Sunday, November 28, 2021

Weekend Favs November 28

Weekend Favs November 28 written by Karen Cutler read more at Duct Tape Marketing

This post is brought to you by Start Page by Buffer

My weekend blog post routine includes posting links to a handful of tools or great content I ran across during the week.

I don’t go into depth about the finds, but encourage you to check them out if they sound interesting. The photo in the post is a favorite for the week from an online source or one that I took out there on the road.

  • Thursday –  where remote teams can do their socials
  • Tolstoy– a new way to communicate with interactive video
  • Telbee – listener voice messaging for podcasts

These are my weekend favs, I would love to hear about some of yours – Tweet me @ducttape

from Duct Tape Marketing

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Ramping Your Brand For Exponential Growth

Ramping Your Brand For Exponential Growth written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Marketing Podcast with Dr. James Richardson

In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interview Dr. James Richardson. He is the founder of Premium Growth Solutions, a strategic planning consultancy for early-stage consumer packaged goods brands. He is the author of Ramping Your Brand: How to Ride the Killer CPG Growth Curve. He also hosts his podcast—Startup Confidential and routinely appears in trade magazines serving the CPG industry.

Key Takeaway:

Dr. James Richardson has helped nearly 100 CPG brands with their strategic planning. In this episode, Dr. Richardson outlines his approach to thinking smarter about growth as a consumer packaged goods entrepreneur. He shares some of the core concepts from his book that is based on years of anthropological research — Ramping Your Brand — and talks about how and why consumers pay for premium-priced CPG items.

Questions I ask Dr. James Richardson:

  • [1:41] What would you say are the significant critical distinctions between considering a CPG brand versus marketing a service?
  • [2:38] How do you convince somebody that this is something you’ve never had before and you’re going to love it?
  • [4:29] Do you have to make a connection with a product or service that people already have? For example, when someone comes up with a new lawn mowing service – it could be described as Uber, but for lawnmowers.
  • [6:21] Are you saying that you shouldn’t even try to define your product in comparison to another and instead get it out there and you might find that there are unintended pathways that open up?
  • [8:29] How often do you think a new product creation happens because somebody is just trying to scratch an itch they have personally?
  • [10:58] You use the skate ramps metaphor quite a few times in the book — can you talk about how you use it and why?
  • [13:52] So how big, how important of a role does design play in consumer packaged goods?
  • [16:07] If you want your brand to be seen as cool, does it have to be seen in certain places? How important is this role?
  • [17:11] There are a lot of brands today that are direct to consumer – how has distribution changed?
  • [20:10] You have a number of case studies — what’s been your biggest hit or any great case study you’d like to share?
  • [25:00] Where can people find out more about your work?

More About Dr. James Richardson:

More About Certified Marketing Manager Program Powered By Duct Tape Marketing:

Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!

John Jantsch (00:01): This episode of the duct tape marketing podcast is brought to you by the HubSpot podcast network. Hey, I want to give a shout out to another member of the HubSpot network, the success story podcast, hosted by Scott D Clary. It's one of the most useful podcasts in the world. Success story features Q & A sessions with successful business leaders, keynote presentations, conversations on sales marketing. Hey, and if you're a freelancer, his episode on how to make seven figures freelancing on Fiverr is a must listen to the success story podcast, wherever you get your podcasts.

John Jantsch (00:47): Hello, and welcome to another episode of the duct tape marketing podcast. This is John Jansen. My guest today is Dr. James Richardson. He's the founder of premium growth solutions, a strategic planning consultancy for early stage consumer packaged goods brands. As a professionally trained cultural anthropologist turned business strategists. He has helped nearly 100 CPG brands with their strategic planning. And he's also the author of ramping your brand, how to ride the killer CPG growth curve. He also hosts his podcast, startup confidential and routinely appears in trade magazines, serving CPG, the CPG industry. So with that, Dr. Richardson, welcome to the show.

Dr. James Richardson (01:34): Thanks for having me,

John Jantsch (01:35): John. So for those of everybody, generally speaking has a knowledge of concepts of marketing. Anybody that listens to my show. What w what would you say are the significant kind of critical distinctions between considering a CPG brand versus say, like marketing a service?

Dr. James Richardson (01:51): I think you, it's easy for founders to underestimate the challenge of changing habitual patterns of consumption. So consumer packaged goods, if you're intending to, to scale quickly is about changing habits. And whereas services tend to be purchased fairly sporadically or on a longer time cycle. So it's just a very different animal.

John Jantsch (02:15): We'll talk a little bit about the, you just said changing habits. So it would probably two challenges. If I I'm just gonna throw out goofy names. If I sell Coke, getting somebody to want to drink Sprite or something already in the category is one challenge. Right. But what if I'm creating, there's so many drinks I'm thinking like hard kombucha or something that like, that's not even a category that existed a few years ago. So how do you convince somebody that this is something you've never had before and you're going to love it? Okay.

Dr. James Richardson (02:43): So I think this is what I tell my clients is that first of all, you've just got to, you've got to shove your, your thing into the marketplace in some, in the local context where you have easy access, uh, to your fans, and then you need to listen. Cause usually early on in the first, even the first months and certainly the first year or so, your fans will probably do a better job than you, the founder of articulating why it matters. And so I'm, I'm a big believer in using those fans to figure that out early on, and then whatever that, why is that something that you get to them selectively pick from, if there's more than one, I use the language of outcome, but there's more than one outcome that people are seeking from your thing. Then you get to, you get to use the marketing flywheel to reach more people who may not intuitively get it.

Dr. James Richardson (03:38): If that makes sense. So like the heart kombucha is a good example because I don't know if you've ever had any of those brands theirs, but they taste a lot like wine. Yeah. And so we know when you, when you're creating a new category, it's really important to figure out where you're sourcing volume from and what is the, what's the logic of figuring out where you're sourcing volume from and what is the, what's the logic or linguistical linguistic frame you can use. You can either do that with language, but I'm also a big believer in just inserting, because in my industry, we're selling widgets, these are physical art, they're physical artifacts, right? And in some cases they're, they're status symbols, they're extensions of personal identity or their claims about your identity. And so sometimes you want to just show up in the right social space.

John Jantsch (04:29): So though, are you saying, are you saying it's a little bit, you, you have to make a connection that they already have everybody when they come up with a new services, it's like Uber, but for lawn mowers, is it that same thing? You were just saying it, it fills the space of IRD like wine. So I'll like this, or at least already you're looking at,

Dr. James Richardson (04:48): Well, what you're looking for actually, John is, is a late what I call a latent dissatisfaction that there may not be articulating until they have your thing. And this is really quite common actually in consumer packaged goods because Americans have two to 300 different products stored in their homes or apartments at any one time. And that crosses 50 to 80 categories. Right. It's just, we, we refuse to think very consciously about those things, because it, it would be insane. I pick an attorney I'll think of hard and long about that, but so you have to you're, you're, you're hoping to tap into symbolism language or social context to nudge people into saying, Hey, here's, here's this key attribute that my brand delivers we're chasing, we're offering the same outcome as the thing you're already drinking will be, but here's, what's better about ours. And that has to be done in, in my, like a really simplistic fashion.

