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Corporate Press -- Vested in Added Value

April 2003
By Erik Cagle

The last thing Corporate Press wanted was to be dubbed a one-trick pony. Sure, the Landover, MD-based printer has made a name for itself in the commercial realm, but providing cradle-to-grave solutions for customers has been the Number One priority all along.

According to Mike Butala, general manager of Corporate Color—one of five divisions that comprise the Corporate Press organization, the printer has avoided "pigeon hole" labels by forging a reputation based on its versatility. "By involving ourselves in our customer problems beyond simply commercial printing, we have provided solutions within our corporation that increase customer satisfaction and loyalty," he says.

A Full Plate of Offerings

"Offering these solutions—including creative services; digital variable data, color printing and signage; database management; and state-of-the-art fulfillment services—makes Corporate Press stand out and increases the comfort level for current and potential clients. That translates to more, 'Yes we do that in-house' quotes from staff rather than, 'We farm that part of your job out' or, even worse, 'We can't help you.' "

Help comes from a number of sources at Corporate Press, which realized more than $24 million in sales for 2002 backed by its employee base of nearly 200. The main headquarters in Landover has thrived in the newsletter and publication sectors since its inception in 1952. Non-profits, associations and publishers in the Washington, DC, and Baltimore areas comprise its main customer base. The company's business segments are:

** Corporate Color, based in Frederick, MD, provides one- to five-color sheetfed offset printing. The more than 100-year-old company, formerly known as M&B Printing, was acquired in 1993. Aside from an in-house mailing division, Corporate Color also boasts a retail division, Corporate Digital Xpress (CDX), which provides traditional service bureau capabilities including high-resolution scans, negatives, digital color proofs and electronic file work.

CDX also provides digital color copies, posters, indoor and outdoor banners, displays, high-quality photo output for digital photography and custom CD production.

** Corporate Direct is a digital printing and direct marketing company located in Fairfax, VA. It provides on-demand printing, mailing, database management and distribution services to publishers and direct mail advertisers. The division was spun out in 1988.

** Creative Media Group, a communications company in Landover, MD, specializes in the design, development and execution of multi-media presentations and Websites. The division opened in 1999.

** Softrac America, the newest member of the Corporate Press family, was acquired in late 2000. It provides comprehensive fulfillment solutions, including storage, e-commerce, call centers, custom delivery systems, secure donations processing and membership programs.

Corporate Press' life began as a basic commercial printer, churning out one- and two-color sheetfed offset printing and photo composition under the guidance of owner Ben French. The company bounced around to different facilities in the DC area until undergoing a major facelift that culminated with it becoming a wholly owned Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) company in 1981.

Michael Marcian Sr. (right), Corporate Press president and current PIA chairman, counts on Chuck Cook, vice president and treasurer, to help lead the company.
It was around that time that a Corporate Press salesman named Michael Marcian reached a turning point in his career. The company hired a consultant who told Marcian that the best way to make a name for himself in the industry was to set personal goals. Along the way, Marcian catapulted from salesman to president of Corporate Press. He also became PIA chairman this year.

"We have always been a staunch supporter of the Printing & Graphic Communications Association (PGCA), our local PIA affiliate," notes Marcian, who was PGCA president in 1996 and 1997.

Corporate Press has also been a staunch supporter of investing in new and enhanced technologies. In the past 18 months, the company has spent $1.7 million on new equipment, a majority of which has been dedicated toward its digital efforts. Augmenting prepress investments are a Heidelberg NexPress 2100 for variable data, digital color printing and four Heidelberg Digimasters for black-and-white work, according to Chuck Cook, vice president and treasurer.

The NexPress has been somewhat of an enigma for the company, as the demand for variable data hasn't been as expected. Even so, all company officials believe it is a matter of learning how to market the capability. The machine's performance has been sterling since its March 2002 installation, and Corporate Press is hoping to start a second shift for it in the near future.

A Sales Learning Curve

"Our NexPress has done some pretty amazing work," Cook states. "Our salespeople are getting a better handle on how to sell it, so we expect big things in the future."

Corporate Press began its foray into digital printing in 1991, starting with Xerox DocuTechs. In 1998, the printer moved into black-and-white variable printing, followed by a Heidelberg DI press.

