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Marketing Like Crazy

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  • | 9:52 a.m. June 1, 2012
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Joy Gendusa maneuvered through the nearly impossible during the recession and anemic recovery of the past five years.

The founder and owner of PostcardMania in Clearwater not only survived the worst parts with only a modest decline in revenue one year, but has been growing revenue the last two years at a firm focused almost exclusively on marketing -- one of the first things cut by businesses and one of the last they restart.

Putting her money where her business is, she poured cash into her own marketing at about $50,000 per week to generate leads, even while she was committed to not laying off any employees.

“I've always been a crazy marketer. I'd never cut that,” she says from her company's funky red, yellow and green maze of a headquarters. “But I got smarter.”

None of it was easy. Expenses were tightened: company contributions to 401(k) programs were eliminated, health care coverage was reduced, salaries were frozen for a year and she stopped hiring. Plus, she took no personal income for a year from the company.

PostcardMania conducts direct mail programs that are industry-specific, full-scale business marketing campaigns, and it now offres Web design. It also has its own printing plant and handles everything in-house.

So Gendusa invested in her company's strength: marketing. From new forms of advertising with Google media, to ramping up efforts to “reactivate” older customers, to holding two-day customer-appreciation events for those with repeat orders, Gendusa tried everything she could think of to gin up business.

“I've had plenty of ideas that did not work,” she says. “But I'm a metrics geek.”

Indeed, she organizes and tracks every marketing foray to see what the return on her investment is — with the understanding that marketing programs generally take some time to get results. A Scientologist, Gendusa uses the L. Ron Hubbard method of analyzing data and administrative systems to determine what works and what should be scrapped.

She said the key to riding out the recession and returning the company to a growth pattern in a brutal industry was to live by what the data shows. “I manage by statistics,” she says. Even employees have statistical goals by which they are managed.

She has started a website building company coming out of the recession. While small, it has done about 400 sites now and is growing. And she expanded the company's printing operation out of a neighboring building.

She also uses Hubbard's methods for her company organizational chart, which she displays prominently in the company's large cafeteria for all employees to see. All of PostcardMania's 192 employees' names are on the chart under the division they work in and the narrative goal of that division. She says it helps employees to recognize their role in the company, and not just feel like an unimportant cog.

And while she is like most entrepreneurs, putting long hours into her company, she makes it a priority to keep the business fun and hang on to the best employees — as long as they work hard. Long-timers are on board for both, and it shows in the attitudes throughout the office.

“We work hard, but we have fun,” says Melissa Bradshaw, executive senior vice president of operations, who has been with Gendusa from the start and exemplifies both sides.

Revenues fell $2 million in 2009, a 12% decline to $16 million and the only year of decline. But they pushed up to $19 million in 2010 and just a little more than $19 million last year. This year, revenues are ahead of last year and Gendusa expects to surpass $20 million for the first time.

Beyond the bottom line is the potential for vastly expanding earnings in the future.

Through a happy customer, Gendusa was introduced to the CEO of Urbano Express, a private postal service-type company with operations in Argentina, Ecuador, El Salvador and Peru. After several meetings, she just signed a contract to expand PostcardMania into those Central and South American countries in partnership with Urbano Express, hopefully beginning operations by the end of July.

Not a bad amount of success for a high school dropout. No, there is not much formal education for Gendusa, but there is a good mind and a lot of hard work, risk and sacrifice. And a little fun.


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