Integra Projects Surge In Business

January 16, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — Here’s a statement Jeff Palmitier heard not long ago that deeply warmed him: “Integra isn’t a printer; it’s a technology boutique.”

The thing that he said pleased him so much about the statement was that it describes pretty much what Integra Printing Co. set out to become when it came to a fork in the road four years ago.

Back then Palmitier, the president of Integra, said a number of issues deeply concerned him and his staff.

Chief among their concerns was the widespread impression that the printing industry was in decline and that in this region, the printing business — one of West Michigan’s larger industrial components — seemed to be shrinking, too.

Without question, he said, competition was becoming more and more intense.

“But then,” he told the Business Journal, “we began to see that perhaps the competition wasn’t really with other printers.

“If you happened to be shopping at a Sears, for instance, you’d see a couple asking for material about a refrigerator. The clerk would take them to a kiosk, call up the item on the net, and run off the material for them on an HP.

“So the reality,” he said, “was that we were competing with the Internet.”

Thanks to that realization, Palmitier — who has been with the firm a decade — said Integra did something extremely rare in the printing business. “We undertook some research and development. It’s something that rarely happens in our industry. We spent lots of money on R&D.”

What the research gave Integra was a brain wave that it calls MindWire.

Among many other things, that means Integra is providing a galaxy of services to business by hitching a permanent ride on the Internet.

And in the broadest terms, Palmitier said, what MindwWire’s special programs entail is information distribution.

He said putting ink on paper for centuries was humanity’s most common form of big-scale information distribution.

But because electronic technology has changed all that, he said, Integra adapted itself to the change.

He noted that while Integra certainly retains its position in printing, it has expanded far beyond printing into a host of electronics information techniques that work in tandem with corporate marketing.

He stressed, however, that while Integra certainly can deliver Internet and e-mail marketing services for clients, the firm is not a practitioner of spam.

What MindWire can do among its cluster of specialties, he said, is produce such highly personalized marketing materials — either printed or electronic — that they commonly can deliver response levels of 10 percent to 20 percent as opposed to 1 percent.

Though not given to grandiosity in conversation, Palmitier said corporate clients are finding that “it’s just huge.”

“Before,” he explained, “mass marketing had to be directed at sort of an average customer. Not now, though.”

He described a hypothetical national mailing — a response to an earlier mass mailing — that his firm might print for an auto insurance company. Though the mailing might be nationwide, he said key elements of the materials would be highly variable, carefully targeted in terms of demography and geography.

Segments of the mailing going to, say, the Southeast could be pictorially directed to sexagenarians who drive vans, he explained.

Meanwhile, the material directed to people in the high plains or the Rockies could be targeted at 30-somethings, and would feature mountainous scenery and picture SUVs.

Again, depending upon demographics, other segments of such a mailing might feature Corvettes in California, Beamers in Chicago, or Expeditions with soccer stickers in suburban anywhere.

And the beauty of IT, he said, is that it virtually eliminates the major limitation that always hampered print — distance, and the time needed to transport ink on paper.

Integra’s Web site refers to the firm’s “vast potential for infinite customization.” He said many firms employ some of the technologies that Integra makes available through Mindwire.

He said he believes, however, the array of capabilities under MindWire’s umbrella makes the firm unique. 

Thanks to that capacity, Palmitier says no two companies use MindWire in exactly the same way.

Aside from marketing functions, he said, MindWire can serve a host of business-to-business roles and likewise in internal communications or administration.

“Take newsletters, for example,” he said. “The main body of a newsletter for a large corporation might be uniform, but it could have entirely different front and back covers.”

He said the covers would have localized stories concerning the disparate regions or even plants to which the newsletter is directed.

Likewise, he said Integra can use electronics to accommodate firms of national or international reach that want to send one type of information to their best sales production branches, and something quite different to others while maintaining the security of those differing messages.

He said MindWire’s reach has forced both corporations and marketing firms into a learning curve. “It’s taking a while for strategies to catch up with the technology,” he noted.

Some corporate clients, he said, have been cautious in using MindWire both because of cost constraints necessitated by the recession, and because MindWire is, in a sense, like a new computer program — it takes a newbie time to master it and to mentally embrace all it can do.

Thus, he said, some corporations and their marketing consultants have used MindWire on a small scale and, from that experience, have begun to grasp its full potential.

“We were working with one large corporation that had 105 separate locations that had to function cooperatively and had to have just the right materials on hand,” Palmitier said.

“The woman in charge of keeping them organized was just about to tear her hair at times.

“Well, after we came in and helped with that process, one of her co-workers came to us and said, ‘I want what you have given her. I don’t mean the technology — I mean the two hours a day that she has now that she didn’t before.’”

Now with the economy beginning to take off, Palmitier said he believes Integra will be flooded with business.

In fact, he said, the 67-year-old company has had enough business so far to necessitate breaking ground on a new building directly across the street from its plant at 2201 Oak Industrial Drive NE.

Currently, the firm deals with clients regionally, nationally and internationally using a staff of 80 — even more evidence that technology has a tremendous multiplying effect upon workers’ labor.           

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