Today’s guest successfully sold his previous marketing company and now is the leader in handwritten notes. Yes, handwritten notes through automation.
“But why do I care about notes, Damon?” Because they could lift your sales 18%.
He shares the unique opportunity to be personal with your customers, but at scale through physically inked, handwritten cards… automatically.
Yes, a giant contradiction, automated manual personalization, but it’s true.
Please welcome David Wachs.
- 1:27 – David’s Background
- 4:39 – Industry Story
- 10:05 – Profound Impact
- 12:59 – Gift Cards
- 15:15 – Card Price
Learn more about this guest:
Podcast Episode Transcripts:
Disclaimer: Transcripts were generated automatically and may contain inaccuracies and errors.
David Wachs. I guess I should have asked that before we hit record. Is, am I saying your last name? Right? It’s wax, like more wax. Yeah. You never had to say that in your life. Never, never. Everybody gets a ride home. You’re the first, you know, you know what, um, we’re going to start a name battle right now because I got a problem with your name, David.
You know why? Because I’ll pick up the phone sometimes and I’ll be like, this is Damon. And they’re like, Hey, David.
Yep. Yep. Like, uh, I have, you know, our company is called human written and I’ll be like, handwritten, how may I help you? Yeah. I have a question about handy written. Well, how can I help you at handwritten? Well, on these handy written cards and I’m just like, how many times do I have to say it to you for you to get the idea?
You know what? You’ve just jinxed me and I’m going to wreck it later. At some point in this session, it’s going to be handy Roden. All right. Well, David, so, you know, you have an interesting yeah. Industry, and that’s why I wanted to jump on with you because I’m a big fan of the personal touches in business.
And I think they help establish relationships. So like, for example, when we have a new client, we send them a welcome kit and I, I personally sign it and then, well, my thing. Yes, I have a wax stamp. And so I take a minute to burn the wax and then stamp it. And so like the idea of you doing handwritten card.
Well, I’m going to let you explain what you do. What do you do? Sure. So handwritten, uh, the idea is we help companies automate handwritten correspondence. So we’re trying to make sending handwritten notes written in pen and ink as easy to do as sending emails or text messages or anything else. Um, and then we also make it automateable through Zapier API, APIs, Salesforce, et cetera.
So that’s, that’s really what we do and the way we. Create the end result is we actually use robots. So we have currently 95 pen holding robots. Each one holds a pilot, G2 ballpoint pen. You pick them up at staples. It writes out as many notes as it can. And then it sends a Slack notification to our operators that tell them to replace the pen and then it keeps going.
So, yeah. Um, the end result is totally. Uh, unrecognizable from, from something, you know, that it’s been written by a robot. All right. So a couple of questions. Why the pilot G2? I know nothing about pens, but I want to know why that one. Sure. Um, at the time when we were shopping pens, I liked the gel. It’s a jelling pen.
I like the way it comes out. Um, we use the bold tip, so it’s a little bit thicker. Um, it just looked nice and bold and, uh, you know, felt tip, felt tips would dry out too quickly. If we. We’re not using a robot for a few minutes. You know, that pen is just kind of hanging in there. No dry out. So, um, we just did pilot G2 and they look good.
They look, you know, it makes an impro, uh, physical indentation on the paper and, and, uh, I mean, we can pick anything you want. We’ve done Sharpie, we’ve done silver ink and all the rest, but. Blue pilot. G2 is the way we went. We did a comparison of black versus blue. And for whatever reason, we found that blue looked more authentic.
So we just buy. Yeah, we buy blue pen inserts by the, I think it’s like 932 at a time, some crazy weird numbers. That’s where we get the discount. So that’s when the pilot G three comes out. Can you easily swap it in and out with what you got going on? I think so. Yeah. So, um, we use these brass pen so that the pendants are in the little plastic thing.
Um, with the, with, uh, the nib on the end, that is pilot G2, the actual pen it sits in. And if you go to handwritten.com, you can see it. It’s a brass pen. Um, and the reason we use a brass pen is it’s heavy in it in dense the paper. Um, I’d assume it would be compatible with , whatever else. It’s just like a big, heavy pen.
And the pen itself was not designed to be used with G2. It was just designed to take penance. So I’d imagine it would work just fine. Got it. All right. So, you know, our, our listeners are business owners, entrepreneurs. Why does something like your industry? Like w you know, why should they be paying attention right now?
Like what, what got you into this industry? Because, well, Maybe there’s multiple purposes for me, the concept is cool because like I said, I like doing the lax stamps, like the personalization. So that’s what comes to mind for me is, is that the same concept for you and why this business was started or are there other benefits to what you do?
