From Mailer to Direct Marketing Printer, TC Delivers Transforms
TC Delivers has a history that is more unique than most. It got its start in 1956 in a small town in Pennsylvania, where it focused exclusively on coupon printing — the old-style payment coupon books printed and mailed to consumers who would tear them off each month and mail them in with their payments. It became, in time, the third largest printer of those books in the world, and even boasted the legendary Eliot Ness — leader of a famous team of law enforcement agents nicknamed The Untouchables during the Prohibition, who focused on bringing down gangster Al Capone — as one of its founders.
But, times began to change, notes Terry Freeman, president of TC Delivers. Coupon books remained a strong product through the ’80s, but then new technologies began to give brands new options, making the books less necessary. The company began looking at other revenue sources, and, according to Freeman, when the USPS began looking for ways to control their own labor costs by work-sharing parts of the mail process to third parties, TC Delivers got in on the ground floor, shifting gears and transforming into a fully automated mailing company.
“We realized the limitations of [just focusing on Pennsylvania],” Jamie Freeman, VP, recalls. “So we looked at new geographic areas for expansion opportunities and, in 1994, settled on Jacksonville, Florida.” An existing company was purchased and TC Delivers moved in, eventually adding another facility in Orlando in 1995, and a third in Tampa in 1998. “As a result, we became one of the largest processors of mail, and realized we needed to expand our services yet again,” he adds.
Those services were a return to print. “Instead of just taking mail that was already completed at our clients’ facilities, we started offering mailing services, including mailing lists, data processing, inkjet addressing, folding, and inserting,” Jamie Freeman continues. “And, as the opportunity grew, we eventually got into printing and variable imaging as well.”
The growth maxed out the space the company was using, eventually leading to the purchase of a new 62,000-sq.-ft. facility in Jacksonville, as well as larger buildings being acquired in both Orlando and Tampa.
Shifting With the Times
“Once again the industry is changing, and we’re looking to adapt,” says Terry Freeman, who notes that mail volumes are now shifting, and clients are getting much smarter about their marketing. Targeted marketing, in particular, has become a major component of mail campaigns, so TC Delivers made the decision to augment the existing printing equipment by adding a Konica Minolta AccurioJet KM-1 sheetfed UV-LED inkjet press to its roster in Jacksonville.
“We can now print on larger sheets, on multiple substrates, with precision colors ,” Terry Freeman adds. “This machine really opens the door to many new opportunities we can provide to our existing clients.”
And, this is only the beginning. The TC Delivers sales team is currently more used to selling print as it relates to mail, but with the new production inkjet equipment, Freeman wants to start moving further upstream into producing more of the targeted marketing pieces that are the backbone of today’s direct response marketing campaigns, resulting in superior conversion rates.
The ultimate goal, he says, is to “ramp up quickly” and then add additional digital inkjet equipment to their operation. And not only with the print, but the services that go along with it, he notes. “It really means we’re shifting once again — we went from coupon printing, to presort, and then direct mail, and now we’re evolving into marketing programs.”
“We might not be the biggest — we’re not Donnelley or Quad — but we’re very adaptable and flexible to the changing needs of our customers and the market,” Freeman continues. “Going from Eliot Ness to where we are today is a huge transition.” Even so, some things haven’t changed: TC is still family-owned, with three sons of the owner very active in the business, and a tenured staff with an average of 30 years in the business.
Terry Freeman notes that having multiple machines was always part of his end goal. “We planned this entire build-out to have at least two — we don’t add one device without redundancy,” he adds. “Adaptability is great, but it’s also about moving services to line up with customer needs — we started at one end with mail, then moved into transactional print, and now marketing. We have a unique platform, for sure.”
To that end, TC Delivers got the aqueous coater option with its KM-1, as well as perforating equipment. The company also still operates a full complement of equipment related to mail — OCR sorting machines, inserting equipment, inkjet systems, cutters, sealers, shrink wrapping, vote by mail, and variable imaging systems that allow it to print high-value pieces such as checks, just to name a few.
