Mailing Services -- Diversification Devotees
A well-defined business plan enabled Metzger's to justify the addition of a new capability, and its lender was more than happy to come on board with the project. "There is a lot more room for error, and a lot more responsibility on our plate," Metzger says. "However, if we do our job right, we keep our customers very happy. And we continue to grow our business by over-servicing clients and bringing value to our relationships."
Metzger cautions not to follow the "if you build it, they will come" mentality toward adding mailing, or any other product or service, for that matter. Existing customer needs should help dictate which direction your company takes, he says. "New services are great, but great customers and great salespeople are key in tough business conditions."
Allowing customer needs to set the pace was a major motivating factor that prompted Meredith-Webb Printing, of Burlington, NC, to enter the mailing business. An $18 million sheetfed printer that opened its doors in 1952, Meredith-Webb primarily produces high-end promotional work for a variety of customers, including financial and educational institutions.
One of its major customers, R.J. Reynolds, found itself encumbered by new laws that restricted tobacco advertising. RJR decided to concentrate its marketing through direct mail, according to George Webb, president of Meredith-Webb, and the printer was tapped to provide high-end, multi-color work to be mailed.
"We couldn't find mailing equipment at that time," Webb says. "We made some equipment ourselves while trying to learn the business."
Meredith-Webb leveraged its direct mail capabilities to sell existing clients deeper, especially retail customers. Once it partnered with a supplier of mailroom equipment—a $700,000 investment—the printer found that a heavy learning load lies ahead.
"Printers who get into it will be surprised at what it takes to be a top player in the mailing segment," Webb says. "There is a big learning curve if you're going to be a major player. And we constantly study how we can improve our capabilities."