Dr. James Richardson (05:49): So like for instance, a lot of hard can boosters are lower and vastly lower in calories than a glass of wine. Yeah, yeah. Right. So you start to get down into some serious nuance. Yeah. But when you get into the nuance and you can unlock what it is, and usually it takes your fans for you to figure this out, because you may have created the company for some other reason. Right. But it's, it's in the nuance details where you can say, I have the new, so instead of saying, I'm the Uber of blankets, forget Uber. I'm more modern than,

John Jantsch (06:21): Yeah. So are you saying that a lot of ways you shouldn't even try to define it's almost again it out there, and you may find that there are unintended sort of pathways that open up that you really wasn't what you were thinking it was going to be.

Dr. James Richardson (06:37): Yeah. I, I think we, I have found that in most of my clients businesses, and in most of the case studies I've reviewed there, I talk about my book. There were pivots and those pivots were based on, oh, oh yeah. I had no idea that that's what, this was kind of a kind bar was a weight management product. Yeah. Yeah. But, but Dan Lubetsky created it as a status symbol, but that the fact that it's in a, in a clear wrapper, really isn't the reason it's scaled it scaled because there's no sugar and it was the, there never was an issue. Yeah. So sometimes you, because the founder is the worst source of bias and consumer packaged goods, you have to let the consumer and the market basically reeducate you on what you have and then run with that. And I think, I personally think that's true in B2B. It's been true in my business, my consulting business, I've done the same thing. I went to market for four and a half years ago with one idea what I was going to be doing. And I'm not doing that.

John Jantsch (07:40): I think you, you ended up discovering, I think a lot of times when you're starting out, you're, you're guessing for the most part and, and being open to discovering how often are, are big hits rather than cooked up in a laboratory are cooked up because somebody couldn't find a weight management product. So they started making their own flavored waters and all of their friends liked it. And then it turned out Kara golden was on the show, the creative hint to the water, the fruit flavored waters. And that really is her story. She wanted to create a product that tasted better than water. I was wanted to stop drinking sodas. And so she was baked cooking it on her stove top and or somebody told her at some big consumer packaged company told her she was crazy. He'd go back to just being a housewife. And she now has a a hundred million dollar product. So how often do you think that happens to where somebody is just trying to scratch an itch? They have personally.

Dr. James Richardson (08:36): Oh, I th I think it's, it's most of the folks who don't have a prior background in the industry, it's the vast majority of them. The problem though, John is most of those, not all those itches actually have any, any scalability. Right. So the biggest problem that I was just listening to one of your episodes before I got on, about finding your ideal customer. And then I, because I only work with my ideal customer, I literally throw away 50% of my leads every year I screen about. Yeah. So I'm in part of that is just finding people who, who really are going to benefit from what I can do. Yeah. As a consultant. I think that that has value as a B2B service provider, but for consumer packaged goods founders, what I found is a lot of folks are tempted by stakeholders to chase a whole bunch of trial.

Dr. James Richardson (09:24): Let me just get a ho if I can just get there, they all believe they're the next kind bar with when the other 98% conversion rate or whatever he claims in his book, men, very few of them are, most of them need some kind of tweak in the product experience. They're halfway there. They need to get better. And those are all fixable problems, but you have to be, you have to be coachable and you have to be coachable by the market for like, if you can't learn from the market, right. I don't want to work with you. Yeah, yeah. And no, and stakeholders, or they may take your money though. That's, what's funny.

John Jantsch (09:57): And now a word from our sponsor with Q4 closing employee holiday travel and forecasting for 2022 underway, staying connected has never been more important. And HubSpot is consistently releasing new features to make your CRM platform more connected than ever with improved forecasting tools and custom report builders. See how your quarter is going, inspect new deals and use customizable data-driven reports to improve team performance. As you grow with custom behavioral events, you can track site behavior and understand your customer's buying habits all within the platform. And if you're looking for cleaner data with a centralized system, the all new operations hub enterprise gives your ops leads. The ability to curate data sets for all users, meaning even faster and more consistent reporting, learn more about how a HubSpot CRM platform can help connect the dots of your business @

John Jantsch (10:58): So, so I want to unpack one thing that comes up in the book a bunch, and you, you use the metaphor of scare skate ramps. So you must have been a skater. I'm guessing that's my son I'll use that is so, so, so talk about how you use that metaphor.

Dr. James Richardson (11:15): So I, it literally came out of the mathematics of the, of a big study I did on the brands that scaled in the last 10, 15 years, the ones who got to a hundred million and beyond, and consumer packaged goods, which isn't very common. And they all rode this curve, which is an expedite. It's really just the sigmoid curve that you learn about in business school textbooks, but which rarely happens today at the grocery store because of the dynamics of the major players and the beauty of this curve is that, that it does two things. One is that it allows arrogant competitors to ignore you because they think you're failing. But every year they look at your numbers and you're like, well, he's still small, whatever. Meanwhile, you're actually doubling, but because you're doubling off of a small base, and this is the key to the math, you're, you're buying time to do it. We're just talking about, which is learned from your fans, iterate, finished the experiment, essentially finished your product line in market, or you make a big pivot.

Dr. James Richardson (12:22): And that gives you if actually buys you the time to pivot. And you're pivoting at a lower, lower scale, which in my industry is sort of, it's almost critical because if you say you're like $50 million, you do discover, oh, I'm running out of consumer. Oh no, you now are going to have to spend you have money. So that's great. But you're now going to have to, you're not going to wind down a $50 million business and replace it with something else. And that mathematic, you're never going to find an investor sign on there. Yeah. So that's going to be very painful. Probably won't happen, but you can completely pivot like a two or $3 million business. Yeah. Birth something else out. And then within two years, everyone's forgotten the original thing. And sometimes that original business gives you the right thing. It gives you access to a consumer audience. Spindrift is a great example of that. They launched premium soda pop all natural, yada yada, yada, but there's no market for it. Believe it or not. When people want a Coca-Cola Pepsi, that's what they want. They don't need an artisan version of, and when they do, it's like a goofy Christmas gift or something, what he discovered was people wanted, they wanted a different kind of sparkling water and that took off. Yeah. Yeah. So, but he did it at the right time. Now I'm talking about bill Creelman, but he did at the real, at the right time in the business. In other words, he killed the first idea early based on data.

John Jantsch (13:52): Yeah. So how big, how big is design in the package, the colors, the box, it comes in the bottle. It's in how thinking of like method, for example, a very design driven product taking on Procter and gamble products. How, how big a role is that? Maybe more so even than what's in the box.

