Advantage Inc. : Amid Turmoil, a Rising StarApril 2011 By Erik Cagle
Not many people would argue with the assertion that Southern California is a tough place to make a buck in the commercial printing business. Even after a few notable closures, acquisitions and consolidations, some would claim that excess capacity still exists.
One thing's certain: Pricing pressures are arguably as strong here as they are in any part of the country. For Anaheim, CA-based Advantage Inc., a purveyor of direct mail, commercial printing and marketing solutions, it's a fact of life.
And, while Advantage might get wet from the splash of commodity pricing, that doesn't mean its founder and owner, Tom Ling, is going to jump into that pool. Ling's firm may not be totally immune from pricing wars, but he's winning more often than Charlie Sheen because Advantage can bring much more to the value proposition table than low prices.
"I sought out strong customer service capabilities and providing more offerings as ways to get away from the pricing game," Ling says. "We're not shielded from pricing competition, but we strive to make sure that's not our only line of defense. We try to bring added value to our sales force and our portfolio."
Advantage accomplishes this through its hybrid direct mail and commercial printing platforms. Roughly 29 percent of its work is mail production, and about half of all the products manufactured there ends up in the mail stream (publications constitute the second-most produced items at Advantage). Its client verticals are diverse, ranging from telecommunications and healthcare, to retail (big-box stores and supermarkets) and non-profits.
Tom Duchene, director of marketing for Advantage and a 30-year industry veteran, notes that the direct mail/commercial printing hybrid has sparked a complementary relationship. Both disciplines funnel jobs to one another, and either direct mail or commercial printing seems to thrive when the other is going through a soft period.
"(Ling) has positioned the company from an equipment standpoint to be able to serve both marketplaces equally well," Duchene adds. "You rarely see high-volume, direct mail printing houses with a big commercial printing division."
Speaking of things one doesn't often see, there's the metamorphosis that Advantage underwent in 2010—consolidating, condensing and redefining its production operations from eight facilities down to two. The company took up residence in a new, 155,000-square-foot facility in Anaheim and a 100,000-square-foot plant in Salt Lake City.