Speak to Me

By Hannah Wallace October 31, 2004

Generic junk mail. Everyone receives it. Just one glance at the "Dear Friend" or "Dear Resident" opener and the letter gets tossed in the recyclable bin. In fact, only .5 percent to 1 percent of "static mailers" ever show any return-meaning the recipient writes a check or sends back an order form.

But what if all of those mailbox-stuffers were tailored to suit individual needs?

Such is the objective of One to One Gulfcoast, a local company that thrives on the power of personalization. Co-founded by friends Brian Weiner and Dana Place, the business was born in Venice a year ago, a result of their familiarity with the industry of personalized, one-to-one marketing and the development of new sophisticated software.

Both partners were inspired after watching their daughters sift through college mailers. "Some of the packages were so impersonal. My daughter read them and said, 'They just want someone with my grades. They don't want me,'" Weiner says. "She wouldn't even consider the colleges that offered her a generic package."

In 1992, the partners co-founded Noalart Graphics, Inc., the first all-digital, demand-based printing company in New England-the company printed an exact number of copies for same-day pickup-and later worked for two of the largest companies in the one-to-one marketing industry. They seized the opportunity to do business in Southwest Florida, which offered them virgin territory, plenty of nonprofits as potential customers and sunshine.

One to One Gulfcoast goes way beyond simply inserting a recipient's name and address on a letter. The strategy employs known data about the recipient such as race, age and geographic location and then weaves this information into the body of the letter, along with the graphics this particular recipient is most likely to respond to. "For one of our clients, we are using 72 variants in one piece of text," Place says. For example, in a fund-raising letter to recent graduates of New College of Florida, One to One Gulfcoast personalized the letter to each separate class, inserting specific lingo-like the word "crackiccino" for students addicted to the school café's signature espresso-laden coffee drink-that was likely to make members of a graduating class smile with recognition-and then hopefully write a check.

One to One Gulfcoast claims an excellent overall response rate--in some cases 6 to 19 percent, says Weiner. Routine mailings are priced at about $1.35 a piece per recipient. And because of the lightning-fast technology, projects usually take between two to five days to complete.

"It's a highly profitable business," says Place, even more so in Southwest Florida where there are no competitors and more than 200 charities.

With help from the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce and the Committee for Economic Development, Weiner and Place secured a 3,400-square-foot facility on 723 Commerce Drive. They hired five people, including three Ringling School of Art and Design graduates, and now have about 30 clients, most of which are nonprofits, such as Sarasota Memorial Healthcare, Out-of-Door Academy, Flanzer Jewish Community Center, Women's Resource Center and American Red Cross, and several national clients, such as Océ North America, which is a major document management and printing specialist.

Soon, the new company hopes to launch a site in the city of Sarasota and branch out to support about 50 businesses from Bradenton to as far south as Naples.

They also were recently awarded a grant from the State of Florida's Qualified Target Industry Program-"We thank Kathy Baylis and the Committee for Economic Development," Weiner says-designed to provide tax incentives for companies that help create new jobs within selected Florida industries.

For now, the company has no plans to establish offices outside the area. "If you try to be all things to all people, you fail," Place says, "and I don't believe in failure."

For more information, contact One to One Gulfcoast, (941) 488-4810 or check out their Web site at

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