As a 100 percent employee-owned company, the full effect of last year’s pandemic was felt by every one of Canfield & Tack Printing Inc.’s 75 staffers.
“I remember the initial scramble getting masks. And the other thing was gaining essential business status. Figuring out what that meant took us a while,” said Canfield & Tack President and CEO Ray Brown. “Because of the mailing and fulfillment that we do in critical industries it was clear that we were an essential business.”
Like other businesses, the commercial printer had to put a number of protocols in place on its manufacturing floor, Brown said, including mask and sanitation rules, scheduling and more.
“Our employee owners were fantastic about that,” he added.
And while things were changing on a daily basis, Canfield & Tack never really got knocked down by COVID-19, Brown said. In fact, the company, partnering with the city of Rochester, stepped up to mail nearly 450,000 masks to Rochester residents at the height of the pandemic.
“There was the challenge of communicating with customers, setting up our own employees to work remotely, working with suppliers,” he acknowledged. “Some customers increased sales, other companies dropped down to almost nothing. It was really a crazy time.”
And it could have derailed Canfield & Tack’s calculated growth plans, which have been part of the fabric of the organization for several years, culminating in the acquisition of Cohber Press in 2019.
“The companies complemented each other well. Our fulfillment side was stronger. Fortunately the companies had very little crossover,” Brown explained.
The merger added to Canfield & Tack’s bottom line, but moving the entire company into Cohber’s larger Henrietta facility also created synergies and lowered costs.
Last year, trade publication Printing Impressions named Canfield & Tack to its annual Printing Impressions 350, a list of “fast track” printers whose growth methods are emulated among those in the industry. The publication noted that Canfield & Tack’s sales grew some $6 million from 2018 to 2019.
Canfield & Tack was founded in 1926 by Hubert Canfield and Larry Tack as a lithographic printer. It became an ESOP in 1994 when Tack’s son and owner, Daniel, decided to step away from the company. Brown joined the firm in 1989 and became president in 2005.
“We’re considered a general commercial printer,” Brown noted. “The majority of our work comes from printing brochures, marketing materials and direct mail. Direct mail has really taken off industrywide.”
In addition to the equipment gained from the merger with Cohber, Canfield & Tack has made some strategic purchases of late. From a hardware perspective, the company has installed a Kodak Nexfinity, a dry ink-based digital press, as well as an offline ultraviolet coater that uses wet inks that are cured with UV light.
This year, Canfield & Tack launched OptiMail, a new direct marketing campaign service that integrates digital features with traditional mail.
Integrating with digital platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Google, OptiMail adds multiple touchpoints and impressions to expand a marketing campaign’s reach and enhance results. It pre-matches mailing lists to social media accounts and other digital activity, delivering coordinating ads to people before, during and after a mailing reminding them to take the next step. A robust tracking system enables customers to monitor and measure campaign effectiveness and results through a customized online dashboard.
The software, Brown said, is “hugely popular” with existing customers.
“It really shifts our focus to solutions for our customers. Let’s talk about the data and how we can track that mail, track when people are responding to that mail. It’s been a great conversation starter and differentiator for us,” he said. “I’m more excited about that than anything in the past 10 years.”
Canfield & Tack has experienced a great shift in the last decade.
“We used to be geographically focused and the shift that’s happened is our customer base is nationwide now,” Brown explained, noting that regional business and customers in the northeast account for roughly one-third of the company’s business.
The company has experienced growth in wine and spirits, financial services, higher education and the healthcare and medical devices arenas, and those increases are not limited to a specific geography.
The future of Canfield & Tack holds additional growth, Brown said. Direct mail will continue to be a focus at the printing company and Brown expects to make additional investments in digital printing capabilities.
“We’re continuing to look a little over the horizon,” he said. “An acquisition is never out of the question; we’re looking at a few things right now.”
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