Dr. James Richardson (14:13): Yeah. Design is, is important and can serve package goods for premium products, which is sort of my world, but it's, I wouldn't, I wouldn't say it's up to the importance of Dyson and that category of durable goods, um, where the user experience actually is incredibly complex and people are super demanding and they have a million ways to attack you. Right? When you're just selling a beverage, there isn't much going on there. There's very specific uses. This is the thing that's counterintuitive about design. It's not so much about being the next coach handbag of beverages. That's not really, you can do that to get attention. That's, that's great. But that just gets you trying. What really matters is able to use your packaging to signal. And this is what I help folks with using just the right words, just the right symbols and deleting everything else. And it's the leader, it's the removing the clutter, which is a big thing too.

John Jantsch (15:05): Well, it probably accentuates the brand promise or the brand story too, obviously. Right?

Dr. James Richardson (15:10): Yeah. I think there's something that you'll notice that most, most premium brands across industries, I'm sorry, across production verticals that chase the consumer, the premium ones tend to have very clean websites. They don't have a lot of IX. They're not like the used car dealer with the 75 pop-ups it's. So they, they assume, you know why they're cool. Yeah. And, and if you don't know, they're going to rely on your social network to tell you that, and that gets really extreme in the fashion world. But I think it's a mix of that in CPG word of mouth. John is huge in driving the initial years of growth like you need. And that's what, and that's, what's funny is that the word of mouth storytelling about your premium CVG brand, that's actually where the secret sauce is for paid marketing later. You're going to, if you can learn from them and then fund that story once you get the right one.

John Jantsch (16:07): Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. Well, and that's, I mean, obviously the role of influencers for good or bad, frankly, certainly plays a role in, in a lot of cases. That's a page story too. Yeah. But, but how important is that role, if you want your brand to be seen as cool, does it have to be seen certain places?

Dr. James Richardson (16:25): Yeah. I think social insertion is something that matters in certain sub categories. Beverages is one of those certainly liquor and because, and it also depends what the outcome is. You're selling. If you're a liquor brand, you are selling a mixture of, of class status sex, basically. Right. And so you're trying to be the new thing at the bar. Yeah. And so you have to be at the right clubs now, in other categories, you may want to be showing up at surfing events. Right. Right. Because you've got a group of people who are into fitness and because they're into fitness, they are into weight maintenance because these people were never fat. They just don't want to get fat. So when they drank, they want boom, heart kombucha. That's a story of June shine right there.

John Jantsch (17:11): Well, let's, let's talk about how distribution has changed. There was a day when, if you couldn't get three feet of shelf space at no bubble block chain, you really couldn't exist. But today there are a lot of brands that are direct to consumer. So how has the distribution piece sort of changed? Because on the flip side of that, you see whole foods going out and saying, oh, you can only get this at this whole foods in Austin, Texas, because the person that makes it lives right around the corner. So there seems to be a real hunger to get micro that way. But direct to consumer seems to be driving a lot of these startup brands.

Dr. James Richardson (17:45): Yeah. I, I, so my, my general takeaway is direct consumer for all. Initially it works really well for all, but the frozen refrigerated temperature stay category, which is eliminates a chunk of the grocery store. I, what I found working with my clients is that it's a great learning laboratory to do what, to reduce the time John, in which you accumulate that massive early fans who can then educate you on what you created. Yeah. Right. So you can now do that in three to six months, not 18 months. Yeah. Which is what used to happen. People would go out and they'd sell it even locally. And it would take time to gather the negative feedback. Well, the positive feed, right. D to C allows you to create this flywheel communication. If you know how to use it, plus you can, you can stare at your repeat rate.

Dr. James Richardson (18:33): And if it's really bad, if you can't hide from that truth for very long, right. That's what I like is it's a brutal laboratory in CBG. It's sort of mixed results on how much you can scale and certain categories. And they tend to be not that traditional grocery ones, their beauty and personal care. That's where I'm seeing people create huge businesses. I don't have the, I don't know. Perfect. I don't have the perfect behavioral explanation for why it is with those categories, but I don't think it's, I don't think it's, it's certainly not shipping cost or anything like that. I think there's something cultural about people willing to, they're willing to see a Facebook ad and buy a $180 beauty cream or wrinkle cream almost instantaneously. And you won't see, you won't see P well, John, you won't see people switch their case packs, soda habit, right. Like instantaneously that takes weeks or months to change that.

John Jantsch (19:28): And it's partly it's because sort of maybe the, the dream that's being sold by that I was never fulfilled. So it's, well, maybe the next one. Or

Dr. James Richardson (19:36): I could, if I, if I channel my evolutionary anthropological training, beauty is sex. Beauty is mating and reproduction. It pretty much has the highest stakes like behavior of the species. Right. So deep down in your unconscious, if you have anxious, if you have insecurity about how you appear, it's not that hard to monetize that insecurity. Yeah. I think it's, like I said, it's a little harder to find that group of people who hate diet Coke, like Kara and they need her solution that took her time. Yeah,

John Jantsch (20:07): Yeah, yeah, yeah. Totally. Yeah. So, um, you have a number of case studies, so I'm wondering if there's, you could pick out one that you think is, was a little tiny brand that you worked with that now might be a name, or w w I, I guess I'm asking for your biggest hit, what's your, what's been your biggest that we maybe would, that listeners might recognize or be familiar with or any story that you want to share that you think was a great case study? Well,

Dr. James Richardson (20:36): That's a good question. I just, uh, wrote, I'm going to pick the one I can publicly talk about. Okay. I said, that's a good idea. You're a big name podcast. I don't need lawyer letters. So we're, I started working with John Forker, who's the CEO of once upon a farm, the baby started as a baby food brand for the last two or three years. And they were, you know, they were doing okay, they're doing okay. But they, they had this, he had this nagging suspicion that something was off. And part of part why can't. So I came in and we worked together just for a day. I did a little of my shamanistic sort of data analysis and stuff like that, which sort of in my book as well. And I discovered that we had a velocity problem. The problem was that it was selling, but it was, it was really, it's not the kind of a loss.

Dr. James Richardson (21:33): I won't get into the details of why not the kind of a loss city, that velocity trend is more important. I not growing, that's going to create scale. So the key behind the skate ramp is that the velocity is actually growing every year. It's sort of like, it's the investor's dream and in investing right as your, your industry keeps growing. And so you get richer and richer and richer, and then it explodes. This is what exponential growth is in CVG. And so I think he wants to get on that track, but was struggling with, they had always wanted us to be a kids brand. Okay. They organic HPP sort of fruit and vegetable. It's a fruit and vegetable, a smoothie, basically a pouch. You stick it in your mouth like goo. Yup. Yup. So babies have no problem with doing that. Kids don't have any problem with doing, doing that, but actually a lot of adults don't have a problem.

