Dr. Egon Spengler pronounced the death of print in the 1984 hit comedy Ghostbusters, but he may have been a tad premature. We don’t send “snail mail” letters and postcards as often as we used to, but the paperless office is still science fiction for some. Receiving a physical piece of mail is a novelty, and can make you (or your customers) feel special. But doing real mailing with real paper is time consuming. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could let someone else take care of all of that? Sure there are online printing services, but what if you want to send just one? Or a handful? Or thousands? All driven by your data? That’s the niche that is filled by Lob.
Lob is a service that lets you send letters, postcards, and even checks. They take care of the printing and mailing. They also offer address verification. And it’s all a web service with an API (application programming interface), which means that you can connect and use the service from just about any program. And of course this includes our favorite rapid application development platform: FileMaker Pro. So to test it out, we put together a demo file.
The file is provided open and unlocked, so you can pick it apart and extend it to suit your needs. It has been populated with the test API key from Lob.com, so you can test the service without being charged. You can sign up for a free test API key of your own, or move forward and authorize a live API to start sending real mail.
The demo does require the free BaseElements plug-in from Goya. If you don’t already have it, the script will prompt you to install version 3.3.1 (current at the time of publishing). In this demo, we are using the Lob postcard API. When you submit a successful test, you will be shown a PDF preview of your postcard on Lob.com. The script will stop you if you have left a required field blank, but it does not check to see if the images meet Lob’s requirements. A link to Lob’s image prep guidelines is provided.
Getting started with Lob
If you want to create your own account, just go to Lob.com and click the Try It Now button to sign up.
After you sign up for a free account, you access your API key from the settings dashboard.
You will want to familiarize yourself with the Lob API documentation and all of the options available. In the case of the demo file, we are only using the postcard creation section. The script gathers up the address data and image file paths (exported to temporary storage), and puts them together into a parameter string to send to the postcard API. We are using the BE_HTTP_POST function to call the API, and then the BE_JSONPath to grab the preview URL out of the response returned by the postcard API. You could easily use the same techniques to send addresses to Lob’s address verification API, and parse out the JSON response to update your address fields. The demo just deals with a simple one-off postcard, but you could modify it to track campaigns of personalized mail as well. Contact us to learn how you can use your existing FileMaker solution with Lob to drive/manage these campaigns.
So have fun! Eschew the technological societal norms, be a hipster, and send custom-made, artisanal paper mail. And if you want us to help you make this happen, just let us know – we’re here to help!
If you found the demo helpful, send us a postcard! Or you could just let us know in the comments. That works, too.