Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

October 24th, 2014

AlphaGraphics Gains Traction Across Houston Region

Craig Hohler says a new large format signage suite at his AlphaGraphics Business Center has been a game changer for his team – with the capability to print virtually any size on any material, even in three dimensions, all it takes is a creative idea. As one of seven AlphaGraphics locations in the Houston area, Hohler is helping lead the company’s growth in one of the nation’s strongest business markets.

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 11.27.39 AM“The new flatbed printer is 5 feet by 10 feet, so we can produce individual components up to five feet tall and create 3D signage on aluminum, acrylic, fabric – really anything we can dream up,” Hohler says. “And we work closely with the other AG locations in the area, so we have a network of resources available. Houston is a strong market that offers a lot of opportunity for us as franchisees and for new entrepreneurs to join us as we continue to increase our reach.”

Seven AlphaGraphics Business Centers currently serve the Houston area, including Hohler in West Houston and other locations in Willowbrook/Cypress, Northwest Houston, Katy, Sugar Land, the Woodlands, and near the Houston Medical Center. AlphaGraphics Business Builder Program Manager Kelley Rieves sees significant growth potential in the Houston area for existing and new franchisees, as well as for partnerships with independent businesses.

“We’re really bullish on growth in areas including Houston proper, Humble, and on the south and southeast sides of the city,” Rieves said. “We’ve got some great brand coverage, but it’s amazing to look at all of the potential areas – nearly all of the actual city of Houston, areas like Pearland, League City, Webster, Pasadena, the Kingwood-Humble area. We’re working with aspiring entrepreneurs and independent business owners in the area who are looking to either transition the business from buyer to seller or convert the brand and join the network.

AlphaGraphics’ Business Builder program is designed to connect buyers with sellers, and share the network systems and resources with capable independents who are wanting to make their businesses stronger.

“We help guide candidates and independent owners through the entire process, from finding acquisition opportunities based on individual needs, understanding the assessments, securing funding, exploring deal structures, and facilitating through the completed purchase,” Rieves said.

As a native of Houston, Rieves knows the market well and is excited to see the brand grow.

“If you look at AlphaGraphics’ presence in Dallas-Forth Worth, for instance, we’ve got considerably more business centers there,” she said. “We’re able to work with more small and medium-sized businesses, and we’ve been able to use our conversion program to partner with strong independents. Everyone wins – our franchisees, the independents and franchise candidates.”

AlphaGraphics’ nationwide same-center sales were up more than 10 percent in the fiscal year that ended in July, and the Houston market led that gain. Rieves says they’ve done it by leveraging the power of the brand, implementing network initiatives like AG Signs, and evolving the business from the simple print shop to a full-service marketing communications solution for small and medium-sized businesses.

Cher Schmitt, a graphic designer at AlphaGraphics Willowbrook, attributes their center’s drastic growth to educating customers on capabilities.

“When customers come in, we talk to them about their goals,” Schmitt said. “Then we make recommendations on how to brand themselves, catch the attention of their prospects, communicate with their customers and reach new ones. It’s a lot of fun to help our customers grow, and watch us grow as they do.”

Rieves says the success of the Business Builder program is rooted in partnerships.

“We’ve really beefed up our partnership program with independent businesses,” she said. “Whether they are looking to grow and expand, position themselves for their own exit strategy, or find the best candidate possible to buy their business, we’re ready to take them through the entire process. Time and again, this has meant a new business opportunity for one and a leveraged exit strategy for another.”

To learn more about the AG Business Builder program, or to read franchise partner profiles, customer case studies and industry news, please visit

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September 22nd, 2014

New Franchisee Brings Decades of Experience to Connecticut Center

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 4.36.10 PMBob Talbot has a history with entrepreneurism – his family owned an auto repair business in Bridgeport, Conn., where he worked as a young man. After a brief stint with General Motors, he left the corporate world and became a real estate agent, where he sold a home to an Allstate Insurance executive. Soon, the buyer was making an offer to Bob.

Thirty-five years later, Bob and his wife, Paula, recently sold their Allstate franchise and bought an AlphaGraphics location in nearby Hamden, Conn.

“We had built a multi-million dollar business, but we found we were working harder and harder for less and less,” Talbot says. “The commission rates kept going down while the administrative costs were going up. It got to the point where it didn’t make sense anymore, so we started looking for a new franchise opportunity.”

