The Evolution, Current State, & Future of Strata
Who We Are
Strata was founded by Jeff Sammak in 1993. At first, the company’s goal was to simply provide print services to a plethora of clients. Jeff later came to realize that Strata’s true mission was to leverage emerging technology to fuse marketing processes into a streamlined, single-source workflow. Over time, we’ve evolved to offer a wide range of client-driven solutions to help customers solve complex marketing and communications challenges, and we’ve consistently been a team of many different, unique individuals – innovators, go-getters, marketing experts, sales connoisseurs, you name it. But we’re people first—and we know our clients, customers, coworkers, and industry peers are, too. For this reason, we know the best way to help businesses achieve their marketing goals is by focusing on the people who work at them.
Where We Started
When Strata began, our services were print, print, and more print. We provided print solutions like no one else, offered great customer service, and were efficient and productive – as we are today. Back then, most of our clients were within the pharmaceutical industry, and we primarily focused on print materials like postcards and mailers, with a very small amount of web portal work.
Danielle, a long-time Strata employee, remembers that the main source of revenue for the company was “creating and printing Case Report Form (CRF) Books for pharmaceutical companies. Strata even had a program created for us to be able to set these up and separate the pages to print because they were printed on NCR paper.”
Before 2003’s move to Campus Drive in Plymouth Meeting, PA, where Strata’s main office is now, the company was located on Butler Pike. Around the time of the move, the pharmaceutical industry started moving CRF books online, causing a shift in the printing industry. To stay ahead, Strata purchased an iGEN 3 digital press and began working with variable data. This led to many of our current tactics – variable postcards, mailers and more, as we continued with more web portals. This change ramped up both the marketing and productions parts of Strata’s business.
Dawn, another long-standing Strata employee, recalls that “internet ordering wasn’t even a thing when I started…but Jeff was quick to add the software and technology to build customer portals for online orders to stay ahead of the market.”
This is when we really changed from a print solutions provider, to a full-blown marketing solutions company. From then on, technology became a key driver for all of our activities.
Today, we’re always using a blend of direct and digital strategies to get the highest ROI for our clients. Our equipment has and continues to evolve, and our culture grows stronger as our company expands. Dawn says, “Jeff’s always thinking two steps ahead (or maybe more) to keep the company current. Variable printing (has) branched out to email communication and personalized landing pages, and our ability to track responses is a technology that many of our clients (and competition) don’t even know about.” Harrison, Strata’s Director of R&D, says that we’re always expanding on our strategic value, being more than just execution, and more than just technology – we’re “being invaluable.”
Mark, a Strata leader since 2007, says that today, we’re a company that’s a blend of so many components. “For certain, the way we work is different…now we operate from our homes…taking advantage of the technology that allows us to do that.” He notes that our equipment has changed and evolved significantly as well. Instead of iGen, we now use HP Indigos (a much better product) and also use multiple black and white printers, a large 6-color offset press, inserters, a UV coater, and more. We’ve improved our processing capabilities through automation, and can now produce at a higher quantity and quality than ever before. Our workforce is no longer only print and production, but – like we said – innovators, marketers, and strategists too.
Our products have expanded from just postcards and mailers to email execution, digital, large format, and more. “We’ve moved from a transactional business to one that’s driven by orders from portals, for many of our clients,” Mark says. We used to outsource a lot of our services, and now, we invest in resources to keep those services within Strata. PURL development is a great example of this. We used to have the need to outsource it, but now, we do all of the creation in-house.
“Today,” Harrison says, “everything we do is with a realistic approach. We always keep contact with our clients and continue to solve problems.”
What Makes us Best – Directly from Our Staff
“Our employees have always been hard-working, easy to get along with, dedicated, and loyal, and that’s what has kept me here so long. I still feel like I’m always learning something, which is great, because I don’t like the mundane, same-old, same-old. I feel like we’re always ahead of other companies with innovative ideas and solutions, and we’re definitely always looking for new solutions for companies and trying to make things easier for them while staying ahead of the curve. However, I feel like our core values have stayed the same.”
“We look to exceed expectations, have extensive knowledge in our field that enables us to make smart happen, and live off of technology to be efficient in all scenarios. We think like our clients and look to provide solutions within their environment, and we cast a wide net that can satisfy most client needs under our roof without outsourcing. We have an excellent client base (many of our clients have been with us for 10+ years), and employees that stay with us.
You can speak with the actual CEO here. You can’t get that just anywhere, especially when you work for a big company. Each person has a place here. Everyone’s best talent is put to work here, and we all work together.”
The Future of Strata
At Strata, we’ll always put the customer first, as we always have, and it’ll always be top priority to solve problems – not just sell our services. We plan to keep evolving digitally, with smarter, more advanced technology, and to always stay on top of the latest and greatest trends. Dawn claims that in her many, many years with Strata, she’s “always seen the company evolve with the changing times.”
No matter what the future holds, Strata will always stick to our core – to make smart happen and remain a solution-based company. Give us a call if you’d like to evolve with us and utilize our mix of print and digital services to your advantage.
