John H. Harland Co., the nation's second-largest check printing company, is trying to repackage itself as a marketing firm.

In light of the flattening demand for paper checks, Harland and its competitors-such as Deluxe Corp., which leads the market-have been seeking out ways to diversify.

Harland's answer has been to offer new products and services that help banks with data mining and cross-selling.

"We found our customers starting to struggle with this new world of marketing," said Mark C. Perlberg, president of Harland's financial markets division.

Founded in 1923 as a print and office supply shop, Atlanta-based Harland expanded into the hardware and software businesses a decade ago, and it has been supplying banks with computer tools that help capture the depth and breadth of customer relationships.

More recently, the company has been offering enhanced consulting services aimed at giving its 1,300 financial institution customers "a full range of marketing capabilities," Mr. Perlberg said.

Harland is still committed to check printing, but it is consolidating and streamlining its operations.

Forty local printing plants are being collapsed into seven larger superregional ones that will have greater capacity.

In November 1995, Harland underwent a management shake-up when it elected a new president and chief executive officer, Robert J. Amman, the former chief executive officer of Western Union Financial Services.

He brought in a new team that began examining what the company should do.

"We said, 'We have every intention of remaining in the check business, but that's not going to turn us into a growth company,'" Mr. Perlberg said.

"We looked around and said, 'Where can we add value?' When you talk about a check, it's not divorced from the idea of marketing," he added.

Harland's decision to steer toward marketing came on the heels of two acquisitions: those of Orlando-based Marketing Profiles Inc. and Tampa- based Okra Marketing Corp., two companies that lent Harland strength in the area of data base marketing products.

"We've got now what we consider to be a total solution," Mr. Perlberg said.

"The future is about new relationships and expanding the depth of relationships we already have."

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