Bacon Vodka, Anyone?
Last month in the blazing sun at a rooftop networking party hosted by SEMpdx, Tarragon and I (Chelsea) were casually chatting with a few new friends when Jeff McRitchie, our VP of Marketing, excitedly came running up to us. “There’s someone I want you to meet to interview for a printer profile,” he says. As we follow him back to a tent in the shade of the American Marketing Association’s booth, Matt Miali shakes our hands and says some of the best words we’ve ever heard: “Would you like a shot of bacon-infused vodka?” As we love all things bacon, we knew it was the start of a beautiful relationship.
After much cavorting, we got down to business and discovered he is a print industry rock star, just like all our other amazing interviewees have been. Recently we had the chance to sit down with him over coffee and learn a little more about Matt as well as his company, B&B Print Source.
How did you get started in the print industry?
I actually started my career on the flip side as a creative director in advertising. I co-owned an ad agency for ten years that began in Pasadena, CA, which is where I’m from. When my business partner’s wife got a job in Portland, we moved the business up here. Later, we amicably parted ways and I transitioned into my more recent occupation as a commercial printer. I began as a print broker for five years before moving into my current position as a salesman for B&B Print Source.
Forgive my ignorance but what is a print broker?
Most print brokers don’t own any equipment; instead, they work with various trade vendors. Your jobs are sourced out, which can be both good and bad. Good because you can get some pretty decent pricing. “Bad” because you can’t monitor quality. If your phone rings a few days after a job has been sent out, you’re always praying it’s not a client complaint.
Sounds stressful. I can see why you wanted to switch to a print shop. Was it an easy transition?
B&B was my go-to printer while I owned the ad agency. I was friends with most of the staff, and it didn’t hurt that B&B is rated as one of the top printers in the Pacific Northwest. It was a welcome reprieve from the broker world. B&B also has many different types of presses under one roof, which has allowed me to become more familiar with the mechanical side of things. Now I can monitor quality during each phase of a project as it moves throughout the shop. My background in design coupled with a working knowledge of print has really helped me better serve my clients. I’ve been in their shoes and can help them avoid some of the many mistakes I’ve made as a print buyer. I love it!
In the nine years you’ve been in print, how have you seen things change?
Without a doubt, online marketing is slowly cannibalizing the print world. Soon after the “dot com” boom, companies began relying on this single digital medium to market their products, because it was new and more importantly, “Free”. Unfortunately, they had no real marketing plan in place and didn’t understand how to reach their customers through digital marketing alone. I feel it affected a lot of companies and this “marketing shortcut” hurt their marketing efforts and helped contribute to the overall recession. I’m all for marketing online and well-executed social media campaigns, however, I still believe successful marketing campaigns incorporate a number of different mediums to help the message resonate. Today we’re beginning to see successful companies are, once again, coupling their online plans with other, more traditional, forms of advertising. It’s still the best way to go. Today you should send a postcard announcing the launch of your new website. I guarantee you’ll get more hits.
What is your favorite part about working in print?
The company I work for and my co-workers. They’re great people who are all very skilled. We have 70 people with very low turnover. Everyone does their job well which helps keep things highly efficient and sustainable. We all work together to solve problems, which takes off some of the pressure and stress that can come in this type of “deadline oriented” job. We run two 12-hour shifts, so things are always humming. I also love taking the stress of printing off of my clients who have enough problems to deal with in their day-to-day schedules.
Tell me about B&B Print Source.
B&B has been in business for over 25 years. It’s a locally owned, family run commercial print shop specializing in sheet-fed offset work. We have 5 different offset presses ranging from 2 to 6-color process. We’ve recently expanded our digital department to meet the growing need and have full in-house mailing services. Our sweet spot is in larger runs but, thanks to enhanced digital capabilities, we can work with all sizes of companies and most any sized project. Most of our clients reside within the Pacific Northwest, although, we do have a few national accounts as well.
How are today’s clients different from those when you were a print buyer?
People today are raised in a digital world. Young print buyers are often unaware of the complexities of print. It’s important to discuss projects with your printer during the design phase, instead of after everything has been approved. It may look great on a monitor but could pose a number of problems and cost a lot of money to produce in print. Quantities, finishes and color all play an important role as it relates to the cost of a project. We all work hard to win over our customers. Knowing how to save your clients money while producing high quality printed marketing materials will help make your client/vendor relationship last a whole lot longer.
Most importantly, how did you learn to make such delicious bacon vodka?
I’ve been an active member of the American Marketing Association / Portland Chapter (AMA) for over 4 years. Last year, I was asked to sit on the board as the “Networking Chairman”. Coming form a creative background, I wanted to create something that would set the AMA’s networking apart from the usual “meet and greet” style networking events they’d been doing. That’s where the “Blind Pig Networking Brigade” was born. We started having events that pulled people out of their comfort zones and caused them to bond with the new people they met rather than just dole out cards. For instance, we had a Tiki party at the New Trader Vics. In order to get into the event, every attendee had to limbo their way in. Depending on how low you could go resulted in different “prizes” and accolades. We also hosted a “Let’s Duet!” Karaoke competition where we pitted our AMA friends against some other local marketing organizations. Nothing will make a friend for life like singing a heated duet together. With every event, we give away a bottle of homemade and “uncomfortably-delicious” bacon-infused vodka. It’s taken me awhile but I’ve finally got the process of infusing it down to a science, as you and Tarragon can attest from our first meeting. Hopefully we’ll see you at more Blind Pig Events.