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Marketing Services by Vectra : Printing Signs of the Times

March 2011 By Erik Cagle
Senior Editor
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In an age where electronics have done an effective job of dehumanizing the interpersonal experience—be it through smart phones, social media and other outlets that have transformed the face-to-face encounter into the face-to-LCD screen—there is still something to be said for the value of relationship building by picking up a phone or getting together over coffee.

Fortunately, the business-to-business world still reaps great benefits and value from relationships. Case in point is Marketing Services by Vectra, a multifaceted digital, screen, sheetfed and web offset printer based in Columbus, OH. As recently as 1992, the company focused exclusively on fulfillment services while its president, Craig Taylor, sold printing for Central Dayton of Dayton, OH.

Vectra has been growing exponentially over the last 20 years largely due to Taylor’s penchant for seeking out opportunities that can address his customers’ needs, and put a few bucks in the company’s pocket at the same time. Like many printers, Taylor has found great value in industry peer groups. It was through the Joe Becker BBL venture that he met Joe Ostreicher, COO of Edison Lithograph & Printing in North Bergen, NJ (and January’s PI cover subject).

Taylor and Ostreicher both seized on opportunities. When another Columbus company, Amerigraph, went out of business in 2007, Vectra acquired Amerigraph’s screen printing assets. Ostreicher flew out to Amerigraph to inspect (and later purchase) an 81˝ KBA Rapida press. The two men touched base and talked about how they could forge a mutually rewarding relationship.

“We put together a joint agreement where we sell their large-format, 81˝ output to our customers and we provide some digital work for their clientele,” Taylor explains. “It’s been very good for our clients, because they (Edison) produce a quality product.”

Wide Array of Offerings

Taylor knows a thing or two about quality products. His 211-employee company services the needs of the retail (big-box stores), fashion, quick-service restaurant, financial and communications markets—many of which include brand-sensitive organizations. Vectra provides an exhaustive array of products and marketing services, including commercial printing, direct mail, point-of-purchase, kit packing and fulfillment, inventory and database management, premiums and promotions.

Its digital capabilities include small- and wide-format printing for signage, canvas and vinyl banners, variable data printing, test store concept prints, custom store displays, mock-ups and high-end photographic signs. Six HP units grace the digital department, including the wide-format CoreJet (126˝) and TurboJet (145˝) models, a Z6100 and a 5500 (both 60˝), and two 18˝ 5500s. Rounding out the 18˝ division is a trio of Kodak Digimaster EX150s.

The G7 Master Printer’s sheetfed arsenal (led by two six-color, 40˝ manroland Roland 700s; one conventional, one UV) produce sales collateral, signage and direct mail collateral, among others. A pair of web offset presses—a Komori System 20 and Harris M-110—tend to the long runs of brochures, inserts, coupons sheets and direct mail, to name a few. 

It pays to be fully equipped. Taylor pounced on another business proposition in 2010 when he learned that John Childers, the owner of Westland, MI-based Childers Printing & Graphics, was seeking to transition out of the business. After going over the company’s financials, and taking a long look at how Childers’ products and services complemented those offered by Vectra—many of the services that Childers Printing outsourced were being performed by Vectra—Taylor pulled the trigger on the deal, which was completed last summer.

The transaction wasn’t just beneficial to Childers’ clients; Vectra reaped the benefits of gaining higher-speed mail inserting equipment. “I believe that the Detroit market is going to be a turnaround area in regards to an increase in sales,” Taylor predicts. “The integration has gone well. Customer relationships have also been strengthened because of the additional services. We’re excited about what the future holds.”

The Childers acquisition was the largest that Vectra had ever consummated. Taylor won’t rule out another deal in the future but, frankly, he wasn’t even considering making any moves until he heard about John Childers’ plans.

Never Say Never

“I hesitate to say no,” Taylor remarks. “We weren’t even looking, but the industry is changing rapidly, and you have to be aware of what’s happening. Then, you can support your existing customer base and continue to grow the business.”

Further proof that Taylor & Co. are intent on growing their own business is evidenced by a recent superwide-format acquisition—two eight-color EFI VUTEk GS3200 flatbed and roll-to-roll UV printers. Vectra was in need of added capacity, and the faster productivity (up to 2,400 square feet per hour) helped seal the deal, as did white ink capability and high-end quality.

According to Sam Shaffer, vice president of operations, Vectra went through a formal evaluation process, weighing cost variables such as ownership, ink, service and maintenance. Vectra also performed some head-to-head tests against similar offerings on the market; gauging uptime comparisons for actual throughput versus theoretical throughput.

“The ink was a big factor; we did a real-life test with the ink,” Shaffer recalls. “There was also the quality aspect of the wider color gamut, a 12-picoliter dot, 1,000 dpi. We’d had a long-standing relationship with EFI and its entire print management system suite. So, that gave us a lot of confidence, as well.”

Chris Snyder, vice president of sales for Vectra, echoes Shaffer’s sentiments. “For us, the biggest reason we went with EFI was because the GS3200 was the best machine for the jobs we produce,” he says. “It was the right solution to meet the needs of our customers.”

The GS3200s enable Vectra to raise the bar in a highly competitive signage arena, particularly with big-box retailers, financial institutions, quick-service restaurants, fashion—virtually any brick-and-mortar environment. Shaffer also notes that the 225,000-square-foot operation will soon be beta testing VUTEk’s new MediaMaster automated material conveyor that’s designed to further boost the GS3200’s productivity.

As for future capital expenditures, he sees the company looking at faster, more efficient in-line
inkjet printing equipment. In addition, Vectra is in the market for software aimed at bolstering its cross-media/e-commerce offerings.

“We’re also keeping an eye on some disruptive technology from Memjet,” Shaffer adds. “It’s very fast and high quality; they stitch print heads together in a different way than is done now. It’s pretty exciting.”

Taylor sees the path to continued growth being paved by selling more services under one roof. That has enabled Vectra to maintain customer share even though its product offerings have evolved over time. A good experience, and a fair price, will continue to win clients’ hearts and business, regardless of the marketing services of the future.

“Our logo says ‘Vectra: Listening,’ ” Shaffer concludes. “That means listening to customers, coming up with creative solutions for what we hear and see, and always wearing our thinking caps. Our customers also like the fact that we never lose track of where we came from and how we got here.” PI



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