speculation on my part, but I can already see plans being hatched at Outbox (or other up-and-coming Outbox competitors) about what they could do with the massive amounts of consumer preferences data they could generate if their service becomes a country-wide success. They could attach some kind of a ranking system that not only allows marketers to understand where they stand and how to improve, but also lets consumers find out if the unsolicited mail they’ve received is coming from a highly-ranked company, a poorly-ranked company, or a new one that has only just come into existence. In the end, while it could reduce the size of direct mail recipients for marketers, it could also significantly improve their conversion rates and reduce the cost of direct mail because they now have to target a smaller group of more interested consumers.

Companies like VendAsta could also benefit from this data. We could use an API-like service to tap into it and provide it as a part of our Reputation Management suite that already includes a ton of other online sources.

Whether or not this will come to be is for another discussion. For now, I am excited by just knowing what possibilities exist.