You come home from a long day at work hoping to see something new and exciting in your mailbox. Instead, you find five new pieces of junk mail.
The average family receives over 800 pieces of junk mail a year, and about 44% of that mail never gets opened. The problem with junk mail is that people get so much of it that it starts to get redundant to the point that it piques no interest.
Not to mention that most of it is utterly irrelevant to the person receiving it.
Since junk mail is usually nothing more than a nuisance, I wanted to find a way to turn it into something positive. I did, and although it won’t help the environmental issue of paper waste, it will at least help you get something out of that pile of advertisements sitting on your table.
A company called the Small Business Knowledge Center (SBKC) will pay you to send in your junk mail in the name of market research.
What is the Small Business Knowledge Center?
The Small Business Knowledge Center is a market research company that focuses explicitly on direct marketing. The company has been around since the early 2000s and relies on the help of people just like you to send in your junk mail.
The SBKC is kind of like a survey site but without requiring you to take surveys.
Instead, the mail you send in acts like a survey would, providing the company with helpful information about the types of direct mail advertisements people get the most and how successful (or unsuccessful) they are.
What Does the SBKC Do with the Mail I Send?
The SBKC wants to learn all about the trends in direct marketing. Just like most forms of marketing, direct mail marketing trends can change rapidly. SBKC uses the mail you send in toward its research.
When you send in mail you’d qualify as junk, that’s an excellent indication to SBKC that the mail isn’t relevant or interesting to you.
When you sign up for SBKC’s panel, you’ll have to answer a few questions about yourself like you would if you were joining a traditional survey site.
Based on your answers, the company gets a solid idea of your demographic information, which can help researchers pinpoint what types of ads might work or not work on people like you.
Your personal information doesn’t get shared with researchers or third parties. Instead, the SBKC formulates some data based on your demographic and the type of mail you consider junk.
That general information is what the SBKC shares with marketing agencies responsible for direct mail advertising.
What Will the Small Business Knowledge Center Do for Me?
For starters, the company takes your junk mail off your hands! You can send in mail every week if you want, so you won’t continue getting piles of ads you don’t want accumulating on your coffee table.
More importantly, the company also helps other companies create direct mail marketing campaigns that are more relevant to people like you.
By examining current trends and what people love or hate to get in their mail, the SBKC helps to continuously tweak the process, which can help you get more relevant stuff in the mail in the future.
Did I mention you get paid to do it? Not only does the SBKC send you pre-paid envelopes for your mail, but you’ll also receive points for everything you send in. When you have enough points accumulated, you can get a VISA gift card.
What Mail Qualifies as Junk Mail for the SBKC?
The SBKC accepts a lot of mail types that people tend to think of as “junk mail,” like those pre-qualified credit card offers and promotions for cell phone companies. Most types of mailed advertisements qualify as mail you can send in to get points.
Here are some of the advertisements you might receive in the mail that SBKC accepts:
- Car rental services
- Car/home/rental/life insurance
- Pension plans
- Checking or savings accounts
- Prepaid credit cards
- Store credit cards
- Store loyalty programs
- TV and cable services
- Internet services
If you think your mail might qualify, send it in. There’s nothing to lose. If it’s something the SBKC won’t accept (which is rare), then you won’t receive points for it, but you won’t lose any points either. There’s no maximum number of pieces you can send in, so you’re allowed to stuff your prepaid envelope full if necessary.
Who is Eligible to Join?
The Small Business Knowledge Center currently accepts people from the United States and Canada. You’ll need to be 18 years old (most younger people don’t receive much junk mail anyway!).
Unfortunately, not everyone will become a member. The company looks for people that meet specific demographics, like age and location.
This can change throughout the year depending on its needs at the time, so you may want to check back every few months if you weren’t accepted the first time around.
You should hear back within a week or so once you apply.
Pros and Cons of Using the Small Business Knowledge Center
The SBKC offers a straightforward, simple way to make some cash off mail you’d throw in the trash anyway. Like most things, though, it has its flaws.
