Thursday, December 20, 2012

5 Ways to Lower Expenses and Create Value for Direct Mail Campaigns

Contributor: Scott Kravitz, Sales and Marketing, Mount Vernon Printing

Over the last 25 years, the cost to mail a one-ounce letter has doubled, jumping from 22 cents to 44 cents per ounce. With additional increases pending and higher energy costs on the horizon, we can only expect this trend to continue.

What does this mean for direct mail marketers? Primarily, that rising postage costs will be a major factor dictating how we communicate with customers and prospects. Lucky for us, innovative solutions and cost-effective alternatives are countering those rate hikes and keeping the overall cost of direct mail in line with marketing budgets.

It’s important to recognize the overall goal of direct mail: to entice recipients to respond to a call for action.  With that in mind, here are five ways to lower expenses and create increased value for direct mail campaigns:

1. Select products and packaging that can be mailed as an automated flat.
This means that the U.S. Postal Service can automate the processing of these products, significantly reducing the postal rate per unit. There are a couple of ways to do this. The first is by selecting mailable, durable products that easily fit into traditional flat mailers and can withstand the wear and tear endured in the shipping process, including items such as USB drives, T-shirts or tote bags. The second option is to choose packaging innovations such as the CGX Flex Mailer®, which enables dimensional products to ship as automated flats.

The CGX Flex Mailer allows dimensional products to ship as
automated flats, to achieve postage savings.

2. Manage package tracking internally.
While UPS, FedEx and USPS premium delivery options trace the movement of specific packages throughout transit, the Posta Service’s Intelligent Mail® barcode (also known as IMB) can be printed directly onto packaging, enabling customers to manage the process themselves. Thanks to modern technology, what once required expensive infrastructures can now be executed at a much lower cost through your fulfillment provider.

 3. Watch your weight.
Apply those New Year’s resolutions to your promotional products’ packaging and watch the savings add up. One of the easiest ways to keep expenses down is to reduce the overall weight of your package. Next time you’re selecting products and direct mail content, keep the overall weight in mind. By reducing the weight of your mail by just one ounce, approximately the equivalent to the weight of 10 pennies, you can save 17 cents per mailing. Multiply this by 10,000 mailings and you’ve just saved $1,700.

4. Be flexible in terms of materials and production of packaging.
Before you choose the packaging for your next direct mail campaign, ask your provider if there is excess capacity in a specific line of products, or if they’re trying to get rid of a certain paper stock. Simple changes that don’t impact the end result you’re looking for can have a major effect on your ROI.

5. Personalize your mail.
Study after study shows that recipients are more likely to open relevant personalized mail. Customize your packaging in a way that targets individual consumers or prospects. While it may be more expensive on the front end, you might be surprised at the increase in response rates. This means you can send fewer mailings out for the same results.

Mount Vernon Printing is a Consolidated Graphics, Inc. company in Laurel, MD. For more information about Mount Vernon Printing, visit Contact Scott Kravitz at

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Maximum Security: keeping your data safe and secure

Maximum Graphics, a Consolidated Graphics company based in Minnesota, recently achieved SOC 2 compliance, assuring our customers that their data is safe and protected to the highest degree possible. Previously Maximum underwent SAS 70 compliance, and Its replacement, SOC 2, is part of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants(AICPA) Service Organization Control (SOC) reporting platform. While that may sound like a mouthful, the premise is simple: SOC 2-compliant companies ensure a heightened level of credibility for data management technology and cloud computing-related systems.

SOC 2 utilizes five “Trust Services Principles,” including:
  • Security: appropriate measures are taken to protect against unauthorized access
  • Availability: everything is up and running as promised
  • Processing Integrity: authorized processes are completed in a timely (and accurate) manner
  • Confidentiality: information tagged as “confidential” is protected as agreed upon
  • Privacy: personal data is treated as outlined in the company’s privacy notice and as mandated by the AICPA and the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants.
SOC 2 compliance isn’t actually a certification; it’s an audit that provides complete validation of a company’s security measures, including operational, administrative and technology aspects. The company’s physical buildings and all of its resources, down to each individuals’ laptop, must be inspected to ensure the highest level of security possible.

Maximum is constantly upgrading its facility to maintain (and exceed) the requirements needed to uphold its SOC 2 compliance. “It’s an ongoing process that is a top priority here at Maximum Graphics, one that we focus on each and every week,” says Rob Nawfel, President of Maximum Graphics.