No, that’s exactly it. So my last company, um, prior to this I’ve, I’ve actually started, um, a few other ventures, but my last company was something called salad, CLL. It, it was a text messaging platform, um, designed. The platform was designed before there was an iPhone. So this is back in 2004 and the idea was texting for information on houses.
And then we pivoted and we started doing outbound pushes for major brands and retailers like Abercrombie and Fitch and toys R us and all these other brands. Many of which are now bankrupt. It has nothing to do with us. You got in at the right time. Yeah. We were sending millions of texts for some of these brands.
Everything was opted in it wasn’t spam. But what I saw when I did that company is, and while text messaging worked, um, people are inundated with. Electronic communication. You know, you, the average office worker gets like 140 emails a day. They spend 23 to 25% of their day just managing emails. Um, then you have tweets and Slack and all these other forms of communication that are all kind of impersonal.
And people realize that you can automate a fully custom email. You can automate a tweet and it. Twitter posts or a Facebook post and all that. Um, and at the same time, what’s declining is handwritten notes. Um, the average person gets like two pieces of mail a week, which I find. Strange, but, um, because I know I get a lot more junk mail.
Yeah. Something stupid, but maybe they meant personalized notes that survey on spam junk mail. Yeah. So, um, you know, and then we don’t compare ourselves to print pieces because. Um, compared to a print piece, a handwritten note or handwritten envelope gets open three times as frequently. So people see these in the mail.
Um, and when I say handwritten, I mean, our company is handwritten with a Y H and DWR, Y TTN. But when I’m saying handwritten, I mean, any old actual handwritten piece or handwritten with a lie gets opened about three times as frequently. So. You know, when you get a handwritten note for one, you are curious, what’s in it.
You take that minute to open it immediately to read it, and then oftentimes you don’t throw it away because gee, this person took some time to write me a handwritten note. I’m not going to throw it away. I’m going to showcase it on my bookshelf or put it on a magnet on my refrigerator or just leave it on my desk.
Um, so they have lasting value versus an email or a tweet or a text message or anything else that gets read and thrown away right away with no real history there. Um, Additionally, you know, everybody wants something tackle and they want to feel personal. And that’s really what handwritten notes do.
That’s what your black stamps do? Um, we have done wax stamps for a few customers, but that’s not our standard offering. Typically, what people do is they’ll include a physical gift card. So a Starbucks card, an Amazon card, something like that, more, a business card even make it more tactical. Um, but the whole idea is you get a nice envelope in the mail.
Uh, that’s a thick paper, toothy stock envelope. You open that envelope up and inside that envelope is a nice card. Um, something that’s really, truly a gift that you can put on your desk or wherever else. Um, yeah. I was talking with one brand at a out of California. And they said, you know, what’s really important these days is to get people’s attention.
Um, and you can do that through a handwritten note. You can also do it by sitting in a meeting and turning your cell phone over. So you’re not looking at it because oftentimes nowadays you sit in meetings and you’re staring at your cell phone all the entire time. So people really crave that personal connection and that.
Attention. Um, and unlike some of our competitors out there, these are actually written in pen and people notice that they try to smear it with their finger, which they would should kids. And it really, people are wowed by that. And it’s a great way to differentiate. And what we’re finding is online brands that integrate us through.
Zapier or whatever else they’re able to do this sometimes better than offline brands, you know, better than a retail store where somebody has to type in, in the information. So it’s, it’s kind of strange that online brands can actually reach out and create a personal touch better than brick and mortar can.
But we’re enabling that. Yeah. It’s it’s every time. So I do the manual touches a lot of times with our clients, right. So when we bought a new client, um, we send them a welcome kit that has this, you know, nice, um, row bound enclosure, and then it’s got the wax stamp and then my team members each read out.
Reach out a certain point, like, Hey, I’m so-and-so I want to be doing this thing. And you know, a couple days later I’m going to be doing somebody else on the team and I’m gonna do this thing, you know, one month we send them a thank you card. Uh, three months we send them this other thing and I get. So many compliments on like, wow, that was so cool.
And you know, you don’t have to spend a ton of money or do something super crazy. It’s just like, just like you said, people are so inundated with technology that these small manual human touches just have such a profound impact. You know, we have, and of course I’m totally biased to handwritten notes. Uh, but we had somebody that reached out to me to try to get me as a client.
