DIRECT MAIL ADDS A PERSONAL TOUCH

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Irresistible Ink Inc. has devised a first-class way to improve the chances direct mail pieces will be opened and read.

The Minneapolis-based direct response specialty company promotes itself as creating "direct mail you just can't say no to." It does so with mass mailings that use hand-written envelopes, commemorative stamps, insertions of personalized notes and ink-pen signatures.

The idea is the brainchild of former ad agency executive Steve Rosengren and telemarketing veteran Jon Petters.

"We try to add the human touch to laser-printed, impersonal, computerized business communications," said Mr. Rosengren, president of Irresistible Ink. Mr. Rosengren left his position as an account exec with Fallon McElligott two years ago to found the company with Mr. Petters, who's the CEO.

"It occurred to me there was an opportunity to provide personalized marketing communication......that would give companies another way to help cement a customer's loyalty," Mr. Rosengren said.

Irresistible Ink employs a work force of more than 130 in the northern Minnesota towns of Ely and Two Harbors. It has produced invitations to business seminars, thank you notes and even personalized letters for a debt collection agency.

A special postal permit allows the company to postmark mail right at its production facility. The mail is then taken to the post office, saving the time and expense of shipping completed envelopes back to clients for delivery. The company uses a blind postmark, showing the ZIP code but no city of origin.

Irresistible Ink expects sales to top $2 million this year, but executives declined to reveal the names of the company's dozen or so clients.

"That would give away that these are mass mailings, not truly single letters," Mr. Rosengren said. "I can say that our customers, which include retailers and a major credit card company, have been satisfied with the results and are coming back to us for additional projects."

Prices start at about 30 cents each for hand-written envelopes to residences and 40 cents for business-to-business mailings. But Mr. Rosengren emphasized that his company's services can "dramatically increase" the response rate to a mailing.

Besides, he said, it's hard to resist a "little human touch in a high tech world."

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