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Interview With Bill Fitzgerald: Adapting In The Print Industry To Meet Customers' Needs

Thu, May 25, 2017

With 30 years of experience, it’s safe to say that Bill Fitzgerald is an expert in the print industry. He’s the CEO/Founder of Universal Wilde, a company that he helped build, lead, and guide through several acquisitions.

It is the culmination of a dream he had to see a printing organization fulfill all customer needs from “thought to distribution” and the leader in personalized, secure communications.

He sat down with VP of Marketing, Lianne Wade to provide some insights on where he sees the industry going, his vision for Universal, and the unique differentiators that position us at the forefront of the industry. You can check it out below.

It's one of your personal philosophies to focus on why a customer's buying, not what a customer's buying. What motivated this philosophy?

It’s what I’m all about. I’m not interested in selling a printed piece for 18 cents. I’m trying to understand what the customer’s trying to achieve by producing a product and how we can help them do that by using our "thought to distribution" strategy.

This started years ago with my sales force. I asked them, "What are our customers looking for?" And they said, "Print."

So I put a little dot on a long piece of paper. I said, "If this is printing, what happens before it and what happens after it?" We’ll call this the value chain.

All of a sudden, I had the sales force blurting out all kinds of answers around things that happen before and after print. By the time we were done, I said, "Guys, this is the road map. This is where we want to be, providing a full range of services for our customers' requirements."

We want to be able to offer everything from thought, which is the very first thing at the far end of the scale, to distribution, which was at the end. We were looking at a value chain, something to make it easier for clients -- utilizing a single source for all of their communication/distribution needs.

What were you hearing from clients that made you develop this approach? 

I listen to clients. They have pain points. I saw a lot of finger-pointing that resulted from using multiple vendors -- lost time, lost dollars -- all of which are important to customers.

If you look at mailing, somebody’s printing it. They’re sending it to a mail company, and people are saying, "Well, geez, I didn’t get it on time" or "I need more time to do this."

By offering the client a one-stop-shop, the only finger-pointing was at ourselves. That really eased the client’s pain.

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How do we meet the demands and challenges of clients, particularly in key verticals that we specialize in: financial services, insurance, education, and healthcare?

Everything is about security and time to market. Things that used to take two weeks? Now, people are looking for them in two days.

They're looking for companies that can take complex files and sensitive information, then manipulate and distribute the information in a variety of formats without mistakes.

We're talking about customers supplying files that may have sensitive data like social security numbers where we would suppress this information before output or print high net worth statements, where if you got mine and I got yours, that'd be a big problem. 

Unless you have a streamlined process and technologically enabled platform to be able to deliver that, you’re going to have problems.

What we’ve built is a very sophisticated delivery platform. Through this platform, we’re able to take client’s files, manipulate them as needed, and output them to multiple mediums.

Whether they’re going to go to print, digital print, or personalized digital print, we’re able to take those files and repurpose them for multiple needs. A lot of companies are doing this now, but we’ve been doing it for a long time. We have years of experience and people who listen to our customers' needs and build systems and processes to support those requirements.

What are some of the quality control measures that we’ve put in place to help achieve this?

We have a large group of people that are working strictly in the quality control area, and everything we do is documented. The head of quality control reports directly to me. It’s very near and dear to my heart.

We're an ISO compliant company. Everyone is trained in the various quality aspects that their jobs entail.

Given that today's customers are more empowered than ever, is there a higher demand for personalized communications?

I would say, 90% of what we do in our digital room is personalized. While it's still more expensive than offset print, clients are getting a bigger lift in response and engagement when they personalize their communications. UW is able to help our customers acquire, retain, upsell, and crosssell both to their prospects and existing customers by using personalized communications.

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How, in your opinion, do clients receive the most value from us?

What really excites our customers is our people. We have an extremely knowledgeable workforce that knows how to get it done and how to get it done right. We’re not delivering product that has mistakes.

As a one-stop-shop, our clients aren't calling up this person to do this project and that person to do that project. Things aren't getting lost in the middle.

It’s one process and one company with a single point of contact. Our customers are realizing significant value from our single source approach.

Also, our equipment offering is amazing, but beyond that, we have a huge fulfillment center. We do traditional pick, pack, and ship. We store product. We build kits through a very sophisticated, automated system, allowing us to take physical inventory and combine it with virtual inventory, build kits, and distribute in a high quality, timely manner.

We’re the biggest mailer in New England by far, and one of the largest in the country. We send out millions of pieces of mail through our onsite detached postal operations. We have our own IT group in-house, providing system creation to support our customers' unique work flows.

Our offering as far as our equipment is fantastic, and our clients can leverage these strengths with faster time to market.

Is there a client story that comes to mind where we have provided that value that you’re talking about?

Our salespeople were able to talk to one of our education clients and show them statistics on what their inventories look like, what their obsolescence look like, and what their orders look like.

By having that business review, our salespeople were able to say “Listen, this is really something that should be migrated over to digital.”

The individual digital piece may have been more expensive, but when you look at their entire program, it was a lot cheaper and a lot smaller footprint to do the work digitally.

That’s a good example of a salesperson understanding what the client's needs were and driving them to something that made more sense, saved them money, and allowed them to get to market faster.


We heard from some folks, loud and clear, that when a customer comes in for a tour, they are just amazed and surprised. What’s your perspective on that?

It doesn’t surprise me at all. This is a very impressive operation. Our technology, work flows, equipment offering, and people are second to none.

When they talk to people, they are going to see that these are super bright people, both internally and externally. And our equipment offering speaks for itself.

You walk in and you get blown away. I’m very proud of it.

Where do you go to learn about new technologies or get your fix of industry news?

I like to read Printing Impressions, and I sit on a board in New York City for a large print company alongside a few heavy weights in the digital marketplace. We spend a lot of time talking about where digital is today and where it’s going in the future.

Also, I’m extremely friendly with a couple of higher-ups at Xerox and HP, and I get most of my information just by talking to these folks.

How do you think digital and offline are going to work together in the future?

I think well. I really do. We do a lot of work in education, and even though the print piece of that has declined, the content side of it has grown tremendously.

There’s way more content than there ever was before, and it’s being distributed both digitally and by print. Because of digital, it’s nonstop.

I don’t like to fight change. I’ve always been a believer in embracing change. So, if offset is going to continue to decline and digital is going to continue to grow, I’m all about it. We want to be where our clients want us to be.

Anything else about the future of the industry that excites you?

It’s a tough industry. You need to be different than the competition, and we are. Our sophistication, our equipment, and our people make us different. 

It's my personal commitment to make our customer successful by operating as a true business partner. I believe that if our customer is successful, we will be as well

Just the security side of our business! We’re excited about that piece, because it is a differentiator.

We’re not in the business to just put clicks through a press. We’re in the business to really service our clients, truly from thought to distribution, and everything in between. That’s what I’m excited about.

We’re there. We’ve been there for a long, long time. Other people are trying to catch up. And I think we’re still a stride ahead of our competition.

Universal Wilde is a leading full-service provider of data-driven, technology-enabled marketing communications solutions. Head over here to discover more about our services, or follow our pages on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter for additional print industry news.

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