And they sent me, I think they were like in an SEO type space actually. And they sent me unsolicited. This box, that looked kind of like a really thick card. And then when you opened it up, there was a video, a tiny little LCD screen, and it would play a video. And with that was a printed letter signed by the guy, the SEO guy saying, you know, here’s some info on us.
And all I could do when I got that box with the video is think, man, How does this box work? And I would try to take it apart. I had zero interest in watching a video. I didn’t watch more than two seconds of this video. And then B I thought, how much did it cost them? To send me this contraption. So therefore you must be making a ton of money off of me.
If you’re willing to spend that much money with this stupid video that I’m not even going to watch. And then the printed note, which was complete. And I just thought man had the owner sent me a handwritten note. At least I would have read it. I didn’t, I didn’t even read the printed note and I didn’t watch this video.
I just thought this is a. Cool gimmick. And how does it work? How can I repurpose it basically? So he could have saved a lot of money and made a better impression in my book, just by sending a handwritten note. It’s, it’s interesting because that creates a spectrum that I think a lot of people don’t think about because on the one end you got automate.
No personalization, follow everybody else is doing this things so you don’t stand out. And then on the other end, you have send the LCD screen. It’s super unique. But as you said, there becomes a point of excessiveness where it’s like, they have a lot of money to burn because they have huge profit margins, which means they’re just taking me out on a ride.
And so that’s an interesting spectrum that I think a lot of people, a lot of people I’m assuming would go, yeah, let’s send the weird thing. The standout thing, but I don’t think they think about the potential consequences of it being too extreme. And it was just so distracting. Like, you know, I’m like, how does this thing work?
I was just tearing it apart. You shouldn’t make those, they’re not in the business of selling LCD screens. You know, they’re in the business of trying to get this video and I didn’t watch one second of that video. So I, anyway, it’s just, you know, I think people are really. Trying to get more and more creative to create personal touches when really what they should do is send them an actual handwritten note or a handwritten note through us or never Alison, and actually just try to do it as opposed to do something ultra gimmicky.
Now, are you, so you, you talked about, you know, sometimes your clients will send a Starbucks gift card with the handwritten card. So. Do they provide that? Or are you almost like a fulfillment center where you got these things that you can attach to the handwritten card too? Um, we do, we have a whole inventory of gift cards.
We’re kind of like a grocery store in that when, um, when you get a, you know, we have all these gift cards ready, we just activate them, swipe, swipe them in our little register thing, activate them and then insert them with a handwritten note. So we have. Several, I think we have three or four denominations of Amazon targets, uh, Starbucks, um, somebody wanted burger King.
So we added that. I
okay. Offering burger King, but you know, we have, and then we also have open loop visa card so that, you know, it’s just the visa card you could use anywhere. Um, we have all those, um, just to make it easy. You know, the system was really designed to be something I’d want to use and that’s, you know, I was like, wouldn’t it be cool if we offer gift cards along with these?
So we do, um, that said people can send us their inserts too. So that could be a custom business card. It could be, um, a magnet, it could be a stamp, it could be a wax seal, whatever they want to do. Um, we can insert those typically it’s about 20 cents per insert with a wax seal. It might be a little bit more because we can’t just throw it in there.
We have to make sure it looks good and line it up. You know, it’s a little bit more. Um, time-consuming but we try, we try to keep it cost effective. So yeah, so our facility here has a tremendous amount of storage for all this stuff. And then these 95 robots, and then we have a lot of big laser printers, um, for.
Custom printing cardstock prior to writing on it. So if you want your logo on something, we can print it and then write on it. Um, and then we have automatic stamping machines, automatic sealing machines. So we try to automate the stuff we can, but we don’t automate the quality assurance step of making sure that the note is fully written, that it goes with the right envelope and that the right insert is included.
Yeah. Uh, uh, I have just a brief question, cause it’s just my personal curiosity. Um, I’ve always been curious about like, when you said like you’re like a grocery store and you have these gift cards, how do you in the grocery stores, like do, do you buy those at face value or do you get those at a bulk discount where you make a small margin on them?
Like how does, so we do so, um, It depends on the card, but we get them for a very small margin. I think handwrittens, um, margin on some of those is completely washed out by the credit card processing fee. So what I mean by that is if I’m selling you a $50, whatever, um, I might get 3% off, but then to take your credit card transaction, that adds 3%.
So we’re at zero. So what we do is we add a convenience fee. Because we’re doing a valuable service by adding these cards. So we just charge a couple bucks for that. But, but yeah, if we were a Kroger or a Walmart, I’m sure our, our discount would be much greater than what we currently get. Um, for other cards.
