Best-in-Class Innovator Spotlight: SG360° Delivers Boutique Direct Marketing Services on a Mass Scale
What a year. No one in the industry could have foretold it. Now we’re all doing our best just to come to the end of it in safety.
2020 will be remembered for many things. One of them should be that it was the year in which innovation often came to mean the same thing as business survival.
Everything that has happened to printing firms as a result of the pandemic is unprecedented. This means everything they have done in response to it has obliged them to improvise. To rethink. To come up with new ways of protecting their employees. To pivot to completely different methods of interacting with customers. In short, to innovate.
As we've done the past several years in Printing Impressions, we profiled six companies that remain alive and well in the printing industry. This year, we’re presenting these portraits of Innovators in tribute, not just to the companies themselves, but to every printing business that has survived the trials of 2020 by being innovative. Here is a profile of one of our Best-in-Class Innovators.
“One of our clients recently referred to us as the ‘Swiss Army Knife’ of direct marketing providers,” John A. Wallace Jr., president and CEO of SG360°, says. If the client had declared the company to be direct marketing’s equivalent of the famous Wenger 16999 Swiss Army Knife Giant — a 2-lb., 12˝-long pocket toolbox containing 87 implements and 141 separate functions — he probably wouldn’t have been embarrassed.
The comparison may be exaggerated, but not by much. Wallace points out that the “360°” in the company’s name reflects its determination to give customers everything they need to conduct successful direct marketing campaigns under one roof. In this, he contends, SG360° is unique, because its only business is direct marketing through hyper-targeted mailings, in volumes as massive or as minuscule as the customer desires.
“We have the greatest breadth of capabilities across print manufacturers focused solely on direct marketing,” Wallace states, noting the array of web offset, sheetfed offset, and digital presses at work in the company’s main plant in Wheeling, Ill. Established by the Segerdahl family in 1956 as a web offset printer, SG360° still relies extensively on that process, supplementing it with inkjet imprinting, in-line finishing, and other features that expand its versatility for modern-day direct mail.
In that area of marketing, “what’s going to be growing is customization,” Wallace observes. “The piece counts will fall, but targeting and ROI will continue to go up.” This means basing mailings on data that will impart speed, accuracy, and freshness to the delivery of the message. SG360° achieves it across multiple channels, with techniques such as capturing digital signals and using IP tracking to harvest data of value to marketers.
Trigger Programs: 10 to 10+ Million Pieces
This expertise enables SG360° “to support scalable volume from 10-piece trigger programs to 10+-million-piece rollouts, while maintaining optimized cost to deliver higher ROI no matter the program volume,” according to Wallace. Other services, such as postal commingling to optimize mailing rates, improve ROI by saving customers money.
Wallace stresses that the results can be measured by KPIs (key performance indicators) like cycle time and response rate lift. In one assignment — with the help of a technology just now starting to make its presence felt in direct marketing — SG360° reduced manual steps and touchpoints by more than 35%, delivering a 66% increase in coupon redemption, and an incremental spend per coupon 250% above projections.
This involved using artificial intelligence (AI) to re-engineer what had been a very manual and time-intensive method of generating coupon offers. Wallace’s data team automated it by creating a repository of images and offer-based options that greatly expanded the range of couponing offers that the client, a big-box retailer, could present. Then, AI was used to match customer profiles to potential offers, triggering the production of coupons for recipients whom the software had identified as highly likely to use them.
The timeliness and relevance of this “mass version of microtransactional things,” as Wallace describes it, had the desired effect on redemption rates and spending, and the results spoke for themselves. “It was a total win,” he says.
SG360°’s client list isn’t lengthy: only about 250 companies spread across six principal verticals (advertising agencies, financial services, apparel, wholesale, home goods, and health care). But doing business with them has earned the company annual sales of $300 million, as well as a prominent place on the Printing Impressions 400 list of the largest printing firms in the U.S. and Canada, and Wallace thinks he knows why the relationships have been so successful.
Building a ‘Mass-tique’ Mystique
He explains, “I would call us mass-tique:” able to deliver boutique direct marketing services, but on a grand scale. Through catering both to the procurement side of the house, which focuses on cost effectiveness and ROI, and to the marketing side, which emphasizes the creative, “we’ve been the best-kept secret in the direct marketing world.”
Wallace thinks the general sense of uncertainty prevailing now probably will prompt more “wait to the last minute, jump in, and do it” behavior on the part of buyers, who know that printers have capacity to spare and thus believe they can afford to hold off their spending. This could change, but he says that in any case, “whoever can return the highest ROI is going to win — at a scalable price point that makes sense.”
This is why SG360°’s near-term plans include continuing to add data capabilities to deliver insights on performance. Wallace says that transparency, coupled with SG360°’s unlimited willingness to customize, is what makes dealing with the company “like a breath of fresh air for marketers.”
That is the proper attitude for innovation, according to Wallace. “You listen to your customers, you test solutions with them, you learn jointly, and then you execute flawlessly on the back end.”