Email-to-Snail-Mail Online Postal Services

Lori Halley 05 August 2008 13 comments

Has this ever happened to you? The printer jams, just as you’re trying to rush out a newsletter. Or you come up short on stationery and stamps, a few letters short of your mailing list run. Or you’re on the road with only a web-enabled phone at hand, when you remember an urgent note that must go out by mail…

Some days, we can’t help wishing that everyone had an email address!

The plain fact is, every organization has at least a percentage of contacts on our mailing list who can only be reached by traditional “snail mail.” Not only that, some correspondence does need to be tangible -- our words do, still, command more authority and more attention when they are printed out on a piece of paper the reader will hold in his hand.

No, it’s not time to write off the traditional letter post, not quite yet — but wouldn’t it be great if the traditional mailing methods were as easy and efficient as email?

Send an Email through the Postal Service

A few weeks ago, Wild Apricot reader Sharon Hurley Hall, who lives in the Caribbean, asked for suggestions of an email-to-snail-mail service. She needed to send a letter quickly to someone in the United States — and there’s another good point: the speed and reliability of mail delivery, especially across international borders, can often be a concern. Sharon wanted to email her message directly to a point within the United States, where it could be printed out and mailed via US Postal Service to its destination.

Josh Catone’s detailed review of Postful at ReadWriteWeb was the first resource to come to mind. The review was written a year ago, but Postful continues to improve and add features; it ranks one of the first services to check out— and you will, of course, want to send a test message before relying on any new service in a crunch!

Three other email-to-post services that you may also want to check out: Email2Postal, NetGram, and PostalMethods.  Not all services are "created equal" but it's, as always, a question of balancing out your budget with your communication needs. Here are a few features you may want to look for, depending on what your organization needs to accomplish and where the priorities lie:

  • Ability to send PDF and MS Office or OpenOffice documents;
  • High-quality print-outs;
  • Quick turn-around time on printing and mailing your letters  — ideally, within the same business day, or 48 hours at most;
  • Personalization options, such as “real” stamps (instead of machine franking) and/or handwritten envelopes;
  • Message tracking, and
  • Confidentiality. Look for a strong privacy statement, and google the names of the services you're considering, to get a sense of their track records for customer satisfaction.

Advanced users with large-volume mailing lists might also want to look for integration with your own list management software, and/or quantity discounts.

Every email-to-mail service has slightly different features, but the price range for the basics would seem to be fairly consistent across the board — a one-page letter to an address within the United States should cost you somewhere between 69 cents and a dollar to send, depending in part on the amount of rich-text formatting that you can do or whether attachments are enabled. Beyond that, there'll be a small charge for each additional page; and color printing will cost extra. International letters (those destined for addresses outside the United States) carry a surcharge, generally about 50 cents each, to cover the extra postage.

Personally, I think I've just lost my last excuse to be late with those thank-you notes to elderly offline relatives! What do you think? Can you envision a circumstance when an email-to-mail service might be useful for your organization’s print correspondence?  Or perhaps you’ve been using such a service for years…

 
Want to learn more about how your non-profit organization can make the most of social media on a small budget? Get updates from the Wild Apricot non-profit technology blog by RSS feed or by email, free!

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Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Tuesday, 05 August 2008 at 3:21 PM

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Comments

  • Sharon Hurley Hall said:

    Wednesday, 06 August 2008 at 3:54 AM

    Thanks for this, Rebecca. I still haven't sent that letter - it's on my list for next week, and I'm glad to see that Postful, which I'm planning to use, is still top of the list. I do have a couple of offline friends, and I can see that this would be a useful way of keeping in touch with them.

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Wednesday, 06 August 2008 at 9:15 PM

    Sharon, it seems to me that someone with "real" mail to send to the States from, say, Canada, might even save money by using the email-to-mail route, given the price of postage and office supplies. I'll be keen to hear how you make out with Postful.

  • Rev Robin Brookes said:

    Monday, 01 September 2008 at 4:31 AM

    Thanks for this - there do seem to be a number of sites, but the best two I have come across are L-Mail (www.l-mail.com) & PC2PAPER (www.pc2paper.co.uk).

    L-Mail has a real advantage in that they can print out in over 25 locations around the world. Their other plus is printing Braille letters for the blind. Their disadvantage is not having the facility to upload .doc or .pdf files, although you can do a limited amount of formatting on line. PC2PAPER offers the .doc or .pdf upload service which means you can include photos graphics etc. They offer clour printouts as well. Netgram (www.netgram.com)have a neat method whereby you store unique addresses with them and they convert your email into a letter insert the address and away it goes. I could not get my head around the very muddled PostalMethods site - I seem to have signed up as a devleoper and not just as an ordinary user!

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Tuesday, 02 September 2008 at 6:06 PM

    Rev Robin, it's great to have firsthand reports of various services. Thank you! The Braille option in L-Mail is particularly interesting -- that's something I hadn't even considered likely to be available!

  • Justin Garten said:

    Thursday, 11 September 2008 at 9:02 AM

    Thanks for the write-up!  I'm a co-founder of Postful (full disclosure) and wanted to mention that we just added postcards as well, making it easy to send a photo and a short note (although many are still sending batches of photos with letters).

    You're definitely right on all services having strengths and weaknesses.  I'd say our strengths are default full color printing, multiple formats (postcards and letters), support for PDF, Doc, and other attachments, and the ability to create custom email addresses that forward either to a single physical address or an entire mailing list.  Our biggest weakness is the lack of international mailing facilities.  Although we do mail internationally, the service runs through USPS airmail and so is not as fast as other companies with local production.

    I hope this helps!

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Thursday, 11 September 2008 at 9:49 AM

    Justin, your summary of Postful's strengths and weaknesses will be very helpful for people trying to decide whether the service will meet their needs - thanks very much for adding this!

  • Ralph said:

    Wednesday, 29 October 2008 at 6:47 AM

    http://www.postful.com/ does an acceptable job.  Only one I have used.

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Friday, 07 November 2008 at 9:14 AM

    Ralph, thanks for sharing your experience.

    Anyone else?

  • Marvin Pedigo said:

    Thursday, 08 January 2009 at 5:58 AM

    You need to have an access page for the cost of mailing. It would be nice to know what it would cost to send out to a mailing list before you put the letter together.

    Thanks, Rev, Pedigo

  • Anuj said:

    Monday, 09 February 2009 at 3:36 AM

    There are various other serives from where you can send snail mail through internet. Few are listed at http://remember-postoffice.blogspot.com/

  • Trent said:

    Friday, 01 May 2009 at 6:56 AM

    Does anyone know of a service that will integrate with an email autoresponder to send snailmail as well as emails?

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Friday, 01 May 2009 at 8:13 AM

    Trent, have you looked at VerticalResponse.com? They'll print and send out 'snail mail' postcards for you, as well as all the usual email marketing features.

  • Kevin Trowbridge said:

    Wednesday, 15 July 2009 at 4:03 PM

    Another good one that I've used is: http://snailmailr.com

    They have a really straightforward UI and charge only a dollar.

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