Commentary & Analysis
48HourPrint: An Online Success Story
48HourPrint began its life in 2001 as a magazine publisher, publishing a nightlife magazine for the City of Boston called 411. Noticing the uptick in activity in the world of online printing, the company migrated the business model to the online printing success story it is today.
By Cary Sherburne
Published: July 12, 2011
Launches Exciting Mobile App for Customers On-the-Go
|Ray Pinard and Andy Gordon|
When my friend and colleague Andy Gordon landed a job as vice president of sales, marketing and business development with 48HourPrint, I decided to look into the company a bit. I was pleasantly surprised by what I learned in a conversation with Andy and Ray Pinard, the company's President & CEO.
According to Pinard, the company was founded in 2001 as Advanced Media Corporation, still the parent company today, and was publishing a nightlife magazine for the City of Boston called 411. The three founders, whose expertise was respectively in business, software development and website development, noticed that the online printing business was picking up and believed it might be a better way of making money than selling ads for a nightlife magazine. They bootstrapped themselves to the point where the business was launched in 2003 and have been focused solely on online printing since that time. Today, the company has 90 employees and generates about $21 million in sales (yes, I did the math on the sales per employee--$233,333 versus a commercial print industry average of about $150,000 to $175,000).
Pinard, who joined the company in 2006 and runs it with two of the original founders, has been focused on growing the business in several different areas, including increasing the breadth of product offerings. In 2006, the company offered 20 products, and today it has a portfolio of 40 different products. Pinard has also grown the customer base from a focus on creative ad agency and media marketing companies in the early years to 25 identifiable market areas today, everything from service industries to manufacturing, non-profit, and political organizations. The company also receives offset work from a stable of small digital printers. Pinard says, "For the last few years, we have focused on sticking to our mission and refining our service to our mission: High-touch customer service, and doing our best to be on the leading edge of innovation for online print services. This includes continually improving the functionality of our website and our automatic online proofing engine. Once an account has been established, a customer can literally place an order in a couple minutes. That is important to us and to our customers."
Pinard mentions a few other areas the company stresses, including overall excellence and striving to be in first place in everything it does. "We want to be seen as a first-class company for all print and media needs," he adds, "and we are always working toward being in first place, continually challenging ourselves and our employees."
Managing Growth a Challenge
Pinard admits it has been a challenge to manage the company's growth. His background was in the M&A industry and consulting with privately-held companies. His relationship with 48HourPrint began as a consulting engagement and turned into both an equity position with the company and full-time employment.
48HourPrint's Boston headquarters houses Finance, Administration, Marketing, Sales, and Customer Service. The company's printing plants are located in Cleveland and Phoenix. The plants are identical to ensure consistency and redundancy and were a clean-sheet design, built from the ground up. Each plant features Komori 40" offset presses and MGI digital presses. About 18 months ago, 48HourPrint acquired a software engineering firm located in Manchester NH and now does all of its own internal software engineering with a staff of 10 that includes creative/design. The offset/digital split in the company today is 90/10. Most of the digital work consists of "print-and-cut" products such as business cards, rack cards and other products that do not require much secondary processing and which are generally shipped within 24 hours. The company is using XMPie to produce variable data and to run campaigns for clients. Today, variable data only represents about 5% of the company's business, but is seen as a good area for growth. 48HourPrint garners business from across the U.S. and Canada.
The company uses partners for specialized services. This includes Loyalty Builders of Portsmouth NH who offers predictive modeling and behavioral analytics. Pinard says, "We offer their services to our customers at various levels. Their program of helping companies generate increased sales within an existing customer base has been very successful.
48HourPrint also partners with Connolly Partners in Boston for search engine optimization and marketing, pay-per-click and social media. The company runs its own affiliate programs in-house.
The most recent output of the development group is 48HourPrint's brand-new mobile app, with versions for the iPhone, Android, and Blackberry. The app is also available in Amazon's Android marketplace, Apps for Android. The app offers a convenient way for customers to gain instant pricing, track print orders and directly connect with Customer Service with a one-click "Call Us" button and an email option.
This free mobile app has some cool features, including the option to "Remind Me" about a product the customer may have been browsing, allowing customers to email product information, including a link to the product and any available discount codes, to herself or any other email address.
The "Track Shipping" button is a direct link to the UPS tracking site, and customers can also download or email PDF invoices. The mobile app is also tightly integrated with the 48HourPrint website so that orders placed on the web are instantly available for viewing via the app. The app's home screen, shown below, also presents a variety of different promotions and coupon codes that will be randomly displayed when the app is fired up.
This second-generation app is focused on dealing with orders already in the system as well as reprints. This is largely due to the limitation with mobile devices as far as uploading the type of large graphics normally associated with a print file. Gordon is quick to point out, "We have a lot of plans for the future. Our first goal is to get the app out to our current customers and get them using it."
Staffing and Customers
According to Gordon, sales, customer service and marketing has a combined staff of 25 people. Each plant has a customer service representative that acts as a liaison with Boston. The company operates in a B2B model. Pinard says, "90% of our work is for other businesses. 30% of our work falls within the creative design/ad agency/media agency segment with the other 70% across other verticals. B2B customers for 48HourPrint are companies with 1 to 20 employees."
48HourPrint is handling an average of 250 to 300 orders per day, with an average order size of $350, substantially larger than some of the other online B2B printing services. The majority of orders are placed online and not touched by anyone until the printed sheet comes off the press.
Choosing 48Hour Print
Gordon has spent the last 10+ years talking about transformation at InfoTrends, Océ North America, and through the industry research organization PRIMIR on the topic. He says, "After getting to know Ray, I found that he has a unique perspective on the industry. I truly think he is a visionary. He has helped to transform this business into one that really gets the new rules of marketing-all of the things we have been talking about in the consulting community for a long time-and they are practicing it every day."
Pinard sees a bright future for the company, saying, "With the transformation the industry is going through over the next five years, the level of overcapacity, and the forecasted number of printers that will be altering their business model to broker services or scaling back their business model, there will be opportunity for people like us to gain market share, especially for those customers who want high-touch customer service and a high quality product. We aren't for everybody. We tend to play at the higher end of the game. We only put out product that we can be proud of."