If you’re anything like me, you’re annoyed by the amount of daily physical mail, as much of it feels wasteful of time and resources. That’s doubly true for mass marketing material that has no bearing on my interests or spending habits, all of which ends up directly deposited into the recycling bin.
So, I was a bit skeptical to speak with Andrew Field, Founder and CEO of PFL, a Montana-based firm working in the space of print marketing. To Andrew’s credit, his company’s model aims to be less wasteful both in its targeting and its use of recycled materials and sustainable energy. Perhaps most interesting was learning about how his company has navigated the digital era as a print marketing company, and succeeded at a time when most assumed print to be dead.
Mary Juetten: When did you start?
Andrew Field: I cofounded the company in 1996. The idea for PFL came to me while I was fly-fishing on the Yellowstone River with a friend. At first, we were a six-person print shop dedicated to small businesses who needed access to affordable printing without compromising quality.
As the internet and ecommerce rose to the ubiquity we know today, I realized more businesses were turning to the internet for products and services. So, in 1999, we launched the first U.S. ecommerce site for full-line commercial printing. For much of the early 2000s, the business was focused on printing for small and medium businesses (SMBs) across the country.
With the rise of SaaS, I saw an opportunity to make direct mail part of marketing automation – as easy as building in an email as part of the customer journey. So in 2014, we created another category, Tactile Marketing Automation.
Juetten: What problem are you solving?
Field: Businesses need a way to cut through digital clutter and make lasting impressions with prospects and customers. Direct mail does this in a way that digital marketing just can’t. Our 2020 Multichannel Marketing Report (in conjunction with Demand Metric) found multichannel campaigns including direct mail report an 18 percent higher ROI than those without direct mail, and 84 percent of respondents indicate direct mail improves multichannel campaign performance.
We create a smarter way for organizations to incorporate direct mail as an intentional part of the customer journey versus batching and blasting. Our solution works with existing CRMs and marketing automation platforms like Salesforce, Oracle or Marketo and enables marketers to send personalized, targeted, and trackable collateral to create a memorable and engaging experience for the customer.
Juetten: Who are your customers and how do you find them?
Field: Our ideal customer cares about branding, security, scalability and ROI. We have a wide range of customers from enterprise SaaS to higher education, financial services, healthcare and retail. We practice account-based marketing and use our own solution, Tactile Marketing Automation, to build relationships with our ideal customers. We delight our customers with relevant brand experiences, and then show them how they can do the same to get the attention of their audience. Also, as the category creator and leader, many customers find us through word of mouth.
Juetten: Did you raise money?
Field: Yes. In 2018, we secured $25 million in growth capital from Goldman Sachs Growth Equity. The funds support R&D, product development, and sales team growth for our TMA platform.
Juetten: Direct mail can be perceived as wasteful to some. What’s your response to this?
Field: The way we enable direct mail isn’t just batching and blasting. It is targeted, and actually reduces waste.
For example, let’s say Company A is hosting a webinar and Customer X attended webinars in the past and signed up to attend the upcoming webinar. Company A could send Customer X related content and a snack to enjoy while watching the webinar.
Here’s another example in the nonprofit world. If a past donor opens an email or visits the homepage of a nonprofit’s website, and hasn’t donated this past year, TMA could trigger a piece of direct mail to spur the individual to donate.
This way, organizations leverage the power of direct mail but in a more intentional, less wasteful way.
Speaking of the environment, our manufacturing facility and processes are green. PFL is wind-powered, and we use soy-based inks, and minimal VOCs.
Juetten: Who is on your team?
Field: I’m proud to work with a top-notch team. It includes a very experienced senior team, the usual roles in a SaaS company like sales, marketing, software development, etc. Unlike other SaaS companies, our team also includes a large contingent of people in manufacturing and fulfillment, working 24×7.
Juetten: Any tips to add for early-stage founders or CEOs in growth mode?
Field: Get processes ironed out before you rapidly increase headcount in any given area. Then, hit the gas!
Juetten: What’s the long-term vision for your company?
Field: To help millions of marketers around the world market more effectively, and eventually to take the company public.
Thanks to Andrew for providing insight into how his business works. Ironically, we received a direct mail advertisement from a family owned moving company when we listed a property for sale and we are actually now hiring them. There is something to be said for differentiating yourself in a world of overwhelming marketing emails that are placed in the digital recycling bin (unsubscribe), and PFL’s success speaks for itself. #onwards.