While Consolidated Graphics has always taken the extra step to ensure data security for its customers, even the Federal government is beginning to take note as it cracks down on oversight, specifically within industries, such as healthcare and finance, which deal with large amounts of highly sensitive data.

For more information on Maximum Graphics and SOC 2 compliance, please email


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Benefit of Being a CGX Sales Rep?

Greg Ferraro recently joined the Consolidated Graphics team after a 10-year career in large format printing. Here Greg shares his experiences as a Consolidated Graphics sales representative at Tursack, Inc., a CGX company in Morgantown, PA. 

What attracted you to Consolidated Graphics?
I was working for a local company when I was first introduced to Consolidated Graphics, and I was intrigued by the company's culture and broad product and service offering. It was appealing to think about being able to offer so much more than just large format graphics, but also going to a company that was committed to staying at the cutting edge of large and grand format printing, which was an area of the business that I was most familiar with.

What is the biggest benefit to you as a sales rep at a Consolidated Graphics company? 
Definitely the diversity of everything that Consolidated Graphics offers. I have the local culture of Tursack and a name that is well known in its niche, but also the ability to offer virtually any print and technology service to my clients through a very sophisticated global platform. It opens up so many opportunities, and allows me to constantly bring something new to the table.

How do you benefit from the company’s geographic footprint and broad capability offering?
Working here has been a great education for me on so many other aspects of this industry. Even after being in the business for 10 years, there are so many things for me to learn through Consolidated Graphics that will help me expand my skill set and better serve my customers.

Can you describe a typical day as a sales rep?
About 80% of my day is spent making sales calls and looking for new avenues to pursue. I use this time to introduce new products and services to existing clients, as well as meeting prospects that we can begin relationships with. Approximately 15% of my day is dedicated to following up on current projects, ensuring that the customer is fully satisfied with their deliverable and learning how we can make them even happier going forward. And the remaining 5% of my day is spent internally, making sure that orders are completed on time and delivered as planned.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Ultimately, it's about giving the customer what they want, and it's nice to be a part of an organization that believes in service and in providing top quality. If the customer is happy, I know I've done my job well.

To find out about sales and other career opportunities at Consolidated Graphics, go to: Tursack, Inc. at

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Print Management Q&A

How Print Management Can Save Companies Money, and Dramatically Improve Results

Our Print Management team at Consolidated Graphics, Inc. has been evangelizing businesses coast to coast, about the savings that can be gained through managed print services. We recently caught up with Craig Condry, the Vice President of National Accounts and Implementation at Consolidated Graphics, from his office in Durham, NC, who shared some insights into our Print Management strategy and what companies need to know about it:

Q: Craig, can we start by giving Consolidated Graphics’ definition of “Print Management?” It seems like a fairly broad term.
A: Yes, the term is frequently used broadly by some companies to cover a variety of print services. But for Consolidated Graphics, Print Management is a holistic process that measures, monitors and manages someone’s printing business. To do this correctly, you need to understand the “print supply chain” and “life cycle of print.” These include creation, packaging, freight, logistics, storage and fulfillment. To be effective, Print Management requires an understanding of how printed pieces are used, and even sometimes how they are mailed and returned. It normally includes a bid tool, multi-year contracts, guaranteed cost savings, vendor consolidation, and on-site or off-site support.

Q: We’ve also heard the term “Business Process Outsourcing.” Is this synonymous with Print Management, or…?
A: Business Process Outsourcing is most commonly referred to simply as BPO. BPO is a subset of outsourcing that involves the contracting-out of the operations and responsibilities of specific business functions by a company. In the print world, this function is usually procurement or purchasing. BPO that is contracted outside a company's country is called off-shore outsourcing, and BPO that is contracted to a company's neighboring or nearby country is called near-shore outsourcing. BPO is an element of Print Management, and in simplest terms is a fee based service that removes the burden of managing the print supply chain for a company, allowing it to focus on its core competencies.

Q: Why are companies pursuing Print Management today?
A: With fluctuations in the world economy, companies are looking to increase shareholder value and decrease their expenses at the bottom line. As local and  global competition continues to accelerate, business models will be challenged and changed. Print Management is a straightforward and logical step companies can take to reduce cost, increase efficiencies and create value. Companies today are looking to leverage spend, reduce their supplier base and document double digit cost savings. Print Management helps them achieve that.

