Five Qs: Mike Gauthier on Direct Mail and Digital

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Mike Gauthier, CEO of SaveOn, a direct mail and digital company founded 30 years ago in Troy, spoke with DBusiness Daily News about the changing landscape of the direct mail business.

1. DDN: Why did you change your company’s name from Save On Everything to SaveOn?

MG: As we all know, the digital world is fast coming upon on us. And the SaveOn URL (saveon.com) — instead of saveoneverything.com —  is shorter, cleaner, and easier to remember. The other side of it is that SaveOn allows (a consumer) to save on anything. They can save on cars, clothes, and magazines. They can save on everything.

We also have different digital platforms for each of our brands: SaveOn Cars & Trucks, SaveOn Home Improvement, SaveOn Dining. We’re trying to move our initiatives to the .com world, so we have several different URLs. However, digital is still only about 20 percent of our business. It will probably be a good three to five years before direct mail and digital become equally important.

2. DDN: How else have you shifted your business into the digital world?

MG: We’ve developed a unique opportunity for small businesses since it can be tough to get a complete digital package at an affordable price. We’ve put together a package that gives clients a microsite where they can post photos, streaming video, menus, and brochures, depending on what type of business they have. We can also build a contest site for them, called Win and Save, that allows them to (host) a contest and gather emails while doing it. We also develop email campaigns for them so they can do things like “Deals of the Day.” So if Tuesday is a bad night for a restaurant, they can email their customers a deal just for Tuesday night.

We’re taking (this digital package) to other direct mail companies — like mine or smaller — that don’t have a digital presence. We do all of the work for them, they just get their clients involved. We just launched our first one with Wave of Savings in Kalamazoo.

3. DDN: Why have you decided to help your competitors?

MG: They’re not really competitors, they’re other companies in the same business. Most companies aren’t as big as we are and don’t have the revenue to build a platform like we’ve built. It’s cost us around $1.5 million to build this platform. But to be competitive, they really need this.

The other thing we’ve done is open a new company called Digitizer Group, who’s role is to go out and help other direct mail companies throughout the country. The program allows (companies) to print their product at a 25 percent savings of what they’re currently doing. The direct mail industry is going through some trials right now with the post office, which is really pricing out the direct mail companies. We just had a 6 percent increase in our postal rates, and in the last seven years, we’ve had seven increases.

4. DDN: What other trends have you noticed?

MG: Redemptions are up from the last three to four years, especially in the home improvement business. That industry was hit pretty badly over the last six years, but they’ve really started to rebound in the last couple of years. I think there’s a lot of pent-up demand for people to remodel and redo their homes. Most of my (home improvement) customers are telling me this is the busiest they’ve ever been.

5. DDN: What’s next for SaveOn?

MG: We’re planning on doubling our sales in the next two years. We have over 100 employees right now, and we’ll probably have to bring on another 30 people.

Also, we just went paperless in our company. All of our (internal) paperwork, like contracts and proofing, are done on an iPad. It’s not just about saving paper, it’s about being more efficient with our time. Proofing (without paper) has saved probably 20 percent of our reps’ time in getting their work done.

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