A Roadmap for Survival in the Digital Age

Every day, there seems to be a new doomsday workplace prediction. Retail stores across the U.S. are shuttering. Traditional manufacturing is becoming a thing of the past. And, soon, worker-reliant industries — from textile mills to fast-food chains — will be taken over by automation.

As a more than 40-year-old print and marketing company in the Unites States, Magna IV has faced its fair share of challenges. We’ve grappled with our future in today’s ever-evolving digital age. And, more than once, we’ve had to make tough financial choices in order to survive.

When the Great Recession hit in 2008, it was the perfect storm for us. Our clients were feeling uncertain about their futures. Many of them immediately pulled back their print spends. Others made the shift to digital marketing, which, at the time, was seen as a more readily accessible and affordable advertising option. The transactional work we had received in the past for brochures, catalogs and other standard print pieces was gone, with many accounts never returning.

My business partner and I knew closing up shop wasn’t on the table for us. But, how could we retool the company to ensure long-term profitability, as well as future growth? With a fair share of heartburn, we transformed our business with the following roadmap as our guide.

Behind the scenes of a print shop operation in the digital age.Make a corporate-wide shift from transactions

After a thorough evaluation of our workplace, we quickly realized one-off print projects were no longer going to sustain us, at least not in the long-term. So, we altered our corporate structure to a program-based model. We brought on full-time software programmers to develop innovative solutions, including online marketing portals that allow clients to centralize and streamline the procurement of their marketing needs. These new software tools required a significant investment. But it helped us insert ourselves into every step of the marketing process. Whether we provide creative development or fulfillment and distribution, we have positioned Magna IV as an integral and irreplaceable partner to brands’ marketing teams.

The digital age offers new opportunities for printing operations.

Refinance to free up capital for investments in technology

Offset printing had always been our bread and butter. But with the decline in magazines and traditional marketing collateral, we needed to incorporate new revenue streams. We refinanced our debt, lowered our interest rate and lengthened the term of our loans to free up cash. We then used this capital to purchase new plant equipment, including state-of-the-art wide format and digital printers. This allowed us to print small-run jobs more efficiently. It also opened up new opportunities for us to provide data-driven services like multi-media marketing campaigns that would expand our customer base in the digital age.

“Positioning ourselves as an extension of our customers’ teams, instead of just a vendor, ensures our company’s long-term financial success in the digital age.” Kristi Dannelley, President Magna IV

Focus on automation

With the tough financial climate, we knew many of our clients were looking for ways to maximize their print and marketing spends. Teams no longer had the time or resources to oversee multiple campaigns in different markets. We saw an opportunity to set ourselves apart from the competition. With the help of our in-house programmers, we decided to double down on automation. We began offering branded web-to-print portals, where customers could easily access, customize and print approved marketing materials on demand. Today, customers’ orders go seamlessly from proof approval to production to distribution with minimal touchpoints — saving them significant time and money.


Never settle for complacency

Within a matter of months, we hit our stride. We brought on national brands with multiple locations, with a focus on the restaurant, financial services and nonprofit verticals. We became a partner to well-known entities such as Dave & Buster’s, Gold’s Gym, Fox & Hound, Champps, National Kidney Foundation, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and others. These clients sang our praises, spurring additional business. We celebrated the victories, but we kept pushing our management team and employees. Year after year, we’ve focused on giving them freedom and, when needed, the capital funds to land that next big client.

Be a partner, not a vendor

Regardless of what’s next for the print industry in the digital age, whether virtual reality or artificial intelligence, we’ve set a company-wide mindset of always keeping the client first. By positioning ourselves as an extension of our customers’ teams, instead of just a vendor, we believe we can ensure our company’s long-term financial success in the digital age.

Kristi Dannelley is president and co-owner of Magna IV, a more than 40-year-old print and marketing business in Little Rock, Arkansas, USA. A former CPA, she oversees its financials, operations and new product and account development. Under her guidance, Magna IV has become one of the largest printers in the Mid-South and top printers in the U.S., helping national brands centralize and streamline their marketing needs. For three consecutive years, she has been named to the Arkansas 250, a list of influential figures shaping industry, government and quality of life.