Over the past few decades, the US Postal Service has become increasingly less interested in bringing me my mail.
Twenty years ago, in our first house, our letter carrier came up the front walk and pushed the mail through a slot in the door.
Ten years ago, in our next house, he/she stopped coming to the door and, instead, left the mail in a box at the end of the driveway.
Today, the mail stops half a mile away, in a building at the entrance to our development.
I figure it’s just a matter of time before the post office tells me they’ve lost interest entirely, and I should just go pick up the mail directly from the sender.
Which is why I was particularly intrigued to learn of the postal service’s newest offering, something which brings my mail much, much closer.
It’s called “Informed Delivery,” and it works like this: Each morning, the post office sends you an email with pictures of the snail mail they will be delivering tomorrow.
You heard me correctly. They send you a picture of the mail before it comes.
Can you open it? No. Can you read it? No.
It’s just a picture of the outside of the envelopes.
Did the word “idiotic” just pop into your head? Because it sure did when I first heard about this.
After all, sending me a scan of tomorrow’s mail is sort of like the receptionist at the dentist’s office coming out to the waiting room and saying, “The doctor is running late but here’s a picture of him that you can look at until he’s ready.”
And so I’ve spent the last couple of weeks gleefully making fun of this new service to anyone who will listen.
But you know what? I’m kind of getting hooked on it.
I get my Informed Delivery email in the morning, I open it (every time), and I look to see what’s coming that day.
Then, when I get home, I go to the little half-mile-away building, open up the box, and wouldn’t you know it, they’re right! It’s all in there.
I share this with you today because to me, this is a perfect example of how a company can leverage an existing process in a new and innovative way.
In the case of the post office, they’ve been taking pictures of your mail for decades – it’s part of the sorting process.
All they’re doing now is taking that same process and letting you peek inside. Sort of like how FedEx lets you track your purchase of Nicolas Cage Bedsheets as they make their way to your house (you didn’t think I knew about that, did you?).
So here’s the question for you and me: How can we, as service professionals, do the same?
How can we take something that we already do and turn it into a new, repackaged something else that other people would find valuable – either as a free add-on (the way the postal service has done) or as something people might pay for?
- Do you have forms, templates or checklists that you use with your clients? Could you package those up into an ebook(s) and sell them?
- Are you a recruiter who has a particular approach to reviewing a resume? Are you a web developer who has a set way of evaluating a web site?
What if you created a video of yourself doing that and put it out on YouTube for free, for other people to learn from?
- Do you conduct a standard assessment at the beginning of each client project? That may have value all by itself.
So what if you gave that process a name (I don’t know, something like The Half-Day Evaluation, or The Laser Session Overview), assigned it a price, and sold it as a stand alone offering?
For those who take you up on it, you can still waive the assessment fee if they become a client. But if they don’t, they’ve gotten something of value and you’ve earned money along the way.
Here’s the bottom line. Cool stuff for its own sake can be a big waste of time. And who knows, maybe the postal service’s latest idea will turn out to be exactly that, once the novelty wears off.
But either way, I give their ink-stained hands credit for trying. After all, I’m sure the guy who came up with the idea for the first ATM machine was similarly laughed out of the room. (“Hey, how about this? We put $25,000 in cash in a big box out on the street, and then we walk away.”)
Many great business ideas are simply twists on what somebody is already doing. What do you have in place now that might be your next big idea?
- Would you like to see a picture of your mail before it arrives?
- How about a naked picture of your mail?
- How about a picture of Nicolas Cage holding a naked picture of your mail?
- What value-added twists on your service offerings have you put into place?
Share your comments below!
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