If you are anything like me, you are annoyed with the amount of daily physical mail as much of it seems to waste your time and resources. This is doubly true for mass marketing material that doesn’t affect my interests or my spending habits, all of which end up straight in the recycling bin.
So I was a little skeptical of speaking with Andrew Field, Founder and CEO of PFL, a Montana company working in print marketing. To Andrew’s credit, his company’s model aims to be less wasteful both in its targeting and in its use of recycled materials and sustainable energy. Perhaps most interesting was learning how his company navigated the digital age as a print marketing business and succeeded at a time when most assumed printing was dead.
Marie Juetten: When did you start?
Andrew Champ: I co-founded the company in 1996. The idea for PFL came to me while I was fly fishing on the Yellowstone River with a friend. In the beginning, we were a six-person print shop dedicated to small businesses who needed access to affordable printing without compromising on quality.
As the internet and e-commerce became ubiquitous, I realized that more and more businesses were turning to the internet for their products and services. So in 1999, we launched the first e-commerce site in the United States for full online commercial printing. For much of the early 2000s, the company focused on printing for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) across the country.
With the rise of SaaS, I saw an opportunity to integrate direct mail into marketing automation – as easy as integrating email as part of the customer journey. So in 2014, we created another category, Tactile Marketing Automation.
Juetten: What problem are you solving?
Field: Businesses need a way to reduce digital clutter and make lasting impressions with prospects and customers. Direct mail does this in a way that digital marketing simply can’t. Our 2020 Multichannel Marketing Report (in conjunction with Demand Metric) found that multichannel campaigns, including direct mail, report an 18% higher ROI than those without direct mail, and 84% of respondents say direct mail improves the performance of multi-channel campaigns.
We’re creating a smarter way for organizations to make direct mail part of the intentional part of the customer journey versus batch processing and blasting. Our solution works with existing CRMs and marketing automation platforms such as Salesforce, Oracle or Marketo and enables marketers to send personalized, targeted and traceable materials to create a memorable and engaging customer experience.
Juetten: Who are your customers and how do you find them?
Field: Our ideal client cares about branding, security, scalability and return on investment. We have a wide range of clients ranging from enterprise SaaS to higher education, financial services, healthcare and retail. We practice account-based marketing and use our own solution, Tactile Marketing Automation, to build relationships with our ideal clients. We delight our customers with relevant brand experiences, then show them how they can do the same to grab their audience’s attention. In addition, as the creator and leader of the category, many customers find us through word of mouth.
Juetten: Did you raise any money?
Field: Yes. In 2018, we secured $ 25 million in growth capital from Goldman Sachs Growth Equity. The funds support R&D, product development and sales team growth for our TMA platform.
Juetten: Direct mail can be seen as a waste for some. What’s your response to that?
Field: The way we enable direct mail isn’t just about batch processing and blasting. It is targeted, and in fact reduced waste.
For example, let’s say Company A is hosting a webinar and Customer X has attended webinars in the past and signed up to attend the next webinar. Company A could send content related to Client X and a snack to enjoy while watching the webinar.
Here is another example from the nonprofit world. If a former donor opens an email or visits the homepage of a nonprofit organization’s website and hasn’t made a donation in the past year, the TMA could trigger a direct mail to encourage the individual to donate.
This way, organizations leverage the power of direct mail, but in a more intentional and less expensive way.
Speaking of the environment, our factory and our manufacturing processes are environmentally friendly. The PFL is wind powered and we use soy based inks and minimal VOCs.
Juetten: Who is in your team?
Field: I am proud to work with a top notch team. It includes a very experienced senior team, the usual roles in a SaaS company like sales, marketing, software development etc. Unlike other SaaS companies, our team also includes a large contingent of people in manufacturing and execution, working 24/7.
Juetten: Any tips for startup founders or CEOs in growth mode?
Field: Smooth out processes before quickly increasing staff in a given area. Then hit the gas!
Juetten: What is the long term vision for your business?
Field: Helping millions of marketers around the world market more effectively and eventually get the company public.
Thanks to Andrew for providing an overview of how his business works. Ironically, we received a direct mail ad from a family moving company when we put a property up for sale and we are now hiring them. There is something to be said to differentiate yourself in a world of overwhelming marketing emails that are dumped in the digital recycling (unsubscribe) bin, and PFL’s success speaks for itself. #From.