Money Mailer Franchise Gave Drouin A Fresh Start, Creative Outlet

Sunday, January 19, 2014

It's the blank stare again. Every time she gets the blank stare, Ingrid Drouin knows her client is going to need some help.

Drouin owns the Money Mailer envelope-full-of-paper-coupons franchise that covers Barrington, Highland Park, Deerfield, Lake Zurich, Lincolnshire, Buffalo Grove and, soon, Northbrook.

To make a client's coupon look its best and offer its best deal, she needs to know a lot about their business. Sometimes, she said, she helps her customers learn about their own operations for the first time.

"When I ask ‘How is your business different from the 63 other competitors on the North Shore?' a lot of times, you get that blank stare," Drouin said. "I ask them what their six-month and one-year goals are. A lot of times, they're like ‘I want to keep the lights on.'" Drouin, a former Sears executive with a psychology degree from Mary Washington University in Virginia, also helps organize the Barrington Relay for Life, which last year raised $315,000 for the American Cancer Society; their organizational kickoff meeting was Jan. 16. For those efforts, Money Mailer gave Drouin its Community Service Award at its recent annual conference.

Drouin became involved in Relay nine years ago, first as part of the Deer Park Walkers, to honor her friend Kay Allison, who suffered from breast cancer. Allison succumbed to the disease in October 2005 after a 15-year struggle.

The loss of her friend came at a time of tremendous change in Drouin's life: After 27 years at Sears, Roebuck & Co., the stress of her new position in charge of designing labels, tickets and tags for everything in the famous department store, from jewelry to hardware, was taking too much time away from her family. Drouin was thinking about finding a way out.

"With three young kids, it was killing me," she said. "I called my husband and said ‘I can't do this anymore.' He said ‘Go buy a business.'" A friend of Drouin's in Schaumburg owned a Money Mailer franchise, and was both successful and content. In May 2005, Drouin bought the Barrington franchise, and has been expanding since.

The key, she said: Understanding that people looking through their mailboxes will spend no more than nine seconds looking at any one coupon, and helping clients find the design and the offer that will make those nine seconds matter. She switched to glossy paper in August, believing the extra pop might lead to a 10th second.

The other key: using demographics data to find the right customers' addresses.

"We don't send to the world," she said of her mailings, which she limits to 10 a year. "We don't want the low-hanging fruit, we want the customer who's going to come back year after year." But this is the 21st Century, when those customers are bombed with emails, texts, ads in mobile-phone applications´┐Ż "How many emails do you delete a day?" Drouin asks, explaining why Money Mailer has stuck with snail mail. "People like to have something tangible." She points out that the corporate web site also receives 15 million unique visitors monthly. But her task for today (besides getting the Barrington Relay past $315,000) is to challenge herself and her two designers to create a few new, unique coupons.

"There are half a dozen competing business places in Buffalo Grove that are advertising," she said. "How do I make each one unique?"

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