Heeter Goes Digital and Goes National

Digital printing brings major benefits to marketers – particularly around the ability to conduct variable mailings as well as significant cost savings.

Below is a feature article about Heeter’s investments in digital printing in the last couple of years and the benefits it is bringing to its clients. 

Heeter Goes Digital and Goes National

In the early aughts, newspapers were still viable, the Internet was mostly for geeks and many printers remained comfortable with legacy business models. But not Heeter, a 70-year-old Canonsburg, Penn-based commercial printer that then served the Pittsburgh area. It’s sense expanded to include mailing, fulfillment, digital marketing and more, serving a number of Fortune 100 companies and other clients across the nation.

Part of that success comes from Heeter leaders’ decisions last year to buy a Ricoh Pro VC60000, retrain its in-house offset printers on the equipment and start providing clients with inkjet printing. Having this “continuous-feed inkjet” option means Heeter is the “first commercial printer in the Eastern United States to install this advanced printing system.”

In addition to increasing efficiency and contributing to the company’s double-digital annual growth, the Ricoh Pro VC60000 helped Heeter increase capacity and the quality of its deliverables to its clients. For instance, using variable data printing, print-on-demand and personalization features improved efficiency for one of Heeter’s clients, saving the client six to seven figures this year by consolidating a dozen documents to a single document.

While reducing print jobs may seem counter intuitive, increasing efficiency for clients actually increased Heeter’s business volume.  Heeter saw an increase of 202 percent in digital pages it created for clients, year-over-year, while the printer’s offset pages declined 4 percent.

But Heeter’s customer-first mentality predates the Ricoh Pro VC60000. Its consultative approach with clients, in order to provide value and relevant printing services, is what helped Heeter expand- beginning with its first digital efforts.

“When we got into digital, we were immediately doing variable data,” said Scott Heeter, president and owner of Heeter. “[In] the first year of our first digital press, probably 90 percent of what was coming off the press was some sort of personalization or variable data. We were using a lot of our traditional offset personnel –people from pre-press or our press room. [We] had them either run the digital equipment or do the programming.”

Much like Heeter’s early days of digital, when company leaders sensed customer needs were changing, they knew they had to offer what the Ricoh Pro VC60000 could provide- personalization, customization, versioning or last-minute changes in a high-speed printer.”

Casino, healthcare, pharmaceutical, retail and education clients rely on Heeter to input their data, artwork and messaging, then format, output and distribute “critical communications,” says Tom Boyle, Heeter VP of Sales and Marketing.

“That’s really what enabled Heeter to begin growing in certain verticals,” Boyle explains.

The opportunity to version and print on-demand for instance companies really expanded five years ago, Heeter says.

“We started to see there was an opportunity to start to customize and reduce some of the status printed materials and go toward more of a POD environment,” he adds. “That’s when we really started to step up in terms of our investment in IT hardware, software and personnel.”

Kirk Schlecker, VP of Operations, says these efforts to make clients look good immediately differentiated the printed from its competitors. But there’s more.

“It’s getting to the point with [clients] where you’re being engaged in the process further, earlier in the process,” Schlecker says. “You’re in that meeting where they’re talking about the goals that they want from a business standpoint. Then you’re able to, based on that understanding of what those business needs or objectives are, help them formulate a product that not only differentiates them from their competition, but also does it very cost-effectively. Something that’s very repeatable, very affordable. It’s really [us] becoming more of planning partner, consultative partner.”

While it may surprise some, Heeter is encountering clients who come in with old-school printed collateral and ask for help in making a change.

“A lot of time we’re encountering a piece that is static in nature, or maybe is a pre-printed piece and maybe there’s a little bit of one-color personalization, or maybe just some addressing,” Boyle says. “Then it is taking a consultative approach with that customer, to evaluate that present state of that piece or pieces.

“Then [we] offer them ideas on how to make that piece much more efficient- from an incorporation of variability in variable data, personalization, those kind of things,” he continues. “Full-color, full-variable, making that piece deliver more results from an ROI standpoint. Then maybe also make that piece through creative coding, or encoding to help their sales cycle. Using technology to better trace/track that piece, and track the results that they get from it. It’s really taking the tools that digital print gives you and showing the customer how really take fully advantage of it.”

For instance, Boyle says, Heeter provides coding on collateral that allows it to be tracked throughout the mail and allows clients to source user engagement.

For Heeter, this push to digital and beyond, to inkjet, has resulted in double-digit growth during the past several years – at a time when many printers would be grateful for a single-digital increase, Schlecker says.

Plus, the Ricoh Pro VC60000 is helping Heeter cost costs.

“One inkjet Web print device is equivalent of seven or eight cut-sheet devices,” Boyle says. “It increased our capacity, our ability to do work for customers, significantly. Now, having all that new capacity and…being able to deliver it at a much higher level of quality that customers had not seen before- that combination of speed and quality – is what really helped make this first year successful.”

This may be the digital-first ear, but that’s definitely not a “stop-the presses” headline.