December 01, 2009
Celebrating Life One Card at a Time
A picture says a thousand words, but what if you could say even more? Combined with a personal message, that picture becomes unforgettable. That combination is SendOutCards.
Launched in 2005 by Founder and CEO Kody Bateman, SendOutCards focuses on listening to “promptings”—both inner and outer—and acting on them quickly. Through its product offering, SendOutCards is dedicated to changing lives, one greeting card at a time. “We celebrate life,” says Bateman, “with pictures, gifts and the written word.”
Although the company now touches thousands of people every day, SendOutCards had heartbreaking beginnings. It all started because of a missed opportunity, what Bateman calls a “prompting.”
“A prompting is a thought to reach out in kindness to somebody else,” Bateman says. And now that he has learned to listen to his own, he is determined to teach others how to do the same.
Twenty years ago, Bateman made a promise to his brother that he would never again ignore his promptings. This promise was the driving force behind SendOutCards, which helps people achieve better relationships by becoming card-senders for life.
Bateman had been hired by an advertising agency in New York City, which meant he had to leave the nurturing confines of Salt Lake City, where his parents and extended family lived, and set out for the big city. After saying his goodbyes to his parents, Bateman, his wife and their 1-year-old daughter piled into their car. As they were pulling away, he looked out his window and saw his 29-year-old brother, Kris, a few hundred feet away moving the family’s company vehicles. “I had a very strong prompting that I needed to slow down, stop what I was doing, and go over to give my brother a hug, tell him that I loved him and say goodbye,” he says. “My brother and I were never the huggy type, and we were in a hurry to get on the road, so I ignored the prompting.” Instead, Bateman honked and waved; his brother smiled and waved back. Then it was off to New York, family in tow.
Two months later, the phone rang at 3 a.m. Kris had been killed in an industrial accident, leaving a wife and three young children. “When you get news like that, you go through some surreal emotions,” he says. “We were very close. I was utterly devastated.”
Throughout the day and into the night, he recalled the cherished memories he shared with his brother during their younger years. But the dominant memory that played over and over in his mind was the ignored prompting to go over and say goodbye to Kris at his parents’ home. “That night, I told Kris I was sorry and made a heartfelt promise to him that I would always act on my promptings, and I would do everything in my power to help as many people as I could to act on their promptings,” he says. “That night in 1989 is where the vision for this company started.” Bateman found the message he would take to the world. His message was promptings.
In the Early Days
Bateman worked at the ad agency another year before being recruited as the director of marketing for a Salt Lake City food-service company. Back in Utah, he spent any free time he could get laying the foundation for what would become SendOutCards. His first attempt at helping people act on their promptings consisted of a day-planner-like system, which he called the Personal Touch Power System. “It resembled a day planner, but instead of planning time, you planned the people in your life,” Bateman says about his low-tech, yet effective, creation. “You took care of people by writing their birthdays and other special occasions in the planner, which would then serve as a reminder to send them a card.” In the back of the planner was a slot for cards, where the user could write in them and send them in a timely manner. “In the early 1990s, day planners were it as far as keeping organized,” he says. “It served as a foundation for better things to come.”
It was also in the early ’90s when Bateman was introduced to network marketing. After attending an opportunity meeting with a colleague, he fell in love with the concept. “I saw huge potential in how network marketing could further my dream,” he says. “I needed an army of people who could teach people how to act on promptings, and network marketing, with its emphasis on duplicating one’s efforts, was the right formula and distribution model for my business.”
Bateman moved yet closer to his goal in 1999, when he developed an online version of his Personal Touch Power System, appropriately named ILoveYouMan.com, and it came with a seminar attached. “You could go to a seminar and learn why you should act on promptings and why you should take care of the people in your life,” he says. “It was really cool, but it still did not give you a convenient way to act on your promptings. It was still missing one of the key elements of being able to select, write and send a card.”
Getting Off the Ground
Bateman says the biggest challenge was creating the compensation plan, ensuring that it fit the product and the salesforce of the first company to sell greeting cards and gifts via network marketing. He even calls the company launch in 2003 a “test mode,” because of the challenges it faced in getting that crucial aspect just right.
“If we had started with the right compensation plan in 2003,” he says, “getting off the ground would have been a totally different story. We ended up with a comp plan in June of ’05 that we currently have today. So, technically, we really went to the marketplace in June of ’05.”
