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Ep. 71 - Giving Valuable and Memorable Customer Touchpoints Using Handwrytten with David Wachs

A serial entrepreneur, David's 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. 

In This Conversation We Discuss:

  • [1:11] Handwrytten in a nutshell
  • [3:43] The history of Handwrytten’s robots and one of its competitors, Bond
  • [6:14] What helps in making you stand out with your competitors: Your goals
  • [9:48] The economics of a handwritten note: Handwrytten pricing
  • [11:25] The difference between expense and investment
  • [12:07] Handwrytten notes are very effective and stats to prove it
  • [14:43] Sponsor: Gorgias gorgias.grsm.io/honest
  • [15:32] Handwrytten’s scheduling and send times
  • [17:20] Other use-cases for Handwrytten
  • [20:01] Some tasks are better off automated
  • [21:43] Real-life examples from different clients of Handwrytten
  • [23:03] Handwrytten notes stand out and literally stand up!


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David Wachs  

The whole purpose of this [business] is to make it easy for people to stay in touch with their customers and create a personal bond, in a world where everything is transacted over the internet


Chase Clymer  

Welcome to Honest Ecommerce, where we're dedicated to cutting through the BS and finding actionable advice for online store owners. 


I'm your host Chase Clymer, and I believe running an online business does not have to be complicated or a guessing game. 


If you're struggling with scaling your sales, Electric Eye is here to help. To apply to work with us visit electriceye.io/connect to learn more. Now let's get on with the show.


Hey everybody, welcome back to another episode of Honest Ecommerce. I'm your host, Chase Clymer. And today we welcome to the show, David Wachs. 


David Wachs is the founder of Handwrytten. He's also built and sold a previous business and he's gonna tell us all about that today on the show. Welcome to the show, David.


David Wachs  

So happy to be here, Chase. Thank you for having me. 


Chase Clymer  

Awesome. So, I am familiar with your current venture, which is really funny. But for those that aren't familiar, give them a quick [introduction]. What does Handwrytten do?


David Wachs  

Yeah. So, the whole idea of Handwrytten is to make sending handwritten notes as easy as sending emails. In today's day... And actually, if we get into my background, we can talk more about it, because this is where it all plays out. 


But in today's day and age of digital overload, everybody's getting hundreds of emails a day, dozens of text messages, and Twitter tweets, and Facebook posts and Intercom, and Slack, and all the rest. 


What really stands out is old-fashioned handwritten communication. Not mass-produced junk mail, but handwritten notes. And so after exiting my last company, which was actually in the text messaging space, I thought,  there must be a way to automate handwritten notes. 


And that's what we've set out to do 6 years ago [and] we're doing our best to accomplish that now. 


So, the way it works is we are a true platform, meaning you don't have to visit our website. You could download our app for iPhone or Android or plug into Zapier, which a lot of Shopify people do. 


And I'm happy to talk about that because I know you have a lot of Shopify listeners. However you want to engage with us, we've got a way to do it. 


And then when you do connect on the frontend via one of our technology platforms, you submit your orders and then on the backend, we have more technology to write your orders. 


We’ve got robots, currently about 95 robots. Each robot holds a real ballpoint pen, they're actually Pilot G2 ballpoint pens. You can pick them up at Staples


And those robots write out your handwritten notes in the handwriting style of your choice, on the card stock of your choice, and then we mail it for you. 


We write out the envelope we put a real stamp on there, and we send it on its way. In addition to the handwritten notes, we can include gift cards, business cards, coupons. stickers, other small items that fit in a normal envelope. 


And now we are actually doing some bigger fulfillment as well on a one-off basis. So we're doing books and that type of thing with a handwritten note. 


Yeah, that's us in a nutshell. We're doing about 100-200... Well, I guess about 120,000 handwritten notes a month right now. And growing, just trying to keep up with it.


Chase Clymer  

That's amazing. Especially having the robot army doing it for you. So (laughs) to you, it's every day you walk into work, and there's robots working for you. But let's get into that real quick. 


So, you build a business, you're sending out handwritten notes to customers on their behalf. And you built a technology powered by robots --95 of them as you said-- to write these for you. That's insane.