The Talbots explored everything from foodservice to automotive before meeting business broker Ben Adamo by chance. Adamo had found success placing candidates with AlphaGraphics before, and he suggested the Talbots look into the option.

“It was like a gong went off,” Talbot says. “I had done some vocational training in high school with printing presses and had worked in a print shop over the summers. Our experience in the insurance industry with marketing and customer service was applicable, and there was an AG center for sale close by. As we looked into it, we became more and more impressed.”

Bob says he was deluged with requests to attend various Discovery Days, and it would take a lot to get him to fly 1,500 miles and spend the week hearing about a franchise opportunity. But AlphaGraphics stood out as a different kind of company.

“I started talking to other owners and understanding more about the offering, and we were blown away by the people, the processes… they were so welcoming and genuine and open,” he says. “The level of expertise they demonstrated was so impressive.”

Now the Talbots are three weeks in at their new AlphaGraphics Business Center, a four-year-old location with the right equipment, a solid book of business and a great staff. Paula is focusing on the bookkeeping and customer service aspects – the pair boasted an unheard-of 90%+ renewal rate in the insurance business – and Bob will handle everything from equipment operation to outside sales.

It’s a learning experience, he says, but he’s immersed in training and soaking it all up.

“This is a new industry for us, but many of these things have been a large part of our business for the last decade, from web development to variable data direct mail. It’s marketing, business-to-business, and driving the highway is the same as it was in 1929. The cars are just more modern! The fundamentals are the same, but the vehicles are faster, smarter and higher quality. We’re excited for this new chapter.

“This is a relationship business, and we’re focused on their interests, on helping our customers improve and grow. Just as AlphaGraphics is invested in our success, so are we in ensuring that our clients are succeeding in their businesses.”

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August 1st, 2014

Aligning the Needs of the Brand and its Franchisees

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 12.55.11 PMAlphaGraphics Chief Development Officer Dave Buzza was a featured columnist in the July issue of Franchising World magazine, penning a piece on the value of partnerships that stand the test of time. Read on for insightful perspective from decades of experience working with new entrepreneurs.

For obvious reasons, alignment between the mutual needs of the franchisor and franchisee are critical to an enduring and healthy relationship. Hopefully franchise candidates who chose franchising as their preferred means to enter entrepreneurship already have a strong appreciation for the value and equity of partnerships. And as we all know, with partnership comes compromise and collaboration.

From the first meeting with candidates seeking discovery, there should be a deep and meaningful discussion of their goals, needs, fit, fears, decision criteria, timeline, and financial expectations and needs. From these initial discussions, candidates must understand the whole concept of entrepreneurship versus “intrepreneurship.”

There are very distinct differences. It’s critical that we understand their decision-making process by quickly administering a profile. With extensive use of this tool, one can typically gain insights to any individual’s decision-making process and ability to function effectively within a semi-controlled business environment. Aligning the needs of the brand and its franchisees truly starts from the first point of contact.

If a brand is committed to recruitment versus the franchise selling development process, the ability to establish the core foundations of partnerships that work is already there. As we often say to each other in our executive committee, “We don’t get a second chance to do over the first year.”

Click here to read the rest of the article.

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July 30th, 2014

Checking In: A Year Later, Keith Gray Setting Sales Records

Covenant Printing was a commercial offset printer doing just over half a million in sales serving colleges, churches, non-profits and others when Keith Gray joined the AlphaGraphics Network in June of 2013.

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 2.46.17 PMKeith and his wife, Michelle, were looking for an acquisition, and Covenant was interested in selling the business. Now, the Grays have acquired Covenant and relocated it to a 6,000-square-foot, full-service AlphaGraphics Business Center in their Ft. Worth-Arlington, Texas territory.

“We inherited all of the offset printing equipment and added a full digital printing suite,” Gray says. “The AlphaGraphics brand has allowed us to have a conversation with existing customers about the expanded capabilities, and it’s really starting to drive sales – our May was up about 65 percent year over year, and we are on target to hit nearly $60,000 in sales in June.

