Commentary & Analysis
Inkit Changes the Way Clients Do Direct Mail
This Minneapolis-based startup is changing the way retailers and others are thinking about direct mail. No batches. No minimums. Just programmatic direct mail generated by a trigger determined by the customer that puts the mailer into the queue in real time.
By Heidi Tolliver-Walker
Published: January 9, 2019
If you haven’t heard of Inkit, you will. This Minneapolis startup is changing the way its customers think about direct mail. Clients include Sotheby’s, Procter & Gamble, Bite Squad, and Re-Max, among others. Notable is that many of its customers, including Bite Squad and NatureBox, are online companies only.
Founder of Inkit is Michael McCarthy, whose background is economics and investment banking. He got into the direct mail business because he, like his present Inkit customers, was doing a lot of digital marketing and not getting the results he wanted. He, like them, was bombarded with abandoned cart notifications, “we miss you” emails, and a myriad of other digital marketing efforts. Even the best digital campaigns were coming up short.
McCarthy saw the value in direct mail but was frustrated by the length of time it took to get a direct mail piece turned around. “We were talking to a broker, and he gave us this 25-step guideline. I said, ‘This is what you need to do to get a campaign out?’ We just about had panic attack because, we thought, who’s ever going to do this stuff?” he recalls. “Meanwhile, we ran into these issues with order minimums and batch sizing issues.”
Repeatedly, McCarthy heard from others who were running into the same problems.
“Say you are Jordache,” he explains. “You have a customer who hasn’t ordered from you in a while. On day 30, you need to be able to reach that person in real time as soon as that event or action happens. How can you do that if you have order minimums and batch requirements? This person might go inactive on day 30, but you have to wait two to four weeks to order your direct mail.”
Even with less than desirable results, he says, digital marketing is responsive and enables marketers to react in real time. For many, direct mail seems unrealistic.
So McCarthy developed Inkit, a programmatic direct mail solution that automatically generates direct mail pieces based on a trigger or action determined by the customer. Say the marketer wants the system to be triggered when one of its customers unsubscribes from its email list or goes inactive on day 30. When the trigger occurs, the system automatically generates a personalized mailer that is put into the queue the same day.
All of Inkit’s customers’ mailers flow into the same stream and are printed in the order they are received. Customers receive a bill monthly for the direct mail pieces they print.
Inkit also integrates with omnichannel marketing solutions like Iterable, Drip, HubSpot, and Sailthru.
The company is growing like gangbusters, but in terms of specifics, McCarthy will only describe its growth as “fast.” What he will say is that he is putting tremendous pressure on his competitors. “As we grow, we will put a lot of pressure on traditional printers because we are commoditizing and using technology to win customers,” he says. “Our value proposition is more efficient. It’s more intelligent. Some companies take 120 days to put a campaign together. We change that to real time. If I were R.R. Donnelley or Taylor Corp., I’d be concerned.”
Inkit is part of a “modernization” of direct mail that includes integration with social media marketing and online retargeting that fundamentally reinvents direct mail. Like many other startups, Inkit changes the way marketers view and interact with mail. So pay attention.