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Snail mail at the speed of e-mail
Snail mail at the speed of e-mail

The product: Zumbox
Sounds simple enough, at first: It's a digital mailbox on your computer.

But then it gets more complicated: Zumbox marketing director Joergen Aaboe doesn't really clear things up when he says, "We're positioning Zumbox as a paperless postal system."

Zumbox landed $8 million in funding from high-profile investors, including ex-Disney CEO Michael Eisner. But even Aaboe admits, "Truthfully speaking, it has been a challenge for us, to some degree, to explain this to the public."

Businesses can use Zumbox to send digital copies of letters, bills and any correspondence they now send on paper. The twist is that they can use the recipient's street address -- no e-mail address needed. That means companies can reach consumers using the contact information they already have.

For consumers, the selling points are speed, convenience, and the environmental karma of going paperless. Zumbox mail arrives at the speed of e-mail, without postal service delays. And if you live in Arthur, Neb., you don't have to be in Arthur to pick up your so-called snail mail. You could be on a vacation in Bermuda -- as long as you have a computer.

What the experts say: Since there are two end-users here -- consumers and businesses -- "each one demands its own separate marketing efforts," says Goodgold. "For consumers, this service saves paper, helps the environment, and allows for easier sorting, reading and working through your mailbox. For businesses, it's the power of merging e-mail technology with the USPS's reach to save money and increase business efficiency."

Try fitting that into a catchy slogan.

Joe Calloway, author of the recently released marketing guide Becoming a Category of One, believes hitting consumers over the head with the what's-in-it-for-me factor is the way to go.

"The Zumbox challenge is similar to what banks faced years ago when they began to introduce online banking," he says. "The technology exists, but will people use it? There's always resistance to any product that involves changing a habit, but today, more consumers are saying, 'If you can make my life easier and the technology is secure, bring it on.' It's a big, big challenge with a big, big payoff -- if they can hang in there long enough to reach a tipping point of profit."

NEXT: Targeting buyers - without insulting them

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LAST UPDATE: Oct 22 2009 | 5:26 PM ET
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