David Wachs  

Yes. We started off very small with a different brand of handwriting machine called an Autopen, which has been around since the 60s or 70s. And what we found is that those machines just didn't... A, they didn't create nice enough handwriting. It didn't look realistic. 


It looked okay, but it looked off. It didn't pass the uncanny divide tests or whatever they're called. The uncanny valley tests, where the more you tried to make something look authentic, the less authentic it looks. And those machines really didn't pass that. So we weren't happy with it. 


We also weren't happy with the scalability. They were very slow machines. Our new robots are slow, too, but these were worse. And they couldn't... We could only have so many of them. 


The companies selling them would only sell us so many. And you needed a computer for every 4 machines. It just became impossible. 


So necessity creates. It's the “mother of invention”. So I said, "Well, to heck with that. I'm gonna design my own robot." And that's what we did. 


So, our robot is actually faster, cheaper to manufacture for us, so I can get into how we manufacture them. We do not sell them. We just use them internally, but they're autonomous. 


They don't need to be connected to a computer. They actually send out Slack notifications to us when they're low on paper, low on ink, paper jam, whatever. And yeah, they're pretty cool. 


They're... We call them robots, but they're little Linux computers with writing arms, and conveyor belts, and everything else. And really, it's the conveyor belts and the paper feed system that sets us apart. 


There are a few other handwriting vendors out there. Very few, but a few others that actually use robotically-written handwritten notes. 


And what they haven't mastered is the throughput of having a paper feed and a conveyor or whatever, to move that paper along. 


What they're basically doing is just using a 3D printer and replacing the print nozzle with a pen and then writing, but then you have to move that paper out of the way and put a new piece of paper down. And that's a very laborious process. 


So, for instance, we had a competitor, Bond that was doing this. They got a lot of accolades and then they got shuttered because they couldn't scale. 


And we've been good at doing this and scaling and growing. And each worker here can control about 25 robots, It's because they're so autonomous.


Chase Clymer  

Let's talk about that a bit. So you took the time and the effort to focus on building up your product, which I feel like a lot of our listeners are doing that currently. Trying to differentiate themselves from their competitors. 


David Wachs  



Chase Clymer  

And find that edge where either you've got the edge on your margin, or you've got the edge on your quality. What's going to help you stand out with your competition?


David Wachs  

Yeah. Like I said before, I actually started a text messaging company before this. We did millions of texts a day for major brands like Abercrombie and Fitch, and Toys R Us, and all these big brands. This company is way more complicated. Like several orders of magnitude more complicated. 


Because on the robot side, we've got the technology, obviously electromechanical technology to move the robot around and software to do that. But then we've also designed our own writing engine to actually write out these notes. Because you can't use fonts


We could get into a whole conversation about why you can't use fonts. But in a nutshell, a font is an outline. And it's a big... If we were to draw out fonts, you'd end up with a bunch of bubble characters. 


So what we did was we generated our own writing engine, which creates the most realistic handwriting out there. It adds variation. It handles ligature combinations. 


So, put two O's together, two T's together, two L's together, whatever, and make it look realistic. And quite frankly, I stare at this handwriting every day. And I can obviously tell some of it is robot-written. 


But if you give out any of our notes to anybody and you say "Hey, did you enjoy the handwritten note I sent you." [They say] "Yeah. Thank you very much." 


If you give it to them and you say "Was this written by a robot? Maybe they have a 50% chance of guessing if it is written by a robot. 


That said, there are certain handwriting styles. We have some people that work with us and we recreate their handwriting for them. 


And those... Because I don't stare at them every day, even to me, when I see them rattling off the machines, I can't tell they're written by a robot. They're so good. 


We replicate their signatures and stuff like that. The end result is so realistic. You would absolutely never know. It's written by a robot. 


Now, I was just gonna say, the whole purpose of this is to make it easy for people to stay in touch with their customers, and really create a personal bond with their customers in a world where everything's transacted over the internet. 


And so, our goal is to [not] make you (customers) not realize that you're sending robot-written notes. Our goal is to just help you connect with your customers. 


So people use, for instance, Zapier and our platform to send handwritten notes to customers on their first sale - welcoming to their Shopify store, after their 10th sale - thanking them for their repeat business or after they hit a certain sales threshold. 