The company is constantly looking for ways to improve and build upon the products it already offers. A new card editor was released in January 2009 that “had some glitches in it,” which, Bateman believes, held back the company’s growth. Now that those issues are resolved, he looks forward to strong growth in 2010, saying that despite growing at a decent pace, the company is projecting next year will be phenomenal.
Despite SendOutCards being in business for almost five years, Bateman is still enamored with the products the company offers. Although his personal favorite is the standard, two-panel greeting card that he can put a picture in, the company has expanded its repertoire to include gift cards, flowers and other physical gifts. But the photo greeting card still holds the top slot with Bateman, who says it’s “the most magical thing we offer.”
“You can send gifts all day long, and it’s really cool,” he says. “But if I take the time to capture part of your life in a picture and send you that picture, along with a message of appreciation, then I just celebrated your life while you’re living.”
Treating Them Right
Only two months after SendOutCards opened its doors, Bateman started implementing what he called Treat ’Em Right seminars, where he could teach distributors and anyone else the “why” behind the greeting card. “I could teach the significance of acting on promptings and having a mechanism of doing so,” he says. “At the seminar, we teach how every day you should get up and send an unexpected card to someone you care about with no intention of getting anything in return.”
The seminars are the very basis of SOC’s training. Bateman says they are “foundational training” for the business. “You have to work on your foundation before you work on the bricks and mortar,” he says. “I can teach the bricks and mortar—the step-by-step process to building the business—all day. But if you build a building without a foundation, it will fall. So we spend a lot of time on the foundation.”
Bateman says that if you go to a Treat ’Em Right seminar and start sending those unexpected cards every day, you will always send cards to your clients, you will always send cards to people in your personal life—essentially, you will become a card-sender for life because you have experienced the impact it has on others.
He says that impact is the very heart of the company and that more than 90 percent of people who attend the seminar send cards every month. “Everybody knows it’s a great idea to say ‘thank you,’ ” Bateman says. “But do we do it? It’s a process that you have to learn.”
Training Them Right
And SendOutCards teaches how to touch a life as well as build a business. After establishing the foundation of why people send cards with the Treat ’Em Right seminars, new distributors are shown how to get off to a quick start via the training Web site, TheDaily8.com. The Daily 8 are eight things a distributor can do every day to build a successful business. Bateman says that because it attracts a salesforce comfortable with technology, using the Web was a natural choice.
With webinars, up-to-the-minute communications from the corporate office, and the 90-day business plan, the company equips new distributors with all they need to succeed, including the product. The basic cards help distributors contact their warm market professionally, with personalized postcards and greeting cards. The salesforce can easily make multiple lists of people and send them at pre-scheduled times on four-color postcards and greeting cards.
The company invests so much time and effort into distributor resources for one reason. Bateman says that distributors are the foundation of the business, so it is the home office’s job to support them. “We provide leadership on the front end and tools on the back end so they will have everything they need,” he says. “The more success they have, the more success we will have as a company.”
While Bateman was once making payroll with his personal credit card, today the company looks forward to more than $50 million in revenue for 2010. Although SOC faced a few challenges this year that Bateman believes affected the company’s growth rate, he says the company has grown at a “decent rate.” Inc. magazine was a little more impressed—SOC ranked No. 158 on this year’s Inc. 500, which recognizes some of the fastest-growing companies in the country. SendOutCards realized a whopping 1,173.4 percent growth in the last three years, growing from $2.6 million in 2005 to $32.9 million in 2008.
With more than 60,000 distributors across the United States, Canada and Australia, the company looks forward to further expansion, particularly in Asian countries. “I do envision expanding into Asian countries, probably Japan,” Bateman says. “A third of all network marketing business is done in Japan alone, so that’s obviously a big market.” While no hard-and-fast date is set for entry into Asia-Pacific, the facility in Australia gives the company a foothold it can build upon.
Its latest product, SOCBox (pronounced sock-box), will allow the company to tap into the home party market, leading, Bateman hopes, into even greater opportunities in the future. SOCBox is SendOutCards in a box and contains everything one needs to use SendOutCards.
Bateman looks forward to continuing to fulfill the promise he made to his brother so long ago—celebrating life in whatever way possible. “To me, that’s what SendOutCards is all about,” he says.