We do actually have, and I don’t want to get too much into the weeds for other parts. We actually have to pre-purchase them and hold them in inventory, which, uh, locks up a bunch of cash. And it also creates a risk of theft and stuff like that. So we try not to do that, but for some of our high demand, um, Gift cards that we can’t swipe to activate.
We do, we do currently do that. And others, quite honestly, we run to the store to get, you know, it’s very small volume. We’ll just run to our grocery store and get a few. But most of them, we swiped activate at this point. I’m always curious about that at stores. I didn’t necessarily think they were like a moneymaker or anything, but I didn’t know if they had to take any liability on, you know, acquiring the initial unit, you know?
Yeah. Uh, the grocery stores don’t so there is a company called. In comm I N C O M M. That’s who we go through to, um, And that’s who I think a lot of the grocery stores go through as well. There’s another player called something bird. I think it’s like Blackbird or something like that. That also does it.
But, um, but in comm is kind of our backend provider and it’s literally, there’s a woman here in the office. She’s got one of those little terminals on her desk and she just swipes activate us as, um, every day as, as the orders come in. All right. So you said he got a big space, um, like how much space to 90 something robots take up.
We’ve got, uh, about 8,000 square feet, um, plus, uh, and that’s combination of storage, robots, engineering, um, you know, these robots are. We totally just jumped into this, but these robots are totally custom designed and built by us. So we start off with laser cutters, we’ve got very high end and we put these things together.
And if anybody’s ever in Phoenix and wants to see this process in action, we give tours because it’s very hairy Ford vertically integrated. Um, how we can. Um, it’s not, you know, we don’t just buy them from somebody else and put them to work. This is all custom proprietary technology, um, built and programmed here.
Very complicated, way more complicated than my text messaging does this, I would say 10 times more complicated than the Texas. So the obvious question would be why that is a very, very good question. And I don’t have any answer. Uh, when I. When I, um, I had one of my friends who knew me, you know, back in high school and then saw that I built up this other company and sold it.
And I guess he figured I’d just go sit on the beach. And then he was recently in Phoenix and came to our facilities and he’s looking at this crazy technologies, like. Why did you do this? Why would you and the end result as well? I always think this, you know, this again, this is a service that I use and I’d want to use, and my wife uses, and it’s not really out there.
Um, and B I think it’s important to stay in touch with people. And, um, even if it’s a fake handwritten note, it’s better than no handwritten note. And it, uh, you know, I, I it’s it’s, uh, it’s. It’s a interesting, um, industry to be in. It’s not a huge industry, but it’s interesting. Well, my, why was not necessarily an industry, but more, more, why don’t you outsource the creation of the technology?
Like, are you going to, is there the opportunity for you to do something else with that technology? Like. So when we started, we used off the shelf handwriting robots that you can buy from the company, um, in Virginia, anybody can Google enough and those robots, um, They just didn’t do it for us. They there’s a lot of limitations for one.
They were not. What you see is what you get, um, wizzy wig. Do you know that? The term Damon? Oh yeah. Yeah. That’s crazy wigs. I love our web design. Yeah. So a lot of people y’all don’t know it. Um, you know, I think when Steve jobs in 1984, uh, invented the Mac. And came up with the idea of when you type a letter a on this graphical part of the screen, it appears where you type it.
That was a revolution, but these robots, these, um, purchased robots, you would type a letter a and you know, Uh, spin a wheel as to where it would actually end up. So sometimes it would write on the robot itself. Um, so we, you know, it’d be fine if we’re writing the same note over and over and over, we could adjust it and get it looking really good and then write 10,000 the same note, but it didn’t work when we’re trying to scale for everybody.
Else’s, um, you know, for 10,000 different notes. So we needed to come up with a Wiziwig robot. Um, we also needed one that we could. Build at scale for much cheaper than what we could buy and that we could manage at scale. Um, this company out of Virginia, their robot, you’d have to hook it up to, uh, directly to computer.
And you could have up to 10 robots on one computer for us. We could have a thousand robots connected to one computer, right date, essentially Daisy chain them together, the old ones that will they’re on like these private networks. Um, with us, you can just put them out there and basically communicate over standard protocols and you could shut your computer down and the robots would keep running.
If on the other side, on the other robot, if, if that computer had a windows update and automated all your computer, your robots would, would get hosed. So, uh, so yeah, um, So we just decided we have to build our own for a number of reasons. And now, um, we’re very proud to say that we have the best robot, the best looking hand writing.
