Smaller firms, too, are getting in on the digital action. Dynagraf of Canton, Mass. expects to grow its digital printing revenue by up to 25 percent with an expansion project that will add four presses and 20 employees. The Mitsubishi, Ryobi and manroland sheetfed and web-offset shop already sports a seven-color HP Indigo 5000 and UV coater along with two monochrome Kodak Digimaster 125’s. On the West Coast, Dome Printing in Sacramento is northern California’s largest privately owned printing company with annual sales of about $30 million. Owner/brothers Andy, Bob and Tim Poole say going digital has enabled them to quote on offset work they didn’t even know about before. They opened Dome Direct, a 40,000-sq.-ft. digital printing, mailing and fulfillment center, in March 2009.
In the Midwest, there’s Multi-Craft, a Newport, Ky. printer serving the metropolitan Cincinnati market since 1955. With 45 employees, the traditional Heidelberg shop treads lightly when it comes to adding new services such as mailing and fulfillment or large-format and digital printing. But when clients talk, Multi-Craft listens.
“Equipment manufacturers pushed the variable factor for years, yet our customers weren’t asking for it,” said President Debbie Simpson. Everything changed four years ago during the firm’s annual customer focus groups, when the conversation turned to short-run color printing and the lack of customer service and attention to detail among digital vendors.
The demand was finally there. Multi-Craft heard its customers’ cry loud and clear, and a new revenue stream was born. The firm added a Xerox DocuColor 250 device in mid-2006 and a higher-volume DC 8000 a year later. Simpson and her management team put together a digital business plan. One of their first new hires was a computer expert. “We needed someone who knew how to manipulate data,” she admitted. The next step was dealing with the sales transition.
It was a total mind shift, Simpson said. The graphic/marketing communications firm no longer sells printing, per se. In fact, Multi-Craft dropped “Litho” from its name last year. “We sell solutions including offset and variable digital print but are not limited to printing,” she noted. “Print can’t stand alone.” The integrated, multichannel approach includes an online portal with FTP, e-mail marketing, PURLs, etc. The adjustment was difficult for the firm’s 10-person sales team because everything was different: the sale, sales cycle, margins. “They had to be trained and educated,” said Simpson, about the finer points of selling to marketing vice presidents instead of to print buyers.
Such change is never easy and often is painful. Simpson praises Xerox for helping Multi-Craft execute its game plan and for making the firm’s digital transition smoother. “We chose Xerox because they had the best sales support,” she said. “The information to educate our sales force and talk to our customers had to come from somewhere, and we didn’t have the time or money to develop it.”
Multi-Craft’s digital printing sales spiked 40 percent in 2008; last year, digital accounted for about 10 percent of the company’s $10 million in annual sales. “Now, we truly grasp the value of one-to-one marketing,” noted Simpson, “and can help our customers strategize programs that incorporate variable text and imaging.”
For ongoing support, “Xerox assists us every day through the first-class sales tools they’ve given us,” Simpson noted. ProfitAccelerator Digital Business Resources are stored on a central server for anytime access by the sales team. “This makes it easy for our reps to research an industry, to know its hot buttons. It has given them the confidence they need to sell our new products.”
Digital Drives Offset
In addition to digital equipment, Multi-Craft invested in a 10-color, 40-inch Heidelberg perfector with roll-to-sheet converter two years ago. “All of our other services—mailing and fulfillment, digital and large-format printing, and Web and design solutions—brought in more offset business,” Simpson said of her family’s FSC- and G7-certified firm, which is now the fourth-largest woman-owned business in Kentucky. (Its 21,000-sq.-ft. plant also features a Komori Lithrone two-color, 40-inch perfecting press.) Later in 2008, the company purchased a Nuvera 100 black-and-white digital printer from Xerox for imprinting offset-printed shell letters. “Digital drives offset,” Simpson said, “and so does social media.” (Online, the firm networks on LinkedIn and posts on Twitter.)
Multi-Craft finds there’s always something new to learn in the digital world, which is why progressive printers can’t afford to be complacent. Simpson has an open mind and the foresight to go back to school, earning a marketing degree in her late 50s.