Digital Success: Getting to the Right Destination…in Turbulent Times
How many times have you been on a flight where the pilot says, “Flight attendants, please be seated. We are going to encounter turbulence for the next 30 minutes of the flight. I am going to try a different altitude and look for more stable conditions.” The pilot flies out of the chop and ultimately gets you to the intended destination (at least most of the time). Printing companies, too, can fly out of turbulent conditions.
Alexander’s Print Advantage, Lindon, Utah, changed its course and reached an exciting and profitable destination. Last week, I had the opportunity to interview Jeff Alexander, the company’s president, and Doyle Mortimer, senior vice president. They shared with me changes the company made to weather the storm.
Alexander always wanted to run a business. In the late ‘70s he saw an opportunity for retail copy centers and ultimately expanded to four locations. The company was an early adopter of digital printing technology, and invested in a Xerox DocuTech in 1993. The company eventually sold the copy centers to its employees and became a single-site, full-service print and marketing communications firm. In 1993, the firm had revenues of about $3 million. It has grown four-fold to in excess of $15 million and resides in a 65,000-sq.-ft. facility.
Early on, the team was focused on book production, specifically software manuals. In 1999 and 2000, the software manual market took a significant hit causing a substantial decline in the business. Alexander and Mortimer realized it was time for a course correction.
They concluded that their focus needed to be on selling “productized solutions” where print was part of the deliverable. This meant investing heavily in technology and targeting markets that were less volatile. They also knew they needed to leverage the Internet.
Almost two decades ago, Alexander’s was introduced to a handful of customer prospects in the franchise market. Company managers recognized franchise organizations’ challenges in getting franchisees consistently branded collateral materials in a timely basis. Mortimer recalled, “That’s when we created Divvy, a proprietary online Web-to-print platform offering customized webstores that allow franchisees to login, customize and order any items in their store. We continually update this platform to meet unique client needs.”
Today, Alexander’s and Divvy serve customers and clients in more than 75 countries around the world. Because they were early adopters, Alexander’s can set up complex websites in a week versus taking months to get customers up and running.
Alexander’s was also an early believer in variable data. Mortimer continued, “We were ahead of the curve and in the early 2000s invested nearly $300,000 in variable data software. In the midst of building out a variable data business, 9/11 and a recession hit, and everyone in the industry suffered. But, we stayed the course and ultimately the market caught up with us. Today, personalized products are on the top of everyone’s list.”
Today, Alexander’s works with Ancestry.com to produce personal histories. Customers of Ancestry.com can upload their own data into the website’s “MyCanvas” software and create a custom family history book that is printed at Alexander’s. They added calendars and family tree posters into the product mix. The products were so successful, that Alexander’s purchased MyCanvas from Ancestry.com.
Alexander’s most recently invested in an MGI press. Alexander saw the digital foil and spot varnish finishes available with MGI digital technology as a way to help clients incorporate new visual and sensory effects into printing and differentiate messaging in the marketplace like never before. They call the solution “TEKTURED” EFFECTS.
Alexander said, “I have a passion for the technology and believe we can add significant value to print by adding embellishment. Touch reinforces what the brain is taking in and leaves a more lasting impression. As something new and different, customers are naturally more curious about the piece and will take the time to understand what it is trying to convey. Because our press is digital you can personalize every piece with foil and spot varnish.“
Alexander’s brought in local designers and marketers to educate them on how to leverage the technology. With 100% digital set-up, customers no longer have the expense of screens and dies. Designers can make last-minute changes and customize collateral, packaging, annual reports, custom books and invitations with foils and spot varnish. The technology is driving high-margin business opportunity to Alexander’s.
Alexander’s conquered the turbulence and sought higher altitudes with some course correction along the way. The simple message is that by focusing on productized solutions and being an early adopter of digital technology, Alexander’s rose above the challenge to new heights.
A digital printing and publishing pioneer and marketing expert, Barbara Pellow helps companies develop multi-media strategies that ride the information wave whether it is developing a strategy to launch a new product, building a strategic marketing plan or educating your sales force on how to deliver an effective value proposition. She brings the knowledge and skills to help companies expand and grow business opportunity. Barb has had a number of high-profile marketing and sales positions including Chief Marketing Officer for the Kodak Graphic Communications Group, Corporate Vice President of Marketing for IKON Office Solutions, and Vice President and General Manager for the Xerox Document Production Systems Group. She also served as the Gannett chair in integrated publishing sciences in Rochester Institute of Technology's (RIT) School of Printing Management and Sciences (SPMS). Most recently, Barb was the Group Director for Business Development at InfoTrends. She is currently the Manager of Pellow and Partners, LLC.
Barb can be reached via email at email@example.com (Mobile, 585-734-2228)