Dr. James Richardson (22:26): So they had always fought the investors as well. That we're going to be a big kid's brown, but they had always seen that as down the line. Right. And I think what I helped them figure out is look, the baby food category is probably when you didn't even want to have to start with. Yeah. Which, which is it's okay to discuss now. But I think it was hard to swallow at the time. Cause you raised money on the basis. So we're going to take over baby food. But the reality is that the behavior, the demographics, the cultural trends, all the stuff that I'm trained to intersect and synergize, it was all bad, bad, bad, bad. I, as pretty much the worst case scenario, John of a category review of every death, it was like, I don't think these people you're going to run out of these people so fast.

Dr. James Richardson (23:10): It's basically what I told them. So switch to a kid brand now. And they made that decision. Basically he had half made it already and he, by the end of the day he was sold. So they did. And they had to make a whole bunch of changes. Yeah. They had originally thought that they were going to have to launch all these new lines. This is my favorite thing in CPG is new audience, new product lines. And when you're, I guess, $5 billion brand, maybe that makes sense because you have a bunch of segmentations that tell you that that's, that's real. But if you're starting a business, that's a 1520, if you're 15 to 20 million, you need to still stay focused. John. Yeah. Yeah. Right. So what we found in the data was that kids were already older kids already in the pouches. So they just rip the baby food label right off and re did a new brand identity that doesn't cost too much money. Right? Yeah. Put some cartoon characters on there and suddenly, boom, this end, the ad do some basic things in CPG. Like moms hate picking up four packs, put four of them in a box.

Dr. James Richardson (24:16): So once you stay focused and you listen to the data, then you can actually, that was, so that was an example of a pivot and they're growing like crazy now. That's awesome. And part of that was just not getting distracted by solving growth problems with like new products, which is a big temptation. Sure.

John Jantsch (24:31): Yeah. Yeah. We'll we'll

Dr. James Richardson (24:32): We'll yeah. I, I can't tell you how many brands I've encountered that are between 25 and 50 million. John they're still here and they have a 50 UPC. Nobody knows what they stand for. Right. And they basically, to me, what they have is that they have, they have concatenated like five little niche, consumer basis, nothing to do with each other. Yeah. It's a marketer's nightmare

John Jantsch (24:58): Because it's worth creating the new stuff's where the fun is. So, so James can tell people where they can find out more about your work. We have run out of time. So tell people where they can find out more about your work and, and obviously a pickup ramping your brand.

Dr. James Richardson (25:12): So wrapping your brands on, you can also order it for libraries on Ingram. And if you want to learn more about me to follow me on LinkedIn, go to premium growth, where I house my blog and that's updated three times a week. Okay.

John Jantsch (25:29): Well, I appreciate you something by the duct tape marketing podcast, and hopefully we'll run into you one of these days out there on the road.

Dr. James Richardson (25:34): Sounds good. Thanks for having me, Joe. All right.

John Jantsch (25:36): That wraps up another episode of the duct tape marketing podcast. I want to thank you so much for tuning in. Feel free to share this show. Feel free to give us reviews. You know, we love those things. Also, did you know that we had created training, marketing training for your team? If you've got employees, if you've got a staff member that wants to learn a marketing system, how to install that marketing system in your business, check it out. It's called the certified marketing manager program from duct tape marketing. You can find it at and just scroll down a little and find that tab that says training for your team.

This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network.

HubSpot Podcast Network is the audio destination for business professionals who seek the best education and inspiration on how to grow a business.




from Duct Tape Marketing

How To Turn Your Agency Into A Profitability Machine

How To Turn Your Agency Into A Profitability Machine written by Sara Nay read more at Duct Tape Marketing

The Agency Spark Podcast, hosted by Sara Nay, is a collection of interviews from thought leaders in the marketing consultancy and agency space. Each episode is designed to spark ideas you can put into practice for your agency today. Check out the new Spark Lab Consulting website here!

About the episode:

In this episode of the Agency Spark Podcast, Sara interviews Marcel Petitpas on how to turn your agency into a profitability machine. They discuss the agency profitability flywheel, creating accurate estimates, value vs. hourly pricing, the agency pricing quadrant, tips for tracking time, client reporting and more!

Marcel Petitpas is the CEO & Co-Founder of Parakeeto, a company dedicated to helping agencies improve their profitability by streamlining their operations and reporting systems.

He’s also the fractional COO at Gold Front, an award-winning creative agency in San Francisco working with brands like Uber, Slack, Keap and more. As well as the head strategic coach at SaaS Academy by Dan Martell, the #1 coaching program for B2B SaaS businesses in the world.

In his work as a speaker, podcast host and consultant, specializing in Agency Profitability Optimization, he’s helped hundreds of agencies around the world improve profitability and cash flow in their business.

When he’s not helping agencies make more money, he’s probably watching “The Office” or “Parks and Rec” on a never-ending loop and eating breakfast foods for every meal of the day.  

Questions Sara asks Marcel Petitpas:

  • Tell me a little about what led you to where you are today?
  • What are the four key pillars to the Agency Profitability Flywheel?
  • What advice do you have for creating accurate estimates?
  • What should we consider when figuring out our hourly rates?
  • What is the Agency Pricing Quadrant?
  • What tips do you have for tracking time?
  • What advice do you have for client reporting and review?

Show notes:

Like this show? Please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts here!


This episode of the Agency Spark Podcast is brought to you by Termageddon, a Privacy Policy Generator. Any website collecting as little as an email address on a contact form should not only have a Privacy Policy but also have a strategy to keep it up to date when the laws change. Click here to learn more about how Termageddon can help protect your business and get 30% off your first year payment by using code DUCTTAPE at checkout.

from Duct Tape Marketing

Best Free CRM Software

A business without a CRM is at a disadvantage.

It is extremely tough to manage all of your customers while keeping track of everything else without any dedicated system. Leads are dropped, opportunities are missed.

The good news is that CRM software can help you automate and efficiently manage all these customer-related processes. The great news? A lot of the CRM software available today is free.

This software allows you to take all of your data across multiple platforms and departments and store it in one convenient place.

I’ve put together a list of the best free CRM software tools to help you decide which is right for your business.

The Top 8 Best Free CRM Software Tools: 

  1. HubSpot — The Best Free CRM for Massive Contact Lists
  2. Insightly — The Best Free CRM Software for Project Management
  3. Streak — The Best Free CRM Software for Gmail
  4. SuiteCRM — The Best Free Open-Source CRM Software
  5. Flowlu — The Best Free CRM Software for Financial Management
  6. Freshworks — The Best Free CRM for Tech Support
  7. Bitrix24 — The Best Free CRM For Your First Year In Business
  8. Really Simple Systems — The Best Free CRM for Sales Forecasting

Now you know the list of free CRMs I’ll be reviewing, let’s dive into each of them.

#1 – HubSpot — The Best Free CRM for Massive Contact Lists

  • Up to a million contacts, forever
  • Track all contact records easily
  • Forms and popups included
  • Live chatbot available
Try for free

HubSpot is a great choice when it comes to the number of contacts it offers. You’re looking at 1,000,000 contacts with no time limit or expiration date—no matter the size of your team.