Showing Love For Our Workplace, People, Processes, & Culture
Love For Our Processes & Services
Strata – derived from the word, “Strategy”, never falls short of its name. Through the years, our company has constantly strategized. Not only to keep business going, but to build on our foundation of direct marketing services with digital, and always staying on top of the newest marketing trends, year after year. Founded by Jeff Sammak in 1993, Strata originally leveraged emerging technology to merge marketing processes into a streamlined, single-source workflow. Today, we offer a wide range of client-driven solutions that help customers solve complex marketing and communications challenges.
Simply put – we’ve evolved from solely print production to print combined with communications, process management, and digital marketing. We’ve come to understand that there isn’t a “one-size fits all” approach for marketing with our customers, and that we can provide them with whatever direction they wish to or need to go with management, materials, and messaging. As Jeff says, “evolve or perish,” – and we’ve done just that from the get-go.
Of course, our first, true love for print production has never died. As a production powerhouse with deep roots in print and mail services, we’re equipped to handle nearly any requirement, and over the years we’ve maintained and consistently grown in quality. Combine these services with digital outreach, data management, custom development, and reporting, and you’ve got the entire campaign taken care of – all under one roof.
Since we had the ability to do all of these things (and more) under one roof, we thought “why not create omnichannel campaigns for our clients”? So, we did just that. With a combination of targeted audiences, direct mail, digital ads, email campaigns, analysis, and reporting, our team can help you get the right message in front of the right people at the right time.
And lastly, we love a little integrated marcom tech, which can help clients manage all of their ever-changing marketing resources with streamlined technology. We love helping companies put structure to processes and content, overcome operational challenges, and take control of their brand with marketing resource management (MRM) tools and intelligent customer communications management (CCM) solutions.
Love For Our People
Not only has Strata strategized in our services and business processes, but in our nourishment of employees to keep them happy, motivated, and successful. There’s not a one-size fits all approach for our employees, either. At Strata, we’re a lot of things (innovators, go-getters, marketing experts). Everyone’s different, works differently, and has different needs, hopes, and dreams. While we’ve grown throughout the years, we’ve always put lots of energy and effort into ensuring employees are along for the ride and that they’re happy with where Strata is going. We pride ourselves on an open door (or right now, open “window”) policy, where communication is top priority and everyone’s ideas are on the table.
Love For Our Growing Team
In 2020 and 2021 especially, we’ve added several members to the team, adding an increasing abundance of talent and excitement. With our recent brand refresh launch in 2020, we see even more growth ahead, and a newfound love for our company’s brand. We feel like the same great company we’ve always been, but now, with a refreshed look that better exemplifies who we are and where we’re headed together. Our hope is that this brand will not only provide employees with an image to be proud of, but that it will also attract even more top talent into the future.
Both our established employees and our new employees are all in agreement – they swiped right on Strata, whether that was recently or years ago – and they don’t regret it.
Why We “Swiped Right”
Danielle, our Digital Print and Prepress Director, came to Strata way before the time of dating apps and swiping right. She was hired in 2000 after finding Strata in the classifieds (now that’s a blast from the past!). Back in 2000, Danielle chose Strata for its closeness to home and good lunch food options, as well as the great people. “Strata always seems to hire great employees throughout the years and that is huge to me – you don’t want to work with people you don’t get along with! I also enjoy what I do. It’s the perfect mix of challenge and creativity.” Her greatest memories at Strata are of our picnics, where she has really enjoyed some friendly volleyball competition. She also recalls, “At our 2012 picnic, the staff threw a little surprise wedding shower for me and another fellow employee that was getting married around the same time.”
Connor, a member of our Strategic Sales team, came to Strata in quite a unique way as well. In 2018, Connor was working at a competitor company, and a mutual connection set up a meeting between him and Strata’s SVP, Mark. “Unbeknownst to us, I was thinking I was going into to a sales meeting to pitch my prior company’s services, but it actually ended up being almost like an interview. I had a great understanding and experience selling technology and campaigns in relation to print with a unique client base, and it aligned with Strata’s offerings and what Mark was looking for, so he offered me a chance to come aboard the ship.” Connor claims it was “Mark’s energy” that initially sold him on working for Strata. “I also got to meet Jeff and some of the other employees and just felt at ease from the get-go. At my previous company I was maybe the youngest guy in sales by 20 years, and Strata had and was always looking for that infusion of youth with great and grand ideas for the company to grow, which I loved.” Connor’s favorite thing about working at Strata now, is that everyone has a voice and can always throw their ideas into the ring. “The culture is phenomenal and is an awesome melting pot of people of all ages and backgrounds. Everyone works as a cohesive unit to make themselves and the company better…we are constantly evolving in regards to our offerings and always thinking outside the box.”
Bridget, one of the newest hires at Strata, found her position of Marketing and Social Media Coordinator on LinkedIn, and felt it stood out among the sea of openings. “Right off the bat, the job description was laid out so well for me to truly understand the role and what Strata expected from me. After visiting the website, I immediately got a sense of the culture and how welcoming and family-like it was…I knew I would love to be included in that type of atmosphere.” Bridget loves what Strata does for companies and the personalized and customized touches we provide. She also feels that “the people are everything here and are the reason I am so excited to do great work. The genuine care my coworkers have for my work and progression is something you can’t find everywhere. I feel valued and eager to learn while being surrounded by people who love what they do.”
