Direct mail is here to stay in the digital world

The direct mail industry, which many misperceive to have been stunted by the internet, is seeing a resurgence as marketers return to the basics — an outcome our leadership team knew would occur.

Popular deal sites like LivingSocial and Groupon emerged over recent years, but those customers have proven to be only as loyal as the coupon’s expiration date. Trouble continues to brew as online marketing giants become less stable and as local businesses come to the realization that these short-term deals may not be the right strategy. More and more small business owners are seeking advertising options that can not only boost sales but sustain them over time. This is confirmed by Bob Liodice, CEO, Association of National Advertisers, who said, “Marketers are reassessing the level of investment in the digital area because they are beginning to question what they are really getting in terms of return on investment.”

In 2010, when the digital marketing craze hit an economy struggling to recover from recession, Money Mailer was faced with a significant challenge: how to remain relevant in a digital world.

When I took over the company nearly seven years ago, my focus was not to grow rapidly, but to strategically re-structure the business foundation to allow for top-line performance. After strengthening the company internally, I shifted our efforts toward growth. Since then we’ve seen a steady rise in the number of new franchise partners each year increase from five in 2010, to more than 47 last year. With 176 franchise owners system-wide, we now mail over 7 billion coupons, worth over $1 billion in advertising value each year.

Staying true to the core of the business

The company turnaround began by deciding to return to a core print mentality. At the time, the focus was on new technology, but success came from a refocused energy back to the core of its business. Much like other marketers, it was time to get back to the basics.

When companies face tough times, it’s important to reflect on the core of your business and perfect it. I knew our direct mail product was still producing good returns, so we decided not to invest in digital, but rather enhance its print abilities.

The reality is that our primary product is key to driving demand for all businesses and we worked hard to remind our advertisers of their specific advertising needs. This important focus on staying true to our core business and reminding business owners that we deliver ROI was key to our growth.

Listening to the stakeholders

One of the most valuable leadership lessons is to actively listen to and engage with your stakeholders. This allows brands to identify problems or concerns and opportunities for improvement. When I took the position, I met with franchisees to discuss the state of the business and identify the needs of clients. This rich, first-hand research inspired many new strategies to fuel hyper-local growth.

For example, I discovered franchisees needed a strong support system to bring personal and financial stability during the launch phase of their businesses. This lead to the creation of our GPS (Goals, Processes, & Systems) program, which is filled with intensive training and aggressive financial incentives designed to help new franchisees create a solid foundation to quickly grow their business. Additionally, the brand revised its franchise agreement to incentivize franchisees for greater ad frequency and geographic coverage.

All these improvements were a result of listening and communicating with our franchisees. From there, we were able to form a strategy to move forward.

Slow and steady wins the race

Don’t become overwhelmed or feel the need to compare your company with “flash in a pan,” rapid growth success stories. While digital-based companies such as LivingSocial and Groupon were once thriving, they are now reducing workforces, seeing stock declines, or even closing for good.

The short-term success of these types of companies are considered “events” versus “business building strategies.” If a strategy does not produce positive business results for the long haul, you should think twice about moving forward. To execute a successful company turnaround, focus your energies on perfecting the core of your business, communicating with your stakeholders, and growing slow and smart.

Gary Mulloy has more than twenty years of success as a CEO for companies in the consumer products, medical device and marketing services industries. A proven executive with more than 30 years in general management, marketing and sales, he has led and served on both public and private Boards of Directors. He has completed successful turnarounds for companies in diverse industries and has significant experience completing divestitures and acquisitions involving both private equity companies and strategic buyers/sellers.