After a stint as a top producer at Morgan Stanley, Andrew Ettinger was faced with years of struggling with business initiatives and eventually filed for bankruptcy. Now, he is president and CEO of one of the nation’s largest direct mail advertising companies.

Although Best Postcards began in 2004, Ettinger says it wasn’t until 2014 that the business began to truly turn a profit and take off. Today, Best Postcards is the preferred vendor for Service Roundtable, working with more than 4,000 contractor clients.

PM recently had the opportunity to talk with Ettinger about the challenges he faced growing his business, what has helped it become and remain successful, and his advice as a leader to get through business challenges during the current economic climate.

PM: What made 2014 become a turning point for Best Postcards?
AE: As a company, we began to make some real changes to our business approach and leadership. Honestly, for years I thought I could sell better than anyone else, but I started to realize that empowering employees to sell themselves was key. I gave them autonomy to make decisions and to make mistakes; it’s not making the mistake that gets you in trouble, its repeating the same mistake time and time again.

PM: What is your advice for companies to take care of their employees through tough times, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic?
Your employees are an extension of yourself and your company, so you have the choice to either go into survival and control mode, or into innovation mode. I think it’s important to involve your employees in your decisions right now. Be transparent with them; let them know where you stand as a company and that you want them standing right there with you.

PM: How are you handling current client relations throughout the pandemic?
I think it’s all about communication right now. We are talking to our clients a lot, maybe even more than before, but we aren’t selling to them. Instead, we are just asking them how they’re doing; you have to show that you really care about them.

Companies always say they care about their clients and now is the opportunity to prove it. Taking the time to talk with them to find out what they need help with and offering honest advice has proven to go a long way with our clients. I’ve always said that in sales and marketing, it’s not about selling the product, it’s about figuring out the problem and offering a solution.

PM: What overarching marketing advice would you offer businesses to get through these tough times?
I think the main goal is to get people to remember your company. I never advise my clients to have Best Postcards or direct mail as their only marketing effort. You need multiple pieces to make an impression. A blend of marketing efforts that can turn revenue quickly along with efforts that have
long-term effects is a good way to go.

Always keep up with what your competition is doing. Don’t try to match what they’re doing or fight their marketing campaigns with ones that your company can’t facilitate successfully; find your niche. If the competition is selling on price, trying selling on quantity; if they’re selling on quantity, try selling on price. As tough as these times are, there is great opportunity to grow. Companies that come of out this on the other side will be the new market leaders.

PM: What advice do you have specific to contractors and the home service industry?
We are concentrating largely on our contractors right now, since they are essential businesses. I would advise a contractor to reach out to his existing clients 40-50 times per year, making sure you constantly bring them value. Of course prospecting is always important, but I think focusing on servicing your current clients is where you get longevity and loyalty out of your customers; service them to the point where price is almost a nonissue and they keep coming back to you because of trust.