Q: What kind of company is a good candidate for Print Management? What are the criteria?
A: Print Management clients are diverse, and cross over just about every vertical market. However, we’ve seen that successful candidates share a desire to centralize or strengthen procurement, usually because they have multiples of operational locations, departments, brands or divisions. Given this, they are often looking for national or international solutions – and they want documented cost savings. Another key criteria for client success in Print Management is a willingness to provide benchmark data, which enables us to really identify and quantify savings in dollars.

Q: What are CGX’s capabilities in this area?
A: Consolidated Graphics is unique in the printing world, in that our business model is based on acquiring companies and as a result we have 70 companies operating in 26 states, Toronto, Prague and Gero, Japan. Because of this far-reaching footprint, we’ve long been able to provide single-source solutions for clients, serving them locally and delivering goods and service in their desired market area. We became Print Management experts essentially out of necessity and practice, and we have a proven process using lean Six SIGMA fundamentals to produce guaranteed results based on the specific situations of each client.  We are flexible, offering Print Management and BPO services, utilize a state of the art bid tool and – importantly – we are asset light and asset heavy. By this, I mean we can utilize our CGX companies or utilize strategic outsourced suppliers to meet the objectives of the client.

Q: What can a client expect from Print Management, in terms of results?
A: Cost savings, most obviously. The results of a strategic Print Management partnership can vary, including reductions and stabilizations of pricing based on historical data and purchase patterns or earned rebates. Value engineering through redesigns of collateral, shifting from digital to offset (or vice versa), evaluating paper selections and more can reduce spend while having little impact on overall deliverables. Six SIGMA processes can lead to process improvements and structural changes that can positively impact not only print spend, but also lead to better utilization of employees and internal resources.

Craig Condry, Consolidated Graphics
Craig Condry
Vice President,
National Accounts
and Implementation,
Consolidated Graphics
For more information about Print Management, contact Craig Condry at

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Web2Print: Empowering Organizations to Accomplish More, with Less

Contributor: Doug Stemet, Manager, Technology Sales Support, TSSGTM

Web2Print can be the answer for companies grappling with an environment that demands higher productivity, to be accomplished with fewer resources. As a result, marketers in organizations across diverse market segments are stretching their staffs and budgets to meet their business goals. Web2Print provides tools that can help Marketing departments and just about every part of a company.

For Marketing, Web2Print provides relief for recurring production needs. By creating templates for collateral and sales materials and putting them in a Web2Print solution, Marketing departments can “design once” and allow approved field staff to customize content while maintaining corporate branding standards. This frees marketers up to spend more time on strategy, messaging and pure creative, rather than recreating multitudes of pieces on-demand.

Procurement saves two-fold. The biggest savings comes from reduced obsolescence. By utilizing Web2Print, only the quantity required is actually produced. Tracking and reporting tools also enable procurement managers to analyze usage and plan the right quantities for large runs, and determine which pieces should be printed on-demand. Whether driven by time-sensitive content or overall usage trends, obsolescence is minimized with Web2Print.

Legal and Compliance departments have been hugely impacted by a changing and increasingly complex regulatory environment. Having the right documents available for field staff, containing the most up-to-date information, is critical in almost every industry. Web2Print allows for only the most current and approved material to be available in the field and printed on-demand, eliminating the risk of stockpiled, obsolete materials.

And, finally, Sales may benefit more than any other department from Web2Print. It’s pretty well established that the more relevant the content, the more effective the sale. Web2Print, with rich content customization tools, allows for field staff to make each collateral piece relevant to their immediate and specific need. Whether for a brochure for a particular client or market, or a personalized data-driven mailer, Web2Print enables content customization to increase sales effectiveness.

The impact of Web2Print is real. Used effectively, it can touch and benefit every department in an organization.

Doug Stemet
Manager, Technology
Sales Support, TSSG
Consolidated Graphics, Inc. offers a Web2Print solution named Streamline. For more information about Streamline, go to Contact Doug Stemet at

Monday, September 24, 2012

Making an Impact in Nothing Flat: The Kodak Prosper 5000XL

Contributor: Katie Kriemelmeyer, President, AGS

One of the investments Consolidated Graphics made this past year was the purchase of a Kodak Prosper 5000XL digital inkjet web press, which was installed at AGS’ print facility in Maryland.  Among many benefits, this cutting edge digital printing technology delivers high-quality color and runs at speeds in excess of 650 feet per minute.

Kodak Prosper 5000XL
What does this mean?