So if your total value is over $100, send them a handwritten note, whatever it is. So really, the robots are there. They're super cool. They're designed out of 3D-printed parts, and we actually laser cut parts. 


We've turned into quite the manufacturing system here. But the whole point of these robots is to try to get out of the way. Do you know what I mean? 


We don't want anybody to know that you sent them a robot note, we want people to think you sent them a real note. That's our goal, and I think we've done a pretty good job at it.


Chase Clymer  

I can agree. I've gotten notes from you before. We've used to send notes to our clients, actually, using your service and I thought it was wonderful. 

Let's talk about the economics of it, though. So I'm sure it's sliding scale upon volume and all that stuff, [but] what's a handwritten note gonna cost me?


David Wachs  

Yeah. For sure. So, starting out if you go on our website and you send one Handwrytten note, it's $3.25. That includes the card. 


So the thank you stationery, or you can go online and upload your own image, your own logo, that type of thing. We'll print that card out and then we'll write on top of it. We'll then put in a high-caliber envelope. We've really upgraded our stationery in the past 6 months or so. 


So we'll put that in a high-quality envelope, write on that envelope, and put a real stamp on it, and mail it for $3.25 plus postage. So domestic postage is 55 cents. So your all-in cost is $3.80. 


Now that said, we have discounts that are available. Starting at --I believe online-- at about 25 cards. We've just recently changed it. But if you're planning on doing high-volumes, you can prepay for orders and get a pretty great discount as well. 

So if you prepay for 500 - you get a 20% discount if you prepay for 1,000 - 25% discount, all the way up to 50% discount if you prepay for 50,000. And we do have clients sending out 50,000 notes. So it really just depends on the volumes you're pushing.


Chase Clymer  

Yes. If you're going to think about like, "Well, that sounds a little bit pricey." Let's think about the cost of acquisition for a customer. You're paying tens of dollars to get them in. 


Using a solution like this, all you're going to do is increase the lifetime value of that customer, if you do it in the right way. 


Obviously, a thank you note is going to be received well. But if you play into that thing with maybe some sort of upsell or value to the client to return to the site and make another purchase, then it's not an expense anymore. 


It's just an investment in that lifetime value, and it's going to pay for itself over time. And I'm sure that's where a lot of the successful Ecommerce brands using your service and your software, that's where they're finding wins --I'm assuming-- right?


David Wachs  

Yeah. For sure. A lot of people try to compare us to junk mail. And we can never be as cheap as junk mail. It's impossible. Because for one, junk mail, all it is, is a laser printed piece. 


And we need to take that laser-printed piece off and write on it. So at the very minimum. We're going to be more expensive than junk. 


Because junk [materials/processes] could potentially [be used but] we'd never recommend it. But that could be the cost. The input, the thing that we write on. So we're always, by definition, going to be more expensive than that. 


On top of that, we're not going to want to print on junk, we're going to want to print on a nice piece of stationery with a nice thick envelope. 


And then we're not going to put a bulk mail stamp on it, we're going to put a real Forever Stamp on it. So the stamp alone cost 55 times [more than bulk stamps]. Forget about all the inputs into it. That said, the solution works. 

You get what you pay for this $3.25 cent piece has a 300% greater open rate than printed envelopes. If you just look at envelopes, response rates are 20% to 50%, higher on average than print pieces. You could see meeting requests triple if you're trying to book meetings if that's your game. 


We have a large online suit company where you can go on to provide your measurements and they'll make suits for you. They sent out thousands of gift card coupons, and they had a 17% redemption rate through their Handwrytten note campaign. 


And the return on investment was over 300%. Additional uses you might not think of... We very rarely mention client names because nobody wants to be known as sending phony handwritten notes. 


But we have one client that's fine with it: VNYL. They are an online records subscription. And when they send out these Handwrytten notes with their records that people get every month, those Handwrytten notes, not only do they drive loyalty, they also drive virality. 


Because people take pictures of the Handwrytten notes, post them to Instagram, and Twitter, and then other people, see how cool they are, and that the ink smudges and all that. And it really drives this viral effect surrounding brand recognition. 


