Allegra Network : Printer to Marketer Mantra

Standing, from the left, are Allegra Network senior execs Mike Marcantonio, Carl Gerhardt, Steve White and Bob Milroy.

Allegra provides creative and cross-media services to help franchisees transition into MSPs.

The quintessential small printer franchisor, the Allegra Network (2011 sales of $291 million) has been undergoing fundamental changes. It launched the Matchmaker program in 2004, which paired unaffiliated printers looking for an exit strategy with buyers who would bring the business into the franchise. The program was a success, as upwards of 50 businesses came under the firm’s umbrella.

Just last year, Allegra Network unveiled its Advantage program. Advantage seeks out unaffiliated printers to become full-fledged members of the network, reap the benefits of franchise membership (more on this shortly) and enjoy economies of scale.

“With the Matchmaker program, we come across a lot of printers not ready to sell their businesses yet, but who need help in taking them to the next level,” explains Steve White, COO. “That drove the development of our Advantage program.”

But, there’s a twist. Allegra Network brought in InfoTrends consultant Barb Pellow, and she concluded that the franchisor—backed by its new marketing initiatives—should also target printers in the $3 million to $10 million sales range. Its previous sweet spot had been in the $1 million to $3 million ballpark.

Gerhardt, a respected industry player and popular blogger known for his innovative approaches—such as combining Allegra’s 2011 Technology Expo with AlphaGraphics’ annual gathering (see December 2011 Printing Impressions)—feels the franchise landscape in recent years has caused potential members to rethink the value proposition of joining a bigger concern.

“With the heavy need for diversification, particularly the need to move into the marketing communications area, it’s changed that perspective quite a bit,” he explains. “There’s a lot of talk about printers getting into marketing services. But, quite frankly, as Barb Pellow points out, they’re not making the trip. Experts like her believe that we now offer what they need.”

The 2012 value proposition for Allegra Network—which now flies the Allegra Marketing•Print•Mail brand flag—is this: The network uses the royalties it receives from franchisees to develop programs its members can then leverage. Small independent printers, particularly those below the $1 million range, typically cannot afford to offer comprehensive marketing programs.

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