By Cassandra Balentine
The goal for many modern print providers is to move from a commodity print model, finding a niche that sets them apart from the competition. With the right marketing strategy, design talent, and motivation, the latest in print technology is leveraged to do just this.
Established in 2001, DLS Discovery supported law firms and corporate legal offices with eDiscovery litigation as well as courier and production services. It has come a long way since then, and today the company provides graphic design, color print, and mailing services in addition to large format color and promotional products. It operates out of two office locations with a staff of 50 employees. Headquartered in Wilmington, DE, it primarily serves the surrounding area, but offers drop shipment of products across the U.S.
Above: DLS Discovery lets its design skills shine for clients with the Xerox Iridesse Production Press, which features specialty inks.
In 2015, DLS Discovery decided to expand its service offering. Edward Carp, president, DLS Discovery recruited Rebecca Lennon to head up a new design and print marketing initiative within the organization. “After about a year of learning the print industry, we were ready to add to our team and began interviewing for our second designer,” shares Lennon.
Tapping into local resources, the team brought in graduates from area colleges. From Delaware College of Art and Design, Danielle Miller joined the company as design and print manager. Soon after, Grace Hunsinger came on board as a design and print associate after graduating from Virginia Commonwealth School of the Arts.
Over the past few years, DLS Discovery’s color print department has grown to a team of four women—all with a background in design. The most recent hire, Lexi Peabody, is also a graduate of Delaware College of Art and acts as the team’s print production assistant.
The print provider typically serves schools, non-profits, and small- to mid-sized businesses. Starting with on demand printing services and graphic design support, the demand for graphic services really took off for DLS Discovery in the direct mail segment. “Direct mail allows clients to use our company to get all of their design, marketing, and mailing needs under one roof,” share Lennon, Miller, Hunsinger, and Peabody.
Its output devices have also evolved. The company recently acquired the Xerox Iridesse Press, which was brought in to handle larger print runs and provide new, on demand offerings. Introduced just last year, the Xerox Iridesse Press is a high-speed, six-station color press that combines metallic gold or silver dry ink, CMYK, and clear dry ink in a single pass.
The print provider invested in the Iridesse in June 2018, shortly after its release. “We spent several months researching and meeting with Xerox representatives to discuss the advantages of the latest Xerox technology in the market,” recall Lennon, Miller, Hunsinger, and Peabody.
The team did look at competing devices, but decided the Iridesse would be a game changer, something that could differentiate them from other digital print shops.
As designers, the team was intrigued by the print enhancement capabilities unique to the Iridesse. “The ability to apply the specialty inks into design pieces we create helped us increase revenue and our client base over the past year,” they share. “It has allowed us to integrate specialty inks into design pieces, makes our designs unique, and really changes the playing field.”
Changing the Conversation
With new equipment and capabilities, DLS Discovery set out to update its business model and cost structure from a basic digital print shop into a high-end boutique provider. “That was a huge learning curve,” admit Lennon, Miller, Hunsinger, and Peabody. “Learning and feeling comfortable with the machine takes time, but Xerox technical support helped along the way.”
The company is now able to produce a range of offerings including business cards with clear ink; and adding silver, gold, and metallic inks to greeting cards, event brochures, specialty folded designs, and direct mail marketing pieces.
In addition to its specialty ink capabilities, other features of the press are beneficial to the DLS Discovery team. Before the Iridesse, it did not have the ability to produce full-bleed brochures, so this function has earned new business. In addition, scoring features in the machine helps streamline the production of certain products.
Specific to mail, variable data pieces that were once printed separately on the actual print piece are now processed directly onto mail pieces, cutting down production time and enabling the company to take on more of this work.
DLS Discovery’s customers are noticing too, impressed with both color and finishing functions now available to them. And of course, specialty inks make a big impact. “The addition of gold and silver inks to print pieces continues to impress our clients and adds the wow factor,” say Lennon, Miller, Hunsinger, and Peabody.
Overall, the biggest benefit is the financial growth of the company’s marketing department and its client base. “The Iridesse allows us to say yes to more projects that we weren’t able to previously produce in house,” offer Lennon, Miller, Hunsinger, and Peabody. They note an immediate increase in both sales and customers right after installing the Iridesse.
Magnificent Marketing Pieces
DLS Discovery recently utilized the specialty ink capabilities of the Iridesse when creating a marketing piece for a local school. The job was a recruitment tool for eighth graders. It consisted of 800 pieces, four folds, on uncoated stock. Gold ink was added to represent the school’s branded color. Most of the graphics and icons printed on the piece were done in gold ink.
The client presented a marketing piece from another school to the design team, detailing everything they liked and disliked about it. The client also explained that the piece needed to attract student and parent attention. “We took the school’s notes and created a unique, four-fold piece that is easily portable, and added gold ink to make the infographics of the piece stand out,” explain Lennon, Miller, Hunsinger, and Peabody.
One challenge of the job was to create a unique sized piece that would be cost effective and visual enough to appeal to the target audience. “From a design perspective, this was the first opportunity we had to create a visual piece for the school, so we had to stay in step with its branding and deliver all of their marketing messages to appeal to student and parent perspectives,” they add.
The piece was turned around two weeks from the initial meeting with the client and included conceptualization, design, proof, and print. The actual production was 48 hours and sent directly to the post office.
DLS Discovery gained success by recognizing changing customer demands and going with the flow. Its decision to invest in the latest digital print technology enabled the print provider to evolve into a modern, boutique print shop. In this niche, its design strengths shine with the help of specialty printing.
“We help clients bring their marketing messages to life and it is truly a collaborative approach to our print marketing value-add for our clients,” say Lennon, Miller, Hunsinger, and Peabody. “We plan to continue to grow our client base by integrating more specialty ink printing into our designs,” they conclude.
DLS Discovery also hopes to add another Iridesse to keep up with growth. dps
Sep2019, DPS Magazine