2021 Innovator of the Year: Polaris Direct Takes Multichannel Approach to Postal Optimization
In today’s printing industry, the concept of innovation is wide in definition, but rather narrow in its goal. Leading companies have grasped many tools to define themselves, increase profitability, and differentiate. They utilize new technologies, systems integration, an expanded product mix, exemplary customer service, and more.
As a group, the eight companies included in the 2021 class of Printing Impressions’ Innovators of the Year demonstrate new approaches that can move printing businesses forward and possess strong insight into where the industry is going. Even amid the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, these companies succeed, grow, focus, and inspire.
This year’s innovators were nominated by a group of printing industry experts and consultants, who identified them as notables. The summary of Polaris Direct that follows shares what makes this company innovative, interesting, and exceptional. The insight it presents may provide the inspiration you need to take your company to a new level, or in a new direction.
Polaris Direct | Hooksett, N.H.
Joe and Judith Maloy, president/COO and CEO, respectively, of Polaris Direct, founded the company in 2003. It focuses strongly on the printing and distribution of direct mail, and uses a dynamic mix of offset and digital technologies to do so.
“Polaris employs continuous-feed inkjet and takes a highly consultative approach with their direct mail clients,” notes Marco Boer, VP of IT Strategies. “They help them measure and continuously improve response rates by partnering with their clients to refine their messaging, offers, and calls-to-action.”
When the company was founded, recalls Joe Maloy, the goal was to “build a better lettershop.” He built a seasoned team and drew from their expertise to push the company forward. Maloy shares that one of the company’s primary missions is to embrace innovation to help its clientele address their direct mail challenges. Its efforts to do so, in one case, resulted in Polaris Direct receiving a patent for a unique, capacity-focused, equipment configuration.
Maloy shares that the company was also an early adopter of variable data printing and was early to install a high-speed production inkjet system. He states that the uptime percentage of these systems — “in the high nineties” — is exemplary.
Maloy says the company is increasingly moving toward strategic marketing services, and helping its customers explore data-based marketing opportunities. This extends beyond printing and mailing services, and into digital elements including email. This multichannel approach can support both printing and mailing design, and enhance the experience through, for instance, QR codes or augmented reality. “We’re offering a true solution to provide best-in-class postal optimization. It gets into the home, and at the best rate,” Maloy adds.
Looking forward, he sees Polaris Direct focusing heavily on automation. Between the need for faster speed-to-market and the challenges presented by labor shortages, he sees viable opportunities. His automation goal is to streamline manufacturing and reduce labor, while staying within the same footprint.
Among the many industry trends Maloy is watching is the move toward programmatic mailings, with the goal of increasing “touches,” and developing more effective campaigns. “The spray-and-pray approach to direct mail is over,” Maloy says, noting the new way forward includes “cogent messages, relevant imagery, and smarter mailing.” Another strong interest is in sustainability. Among the company’s many certifications and qualifications is a pending certification from the Sustainable Green Printing (SGP) Partnership, which recognizes sustainable printing businesses.
Asked what makes Polaris Direct an exemplary company in its space, Maloy says, “We truly listen to our customers and help their campaigns succeed.” To do so, he and his team stay aware of innovations in the industry and talk extensively to suppliers. They also work to recognize how the needs of their clients are changing and to address those changes by integrating new technologies.