We have full control over it. So we can design new handwriting styles. We can tweak the underlying handwriting algorithms to make it look more and more realistic. And, um, I have no doubt that we’re the best in the world, as far as that goes, that, you know, we we’ve, we’ve accomplished that. Whether people use it, you know, that’s, that’s another thing, but, uh, we are growing and, uh, Hopefully people use it.
It’s pretty neat. I love this idea. And I think that people are, or, you know, I don’t know if we’ve hit the tipping point yet where the masses are recognizing the gap and, and now the value in personalization, but I think we’re still heading in the right direction where it will be adopted more. So it’s interesting.
Um, I think you’re, you’re in the right space at the right moment. There’ll be a lot more opportunity to grow with us. So it’s pretty cool. Um, Thank you. No, I was just going to say, you know, um, kind of what we’re seeing are people, um, you know, it really works for certain types of things. Like if you’re just trying to send a thank you, that’s great.
But if you want to send a referral code or a request for review, we’re doing a lot of that for Yelp reviews for Amazon reviews. Um, we’re doing a lot of thank you for your anniversary of purchase. So we connect into Shopify and we allow people to. Automate stuff through Zapier, you know, send this thank you card after their first purchase, after their 10th purchase, after a year from their first purchase, you know, all those types of things.
Um, we’re seeing, uh, improvements on people’s retention of clients. Um, we did a. There’s a company that does bespoke suits, where you’re sending your measurements and they, they get suits made for you. They did 700, um, handwritten notes with us and they saw an 18% redemption on the coupon that included those with those.
So they had a huge ROI. Um, so yeah, these things, they do work in another cool thing about it is they get. Socialized, um, via Pinterest or not P uh, via Instagram and Twitter. So we work with the number one, um, morning YouTube show, and they have a fan club. And when you joined that fan club, you get a handwritten note from the, um, the founders of that fan club or that hosted that YouTube show and those notes get thrown up on Twitter and on Ram all the time.
So it’s got a cool viral effect. Yeah, well, as we kind of get closer to wrapping up, one thing that I wanted to say is, I’m glad you say Zapier, because I don’t know how many people I’ve talked to called Zapier and it drives me nuts. Yeah. I never correct people on that. I do correct when they mispronounce our name, but, uh, but yeah, I mean, even at the bottom of Zapier, Zapier makes you happier.
It doesn’t say Zapier makes you happier. So, yeah. Um, and I’m a huge fan of Zapier, I think endless tool that, um, Uh, you know, I wish I thought Zapier, it’s an incorrect that opens up a whole other, just like, I wonder how they stay ahead of a bazillion things like making a version change without breaking, without
Yeah, we, um, we’re actually just, so right now, within Zapier, you can create a handwritten note. Um, right now in this COVID downtime, I’m adding the feature and I’m still the head programmer over here. I’m adding the feature where you’ll be able to actually create a custom card, um, through Zapier. So you’ll be able to upload, I don’t, I don’t know how you do it through the, on the other side, but if you design a logo in.
I don’t know what connects to Zapier, Zapier. It comes through and it adds to the card and then you write on it. So, so that all will be available within our zaps. Um, next week. That’s cool. That’s super awesome. Yeah. If you’re not familiar with Zapier, R Z a P I E r.com. It basically acts as a hub, anything from a Google sheets, email, whatever program CRM pipeline to be, which is all the other.
Google sheets, pipeline anything it’s super cool. It just connects the dots between unconnected platforms. So I’m David Wachs. Yep. Thanks for jumping on handwritten. H a N D w R Y T T E n.com. Uh, I’ll give you the floor for the last minute. And if there’s anything beyond that website, how can people follow up with you or more?
Yeah, man. Uh, first of all, Damon, thank you so much for having me on, um, feel free to visit handwritten. If you want to give it a shot, just sign up and use discount code, sign up with an email and password, not, um, Facebook or whatever, and use discount code podcast. And that’ll get you five bucks in free credit.
Um, right now, because of the virus where we’re actually all cards are discounted anyway to $2 and 44 cents. Plus. Postage. So under $3 total. Um, so it gets you more than a card, um, and, uh, yeah, give it a shot. Let me know. You think I’m firstname.lastname@example.org or you can find me on Twitter. David B Wachs, uh, David B as in boy, w a C H S on Twitter or handwritten on Twitter.
And, uh, yeah, I look forward to connecting with you all and thank you so much, Damon. Very cool. Thanks so much, David. Appreciate your time. Bye-bye.