Mark Mazurkiewicz, executive VP, notes that for the full production print side of things, TC Delivers has been outsourcing some work, but the KM-1 press will allow it to begin bringing that work back in-house to become more of a full commercial printing operation, instead of just a mail printer.
Everything from utility bills, to vote-by-mail packets, to tax notices and more can now be produced in-line in a single pass, instead of relying on pre-printed shells with variable information added later.
“That’s going to feed into other departments, as well,” he says. “The more work we bring in, the more pieces will need to be folded, inserted, fulfilled, etc. And we’ll be printing items that aren’t mailed, which is pretty new for us.”
Transformation with Purpose
That said, TC Delivers doesn’t just leap in without looking first. They are always willing to transform and go all-in with new markets or services.
Mazurkiewicz notes that Terry Freeman is “really smart and methodical about how he approaches growth.” Most years, the company is “zero leverage” with everything from buildings to new equipment paid off in as little as nine months.
“Between coupon books, to mail share, to marketing, we really hit the pivot points at the right time. It’s usually printers moving into mail, but we’ve jumped in a way others have not. We’re continuing our story of evolution,” Mazurkiewicz adds.
Looking ahead, Robert Bierlein, director of sales and marketing, notes that during the next 12 to 18 months, the focus will be on expanding into new services with the company’s current client base, capturing more of their marketing work, and learning just how far it can push production inkjet. “And once we saturate our current customer base with what we can do with this new equipment, we’ll start tapping into new markets,” he reveals. “It will change our entire sales approach — with the addition of the KM-1 we are no longer limited to local markets; we can now offer services nationally.”
The strategy for building the production inkjet side of the business is to focus first on what TC Delivers already knows it can do well, train its sales team on the new capabilities, and then start focusing on new markets and customers once it has a good handle on the best ways to market this type of work. “It will change how the outside world perceives us,” according to Bierlein.
It’s a ripple effect, agrees Frank LaRocco, senior marketing representative. “You put one thing in place, and then realize you need other things to go along with it. In my mind, I see us transitioning into more of a marketing company where, with these digital platforms, clients will ask, ‘Do you also offer this to go with it?’ We realize there are other services we’ll need to offer to go with production inkjet.”
Not Slowing Down
TC Delivers didn’t see as much of an impact from COVID-19 compared to other printers. Mazurkiewicz notes that while some work, such as daily presort mail, slowed, other work picked up to take its place. Election printing, in particular, filled much of the capacity, with the company printing and mailing pieces, such as ballots, sample ballots, and more.
“For the most part, we had other clients that had to ramp up and do things different, so it was pretty much a normal growth plan, even with COVID,” Bierlein explains. “It just shifted what things were produced dramatically. Schools needed to get books to students (a 250,000-piece project), rather than mailing out regular correspondence to families.”
The pandemic also didn’t slow down the acquisition of the KM-1. According to Jamie Freeman, they realized early on they needed help evaluating the production inkjet equipment options to choose the right one for their needs. So, they added an outside expert to their staff, and three months later, purchased the new inkjet press.
“We’re a well-respected organization that is very good at what we do, but this adds a whole new service line, and changes everything for us and our clients,” Jamie Freeman continues. “It’s a ‘not your father’s Oldsmobile’ kind of thing. Our company has been around a long time, and we’ve been consistent, but take a fresh look at us — there’s more to us than most people know, and the KM-1 adds to that.”
It’s a game changer, LaRocco agrees. “It changes everything — I want people to see what we really are: a full-service, end-to-end direct mail company that can handle all of their projects, not just presort. We’re not just a letter shop, we’re a multi-city direct mail company that can produce data-driven direct mail pieces targeted to very specific, interested audiences.”
For TC Delivers, convergence has been a way of life long before it became a buzzword in the industry. The company constantly looks ahead to what the next trends will be, and where the market is going, and is always seeking to evolve and change to stay ahead of the demand, rather than allow itself to be left behind.