When the company’s top client found out that Covenant had been acquired, they looked into AlphaGraphics and asked to meet. They were doing workshop materials fulfillment in-house, and the demand on their staff’s time was out of control. Keith’s AG crew was able to take on the project, and now the conversation has shifted to other ways to grow the business.

Keith says another non-profit client called on a Tuesday needing 500 conference booklets designed and produced in less than 24 hours. The 16-page piece was graphic intensive, and even required a perforated tear-out card – but they got the job done. Now they’ve ordered 15,000 postcards and envelopes, and the brochures have become a recurring project.

“It’s all about making it happen, establishing relationships and building on those victories,” he says. “There’s a lot of loyalty to be built simply by making it happen for our clients.”

More often than not, customers are looking to AG not only to deliver a print job, but also to drive the creative side of a project. For example, a local title company wanted a leave-behind piece that would catch attention, and Keith came up with branded bubble gum labels that delivered the message: “Going the EXTRA mile.” The company has now become a Top 5 client.

Keith says he could have just purchased Covenant, since they were an independent printer, on his own – but if he had, he would have been in “major trouble.”

“If I didn’t have the structure that AlphaGraphics offers, I couldn’t have made it. The support has been phenomenal,” he says. “They haven’t coddled us, but they have provided the training and systems and processes that have put us in a position to grow the business. I know the power of the AlphaGraphics brand is the number-one reason why our biggest client is still with us is. We definitely chose the right team.

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April 29th, 2014

Celebrating Our Partners: Michael Funaro

Screen Shot 2014-04-29 at 4.07.37 PMMichael Funaro knows how to market businesses—he’s matched buyers with sellers across the nation, and in a broad spectrum of industries. But when he met Ralph Umbriano, he quickly knew AlphaGraphics was an option worth looking at.

“I’ve known and respected AlphaGraphics for some time, and we’ve built a relationship of trust,” Funaro said. “Most of the centers are doing pretty significant business, and I can look at the comps and recognize a value. When I first met Ralph and came to understand what he was looking for, I gave him five or six options to consider, and he knew the AlphaGraphics brand.”

As a broker with The Business Alliance and owner of the Rainmaker Consulting Group in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., Funaro was able to identify AlphaGraphics locations around the country to present to the client, ultimately locating an AG business center that offered the right opportunity in Umbriano’s native New England.

“He’s a high energy, seasoned, senior-level professional, so he knew what he wanted. We just had to find the right fit,” Funaro said. “My process is to qualify on the front end, and to find the opportunities that make sense for my clients. As a business owner myself, I can honestly say that AlphaGraphics will be here 10 years from now, and that’s important to me.”

Funaro says he’s been impressed with the way AG has evolved into the digital communications space—no longer a “garden variety printer” simply doing business cards and mailing labels, but a full-service marketing communications provider. As important, he cites the company’s national footprint and sustained performance levels, with some centers doing multi-million dollar sales.

“You’ve got to find those franchise brands where there’s a mutual level of respect, where I know that my clients will be treated well in the evaluation process,” he said. “AlphaGraphics is very deliberate, very methodical about their process, and it’s to everyone’s benefit to ensure it’s a great fit. I have every confidence that the clients I place there will be successful.”

Read on to learn more about Funaro’s latest AlphaGraphics placement, Ralph Umbriano in Framingham, Mass. To learn more about the Rainmaker Consulting Group, please click here.

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April 23rd, 2014

Sales & Marketing Exec Becomes Latest AG Franchise Partner

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 8.31.37 AMRalph Umbriano went to college determined to become an attorney, but a low draft number and the prospect of heading to Vietnam caused a change in direction. He jumped into a machine design program, the draft ended, and he was soon offered a chance to go to work designing engineered sealing devices for the industrial market.

The Rhode Island native did product design, provided technical sales support and assumed the role of Sales Engineer with EG&G Sealol, a division of a Fortune 500 company.  Umbriano set sales records, climbing the ladder and continuing to take on more management responsibilities, including Global Business Element Manager and Marketing Director — roles that had him spending more than 25 percent of his time in Europe and elsewhere.  They put him through extensive training, including Kellogg Executive Marketing and Leadership Development programs, among others.

When EG&G was acquired, he decided to work with another company in the industry, A.W. Chesterton, where he streamlined the marketing and strategic accounts functions from five divisions into one and oversaw 45 people.  He had spent a career focused on consultative, solution-based selling and marketing, but with his wife running a successful retail store, the corporate life was getting old.