There’s no doubt such a vast number of contacts would be more suitable for larger businesses in general, but it’s also a useful feature to have as you grow your business. You won’t have to worry about maxing your contact list out any time soon.

The CRM software’s contact records allow you to view everything about a contact, too. From your history of emails to the calls, meetings, and deals you’ve made.

Additional options include the ability to create forms and popups where you can start to acquire data about a contact, and there’s even a live chatbot to gather information and schedule meetings for your business.

In other words, HubSpot is aware of just how vital customer data is and keeps it all in a readily accessible place.

Other features of the CRM include:

  • Email tracking
  • You can set recurring tasks
  • Shared history options
  • Sales automation
  • Social media integration
  • Task planning, scheduling, and tracking
  • Live chatbots to capture leads
  • Call monitoring and email monitoring

I’ve said the HubSpot CRM is free to use, and that’s true, but there are extra features available for those that want more. For instance, higher pricing tiers allow for automation, traffic analytics, user roles, and Salesforce integration, to name a few.

It’s a good idea to get familiar with the CRM first before deciding which of these enhanced features you need.

#2 – Insightly — The Best Free CRM Software for Project Management

  • Easy, accessible project pipeline
  • Project automation included
  • Pre-built project templates
  • Gmail add-on available
Try for free

Managing projects, large and small, is at the core of any business. You’ll need a robust system to be able to handle day-to-day operations. Insightly is my top pick for free CRM software that can manage multiple projects of all sizes.

Each project and sale are presented in an easy-to-use pipeline that you can customize to fit your business. What’s more, recurring projects can be automated to keep things running smoothly while saving you time.

It’s worth mentioning that the free version of Insightly is aimed at a two-person team, but higher pricing tiers can provide you with more users. It’s a good starting point to see what the software can do, but it wouldn’t be suitable for larger teams.

Perhaps the most significant thing is that Insightly is just so simple to use for everything from building email campaigns to using pre-built templates for other crucial projects.

Visually speaking, you can also expect a clean, clear, and highly functional CRM that gets the job done without the fuss.

Project management proficiency aside for one second, Insightly also provides the following features:

  • Native iOS and Android mobile apps
  • Permission management
  • Powerful Google and Microsoft calendar integration
  • Quote generation
  • Reporting and statistics
  • Scheduled reporting
  • Social media integration
  • Tags and keywords

A useful Gmail add-on also allows you to view email opens, create leads, and projects.

The three tiers available for Insightly are Plus, Professional, and Enterprise. Plus starts at $29 per user per month and is billed annually. Professional and Enterprise are $49 and $99 per user per month, respectively.

#3 – Streak — The Best Free CRM Software for Gmail

  • Fully integrates into Gmail
  • Create pipelines in your inbox
  • Auto-populate contact info
  • “Integrate
Try for free

I mentioned that Insightly had a Gmail add-on to help you manage projects from your inbox, but Streak takes that concept to the next level.

Simply put, this free CRM software allows you to control your entire business through Gmail. There’s no additional app or platform to log in and manage—it literally lives inside your inbox.

The immediate advantage of this is that you can use a familiar and most likely already frequently used email platform for so much more. For example, Streak allows you to create pre-made pipelines for your business projects, sales, and lead lists, all within the email interface.

Even more impressively, contact details from your emails can seamlessly be pulled into Streak, including company information. This process auto-populates, too, giving you more information to work with in less time.

Keep in mind that Streak’s free plan is for two users only. While you can certainly do everything you could possibly need with that in the right situation, larger teams will miss out unless you upgrade to the paid-for plans.

Other features of Streak include:

  • “Send later” email scheduling
  • Mass email/mail merge
  • API access (including webhooks)
  • Tasks/reminder/Google Calendar integration
  • Import/Export via Google Sheets
  • Call logs
  • Meeting notes

There are four pricing plans for Streak overall, including the free plan. Solo starts at $15 per user per month, Pro is $49, and Enterprise is $129, each with increasingly more features.

#4 – SuiteCRM — The Best Free Open-Source CRM Software

  • Massive customization capabilities
  • Wide range of free add-ons
  • Self-hosting available
  • 30-day free trial on paid upgrades
Try for free

One of the best things about SuiteCRM is that it’s both free and open-source CRM software.

By open-source, I mean the software itself can be customized almost any way you want. It also means it’s available to the public to enhance it collaboratively.

SuiteCRM is an excellent choice for businesses with a particular need to modify the software to their liking.

For example, let’s say you’re a business that needs the functionality of collecting multiple leads from numerous sources and then converting them into customers. Not a problem. SuiteCRM’s open-source and flexible nature allows you to tailor its modules to your bespoke goals.

Even better, there’s a wide variety of free add-ons that can be downloaded and added to the software to help you further achieve specific goals.

Other features include the following:

  • Customer support
  • Marketing automation
  • Landing pages and web forms
  • Calendar management
  • Client portals
  • Contact database
  • Real-time data and reporting
  • Sales reporting
  • Search functionality
  • Third-party integrations

The pure SuiteCRM is free to use and doesn’t expire, so there won’t be many extra costs from that point. You’ll be able to self-host the CRM, too, if you desire. However, it’s worth noting that customer support is only available through the forum for all but the highest package.

The other versions of SuiteCRM, which are hosted, and can be scaled to your business, are not free to use indefinitely—be aware that very few hosted CRMs are—but they do come with a 30-day trial, giving you more than enough time to decide.

#5 – Flowlu — The Best Free CRM Software for Financial Management

  • Custom financial transactions
  • Automatic status updates
  • Auto-sent customer communication
  • Five possible upgrades available
Try for free

Flowlu shines on the financial side of things, making it a top choice for businesses that produce many invoices and need to keep up to date with transactions. If that’s you, then you might just have found the right software.

The creators consider it to be “business management software” first and foremost. There’s a deep focus on quotes, payments, and other financial priorities.

If you’re selling to a customer, for example, then you can create a custom invoice, choose your preferred payment method, and when you’ve been paid, the status of the invoice will update automatically.

What’s more, an automatic email can be sent out to the customer thanking them, and the entire transaction is then logged in the invoice record. Handy indeed.

Flowlu also includes the following valuable features:

  • Mind maps
  • Records and revenue management
  • Sales reporting
  • Security and encryption
  • Status tracking
  • Task management
  • Time tracking
  • Workflow management

Flowlu is free CRM software, but it’s worth mentioning that quite a few features are locked out if you remain on the initial plan. If you’re a business that needs multiple accounts for a large team, keep in mind that the free plan only offers two places and no user access control.

There are five overall tiers to the pricing, with the Enterprise plan offering everything along with a custom domain and two-factor authentication for extra security.

