Once, a business could handle direct mailings in-house. Office personnel, with no special training or equipment, were sufficient.
Take a gander at current postal regulations. There are bar codes and zip plus four — in short, it’s not your father’s post office anymore.
“There’s a lot of technology involved — software, hardware, technical know-how,” said Mark J. McCreery, president of Amerimail Direct Inc., a Jackson-based, full-service direct mail company. “There are just so many ways to present a piece to the post office. It’s become a very complex business.”
It’s this factor and others, including old-fashioned hard work, that have allowed Amerimail’s phenomenal growth. How phenomenal? According to McCreery, a whopping 2,000% over the last 18 months alone, and he only sees the industry and Amerimail getting bigger all the time.
Hattiesburg native and entrepreneur McCreery had owned several businesses along the way when he discovered Amerimail in 1996. Though small, he was impressed with the 23-year-old company’s customer base and its personnel. Coupling these pluses with the upswing in direct mail, he decided to buy.
The company has grown rapidly ever since, from four to more than 20 employees. Originally housed in a small, office-type building, hardly conducive to moving thousands of pieces a week, the company moved in early 1997 to its current locale on Space Center Drive, affording a loading dock and warehouse space.
“I don’t think we have a single piece of equipment that we had a year and a half ago,” McCreery said.
But he was also quick to point out that bigger wasn’t, and isn’t, the goal. In fact, a company where the owner on any given day might be running a piece of machinery or driving a truck has its appeal. Amerimail isn’t so large that detail is ignored.
“Some companies are large and act small, and some are small but act large,” McCreery said. “I think we are moving toward that first group. We’re large enough to do anything a customer wants but small enough to give it the hands-on our customers have come to expect.”
A couple of other factors have also lent itself to Amerimail’s success. As postal regulations have become more complex, so has data.
“Lists have gotten sophisticated. If you want to reach folks who walk on the left side of the street, eat ice cream and make more than $40,000, it can be found. Companies are more specific now on targeting markets,” McCreery said.
To that end, another key has been the proliferation of direct mailing campaigns. “In any ad campaign, as much as 98% of those contacted aren’t interested,” McCreery said. “Direct mailing, with a follow-up telemarketing effort, has become very popular.”
With direct mail’s rise, there has also been an increase in competitors. To differentiate itself, McCreery said Amerimail’s strategy is to build partnerships with the customer and find talented personnel who enjoy a challenge.
“You have to work hard and take it personally. On any campaign, we have one chance to get it right. You have to build confidence with the customer.
“And you have to enjoy your work. You can be profitable and be miserable. The most satisfaction I got from a job, we made $68.50. We’re not nonprofit. Long-term, we can’t do that over and over. But a “thank you” means a lot.”