“The climate was changing, and the corporate approach was getting to be too impersonal,” Umbriano said. “I wanted to get back to a more hands-on approach, with direct responsibility for running a business, and I needed to be with my family. It was time to do something different.”

He knew he wanted to use his sales and marketing background in a business-to-business environment, and he recognized that the “printing” industry had become a dynamic marketplace. A business broker introduced him to AlphaGraphics.

“I didn’t have any pre-conceived notions, other than I wanted a comprehensive approach, something that brought value to customers, something that could be built upon,” he said. “A number of opportunities were presented to me, but AlphaGraphics was really attractive. I visited with others in the industry, and felt that AG was the best positioned for the future.“

Now having purchased an AlphaGraphics Business Center in Framingham, Mass., he says his marketing background offers an easy transition to helping other small businesses succeed—focusing on processes and efficiencies and cost savings, from a marketing standpoint.

“It’s a higher-level mindset, a step above in terms of approach,” Umbriano said. “Nobody was filling that gap, and AlphaGraphics recognized the opportunity. This isn’t about printing… it’s about helping businesses build an identity. I’m still working with customers to make them better as I have for 30 years, but now I’m doing it through my own company.”

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March 5th, 2014

Financial Exec Becomes Latest AG Franchise Partner

Jac Bloomberg was a pioneer in digital printing, starting more than 40 years ago in bringing on-demand laser technology to consumers before gravitating to the marketing side of the industry.

“Our focus was on utilizing the technology to achieve specific business objectives,” Bloomberg says. “That was the early days of personalized direct mail, including things like automated statement processing.”

Living in suburban New Jersey and working in New York City, he found a niche in the financial services industry, directing major printing processes as an internal sales and production executive for companies like Merrill Lynch, Smith Barney (CitiGroup) and Morgan Stanley. For the latter, he recently built a website that allowed 18,000 financial advisors in the field to order personalized materials and generic marketing collateral on demand – think notecards, invitations, brochures and more.

When Morgan Stanley acquired Smith Barney, he took all of the marketing collateral that was sitting in a warehouse and converted it into electronic files that were ready for digital customization and on-demand production. In the process, he salvaged seven million pieces of material and saved the company more than $6 million annually in print spend!

That was when he realized that the time was right to start thinking about working for himself.

“Honestly, after all those years, I had grown a little tired of corporate America, and I was ready to do something on my own,” he says. “I love cars, so I’d even thought about opening a nice car wash. But when I found AlphaGraphics, I knew it was worth pursuing.”

With such a long history in the industry, Bloomberg remembers when the “print shop” concept came to market, where storefronts made copies for individuals and businesses and competed on price.

“A commodity-based business was the last thing I wanted to do. AlphaGraphics is leading the evolution of the industry, and it’s an opportunity to work as a consultant to small and medium-sized businesses,” he says. “That’s where my expertise lies, and I think the potential is in building and expanding those relationships. That’s what’s fun for me.”

Bloomberg recently purchased an existing AlphaGraphics location in Red Bank, N.J., with a solid revenue stream and a strong book of business.

“I’m a sales guy who provides value to long-standing customers, and those partnerships and the comprehensive marketing services offering are where I see growth for the future,” he says. “AlphaGraphics provides excellent support – it’s up to me to utilize the resources available to make my business successful.”

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October 18th, 2013

A Customer Service Case Study: Boston Logan International Airport

It all started with an inbound call about some rack cards. The client was Westfield, the retail operator for Boston’s Logan International Airport.

Screenshot 2013-10-18 12.48.32Carmine and Victoria Camerato, owners of AlphaGraphics Boston, are big believers in the power of search engine marketing, and this particular call came from an SEM campaign.

“Victoria was very helpful, she did a great job on the rack cards and then we followed up to explain our other capabilities,” Carmine said. “That started a relationship with Westfield’s marketing department that has grown into a significant account that includes several high-profile, large-format components within the airport.”

First came the vinyl panels that cover construction barricades, attaching attractive messaging to otherwise unsightly plywood walls. Just this month, the Cameratos have completed two 56-foot-long signs adjacent to a moving walkways.