Navigating Communication During Covid-19
Sometimes it feels like it was just a few days ago that we were all saying, “Have you heard about the coronavirus? Do you think it will affect us?” Now, months later, it’s completely changed our lives. Think of it this way, if we were in a movie, back in March the foreboding narrator would have said, “Life as they knew it would never be the same.” Needless to say, the movie has dragged on a bit too long, and I think we all wish that we could turn it off and give it a 1-star rating at best – which is extremely generous.
With that said, saying that the workplace has really changed this year is an understatement. Along with all of the normal changes that a new year brings (marketing tactics, sales tools, technology, trends, and more), this year we’ve been faced with the most impactful (and almost unbelievable) change: a pandemic. This year, it hasn’t been about “keeping up with the times” like it was in 2015, when the Open Concept office floor plans were suddenly all the rage. Instead, change is less about being “trendy”, and more about being safe, and adaptable. Even the more traditional offices can’t afford to lag behind this year. If you haven’t changed your setup and practices, your company simply cannot function.
Evolve or Perish
Like our CEO Jeff Sammak says (even pre-2020), “Evolve or perish”. And this year, if you didn’t evolve, your company either suffered greatly, or completely dissolved. Thankfully, Strata’s been among the lucky few to continue our practice of making smart happen and changing with the very quick times.
The most talked about way (and really the only way) of handling the Covid-19 virus has been to stay home. Unlike other legendary years that have made the history books, we haven’t fought with swords, guns, or even words. No, we’ve fought with boredom (and maybe our siblings and spouses). We’ve fought with being couped up, and when it came to the workplace, not being able to be face-to-face, in-office, and conducting work as usual.
On the other hand, companies like Zoom and Microsoft have hit the jackpot, with virtual platforms that figuratively “save the day” for companies needing to change their methods of communication.
So, other than utilizing Zoom and Teams, how did Strata save our metaphorical ship and keep our business afloat? We followed a few best practices and, of course, learned some things along the way. Here’s where we’ve landed:
How to Best Navigate Communication During Covid-19
During a time like this, it’s important to keep an open mind when it comes to new practices and processes. No answer is wrong until its proven not to work. “Leaders may be tempted to withdraw into small, tight decision-making task forces to make key decisions as quickly as possible. Instead, they can use this moment to define and demonstrate a common sense of purpose with employees, who will be looking for leadership and ways to engage themselves,” (McKinsey). Change always takes a lot of ideas from different perspectives, and a lot of trial and error – and change in 2020 is no exception to the rule.
Utilize Helpful Communication Tools
Again, coming to a decision on the right tools, and ones that seamlessly work together, can take a ton of trial and error. At Strata, we were using Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Outlook, and a few other platforms that felt to be working at first, but lacked compatibility. Eventually, we found what worked together, and worked for us – Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Outlook, Wrike, and various other platforms that worked better in unison. Teams messaging and calling has been an excellent communication tool, as all of our communication can be found in one place, and employees can control if and when they’re available to talk. Having the option to be away, available, busy, do not disturb, and more creates a more office-like communication experience without feeling too detached from coworkers. Wrike, a project management system, has helped us to stay on-task, work effectively together, and not let anything fall behind. And of course, calls and email as usual are always staples too.
This year we’ve seen a huge spike in online hackers, with an increased risk of viruses and malware. It’s extremely important to not only warn employees of these risks, but thoroughly explain how, when, and where these problems can occur. An open line of communication is paramount to ensuring the safety of a company’s proprietary information. Establish trust with each other, and ensure employees that, if they call you asking if you “sent this email”, it’s not a bother.
Be Aware & Show You Care
Although there’s no longer an “open door policy” like before, make sure you have an “open (computer) window” policy. “Leaders are important sources of resilience for their people—and also important factors in post-traumatic growth following crisis,” (McKinsey). Check in on not only the work and progress of employees, but their mental well-being as well. Ask them how they’re doing, how they’re feeling, and assure them that no questions are “dumb” questions. None of us have ever been through this before, so an open, understanding line of communication is ultimately the best method for the safety and well-being of staff. Additionally, a company’s culture is only as good as its values. In tough times, continuously reinforcing your mission, values, vision, and appreciation is extremely paramount to not only keeping employees comfortable, but motivated and driven. “At this time of heightened anxiety…succinctly communicating facts, feelings, and actions is more important than ever before. Managers must carefully listen to employees and openly communicate what is known (facts), how they feel about it (feelings), and what they are doing about it (actions),” (Risk and Resilience Hub).
Lastly, don’t forget to have a little fun and socialize! A great way to do this is with a Zoom or Microsoft Teams happy hour! It may not be quite the same as face-to-face interaction at the office, but it’s a close second and creates a sense of community (which we’ll take at the moment!). Don’t forget to implement activities and create bonding experiences, even if they’re virtual, to continue team-building and keep up employee morale. Because, like we’ve said in the past, happy employees equal happy customers.