App Spotlight: StreetBid sends custom postcards to your customers

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Spring is upon us, the time of year when lots of local businesses start stuffing neighborhood mailboxes with flyers for services like lawn care, landscaping, power washing, and so on.

That's a time-consuming hassle, of course, and technically it's against the law. Only U.S. postal workers are allowed to put anything into a mailbox. (Newspaper boxes are fair game, assuming there are any left.)

The new service StreetBid offers a different solution. Using your iPad, you snap a photo of each house you want to market to, add the street address, then enter a custom-tailored price for your service.

With that bit of recon work done, you can then create and send a postcard to everyone in your database. The photo of the house, a description of your offerings and your price estimate appears on each postcard.

There are built-in estimates for reaching marketing goals.

That accomplishes a couple things. First, it builds a database you can use for repeat mailings, thus saving you the grunt work of distributing future flyers.

Second, it delivers a highly customized marketing piece, one that's less likely to be ignored. (It has the customer's house on it, after all.) And it does so using legal U.S. Mail.

The postcards themselves are full-color and double-sided, with your choice of 4x6 or 5x8-inch sizes. If there's a downside, it's the privacy concerns a few homeowners might have upon seeing a photo of their house (as opposed to, say, a Google Maps image) used in marketing materials.

StreetBid is currently in beta testing, with the iPad version due first, and iPhone and Android apps to follow. A free plan lets you store your address data for 90 days, while upgrading to Platinum ($65/month) nets you unlimited data storage and some additional features.

(One of them, Map Overlay, sounds pretty cool. It shows you on a map where all your houses are and which houses haven't had a card sent in the last six months. Plus, it lets you draw circles around map regions to send postcards only to those areas.)

As for postcard pricing, it's based on credits: 100 for $79, 500 for $295, or 1,000 for $460. A 4x6-inch postcard (printed, addressed, and mailed) costs you one credit, while a 5x8 costs 1.5 credits.

You'll have to crunch the numbers to decide how well all that might fit into your marketing budget. Obviously a Xeroxed flyer costs a lot less, but distributing them requires more time. And they're not customized for each house.

If nothing else, for a pretty small investment of time and money, you could test drive StreetBid with a local neighborhood or two and see how it fares.

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