Now, they’ve been asked to produce four-sided cubes with removable adhesive panels that are situated on top of the baggage carousels.

“We designed these based on their desire to reach repeat travelers for the holiday season, to encourage people to shop in what amounts to a small mall within the airport,” Carmine said. “We’ve developed a series of signs that direct people to the retail shops, and we can swap them out throughout the campaign.”

On the other end of the spectrum, the Cameratos’ AG center produced scratch-off cards for retail promotions within the airport, offering discounts on things like coffee and meals. Even through three different marketing directors, the scope of the client relationship has continued to grow.

“In 18 months, Westfield has become a Top 10 customer of ours; they’ve nearly quadrupled their stated budget from when we started last year,” Victoria said. “We’ve recently started doing some graphic design for them through the AlphaGraphics corporate office’s AG Media Marketplace. It’s really been an incredible relationship.”

Carmine explains that Westfield had struggled in the past with ad agencies who busted budgets and didn’t seem to appreciate the business. The reaction to that initial call to the Cameratos’ AlphaGraphics business center set the tone from the beginning.

“It’s an amazing thing. Just picking up the phone and being nice, accommodating the client’s initial request and then building on that by demonstrating additional capabilities,” he said. “You never know what it will lead to.”

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August 27th, 2013

LIVE From Nashville: AG Annual Conference Celebrates Unprecedented Growth

AlphaGraphics franchise owners from all over the country converged on Nashville, Tennessee, earlier this month for the company’s annual conference. Owners and corporate staff look forward to the conference every year – not only for the strategy sessions and professional development opportunities, but for the camaraderie.

This year was particularly exciting, as AlphaGraphics President Art Coley announced that AG had signed an unprecedented 41 franchise agreements in 21 states in the fiscal year ending June 30. This unit growth is more than double our fiscal year 2012 signings, which we attribute to the successful implementation of the strategy to evolve from a printer to a trusted marketing communications partner serving small businesses.

“Our AlphaGraphics franchisees are reaping the rewards of providing small businesses not only printing services, but strategic marketing solutions,” Coley said. “This success is attracting entrepreneurs across the country to join AlphaGraphics and several of our existing franchisees to expand their territories. Both are signs of a healthy business opportunity.”

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January 18th, 2013

Three New Owners Join Our Global Network in November

AlphaGraphics added three new franchisees to its global network in November, the sixth consecutive month of record growth for the brand recently highlighted in the Franchise Times Top 200.

Curtis Gropman in Marietta, Ga. recently acquired an independent print shop and is in the process of converting it to an AlphaGraphics Business Center. He brings 15 years of senior sales experience with the Coca Cola system, most recently as vice president of category management for North America. Gropman holds a degree in merchandise management from Michigan State University.Headquartered in Salt Lake City, AlphaGraphics, Inc. plans, produces and manages visual communications for businesses at nearly 300 owner-operated, locally based business centers worldwide.

Chris Iacuzzo recently acquired an independent print shop and is in the process of converting it to an AlphaGraphics Business Center in Orlando, Fla. He was previously a senior staff engineer at NDI Recognition Systems, having held senior positions with Northrop Grumman and other prominent corporations in the defense and space industry. He is currently completing a master’s in engineering management from the Florida Institute of Technology and holds a bachelor’s in electrical engineering from the University of Florida.

Ken and Barbara Adams of Colleyville, Texas have signed a franchise agreement, and are exploring AlphaGraphics options in the Dallas area and in other states. Ken spent 18 years with Pepsico, serving most recently as national account sales manager. He has also owned two small start-up businesses. Barbara is retired from American Airlines, where she held a position in administration.

“My decision to leave the corporate world and become a small business owner is driven by my need to create a ‘win-win’ scenario, and to utilize skills that I have developed over the last 24 years,” Mr. Adams said. “With AlphaGraphics, I believe I can fully develop my passion and apply my knowledge and skills to a business that will provide me with the financial freedom I work so hard to achieve.”

The AlphaGraphics network, a 41 year-old brand, continues to be at the forefront of the printing franchise industry. Backed by state-of-the-art technology, the world’s highest quality standards and a global network, the company’s trained and experienced team members are committed to delivering creative solutions that enable customers to grow their businesses and increase their reach. For more, visit or

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