The Passionate Change Agent – Tony Abunassar


Directly behind Tony Abunassar’s forehead is where it happens. Activity flares in a small part of his brain’s right temporal lobe — the anterior superior temporal gyrus, if you want to get medical about it. It’s the birth place of the a-ha moment, the flash of insight of a problem solved — seeing what had previously been unseen and trusting it’s right — a sensation researchers have identified by a sudden burst of highfrequency activity in that small part of the right temporal lobe about one-third of a second before the solution arrives.

It is the culmination of close observation and intense thought — the biology of a problem solved. That’s what gets Abunassar out of bed every morning, passionate about finding new ways to empower WebbMason’s clients to attract new targets, win more business, save more money and protect their brands.

“In one quick meeting with a client, they can usually recognize how passionate I am about potential solutions they previously didn’t know were possible,” said Abunassar, who doubles as WebbMason’s vice president of integrated web strategies and COO of its WebbMason commercial printing and mailing unit. “I love going into a client meeting and educating them not about how to print something better, but how to print something differently, or maybe not at all, depending on the best solution. It’s a privilege to work at a place where I get to do that every day.”

Abunassar is a key resource for WebbMason, a forward-thinking distributor with more than $90 million in annual sales. Among other strategies, the company helps clients find effective, automated ways to acquire, convert and retain key targets.

Abunassar has a distinct ability to help organizations enhance their brands both offline and online. One minute, he’ll use his technical knowledge to explain the effects of different substrates on corporate colors and to explain testing procedures to ensure brand consistency. The next minute, he’ll explain why a company should move certain items to print-on-demand ordering through WebbMason’s MarketingBench technology. (WebbMason enables authorized users, based on parameters the client determines, to order what they need, when they need it, from online sites built and branded specifically for organizations. The technology now has more than one million registered users.)

“As an organization, we’re very proud of the difference we make to our customers, and we know print is just one component,” Abunassar said. “We spend a lot of time asking, ‘What’s happening around the printed piece? How do we make print move? How can we improve the current process and make it more interactive?’ I want to make a difference and influence change. I’m hungry for technology and solutions, and I’m always looking for a better way to do things.”

Instead of finding customers for its products and services, WebbMason fashions products and services for each customer. Business leaders realize they can get high-quality printing from pretty much anywhere. Today, more of them understand the value of improving the process, not just the printing, Abunassar says. The challenge is finding a strategic partner that knows how to do that.

Recently, a national health care provider approached WebbMason with a challenge. It wanted to gain a higher response rate for an educational direct mail campaign targeting pregnant women and new mothers. Abunassar listened to details about the organization’s goals and current program and explained how WebbMason could rethink the program to include an interactive online community, new tools for one-to-one marketing and better analytics to track and refine the campaign.

“Almost instantly, we took a program that was gaining less than a 2 percent response rate and pushed it to 19 percent,” Abunassar said. Instead of communicating with recipients once or twice in a 10-month timeframe, the company is engaging women multiple times in multiple formats throughout a longer period. “For me, it embodies what we do every day at WebbMason: look outside the box and consider the real need, and then find creative, effective ways to make the program grow and give it life.” The revamped program was so successful that a leader of the health care organization was asked to deliver a keynote address to a nonprofit support organization on how to blend technology and print to influence change.

“Everyone at WebbMason has the burning desire to be great, not just good,” Abunassar said. “If you can set the bar high in this industry, you’re going to keep people satisfied, and you’re going to establish long-term trust. At the end of the day, that’s what matters most.”

The Passionate Change Agent