So that's another really big benefit too. But I mean, we have clients that improve their customer retention by over 10% just by including a Handwrytten note with their purchases. The positive effects just go on and on.


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Chase Clymer  

So let's talk about that. I'm a big nerd and I wanna know some things [if] we were going to use this for a client. Is there some sort of delay built into the software where it's like... 


Because I'm assuming if you're going to send out a note with the first purchase, you don't want the first purchase to show up before the note or after the note. Do you know what I mean? 


David Wachs  



Chase Clymer  

So do you set up the delays within Zapier? Do you do that within the app?


David Wachs  

You could do it either way. So within Handwrytten and/or the Handwrytten Zap, you can put in a send date, and then we'll just hold off on sending that until the send date. 


Or you could just use, -- [it depends on] how adept at Zapier everybody is-- but you can add an intermediate Zap called Delay by Zapier and you could just say "Wait three days, then do this." So it's super easy. It takes about an extra 30 seconds to set that up in Zapier.  


Then, you do have the "benefit" of the post office taking their sweet time to deliver things. From Phoenix, Arizona, where we're based, it could take anywhere from 2 to 4 days, 2 to 5 business days to deliver that Handwrytten note. 


So you are gaining a little time there. And then also, each Handwrytten note does take us up to 5 minutes to write out and then stuff in a stamp. 


So we have a 1-day turnaround there, too. So that Handwrytten note, it could take 3 to 6 business days to get there from when you send it on our system. But if you want it to go a little later than that, just go into Zapier and add a delay there.


Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. And then, you mentioned a few before, people using this for targeted marketing campaigns, either for like redemptions or for thank-yous when they're hitting a certain threshold, perhaps like a VIP level thing. 


David Wachs  



Chase Clymer  

Are there any other use cases that people are using in Ecommerce or campaigns that you've seen go out that are outside of the box that you thought were interesting and worth noting here on the podcast?


David Wachs  

Yeah. For sure. So, a big one these days is requests for reviews. Now, I know Amazon's clamping down on this. But people are doing... If your Shopify store has a review area, why not send out a Handwrytten note saying "If you love our product, go on our Shopify store and submit a review." 


Or we have restaurants, and house painters, and stuff like that, send out requests for reviews on Yelp. So that is a big area for us. We also have a lot of "Sorry for your bad experience" type notes that go out. Sometimes, they include a gift card or a small gift provided by the brand. 


And one client, which is an office snacking company --So they'll outfit your office with a month's supply of snacks-- they found that if they had a client that had a bad experience, such as receiving the wrong box, and then they follow up with the correct box and a Handwrytten note, that client actually has increased loyalty over someone that didn't have a bad experience. 


Now I'm not claiming the Handwrytten note had everything to do with that, --I think the free extra swag probably did-- but it certainly doesn't hurt. So following up on bad experiences is a good use. 


We have a car manufacturer that if you call into the main car's call center, --not the auto dealer, but the actual [manufacturer]-- if you go all the way up to the top and call into the car manufacturer's call center, they will automatically follow up with a handwritten note powered by us. 


And that handwritten note could have, it could either say "We're so happy we were able to solve this issue." Or "We're so sorry that this issue remains outstanding. But we're working on it." Something like that. 


So, wherever we can out of touchpoint, people are finding creative ways to do it. For luxury brands, we actually write out these handwritten notes totally personalized. And then we send them back to the luxury brands fulfillment center, where they're shrink-wrapped and inserted with catalogs. 


So imagine getting your fall designer catalog, and in that catalog is a handwritten note directly to you. With your name in it. That's the type of stuff they're doing. We're also helping the same luxury brand with birthdays and thank yous, "Thank you for coming into the store." 


So, a lot of retailers with physical presences want to send handwritten note follow-up after a purchase. 


But if they leave this to their store clerks, it never gets done. They're too busy dealing with the next client or cleaning the store or whatever they need to do on a daily basis, and they can't get around to the critical task of sending out thank you notes to their clients. 


So we just automate it for them and take that off their plate. It looks just as good, if not better, and then corporate has control over the messaging in those notes.


Chase Clymer  

That's fantastic. For the longest time... Anyone that actually listens to this podcast more than once, they'll realize that I worked at a tattoo shop for about 10 years. 