With the Prosper, we finally have a way to achieve 4 color digital printing more cost-effectively for runs of up to several thousand impressions (think 25,000 to 1,000,000,000). We have customers printing books in color that they used to do in black and white – only now, with the Prosper, we’re making a better product while keeping the unit rates affordable.

Why should you care?

This speed really matters if you are trying to get millions of pages produced in an extremely short time frame (less than a day).  The best part?  The Prosper 5000XL can even do this in variable color. To date we’ve had enormous success with taking data to pages on matte and dull coated stocks, and getting it out the door (gloss coming soon).

So, what’s the big deal?

The Prosper gives us the ability to do true 1:1 digital printing at near offset rates for products such as booklets and catalogs customized for the recipient. We are also doing this for healthcare benefit confirmation statements, coupon mailers, association member mailings and invoices. Most of the time, the pieces go out the door within 24 hours of receiving the data.

Watch a video of how it all works now!

Katie Kriemelmeyer
President, AGS
AGS is a Consolidated Graphics, Inc. company in White Plains, MD. For more about AGS, visit Contact Katie Kriemelmeyer at

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Bright Lights Ahead: Consolidated Graphics Talks Strategy

Hundreds of board members, bankers, executives, lawyers, recruiters, and investors recently gathered in San Antonio to celebrate another year under the purposeful direction of Consolidated Graphics CEO and Chairman, Joe Davis. Davis, along with Executive Vice President, Chief Financial and Accounting Officer and Secretary Jon Biro and Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing Aaron Grohs, shared the successes and obstacles of the previous 12 months, along with his direction and vision for the upcoming years. In typical CGX fashion, there is no shortage of innovation and development. Here is what got us most excited:

+ It’s getting harder to fill our shoes: It’s no secret that we have an industry-leading geographic footprint, but that isn’t stopping us from continuing to roll up distressed companies, look for industry gems that are ready for a buyout, or take on a larger international presence [click here to read our international expansion Q&A]. It’s a strategy that CGX has proven to be successful, and we continue to incorporate more economies of scale and lower the cost for our customers as a result.

+ Trust us with your most important asset: Data security is a hot topic these days, and we’re leading the pack in terms of regulatory compliance, process improvements, and protection of our clients’ information. We’ve gone through audits, testing, and rigorous studies executed by some of the brightest minds in data security, and so far, we’ve aced with flying colors.  We even invested over $8 million on a state-of-the-art data center. All of this means that you can rest assured that information is safe with us.

+ We’re committed to making information access easier: Our WorkSmart SuiteTM has been a widely adopted by organizations around the world, and we’re committed to make it even better. In the year since we launched our popular Streamline Web2Print application, we have increased the number of customer sites by 24%, to more than 500! Our focus is to continue bringing enhanced functionality and user benefits to Streamline and all of the applications that comprise WorkSmart Suite.

+ EmergeTM is going online: Our annual emerge conference has been referred to as the best in the industry by so many that we’re going to get it into the hands of everyone. This year, we’re working on an online portal that will provide year-round access to this thought leadership forum.

To download Consolidated Graphics’ annual report, please click here.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Consolidated Graphics expands international presence

Shiro Fujimoto, Vice President
of International Business Development,
Consolidated Graphics
Our international team at Consolidated Graphics, Inc. is logging some serious frequent flyer miles these days as they develop and implement international printing solutions for North America-based clients. We recently caught up with Shiro Fujimoto, the Vice President of International Business Development at Consolidated Graphics and our in-house expert on global print trends, who shared some insights into our international strategy and what you can expect from us around the world:

Q: Shiro, can you explain why Consolidated Graphics is taking an interest in international locations? 

A: Many people are surprised to realize that U.S.-based corporations often perform 50 percent or more of their business overseas. While Consolidated Graphics’ focus has primarily been on U.S. businesses, more and more we’re seeing a need to service our existing client base abroad. We want to ensure that we can support all of their needs, and that means providing them with the same quality, consistency and effective service that they receive within the United States.

Q: How do you select locations for international expansion? 

A: As with any investment we make, we’re listening closely to our clients and identifying locations that are most beneficial to them. At the same time, we’re trying to select strategic areas that allow us to reduce shipping costs, access key markets, and develop international clientele.

Q: What things do customers need to consider when printing abroad? 