- Plenty of proof floating around the internet that the SBKC does pay for junk mail
- Two panels to join depending on your situation
- You can also make some money from forwarding junk emails
- Send as much mail as you want in each prepaid envelope
- You’ll occasionally get some surveys that ask questions about your consumer shopping habits, which will also pay
- Referral program can give you 50 points for each friend, which is the equivalent of $0.50
- Although there used to be several gift cards to choose from for rewards, you now can only redeem points for a VISA gift card
- Survey invites are few and far between
- The pay is low; if you’re lucky, you’ll make about $20 every two months
- Payments can sometimes take longer than expected after requesting them
How Does This All Work?
The SBKC is relatively simple to join and participate in. In fact, you won’t need to wait for survey invites to participate or take a long initial survey to get started. Here’s how to become a member and start sending in mail:
How to Join
Head to the Small Business Knowledge Center website and click the link for the panel you want to join. I’ll explain their differences in a moment.
The company may not accept you right away if it already has plenty of participants in your area. If that’s the case, then you’ll still go on a waiting list to be next in line when a spot opens.
You’ll need to answer some basic questions about yourself so that the company can get an idea of your demographics. You can also indicate if you own a business in your application, which can get you some bonuses from your mail.
After completing your application, wait a few days to hear back from the company about your acceptance.
Sending in Mail
If the SBKC accepts you, you can begin sending in mail as soon as you receive a postage-paid envelope from the company. There’s no limit to how many pieces you can send as long as they fit in the envelope.
Be sure to check out these guidelines about the type of mail the SBKC accepts. If you accidentally send something in that isn’t allowed, you won’t get penalized in any way, but the mail won’t count toward your rewards.
There are two panels you can join through the Small Business Knowledge Center: The Consumer Panel and the Producer Panel. Most people will be members of the Consumer Panel, but if you have the requirements to become a Producer Panelist, you could make more money.
The Consumer Panel is where you’ll want to go if you’re a regular consumer or own a business. Most people will fall into this category, so it’s the panel that SBKC will receive the most mail from.
Who Can Join
Anyone in the United States or Canada who is at least 18 years old and can be considered a consumer (you pay some bills, shop for groceries, etc.) can join this panel.
However, you may not get accepted right away. The panel looks for people who are spread out all over these countries, so if a lot of consumers in your area are already members, you may have to wait for a spot to open.
Types of Mail You Can Send
This is the panel where almost any kind of junk mail goes. If you’re a consumer, you can send in any mail that falls within the SBKC’s accepted pieces, including advertisements that target pet owners to advertisements for new credit cards.
If you own a business, you can also send in any junk mail that pertains to your business, like offers from web design companies or business checking accounts.
The way the SBKC compensates participants in the Consumer Panel isn’t 100% clear, but it does state that you’ll receive points for sending in mail. I’m not sure if you get points per piece or envelope or whether some pieces are worth more than others.
What I do know is that participants who talk about SBKC online state that they usually earn enough for a $20 VISA gift card every two or three months. The SBKC website says that you can typically get one every 6 to 10 weeks, which lines up closely with what others say.
As a business owner, you’ll be eligible for special bonuses that regular consumers can’t get so that you could make money faster. You can also send in your regular consumer mail to maximize your earnings.
Consumer Panelists can also earn extra points by completing occasional surveys and referring their friends.
The Producer Panel is a specialty panel that offers some professionals a way to make a little extra money by sending in junk mail.
Who Can Join
This panel is not for consumers. Independent insurance agents, brokers, advisors, and producers are the only ones who can join this panel. The requirements are the same: You must live in either the United States or Canada and be at least 18 years old.
Types of Mail You Can Send
The SBKC wants very specific mail pieces from panelists in the Producer Panel. As an independent agent, you likely get newsletters, promotions, product announcements, and other mailings from relevant businesses. The SBKC wants this type of mail to assist its research efforts into trending marketing tactics.