#6 – Freshworks — The Best Free CRM for Tech Support

  • 24-hour weekday support
  • Phone and email support included
  • “Wide
  • 21-day free trial of paid upgrades
Try for free

How important is tech support for your business? If the answer is very important, then Freshworks is an excellent choice. Freshworks’ free CRM software comes with phone and email support five days a week, 24 hours a day.

The highly-rated customer support makes this software ideal for smaller businesses, especially when ongoing help and care are crucial to long-term success.

With that said, any business that puts customer support as a top priority on their list should consider the software.

Some of the other highlights of the Freshworks CRM include the following:

  • Lead scoring
  • Lost deal analysis
  • Mobile integration
  • Open and click notifications
  • Pipeline dashboard
  • Preview reports
  • Record calls
  • Revenue analytics
  • Sales campaigns
  • Team segmentation

Individual add-ons can improve the CRM software further, but these can quickly become costly, which seems somewhat at odds with the rest of what Freshworks offers.

Still, I’m nitpicking here, and you shouldn’t let that stop you from checking the software out.

The best part is the startup plan that offers top-notch support is free forever, making it a generous proposal. Pricing for other plans starts at $29 per month per user. The free trial of the more advanced tiers includes everything, too, and gives you 21 days to see whether the software is worth buying. 

The top tier of the pricing even features a dedicated account manager that can personally resolve issues and relay information to other specialists. Either way, whatever choice you make, Freshworks is unlikely to let your team down.

#7 – Bitrix24 — The Best Free CRM For Your First Year In Business

  • Serves up to 12 users
  • 5 GB storage included
  • “Task
  • Free trial of full platform available
Try for free

While other CRMs on this list offer a free trial of their software, some even indefinitely, they are typically held back by limited features or a smaller number of users.

That’s where Bitrix24 comes in, and really, the strongest point about this CRM software is that the starting free plan provides businesses with enough to really get going. For some small companies, it may even be all they need.

Bitrix24 provides a cloud-based CRM for up to 12 users, 5 GB of online storage, and most of the significant features of the other plans just scaled down a bit.

In other words, for the cost of $0, you’re getting an awful lot. It also allows you to try the software out, almost in its entirety, before deciding to opt for a more premium plan. It’s a good deal, and I’m impressed.

Other features of Bitrix24 include:

  • Landing page creator
  • Group chats
  • Badges
  • Ticket management
  • Website forms
  • Approval workflows
  • Voice and video calls / conferencing
  • Synchronous document editing
  • Version control
  • Customizable callback widget
  • Document management
  • Task management

Of course, just because the free starting plan is generous doesn’t mean that Bitrix24 is necessarily the best free CRM for your business.

For example, I think the customization features of Bitrix24 aren’t the strongest, and the UI can be confusing to navigate.

But for just getting your business off the ground, it’s a very solid choice. 

#8 – Really Simple Systems — The Best Free CRM for Sales Forecasting

  • Weighted and unweighted forecasting
  • Mitigate long-term risk
  • Customer support included free
  • Auto-populate customer data
Try for free

Sales forecasting is a vital part of any business, allowing you to see your available budget and what a given strategy or route will potentially return to you. It also helps mitigate risk, keeping your business healthy in the long term.

As the name suggests, Really Simple Systems makes sales forecasting as simple as it needs to be. This free CRM software provides you with a weighted and unweighted revenue forecast for all of your projects.

Effectively, the weighted figure gives your business a clear understanding and probability of closing a deal. The fields in which this data is located can be auto-populated, too, saving essential time for other areas and giving you more data to work with overall.

Accuracy is key to sales forecasting, and the more data you have, the more accurate you’ll be.

Other features I like in the Really Simple Systems free CRM are:

  • Free customer support
  • Two-way email integration
  • Quotations
  • User permission levels
  • Integrated marketing module
  • Web-to-Lead forms
  • Automated campaigns
  • In-product help drawers and tutorials

The free plan of Really Simple Systems isn’t free forever, and after the trial expires, you’ll need to upgrade to one of their other plans. It’s also worth mentioning that the free plan lacks quite a few features of the other more premium plans, including email integration, user profiles, and design templates.

The Starter package is $14 per user per month, the Professional is $30, and the Enterprise plan is $46 per user per month. The document storage on the free tier is only 100 MB, which can be easily used—if that’s important for your business, another CRM plan might be better.

How to Find The Best Free CRM Software For You

You’re interested in a free CRM, but you’re not sure which? Fret not. Here, I’ll explain the CRM categories and then go into the specific factors to consider in your search. 

The first thing to think about is the kind of CRM you want for your business.

There are three main types of CRM software to consider:

  1. Operational
  2. Analytical
  3. Collaborative

The difference between these types of CRMs is the areas they focus on overall.

For example, an operational CRM system focuses on capturing leads and streamlines and automates the process. It would be suitable—although not exclusively—for small businesses that prefer automation and those which run a linear sales process. HubSpot is an example of an operational CRM.

An analytical CRM is all about the data, as you might assume from the name. So, here we’re talking about customer data and the insights you can get from it. Information from multiple channels will be structured and available for a team to use—for example, they might use the data which details customer preferences to improve customer relationships. Freshworks CRM delivers robust analytics through custom reports and a win-loss analysis.

The last type is the collaborative CRM. This is CRM software that looks at all of the interactions a business has with its customers. The central aim is to share customer information between departments to bolster the overall customer service and eliminate problems. This would be suitable for businesses with many different departments and those happy to share the data around in a considerable manner. Bitrix24 is an example of a good collaborative CRM.

In addition to the above three types of CRMs, these are the other key factors you need to think about when deciding on the right free CRM software for you:

Self-Hosted vs. Hosted

A CRM system can be self-hosted or hosted. What that essentially means is the difference between sorting out the server and security for yourself or letting someone else take care of it.

For example, most of the free CRMs on this list can take care of the hosting for you, and it’s included in almost all of the free and paid plans. SuiteCRM is an example of software that can be self-hosted or hosted through the cloud.

There are advantages and disadvantages of self-hosting vs. hosting a CRM.

In a nutshell, self-hosting gives you more control and is generally cheaper, but you will have to potentially manage and fix any problems that occur, such as a cybersecurity attack.

Hosted CRMs are generally more expensive and give you less control—in theory—but you have access to top customer service teams and better infrastructure. It’s the peace of mind knowing that any problems will be fixed by a team of experts that make this a popular choice, certainly for larger businesses.

Number of Users

The number of users that free CRM software allows varies greatly. As you might expect, most of the free CRMs on this list limit the number of users on the free plan but significantly increase it on the paid plans. My advice is to think carefully about the number of users your business needs.

For instance, does your business consist of a large team? Or maybe it’s a two-person effort?

Bitrix24 is generous and offers 12 users on their free plan, while conversely, Insightly is aimed at two people on their initial offering. The last thing you want is a team member locked out of the software. However, a two-person setup might be all you need.

