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Monday, 24 October 2011

How one firm thrives in a recession – in a medium some people think is dead or dying

In 2002, Gartner the brilliant research experts said that by 2010 direct mail would "almost be a half-remembered relic".

Well, stone me! How strange that Mailbird, a relatively small firm that does nothing but send out direct mail fore clients, has just had a record year.

I asked Coral Russell, the bird who founded Mailbird, why this is.

Here's what she told me. Nothing secret - just a lot of the things every business should think about - but most don't.

Well worth reading if you want to survive in these troubled times.

We learn about our clients, their priorities and marketing needs. We treat them as individuals with their own ways of working.

This means they often don’t need to explain their preferences with every mailing which leads to repeat business.

It also helps us schedule work – vital for any mailing house – and frees us to react quickly and positively, because flexibility is essential. We can react in a way many businesses simply cannot.

Our clients know this and our customer retention, which is vital, is high.

We enjoy what we do, and are interested in the health of the industry as a whole. We believe in the medium of direct mail, and the product we offer.

Our employees have fun – Mailbird is a happy place to work.

We have a mix of clients from a variety of sectors, many less susceptible to the effects of economic downturn and recession.

We only take on clients whose needs we can genuinely fulfil. Pointless to be seduced by volume at a price or a time scale that dominates resource, and reduces the service we can offer all our clients.

We never take our eye off new business.

Excepting the key fixed asset – property – we own most of our assets.

Thus we are able to offer very good prices without having to take on work at rock-bottom prices to feed our machines.

BUT higher profits come from repeat business so relationship marketing is always at the forefront.

We offer a high level of service, are informed, reliable and very pleasant to deal with.

We offer free advice and ideas to our clients.

We understand that people buy from people they like, and in turn recommend us to others.

Just as we want to offer the best service possible, we only choose suppliers who will also go the extra mile. Timing is such an important factor in Direct Mail; you have to be able to rely on your suppliers.

We strive to know what is going on around us, and developments in the medium. It is important to know and talk with others in the Industry whose help – over the years – has been invaluable.

We are proactive and keep clients up to speed, particularly with postal opportunities, which should be any Mailing House’s area of expertise.

We are active DMA Members, part of the Strategic Mailing Partnership, and are committed to working for the good of the medium of Direct Mail, not just for the good of Mailbird.

Trust is very important. If we DO run into a problem our clients know that we won’t hide it under the carpet, but will try and resolve it honestly.

These are times of change – not least in the Direct Mail Industry. We produce frequent Management Accounts so we can respond quickly to factors that affect the business.

Our staff and culture come from employing family members and friends. Not exclusively, of course, but all our staff are very positive, and work very hard.

How about that, then? Look after your customers. Keep your staff happy. Know what you're doing and believe in it. Watch the money.

Just do it right.

I have no interest in Mailbird - just an interest in better business. They are at http://www.mailbird.co.uk/ - and Coral is a very nice lady.

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