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They're mailing it in every day

Couple enjoy hours and opportunities of direct-mail venture

Allan Drury
The Journal News
June 5, 2007


YORKTOWN – Three years ago, Gary Cicatelli was worn down by the grind of his daily commute into New York City and fearful that he would lose his life if terrorists targeted Manhattan again.

Cicatelli, an accountant by trade who was running the reinsurance department for The Money Group Inc, had decided that getting out of the corporate world and running his own business sounded a lot better than getting on a train at 5:30 every morning just to be home in time to have dinner with his family.

He and his wife, Rose Cicatelli, were intrigued by the opportunity a business broker presented to them to run Money Mailer of Upper Westchester, a franchise that sells direct-mail advertising to local businesses. But Gary Cicatelli had one fear: Neither he nor his wife had ever been a salesperson and wasn't sure they could master the art and science of getting people to buy their services.

The Cicatellis bought the franchise anyways and are glad they did. The parents of four children run the business out of their home.

"This, to us, seemed like a home run," Gary Cicatelli, 53, said. "There were no negatives. We thought that if we did this right the client would win by getting new customers, the public would win by getting discounts, and we would win by building a business."

The Cicatellis' business venture made them players in the $52.9 billion a year direct mail industry. Stephanie Hendricks, a spokeswoman for the Direct Marketing Association, an industry group in Washington, D.C., said studies show that for every dollar businesses spend on direct mail (not counting catalogues) they get $15 in sales.

The industry has grown by a third since 2001, mainly because the number of households and businesses in the United States grows by about a million a year, Hendricks said. The number of pieces of direct-mail solicitations the average receives has remained steady at about 18 a week, she said.

The Cicatellis own one of 250 Money Mailer, LLC franchises in the country. Money Mailer is owned by Roark Capital Group, a private equity firm in Atlanta that also has investments in Carvel ice-cream stores; Cinnabon, which sells cinnamon rolls; and about a dozen other large companies.

Eight times a year, 110,000 households in the Cicatellis' service area, which includes northern Westchester County and Putnam County, receive an envelope packed with ads and coupons for businesses ranging from oil change shops to pizza joints, from carpet cleaners to liquor stores.

Their territory is divided into 11 zones, each with about 10,000 households. Each business decides how many zones it wants its ads to reach. The businesses pay 3 cents to 4.5 cents for each household they reach. The precise per-household fee each business pays depends on how many zones they buy and how frequently they advertise with Money Mailer.

Rose Cicatelli, 46, said the envelope usually includes 35 to 40 ads. Variety is important. She and her husband seek to have as many types of businesses represented in each envelope as possible because they want something in there for every consumer. Otherwise, they say, many consumers will not bother opening the envelope.

"We don't want to become as the gas station envelope," Rose Cicatelli said. Through the power of computer databases, the Cicatellis can also sell businesses the ability to target certain households. The couple can, for instance, send mailings from a retail running a special on dresses for young women to households with 20 to 35 years old.

"If you sell left-handed golf clubs, you can advertise to left-handed golfers," said Gary Cicatelli, who has a master's degree in business administration from Long Island University. The Cicatellis say they're trying to build a business in a way that's supersensitive to their clients' needs. For instance, when a business buys an ad, the Cicatellis promise not to solicit that business's competitors for that envelope, Gary Cicatelli said.

They also do not charge clients who want to alter the appearance of their ads, even though it costs them money to have their artist in Arizona make the changes.

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