Customer Support

The level of total customer support you’ll receive when using a free CRM isn’t consistent across the board. For example, Freshworks provides customer support five days a week on their free plan, while Flowlu and Streak’s offering is more basic.

It comes down to what your company needs right now.

Is it crucial that you receive as good customer support as possible at this stage in your business? Or would you rather test the waters with a free CRM and then upgrade later for better support? Think about what you need in your situation.

Type of Free Plan

The type of free plan on offer with CRM software fits into one of two main scenarios: the software is free forever but is probably limited in some ways. Or, there’s a free trial available for the software with most of the key features available, but once it expires, you will have to upgrade to a paid plan.

For instance, on our list, we can see that SuiteCRM is free forever but limited in some features, but if you’re happy with what that offers, you need not pay anymore. Others, such as Really Simple Systems, have free trials, and once they expire, you will need to move onto a paid plan to continue to access it.

The critical question is: what’s best for you and your business right now?


There isn’t any free CRM software on this list I would recommend entirely over the others because it really does depend on your business context. The one thing I can say for sure is that every single one of them has plenty to offer.

If you’re looking for customer service as a top priority, go for Freshworks, but if financial management is more the thing you need, Flowlu is a good bet. For a great free starting plan, Bitrix24 has you covered.

Maybe managing everything from Gmail is important. If so, I say go for Streak. Or perhaps powerful sales forecasting is what you’re after instead? In that case, Really Simple Systems is a strong choice.

Need CRM software that can manage countless contacts? HubSpot offers 1,000,000. For everything project management, you should turn to Insightly, and SuiteCRM is an open-source delight.

Use this guide carefully, and you’ll be up and running with free CRM software before you know it.

from Quick Sprout

Best Virtual Mailbox

Working remotely is the norm today. You can work from anywhere in the world as long as you have a decent internet connection. However, there are a few “real world“ considerations you simply cannot ignore, namely, an address for your business to receive your mail.

While this would’ve been a serious restriction a few decades ago, this isn’t the case anymore—all thanks to virtual mailboxes.

A virtual mailbox gives you an online gateway to scan and forward your mail. Whether you’re a digital nomad, startup, or ex-pat, you can use the service to manage your postal mail from anywhere you live.

I studied the options on the market today and narrowed it down to the five best. Read on to find out which virtual mailbox service is right for you.

The Top 5 Best Virtual Mailboxes

  1. Anytime Mailbox Best for Businesses Operating Outside the United States
  2. PostScan Mail Best for Multi-User Functionality
  3. Traveling Mailbox Best for Third-Party Integrations 
  4. Earth Class Mail Best for Businesses Dealing With Sensitive Documents
  5. iPostal1 Best for Extensive Address Ranges

Keep reading as I discuss each service in more detail to give you a better idea about which tool would be a better fit for you.

#1 – Anytime Mailbox – Best for Businesses Operating Outside the United States

  • Over 1,251 service locations
  • Accepts FedEx and DHL packages
  • Virtual and physical options
  • Mobile app available
Start as low as $6.50 per month

Anytime Mailbox is a cloud-based virtual mailbox service that offers flexible, low-priced services in over 1,251 locations, including the USA, Canada, Australia, UK, and Asia. No joke.

Anytime Mailbox makes it incredibly easy to get a virtual post office box, thanks to its partnership with an online notary platform called Notarize. All you have to do is fill in and submit a notarized form, and everything will be done in a few minutes.

Depending on the plan and location you choose, you get access to several amazing features, such as virtual mailbox, mail forwarding, mail scanning and storage, and virtual business addresses. What’s more, you also get additional offers like mail and package forwarding, check deposit, open and scan mail, and secure document shredding.

Anytime Mailbox takes the security of your mail seriously. It accepts packages from leading delivery companies, including FedEx and DHL, and also has physical locations from where you can pick up your mail.

Let’s not forget it also offers a handy mobile application for iPhone and Android devices, allowing you to keep up with your mail on the go.


Anytime Mailbox is hands down one of the cheapest virtual mailbox services. However, it has confusing pricing tiers since its fees are different for different locations.

Monthly plans start as low as $6.50. That said, be warned if you opt for that lower-priced option, charges could quickly shoot up if you go over your allocated incoming mail quota.

#2 – PostScan Mail – Best for Multi-User Functionality

  • Add multiple users per account
  • Unlimited cloud storage
  • Instant notifications included
  • Mobile responsive
Try for 30 days risk-free

PostScan Mail gives you total control over your online postal mail. You can view, scan, forward, recycle, and shred your mail—it’s your call. It also lets you add multiple users to a single account, where every user has individual access with their own secure password.

This virtual mailbox offers unlimited cloud storage, along with the option for you to walk into any of their physical locations to pick up your mail delivery. The mail and package forwarding system is incredibly robust with real-time shipping rates and shipment tracking to over 400 national and international locations.

It sends email and push notifications to users instantly, ensuring you never miss an important mail delivery. Plus, PostScan Mail accepts mail from all mail carriers like UPS, USPS, and FedEx.

Designed for personal and business use, its features include unlimited cloud storage for online mail management, discounted mail receiving, planning and forwarding, and package forwarding. You can also shred personal documents for free, which, in turn, adds another layer of security to prevent identity theft.

The fact that PostScan Mail is responsive is another plus. The service works great on most mobile devices and tablets, with the mobile app available for download on Google Play and the App Store.


PostScan Mail offers three membership plans to suit different customer requirements:

  • Starter — Starts from $15 per month
  • Standard — Starts from $20 per month
  • Premium — Starts from $30 per month

The service charges extra if you exceed your monthly limit in addition to some additional fees, Such as mail storage, mail forwarding, and local pickup. There’s a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can try the virtual mailbox risk-free.

#3 – Traveling Mailbox – Best for Third-Party Integrations 

  • Integrates with DropBox, Evernote, Google Drive
  • OCR processing included
  • Will scan docs for you
  • All plans under $100 per month
Get started at $15 per month

Traveling Mailbox ticks off most requirements of a good virtual mailbox service. It’s feature-rich, reliable, and enjoys a stellar reputation for its quality mailbox management assistance.

You get an online postal mailbox, addresses, mail forwarding, post mail scanning, mail storage, mail filtering, document shredding, and check deposit services across its 30+ US-based addresses. The service lets you convert your emails, correspondences, invoices, and checks into digital documents to allow remote viewing.

What’s more, all your documents are processed through an OCR (optical character recognition) software before being converted into searchable PDF documents. This is one of Traveling Mailbox’s biggest USPs, as not all competing services offer this facility.

There’s also a unique ScanPAK feature, where the service sends you a prepaid envelope to fill in important papers that you don’t want to lose. Send the envelope back to the Traveling Mailbox, after which they will scan everything you send and upload it—all within a day of you receiving the mail.