General managers of the business segments, from the left, include Mark Edgar, John Marcian, Mike Butala and Bob Kallstrom.
According to Mark Edgar, general manager for Corporate Press, the digital migration has not only enhanced the company's technological image, it has also served to counteract a decline in standard sheetfed offset printing, with the web printing process and the trend toward shorter runs making inroads on market share. Thus, the company's marketing effort for variable data printing takes on greater meaning.

Variable printing is still somewhat of an unknown to many clients and prospects, according to Edgar. "They don't know how to use it. Those who haven't explored it also think it's too costly. But variable printing is a growing segment of the industry."

Drilling Deeper at Clients

"We find that you've got to go upstream to sell this type of service," he adds. "You don't do it at the print buyer's level; you have to educate the heads of marketing, finance—even the CEOs of companies. We sent our convention exhibitors 5,000 brochures with completely personalized covers. Not just names and addresses; we completely filled in their applications and checked off boxes based on previous years. Right off the bat, the internal people in the organization saved a lot of time, just because it's filled out properly. That's the kind of capabilities we need to show customers—how variable printing can work for them."

Corporate Press' view of technology is one of practicality: Is the marketplace ready for a new technology? That's the first step in its realization at Corporate Press, according to John Marcian, general manager for Corporate Direct. Should research yield it a viable solution, a complete return on investment (ROI) analysis is conducted before moving forward.

"An example of this would be personalization in digital printing," John Marcian notes. "We started doing personalized letters back in 1996 for one specific client. All of it was done on a single laser printer using MS Word. We recognized the value of the service and started to conduct research to find the right hardware/software combination that would take us from being able to do 60 pages per minute to doing over 5,000. By the end of 1999, our research was completed, the ROI analysis was favorable, and we had our solution installed and running.

"The industry was abuzz about the power of personalization, but we were already doing it virtually every day. We're not interested in the current trends. We're now looking into technologies that we expect to be mainstream three to five years from now."

As sexy as it may be, state-of-the-art technology is not always the preferred solution for Corporate Press, particularly when the cost of it does not justify the expense, he adds. "Three of our four facilities have either purchased prepress systems or made upgrades to existing systems within the past two years. In Landover, the ROI supported the purchase of a new Creo direct-to-plate system but, in Fairfax and Frederick, the ROI analysis supported the purchases of used Agfa systems. All three facilities are happy with their acquisitions and we've never looked back. So, in the end, our research is always balanced against practicality because, at the end of the day, it's all about profitability."

Further adding to the depth of product and service capabilities was the migration into value-added services, including fulfillment, warehousing and database management. As opposed to creating a new division from scratch, Corporate Press opted to acquire an existing company called Softrac.

"Corporate Press was servicing some clients by storing various publications, then shipping them out, but they weren't in the fulfillment business as such," states Bob Kallstrom, general manager of Softrac, as well as its founder. "We were their neighbors, and the chemistry was right. We brought new printing opportunities to Corporate Press by bringing our clients' printing needs to them, and they have brought their fulfillment business to us. It has enhanced the offerings for the entire operation."

Kallstrom notes that a 40,000-square-foot fulfillment center with 28-foot ceilings is being constructed in Franklin, WV, to replace a current operation there. It will complement two fulfillment centers in Frederick, MD. He adds that they are exploring the addition of a call center (currently it partners with a third-party center).

According to Butala, Corporate Press found that many of the so-called one-stop shops were lacking. "Our analysis showed an increasing concern, and sometimes frustration, of our customers when dealing with vendors offering these types of services," he says. "Many of these services were antiquated or inadequate. This important part of the delivery channel was, in many cases, not extensively researched or left to another staff member to coordinate. In addition, most customers were reluctant to move existing physical inventories."

Services Based on Need

The increasing pressure of shorter delivery requirements and reliable data for analysis and budgetary and strategic planning added to the frustration of clients, Butala notes. "We saw an opportunity to help customers by upgrading the service level in this area and provide a profitable cost center. We then did our research and acquired the high-quality organization(s)/human resources necessary to upgrade these services and complement our existing sales and management structure."

Moving forward, Michael Marcian feels his company needs to think strategically and develop new models to market both conventional and digitally printed products. Keeping manufacturing costs down and being receptive to calling necessary audibles should keep Corporate Press light on its feet—and too quick to allow itself to be labeled.

"In some areas, we're out ahead of the pack in changes. In other areas, we're behind and watching," he says. "We are watching the industry change, and we realize that we have to change with it."


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