Direct Mail Heats Up
Offering direct mail services can help distributors penetrate accounts and boost shrinking revenues.
Like lava slowly flowing down a mountain, the proliferation of distributors offering direct mail products has spread slowly but surely over the last decade, fueled by the twin fires of cost-consciousness and demand.
As people throughout the forms and labels world desperately try to figure out what the future holds for this maturing industry, attention has turned toward finding new products and services to take the place of older, more commodities-oriented offerings.
Direct mail products, with their ability to offer users significant savings over traditional stuffed envelopes, as well as a measurable response to marketing initiatives, have slowly expanded into the vacuum left by decreasing forms sales. To wit, direct mail sales now account for 5 percent of the BFL&S Top 100 Distributors' sales.
Nevertheless, this growth hasn't taken place overnight.
"We got into direct mail 15 years ago," said Jeff Scott, vice president and general manager, Merrill Corporation, Monroe, Wash. "We decided to expand our print management services to include anything that was branded, which eventually led us to direct mail."
Though Scott said his company didn't begin offering direct mail products as a way to subvert any decline in forms sales, he did say direct mail sales have doubled over the past five years and now account for 10 percent of the company's annual revenue.
On the other hand, John Osborne, president, Midwest Single Source, Wichita, Kan., said he began providing direct mail products for his customers in response to their demands.
Two years ago, Midwest wasn't offering direct mail products at all, but Osborne said that in keeping with the company's goal of being a single-source provider, he decided to put its assets where the demand was—direct mail products. Now, direct mail products account for 10 percent of the company's yearly sales.