Instant Web Regroups, Ends Promotions Blackout

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The Instant Web Cos.' promotions blackout that lasted for two years and resulted from internal problems and subsequent poor sales ended last month.

IWC, Chanhassen, MN, issued its first press releases in two years after spending that time overhauling its fledgling print production business.

Debora Haskel, vice president of marketing at IWC, said the 30-year-old company lost direct mail clients throughout the late 1990s. She added that sales were flat or in a decline from 1994 to 1999.

These trends led to changes.

In April 1999, James Andersen and Pete Karl were brought in as CEO and executive vice president, respectively.

Since then the company has undergone a reorganization and in October it released several announcements regarding the restructuring of its production houses. Haskel said that sales have increased 10 percent since Andersen came on board.

Andersen said the company's problems primarily developed because its production houses were too fragmented.

While the three production arms -- formerly Instant Web Inc., Victory Envelope Inc. and United Mailing Inc. -- have been under the same ownership for years, they did not consolidate in name, or in other ways, until 1999.

The divisions used separate phone numbers and accounting staffs and issued individual invoices. Clients had to make three phone calls and eventually three separate payments for one direct mail job.

Communication also was slow between the three production plants because of the separate nature of their operations, Andersen said, even though they were located within feet of each other on the company campus.

He said these hindrances created slow job completion times and fostered unneeded production costs that fell back on the customer.

"It was a little bit cumbersome for direct marketers to work with us," Andersen said. "We had three different agendas and three different priorities."

Before the revamping, IWC began inviting clients to come to its plants to meet with executives and production floor managers. The company also hired a telemarketing company to conduct surveys of current and past customers.

"Customers were able to tell us, 'This is what makes my day and this is what ruins my day,' " Haskel said. "It's made an unbelievable difference."

Andersen said that his company is now getting positive feedback from customers and has the ability to produce 60 million mail pieces per month instead of the 30 million-per-month ceiling it had two years ago.
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