A: Each country has unique nuances that should be considered, from a marketing and messaging standpoint as well as technical specifications such as paper stocks and sizes. For example, the U.S. is one of three countries (Myanmar and Liberia being the other two) that don’t utilize the metric system, which means standard paper sizes are different -- and attempting to print pieces identical to those in the U.S. could prove much more costly abroad. Translations also impact designs; for example, Spanish is often 20 percent longer than English, while Chinese is much shorter. The goal is always to build a consistent brand across the globe, but flexibility needs to be a part of any global campaign.

Q: How is technology supporting global marketing and print campaigns? 

A: Technology allows companies to centralize their infrastructure, creating consistent materials across countries. Things like style guides, imagery, and templates can be centralized and accessed from anywhere in the world. A good illustration is Consolidated Graphics’ Streamline Web2Print solution, which gives users from around the world access to order materials to be produced and distributed in the region they are to be delivered in. Even with respect to communications, technology is enabling decentralized teams to create, collaborate and improve overall effectiveness from numerous locations. 

Q: How does Consolidated Graphics ensure that customers receive consistent quality in different countries? 

A: We have invested in and partnered with the very best print facilities around the world. We have also developed our own proprietary color technology, integrated with our G7 Digital Master Certification, which ensures that, within an extremely miniscule margin of error (invisible to the human eye in most cases), colors achieve identical results across geographies, and even amongst varying printing devices. We also support our clients throughout the process via our International Print Management Offices (IPMOs), which enable translating services, scheduling, fulfillment, and more.

Q: Does Consolidated Graphics have a presence in every region? 

A: We have access to nearly every area of the globe, either through direct investment or strategic partnerships. For example, we have our own facilities in Europe and Japan, strategic partners in China, Vietnam, Malaysia, India, and Brazil, and vendor relationships in Australia, Mexico, and China. Our ultimate goal is to provide strategic access to every major market on the planet.

Q: What is next in terms of international growth at Consolidated Graphics? 

A: We’re being smart about where we invest our dollars and how we grow this segment of the business. We see significant opportunity in various regions, but also want to maintain our focus on serving our U.S.-based clientele. We’re looking closely at the Middle East and expanding our existing relationships. Ultimately, it boils down to what our customers want, and how we can best serve them.

For more information about international printing solutions from Consolidated Graphics, visit

Monday, June 25, 2012

Publish, powered by Blurb: Bound Printing from the Comfort of your Desktop

Publish, powered by Blurb
Collateral created using Publish
Competition is fierce these days, and marketing presentations, brochures, portfolios and manuals must far exceed expectations in order to fully capture the attention of your audience. Consolidated Graphics has partnered with Blurb to bring you the perfect solution: Publish, powered by Blurb. This on-demand publishing platform provides a free Adobe® InDesign® plug-in, enabling you to use your preferred design tool to create professionally-bound print collateral in quantities as few as one or as many as you need.

Here’s a Q&A with James Hill, president of Nies/Artcraft, a Consolidated Graphics company in St. Louis, who worked with Blurb to develop Publish.

CGX: What is Publish?
Hill: At its core, Publish is an on-demand, online platform that enables companies to print customized, bound print materials in low quantities, with a high quality output. Through Publish, our customers can design the materials they need, interact with Blurb’s online interface, and tap into Consolidated Graphics’ production and fulfillment platform to generate professionally bound print products, all from the comfort of their desks.

CGX: How did Publish come about?
Hill: Publish was actually a result of emerge™ 2011. (Note to readers: emerge is Consolidated Graphics’ annual marketing and printing solutions conference.) When Eileen Gittens (CEO of Blurb) spoke about Blurb during her keynote, we had so many customers asking how they could utilize this technology for their business needs. We listened to their requests and partnered up with Blurb to provide them with on-demand publishing needs.

CGX: How do you see this technology being used?
Hill: The possibilities really are endless, and it will be up to our customers to determine the true potential of this platform. We anticipate it being used for things like high-end catalogs, product manuals, important presentations, informational leave-behinds, and more. But what makes Publish so powerful is the flexibility that it places in the hands of our customers.

CGX: What design flexibility does Publish provide?
Hill: Publish delivers the functionality of Blurb within the creative framework of InDesign, offering a tremendous amount of flexibility and support for designers. The bound books are available in eight sizes, five paper substrates, and four bindery/cover choices. Publish even offers a variety of print-ready templates for all formats and page counts, as well as easy pre-flight and file transfer for proofing. That’s backed by Blurb customer service. We plan to listen to our customers to gradually introduce even more capabilities over time.

To see Publish in action – and to download the free plug-in, visit today! For more information, contact the Publish team at