The compensation for this panel also isn’t explicitly detailed on the SBKC website, although the company doesn’t mention that either panel gets different payments. However, as an independent insurance agent, you may get the required types of mail more frequently than consumer junk mail, which means you could potentially earn points faster.
SBKC may also have occasional surveys for you if you’re on this panel and you can also refer your friends for some extra points.
I also want to point out that if you’re a member of either panel, you can also forward your junk e-mail to the Small Business Knowledge Center for extra cash.
There isn’t a lot of information about this on the site, but I’d assume that your emails should also fit the criteria the SBKC requires for your other junk mail.
You can view a full list of accepted mail pieces here.
What Rewards are Available for Participating?
According to panelists who have been members of the SBKC for a while, the company used to offer a variety of gift cards as rewards. There were over 200 to choose from in a rewards catalog.
Unfortunately, the website currently only mentions VISA gift cards as rewards for your time. Once you receive 2,000 points, you’ll receive a $20 VISA gift card when you redeem them.
Surveys are usually worth anywhere from 100 to 500 points, depending on their length and complexity, which equals $1 to $5. You’ll get 50 points, or $0.50 every time you refer a friend.
What Do Panelists Say About SBKC?
I did some digging to find out what real members of SBKC have had to say about the company. The reviews are mostly positive, but there are a couple of things that stuck out in several reviews that I think are important to note.
Simple Method of Getting Extra Cash
Most members who’ve talked about SBKC online agree that this is one of the easiest ways to make some extra cash outside of a job. No, it won’t make you tons of money (and the SBKC never claims that it will!), but you literally get paid just to send in mail that you don’t need.
You can typically rely on about $20 every couple of months if you send your junk mail in regularly. You’ll also have some opportunities from surveys to make a little extra. Not bad for such a little amount of time that you have to spend.
Difficult to Get a Hold of Customer Service
A prominent complaint in reviews is that customer service is tough to get a hold of if needed. Interestingly, this seems to be a complaint about many money-making opportunities, like the several survey sites on the web.
Some panelists have said that if they have to contact SBKC for any issues regarding their points or payments, it could take several days or weeks to get a response.
It’s probably in your best interest to call the phone number provided rather than email the company with the provided customer service email address.
The SBKC isn’t very clear with how soon you can expect to get your VISA gift card after you cash in your points. However, most panelists do expect it to arrive in a fair amount of time, like a week or two.
Although getting paid by the SBKC isn’t a problem, how long it takes to get paid might be. If you’re concerned about payments, I suggest calling the customer service number to get a hold of a representative before you sign up, just so you’re clear on how quickly you can expect your gift card.
Is the Small Business Knowledge Center a Legitimate Way to Earn Money?
Yes, the SBKC is a legit money-making opportunity. Not only is there plenty of proof floating around on the web that, even if a little slower than expected, panelists do get paid, but members also have a lot of great things to say about the company.
The SBKC isn’t accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB), which isn’t unusual for a company like this. It does, however, have an A+ rating by the BBB based on several factors regarding its legitimacy as a business and business history.
Although sending in your junk mail to the SBKC certainly won’t make you rich, it’s absolutely a legit way to earn some extra cash for sending in your mailed trash!
The SBKC is one of those interesting opportunities that some people will jump at the chance to participate in while others don’t want to spend their time on it.
If you don’t think that SBKC is for you but still want to put an end to your junk mail, you can always check out DMAChoice.org. This government-approved website lets you enter your mail and email information to reduce the amount of junk mail you receive in your mailbox and email inbox.
Registration is $2 but lasts for ten years. You can choose what kind of mail you’d like to keep getting and what types you want to stop receiving, which means less junk mail for you.
Are you going to give the Small Business Knowledge Center a try, or have you tried it already? We’d love to hear your thoughts – drop us a comment below!