Located in Plymouth Meeting, just outside of Philadelphia, The Strata Companies have proven that they’re worth their salt. In a bold statement made in the fourth quarter of 2003, Strata predicted that their sales revenue would grow by 50% in 2004. It was projected that a good portion of that revenue was going to be generated by the installation of a Xerox DocuColor iGen3 Digital Production Press.
The Strata Companies, offering full service printing, database and marketing communication services, felt that the iGen 3 would enable them to increase production, produce quality pieces comparable to offset printing, and with their other services, boost the return on investment for current and potential clients. According to a press release from Strata, Jeff Sammak, President, predicted that the need for print on demand services is what would propel them forward.
“For years we have been waiting for a solution to create customized, short-run, full-color documents with quality comparable to offset,” said Sammak. “The DocuColor iGen3 offers the superior quality, speed, and cost effectiveness needed to help Strata become a single source for marketing communications.”
Sammak was right. The need for print on demand and customized services from businesses, and the educational and pharmaceutical sectors propelled Strata above and beyond even their own expectations. The Xerox DocuColor iGen3 Digital Production Press performed so well, in fact, that Strata purchased a second machine in November 2004. “It’s very interesting technology,” said Sammak. “There are a lot of options on what you can do.”
Jeff Sammak founded the Strata Companies in January 1993 with a vision of becoming an entity unlike any other marketing or advertising firm. Housed in a 2500 square foot facility, The Strata Companies maintain one location, not including their warehouse, which is used mainly for their mailing and fulfillment purposes. Between the various companies, The Strata Companies employ approximately forty employees. Strata’s target market remains the general public, preferring to work with the end user.
The companies consist of Strata Marketing, Strata Data Services, and Strata Graphics, Inc. While the companies are technically separate, they work together to give their clients a complete and fulfilling experience from concept to delivery.
Strata Marketing provides marketing communication services that include strategic planning, graphic design, print advertising, Web development, Internet marketing, direct mail, and media planning. One of the keys to success in the marketing arena, according to Sammak, is to be able to develop inventive marketing communication solutions that help companies and organizations reach their objectives. Direct mail is widely known for targeting a specific group of people who may need the clients’ services. At Strata, the ability to further customize direct mail and variable data has made it possible to be even more specific in the groups the client wants to target. “We work with clients or agencies who are trying to use this technology to segment the population,” said Sammak. “It’s not necessarily one-to-one but targeting different segments within a particular group.”
For example, if a client wanted to target potential customers who collect vintage Lionel trains, a successful and savvy marketing communications plan could be developed to contact only that particular segment rather than the entire train collecting community. Along with short-run capabilities from the iGen3, the client is much more likely to see a higher return on investment than if s/he was poised to approach the entire community of train collectors. This fact in itself makes the printing and marketing an actual investment rather than an expense, as it is often viewed.
Another realization that has jettisoned Strata ahead of the competition is that most marketing communication services are not being sold to traditional print buyers. Rather, marketing directors, advertising agencies and distribution channel managers were the most likely to be purchasing Strata’s services.
Strata Data Services provides database marketing and mail fulfillment. Their services include database management, lead collection, list buying and creation, variable data production, fulfillment and warehousing. The digital age makes it much simpler to obtain and maintain up-to-date and pertinent lists to make each job as productive as possible. In other words, “Your campaign is only as good as your list”.
Strata Graphics, Inc., the largest of the Strata Companies, is still the backbone and approximately two-thirds of the combined firms. Touted as “Masters in the trade of printing and production”, Strata Graphics offers both digital and traditional offset printing. The benefit of having both sources at hand ensures that the client will be offered the high quality, most economical services to meet the objective. While digital printing is growing by leaps and bounds, enough so that even the savviest of users can have a hard time keeping up, there is still a place for traditional printing. In fact, Sammak believes that traditional printing will always have a place in the industry. “I have been involved in the industry since 1982,” said Sammak. “When I first got involved in printing, the process of printing was an art form.”
For those who believe that digital printing is the only answer, it should be recognized that, should the day come, traditional offset printing would not go down without a fight. While digital presses offer low cost, short-run capabilities, traditional offset printing is still the best buy when it comes to long-run, high quality jobs. Fortunately, Strata Graphics is able to offer both. “I see offset as a remaining part of the company,” said Sammak. “It’s a by-product of the other side of the business, whereas before it was the other way around. Still, I see it growing along with the other side [marketing].”
Strata Graphics uses three 2-color AB Dick presses as well as DocuTechs that produce black and white printing. A full service bindery and “a lot of desktop publishing equipment” round out Strata’s arsenal. The equipment used on the printing side of the company offers one to four color printing, large format display materials, and a full service bindery. The Desktop Digital Services Department is comprised of highly skilled graphic designers who have varied skills in such areas as photo enhancement, creating eye-catching visuals, and the creation of original typography.
The digital learning curve is bound to plague printers for a long time to come. The Strata Companies are making strides in educating their clients not only on the technical aspects but also in the areas of what digital printing will help them to accomplish. “In our industry, people are used to what is available with traditional printing,” said Sammak. “We need to train people to understand what is possible.”
Those people are often hard to reach, particularly since the acquisition of digital knowledge, doesn’t seem to fall into one area in any given company.