MAIL HOUSE DELIVERS 30 YEARS OF FIRST CLASS SERVICE
The company that helped turn millions of Brits into shareholders, helped privatise the Halifax and saved a cabinet minister’s blushes turns 30 this month.
AM&M was founded as a direct mailing house in Burgess Hill on the eve of Margaret Thatcher’s denationalisation programme in 1986. It went on to handle the enormous job of issuing share invitations to every household in the country for all but one of the UK’s state-owned utility sell-offs.
Three decades later, the political landscape has been transformed, but direct mail is still the most effective means of communicating an important message, said founder and MD Ian Cameron.
“Paper is not under threat,” he says. “If anything, it’s coming back into fashion.”
The company, which expanded onto its current site in 1989, is now a veteran of more than 29,000 mail campaigns and operates one of the biggest enclosing machines in the world. Sitting at the heart of its data, mail and print operations, the machine hit the ground running last year as AM&M prepared to process hundreds of thousands of council tax demands on behalf of local authorities.
The company has built a solid reputation on handling large-scale direct mail outs of sensitive, personalised material for financial and other institutions, but it’s just part of what it now offers clients across a full range of sectors.
“It’s about using all media channels,” says Alix Bell, new business manager. “In 2004 when I first started working in the industry, you would have to touch a client three times. Now it is more like 12 and a company simply cannot afford to send out 12 mail pieces, so we work with our clients to help them set up an integrated campaign, using e-comms, direct mail and telemarketing. All the services complement each other and with so much noise out there, you need to make sure you are being heard. But direct mail always gives your product a higher value.”
According to industry insights, customers value communications they can touch more highly than those they simply see via text or email; 69 per cent open it; and 80 per cent remember it.
Advances in print technology has been the key change in the sector, allowing AM&M to move from being a company that once just stuffed the envelopes to providing an end-to-end communications solution.
It was one of 20 mailing houses that handled the share invitations to the Halifax’s seven million mutual members – a project so large that the bank had to plant several acres of trees in carbon offsetting.
“We’ve become successful by finding a niche market and being clever. We do what others can’t do,” adds Ian. And sometimes in impossibly short timeframes.
When an unnamed minister failed to sign off the order to distribute time-sensitive information about the impact of the Education Reform Act to head teachers it fell to AM&M to help them out of a hole.
“I had three days, two of which were a Saturday and Sunday, to do a fortnight’s work,” recalls Ian. “So I went for a walk to work through what I was going to do. I’m a mathematician by training and I simply said ‘I’ll start here and finish there’, then I went back to the office and called in every favour I could think of. The document went out on time to every school in the country. All I can say is the Department of Education was very grateful.”