While I worked there 10 years ago, I worked in 5... Anyways, doesn't matter. I'm old. So, one of the tasks that the artist had there was the first time someone would come to the shop, [we'd] send a handwritten note. 


The boss was super adamant about that. [But] people are lazy. It goes by the wayside. But...


David Wachs  



Chase Clymer  

..the boss is very, very diligent about it and it helped him build a very loyal, little fan base for the shop and it is a great place for artists to work now. 


I'm gonna show him this after this thing and he's probably gonna get blown away by it and you might see me reach out after this to talk about it. But just in the realm of automation, if you can dream it, and you understand the process for it and why it should happen, you can probably do it with this software. 


Zapier can let you do anything. But also even above and beyond that, it's just thinking about how you can play it with a marketing message that's going to help. 


David Wachs  



Chase Clymer  

You just give value to your customers, either by just giving them well wishes or by incentivizing them to return, giving them coupon codes, gift cards.... Just added value.


David Wachs  

So for instance, we have... And I'm trying to think of different examples. People are like "Who are your clients?" and it's probably anybody that sends a handwritten note, which could be totally anybody. 


But we have a solar panel installation company based in Louisiana that is just killing it. After every sales appointment, --it's odd-- it goes into their CRM system, and then they dump those into us at the end of the day, or whatever, or week or whatever it is. And we're sending out 800 handwritten notes for them a day, just thanking [them] for their appointments and that type of thing. 


So, I don't know how many states they're in to drive 800 appointments every day. But yeah. They've been doing this for 2 years plus now. So clearly, they see some huge value in it. 


Unfortunately, they never share that with us. And it's been growing very steadily over that time. So, a lot of people are seeing that. I don't open three-quarters of my print mail when I get it. And I don't open 90% of my emails when I get it because I know it's all just junk. 


But if you get one of these in the mail, there's a much higher likelihood you're going to open it. And what's cool about Handwrytten notes is not only are they opened, but they’ve kept.  They literally stand up on your desk, unless it's a flat card which is your choice. 


But these notes literally stand up on your desk and they stand out. And people do keep them. And we send out a bunch of sample requests to people saying "Try our service." that type of thing. 


And they'll hold on to those and then call us 4 months later, 6 months later saying, "Yeah. I've had your handwritten note on our desk for 6 months, and I'm finally getting around to it." And I think that's really powerful because it was any other sort of print brochure, I can't imagine they'd hold on to it that long. But these notes really do physically stand out.


Chase Clymer  

Well, it's that and not everybody's doing it. Not everyone's A, just taking the time to set up a system within their business to run this. Obviously, Handwrytten is a great service. But if you're a small shop and you're not doing that much business, you could do this yourself. An intern could do this. It's a great way to have another touchpoint with your customers. 


David Wachs  



Chase Clymer  

And then when it scales up to the point where you do need another hand (laughs), David over here, he's got 95 robot hands he can help you with.


David Wachs  

(laughs) Exactly. 


Chase Clymer  

David, I can't thank you enough for coming on the podcast today. Is there anything else that you think is worth sharing with our listeners today?


David Wachs  

We are running a special on signature replication. I don't know if anybody wants to add their own signature, but if they just contact contact@handwritten.com, and say they want a signature, typically, they're $250 but we're doing them for $150. 


The promotion technically ended but I will extend it to your listeners. And then also if you just go to our website, sign up, and use the signup code PODCAST, we'll give you $5 in free credit to try out the service. 


So you can't sign up unfortunately with Facebook or Google. But if you sign up and create a Handwritten account and use the code PODCAST, you'll get $5 in credit.


Chase Clymer  

Awesome. That's a great deal. Thanks again for coming on the show.


David Wachs  

Thank you so much for having me, Chase. [I'm] super excited to be here.


Chase Clymer  

I cannot thank our guests enough for coming on the show and sharing their journey and knowledge with us today. We've got a lot to think about and potentially add to our businesses. Links and more information will be available in the show notes as well. 


If anything in this podcast resonated with you and your business, feel free to reach out and learn more at electriceye.io/connect. Also, make sure you subscribe and leave an amazing review. Thank you!