I'm always fascinated by companies that present potentially disruptive new ways of communicating that could transform how we reach out to customers and find clients. This week, I've collected three interesting startups that are combining existing communication forms to create new modes for reaching out. They may not all be quite ready to use yet, but consider these concepts brain food to expand your idea of what is possible.
The U.S. Postal Service may want to watch out for Zumbox--it's providing a way for companies (and everybody, ultimately) to send formatted PDF mail direct to customers' computers, saving the postage stamps. The company's technology enables them to create a computer inbox--or Zumbox--for every street address in America. So companies don't need to know customers' e-mail addresses--with a street address (and the customer's permission) the company can electronically deliver their mail. Besides saving on postage, this will also allow companies to send interactive, multimedia mail with clickable links, videos, you name it.
Powerful idea, eh? Not a surprise that the company recently landed $8 million in venture capital from a high-powered array of individual investors that includes former Disney chief Michael Eisner. It's also attracted a high-powered lawsuit from Pitney Bowes over its technology. (The story of how Zumbox put its funding deal together is slated for the January issue of Entrepreneur magazine.)
In a similar vein, web-based international phone-service provider JaJah has figured out how to link customers' Twitter addresses to their phone numbers, so if you both have Twitter names, you can call each other on any landline or celphone. Could be handy for those who do direct marketing and cold calling. Currently in Beta, the feature allows Twitter users to tweet @call @twittername, which causes both your phones to ring.
Since I'm always advocating for business owners to unplug and talk to live humans a bit more, I like this. After all, there's only so much you can get across in 140 characters. On the other hand, could be a bunch of junk phone calls in my future. But that's what my Caller ID box is for.
Finally, TwirlTV brings the create-your-own-playlist ethos to television, online. Currently in a limited Beta, TwirlTV is aimed at Gen Y TV viewers, who can browse shows and share their favorites with friends online. Their site says they've got over 375 shows and 4,800 episodes available. Lastly, have to mention that their corporate "About Us" page is a link to their Facebook fan page. Now that's a company that knows where to reach its audience.