SMI #009: Teach Prisoners Account Based Marketing

Increase prison literacy and create job opportunities through hand written notes

Opportunity in a Tweet:

Prisoners have limited job opportunities post-incarceration, despite having lots of downtime to learn a new skill. Also, email is becoming an oversaturated, impersonalized way to connect with customers. Prisoners could be contracted to write handwritten notes to drive customer retention.

What This Is:

  • A way to improve literacy amongst the incarcerated while learning basic copy writing, marketing and customer service skills

  • A new and cost effective marketing / customer service channel for companies to tap into

  • A social good program to increase company morale

What This Isn’t:

  • Exploitation of labor - prisoners would earn money for each note they write, which they can send home to their families

  • Free - prisoners would be given the max pay per unit the system allows for

  • A substitution for higher level marketing tasks - this would be copy and paste type simple


Prison systems are terrible at training people for reentry to society

  • Can learn to cut hair, but can’t become a licensed barber

  • Can fight fires, but can’t become a firefighter

  • Can make license plates…but only prisons make license plates

    • Takeaway: The skills pay the bills, so give people skills if you don’t want them coming back

Handwritten notes are a lost art…except in prison

  • The only place it’s still cool to have a pen pal is in jail

    • Takeaway: The texting game is not strong at Riker’s Island, but cursive is all the rage

Taking time to hand write notes is too menial of a task for marketing teams

  • No software or medical device company is going to pay a salaried employee to write hand written notes

    • Takeaway: The unit economics of this work, unlike in the real world, where it’s too time consuming

Share Steal My Idea

Back of the Napkin Market Sizing

To Get the Ball Rolling, Sisyphus Says

  • Perfect a specific marketing motion for a specific industry (example: annual conference invites for software companies)

  • Look to roll it out with just one state prison system at a time due to the approvals and bureaucracy you’ll have to jump though

  • Keep the initial quantity of jobs limited so they are coveted and respected roles within the prison system; scarcity will give the program traction internally

Kinda Biased Competitive Landscape

How It Makes Money

Waves This Rides

  • ESG Programs (environmental, social, and governance)

    • Similar to buying carbon offsets (which, if you didn’t know, is a privileged thing well funded companies do to feel less bad about taking private jets), or planting trees in the Amazon (which Big Pharma does after dumping sludge in the Chahles Rivah), companies are looking for ways to signal social good with their wallets

  • Prisoner skill share programs

Future Expansion Areas

  • Audio / video transcription services by prisoners (when software programs don’t do the trick)

  • Voice overs for freelance cartoon artists (all they’d need is a microphone)

  • Any other Upwork type task that can be done between four walls with limited technology

Why This Might Fail

  • Prison systems don’t want to play ball

    • Prisons would have to opt in and let prisoners get paid, and they’re notoriously cheap (like, 20 cents an hour cheap)

  • Customers may be weary of recipients discovering that a prisoner wrote it

    • Potential for customers to come across as disingenuous / that they lied

    • Would need to ensure the origin of the letter is not disclosed

  • Spelling Errors / Hidden Messages / Offensive Symbolism

Potentially Reliable Stuff I Read at 3 AM

Completely Irrelevant Post Script No Reputable Business Publication Would Allow

Get Hyped

Get Loud

Get Wise

“We’re cursed because we know the numbers.”

-Sam Zell