Direct integrations with third-party software like Evernote, Dropbox,, and Google Drive can make things very convenient for you by building a more fluid workflow.


Traveling Mailbox’s pricing tiers is largely dependent on your quota amounts, but it’s definitely on the expensive side. Currently, you can choose from three different membership plans:

  • Basic Plan — $15 per month
  • Extended Plan — $25 per month
  • Small Business Plan — $55 per month

Enterprise plans are also available starting from $99 per month if you’re looking for customized solutions to handle higher mail volumes. However, it doesn’t offer users a free service or trial.

#4 – Earth Class Mail – Best for Businesses Dealing With Sensitive Documents

  • Personal login required to view mail
  • Integrates with Quickbooks, Xero, Google Drive
  • Automatic check deposit included
  • Flexible personal and business pricing
Try for free

Earth Class Mail is a very renowned virtual mailbox service and arguably the highest regarded. If you’re looking for an alternative to the traditional post office box, this is all you need.

You get online postal mailboxes and postal mail scanning services, as well as useful features like mail forwarding services, content scan, and secure document shredding. The CheckStream feature, for one, lets you automate your check deposit securely to improve your workflow and save time.

Although more suitable for SMBs, I highly recommend it for businesses dealing with confidential data.

You see, this virtual mailbox ensures all your mail is received, organized, and stored safely by the company’s HIPAA-certified professionals. Mails are scanned in high resolution and processed using OCR software to make them readable and searchable within the application. Plus, you’ll have to log into their website to download, recycle, trash, or destroy your mail—or have it sent to a third person. 

All this ensures the greater safety of all your documents. 

Earth Class Mail has more than 80 U.S. addresses on its list but doesn’t work outside the country. It can also integrate with services like QuickBooks Online, Xero,, Google Drive, and Box, among others.


Earth Class Mail’s tariff plans are more steeply-priced than its competitors. They’re divided into two categories: MailBox Plans (for individuals and small offices) and MailRoom Plans (for businesses and enterprises).

MailBox Plans

  • Personal MailBox — $19 per month for one recipient and
  • Shared MailBox — $29 per month for five recipients
  • Premium MailBox — $79 per month for 20 recipients

MailRoom Plans

  • Startup MailRoom — $139 per month for 100 pieces of mail
  • Business MailRoom — $229 per month for 250 pieces of mail
  • Enterprise MailRoom — Starts from $1,029 for high-volume mail planning

A free Earth Class Mail trial is also available to test-drive features.

#5 – iPostal1 – Best for Extensive Address Ranges

  • Over 2000 global locations
  • Street addresses and PO Boxes available
  • Customize how you receive mail
  • Virtual office options available
Get started for $9.99 per month

iPostal1 has steadily improved its range of services to become one of the leading names in digital mailbox technology today. It has expanded its infrastructure considerably since its launch in 2007 and is now one of the largest networks of digital mailbox locations.

Yep, you read that right. iPostal1 is one of the biggest international virtual mailbox services that gives you over 2000 locations to choose from—and this includes virtual offices, office buildings, and workspaces on the global level.

The service works similar to all good virtual mailbox services and has partnered with DHL, USPS, FedEx, and UPS for delivery. It offers many features like mail scanning and forwarding, check depositing, package forwarding, and a permanent street address. Other than this, you can manage your mails from anywhere and at any time via your phone or online.

You can’t register your business or receive deliveries from carriers when you only have a PO box. It’s why you need a real street address. The good news is iPostal1 offers both a PO Box as well as a real street address. You can get your mail and package handled, received, and stored at the mailing address of your choice.

Choosing how your mail is handled is another interesting feature. You can get it opened, scanned, forwarded, shredded, discarded, or stored for later pick up—whatever you want.


iPostal1 offers tons of plans and sub-plans, so you’re sure to find the right match as per your requirements and preferences.

  • Virtual Mailing Address — Starts at $9.99 per month
  • Virtual Business Address — Starts at $9.99 per month
  • Virtual Office — Starts at $39.99 per month

How to Find the Best Virtual Mailbox For You

Now that we’ve covered my top virtual mailbox recommendations, let’s take a look at how you can decide between them based on your needs.

Instead of discussing vague, broad criteria, I’ll focus on the crucial questions you must consider before making a call.

What actions does the virtual mailbox allow you to take on your mail?

You should have the option to see and try out a product demo. Any good virtual mailbox service should offer this facility to give you a better idea about their scope of functionalities and let you get the most out of the service. If you don’t get a demo, be sure to ask the following questions:

  • How does the company handle packages and checks?
  • In what format will you receive the mail?
  • What are your available options for organizing your information? Is it possible to export this information to other applications?
  • Can you add multiple users to your virtual mailbox account?
  • Can you easily search for documents within the service’s platform?

What locations and addresses fall under the purview of the virtual mailbox?

Depending on your requirements, you’ll need different virtual addresses. For instance, if you’re a freelancer, you’ll want a street address that can then be used to register your business. On the other hand, having a PO Box is more than enough for an ex-pat.

The good news is there are plenty of options. Your job is only to ensure you sign up for a service that operates in all the locations you desire—nationwide and internationally.

What kind of physical and network security does the virtual mailbox offer?

This is incredibly crucial and should be things on your to-do list. Ask the provider what security measures they take to safeguard their customers’ private information. You can consider the following questions to get a better understanding of the security levels.

  • Does the company hire trained people on their team to manage your mail? Someone who knows how to securely handle confidential health and financial information? 
  • Do they have independent operations? Or do they rely on local partners? Sure, local partners give you more local pickup options. But it also reduces your mail’s security.
  • Has the company implemented any back-end security measures to keep your data safe?
  • What sort of security systems do they have to manage and store mail items?

Does the virtual mailbox offer satisfactory features in their plans?

In addition to knowing how much you’re paying, you should also know exactly what you’re paying for.

Make a list of all the features you need (forwarding, document shredding, mail storage, and so on) from a virtual mailbox, and cross-check whether your selected prospects offer them. Follow this up by understanding the pricing structures associated with these plans and features.

Be sure you proceed with only those companies that provide the services—basic and additional—you need.

Does the virtual mailbox make it easy for you to access information?

The whole point of signing up with a digital mail and document solution is to access information quickly and on the go, preferably in usable formats.

To make the right choice, you should think about how long it takes for the service to give you your mail contents once you request them to be scanned. Other considerations include how long mail forwarding takes and whether there’s an option to automatically scan all the content.

In my experience, it’s best to choose virtual mailboxes that let you access your mail on a mobile device. It’s much more convenient.


I hope this guide helps you identify the best virtual mailbox for you and your business. Out of all the tools, I personally recommend Anytime Mail and PostScan because of their extensive capabilities. However, you can also opt for Earth Class Mail if you deal with documents of a more sensitive nature.

Nevertheless, regardless of your choice, you’re assured of an astonishingly easy and fast way to handle your postal mail on the go.

from Quick Sprout