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January 31, 2024

Chuck Underwood Is Helping Clients Tell Great Stories

# CrossMedia
# Direct Mail
# Executives
# Leadership
# Marketing
# Omnichannel Marketing
# Team/Culture

His team at Metro Productions keeps turning "once upon a time" into "happily ever after."

"Every company has a story to tell," says Chuck Underwood, "and we're fortunate we get to spend our 40-plus hours a week helping others tell theirs."

Chuck is president of Metro Productions in Raleigh, NC, USA — a company that has quite a story of its own.

Metro uses print, design, web and video to help clients create and deliver the right messages to the right audiences at the right times. To Chuck and his team, each of those messages is a chance to tell a story. One of his favorite phrases to hear and think about is "Once upon a time ...," because it elicits the idea that what's about to happen (maybe it's direct mail, maybe it's web design, maybe it's video, maybe it's a campaign that mixes all of those) is a blank slate of possibility and creativity.

Those stories are ending with client joy, as Metro keeps building a reputation among brands for their ingenuity and effectiveness.

Chuck is a lead character in that success. He has over 30 years of print and marketing communications experience, and his design work has won Triangle Advertising and other marketing awards. We're grateful he dedicated some time to share his own story with the Dscoop global community:

DSCOOP: Can you share a bit about your role — the big-picture roles and goals on your plate?

CHUCK UNDERWOOD: My goal is simple and doesn’t change: Always know what our clients need to be successful, and always know what our employees need to make sure that happens. It’s a straightforward goal, but not always easy to attain as needs, wants, expectations and circumstances are constantly changing.

My primary role is to be a great listener. We have built our business on listening to our customers and responding to what they want and need, and that is as important today as it’s ever been. At a micro level, I need to listen to what the client expects in each project. At the macro level, I need to listen to what the clients wants in our partnership. Are there additional services we should provide? Are there changes we need to make to our processes? Being a great listener is hearing what the client says and importantly, understanding what the client means, which is often not obvious. Reading between the lines to really understand how a client is feeling and what they want helps us identify where there might be opportunities to offer ideas or services to help them reach their goals. It also helps us pick up on even a hint of unhappiness so we can make real time adjustments to meet and exceed their expectations.

Listening to our employees is just as important. It’s critical to know what issues they see, improvements they can suggest, and how we can make sure they feel valued and connected to our mission. It’s also listening to cues from each individual. Does someone seem overly stressed? Does someone seem really happy? Knowing, and acknowledging, that work is just a part of employee’s lives, and sharing in their struggles or celebrations creates an environment where they want to spend 40 hours a week making our customers successful.

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DSCOOP: How do you think those customers describe your company?

CHUCK UNDERWOOD: I know what exactly what our best clients say. I hear it all the time: “You make me feel like I’m your only client.” Clients say this because they have learned they can always count on Metro. They can count on us to make sure every project looks good. They can count on us to make sure their project stays on budget. And they can count on us to make sure every project meets their deadlines, even the “can we get this tomorrow” asks. We’re not perfect, and on the rare occasion a project doesn’t meet expectations, we do everything we can to make it right. Recently we created a number of pieces for a client’s fundraising event. They realized on the Saturday morning before the event they were short on programs. A couple of us were able to immediately drop what we were doing, get into the office and print what they needed in time for the event. They were definitely the only client that day.

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DSCOOP: That is awesome! Reflecting on your business now versus the way it operated in years past, what's different today?

CHUCK UNDERWOOD: The past few years have obviously been about navigating unprecedented issues. We had to figure out how get through a global pandemic. Then we had to figure out how to deal with the paper-supply issue. These two issues were not in the forecast in Q1 2020. Fortunately, we’re now able to get back to focusing on growth. It’s not an easy transition from survival to growth, but it’s a breath of fresh air. At least until the next industry challenge rears up!

DSCOOP: And we all know they will! What's the biggest challenge your team faces right now?

CHUCK UNDERWOOD: Our biggest challenge is the talent pipeline. As we look to grow our team with experienced, skilled candidates, we are finding that there is a very limited talent pool to pull from. Older employees have retired or left the industry and there is little to no training/development in the younger generation. All industries are experiencing hiring issues, but it’s exponentially harder in the printing industry. Finding people with transferrable skills then training and keeping them is key, and it’s not easy.

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DSCOOP: Among your current salespeople, what kind of new-business prospects interest them most? What opportunities is your team going after?

CHUCK UNDERWOOD: Mail has become a great opportunity. Digital fatigue is driving customers to traditional mail, and when done correctly mail is very effective. There are clients that understand mail, so we have to communicate that we have the experience and capabilities to handle any and all steps of the process. We are also seeing more clients that know they want to mail, but don’t know how to start. Educating them, clearly outlining the project, and holding their hand through the process ensures a successful project and builds incredible loyalty. Clients from all segments are exploring mail, so being an expert resource is a great opportunity.

The other opportunity is selling print as a premium product. Twenty years ago print was seen as a commodity and living on thin margins was a way of life. Today, there is opportunity to show print as a high-end strategy that makes a unique impact. The tactile experience of receiving a double-thick notecard, or an invitation with a die-cut, or an impact report with soft-touch immediately connects and elicits a better response. Clients want different, compelling pieces to help them stand out, and being able to deliver that is a game-changer. But it takes dedication to amazing service, commitment to consistent quality and willingness to say no to the bargain shoppers to make it work.

DSCOOP: Anything else you’d like to emphasize about the good things your team/company is doing?

I’m really proud of our team and what we have accomplished the last few years. We’ve seen one established printer after another go out of business. We’ve lost one of our top three customers a few times over the last 10-15 years due to their reorganization. But our commitment to building relationships, with our clients and our team, putting people over profits, and just always showing integrity in everything we do has helped us not only persevere but thrive. We have a great quote in our lobby by Mark Twain: “Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” It’s rewarding to be surrounded by people who live that.

DSCOOP: It has been rewarding to connect with you on Dscoop.com. Thanks for doing this with us!

CHUCK UNDERWOOD: My pleasure!


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