November 15th, 2013
By Bob Charboneau
Senior Production Manager, Dixon Schwabl
As a production manager at a full service advertising, marketing and public relations firm, it’s my job to meet with clients, account executives, art directors and designers to review our clients’ needs and to help source and qualify print vendors. I do this by reviewing each provider’s printing equipment, finishing equipment and processes, capabilities and customer service/technical support model.
Over the past few years, the marketplace has seen the entrance of some exceptional digital print technology with output nearly indistinguishable from that of offset . There are a lot of shops making great use of this technology, with many printers not only having great equipment, but also outstanding workflow, pre-press departments and solid customer service. Where I typically see a point of differentiation is in the finishing department.
Some printers have better scoring, folding, die-cutting and bindery than others. Years ago when digital printing first became mainstream, I would notice a lot of “cracking” where a digital printed sheet would crack on the score line when folded or when saddle stitching (aka stapling) two or more pieces of paper together, the staple would smash the spine of the piece and create a flat spot.
Today’s many print providers have raised the bar and have enhanced their finishing capabilities to better suit digital print….but some are still struggling. When partnering with a digital print provider, it’s important to consider all pieces of the printing process – so you can finish strong.
Another point of consideration is the substrate chosen. Making the right paper choice, in terms of weight, color and finish – can dramatically influence whether the final output conveys the ‘look’ and ‘feel’ you intended. . There are certain papers made for digital and as a good rule of thumb, it’s always best to ask your print provider if they have a “house stock” that is used with their equipment or ask the manufacturer if they certify specific papers or substrates that you can use on your project.
Paperspecs.com is a great resource for all things paper. I had the pleasure of meeting the site’s founder, Sabine Lenz, in 2009 at the How Conference in Austin, Texas. She is very knowledgeable on the subject matter, offers a variety of tips, highlights cool projects and offers free webinars on a variety of design and print subject matter. For a few dollars, you can become a pro member of her site and get expert level tips that can take your paper game to the next level.
Today’s knowledgeable print providers, armed with the latest in digital print technology, allow agencies and our clients to push the limits of our creativity and implement new ideas. It’s important to remember to never stop innovating, continue experimenting, and never lose sight of the importance to finish strong!
November 14th, 2013
Written by Derrick Doi
Vice President, Quick and Franchise Print Segment, Xerox Corporation
When Ron Bradley bought a PostNet franchise in Asheville, N.C. in 1999, he developed an unconventional business strategy. While most PostNet stores focused on shipping, Ron emphasized copying and printing. A few years later, PostNet International Corporation began encouraging that every franchise make the same shift to print.
Today, about 80 percent of Ron’s revenues come from printing related services, and they continue to thrive, propelling the franchise to its best year ever, if 2013 continues to deliver double-digit growth. Behind the growth: a burgeoning wide-format printing business initiated about 10 years ago and new technology acquisitions.
The time was right for investing in the new print technology, The franchise’s workhorse, a Xerox DocuColor 260 Copier/Printer was beginning to show its age and was challenged by an increasing volume and a lack of registration control on some applications.
Bradley began researching his options in January, looking only at Xerox because his Xerox 260 experience surpassed what he’d had with other manufacturers. He liked the new Xerox C75 Press, which offered automated registration features and higher volume capacity.
Financing the acquisition was another story. His long-time bank that held his previous loans was his first choice, but they had become stricter since the 2008 recession. Then he met with QBSI, a Xerox company that sells and services office and printing equipment and manages the PostNet account nationally. “As a loyal QBSI customer for 10 years, and with the assistance of Greg Kelly and Joan Serwold of QBSI, I was approved in three hours.”
So in June, QBSI delivered a new Xerox C75 copier printer, and a Duplo DC-645 Slitter/Cutter/Creaser, which automates cutting of multi-up sheets, saving him as much as 15 hours per month of manual labor. Bradley’s customers not only appreciate the consistently tight registration and even better image quality from the Xerox C75, but also like the increased ability to get most of their printing at one business center. Comments from clients include: “The output from this machine looks as good as what you get off an offset press,” Bradley said.
“I’m adamant about the high quality of the products for my clients,” he said. “That is what we are known for—high quality at a fair price. If people feel they are treated right, with great quality, and are comfortable with the price, they will continue to come back.”
What’s driving your growth? What’s making you successful?
November 13th, 2013
Most small business owners have a love/hate relationship with Google. They know they need web traffic to generate sales, but they’re fed up with the constant changes and conflicting information. But have no fear, fellow printers! While the latest algorithm update may mess with your website’s rankings, it also opened up a huge opportunity for you to grow your printing company.
Big Rewards for Content Marketers.
The new Hummingbird algorithm reflects changes in technology and user behavior. In the old days, Google couldn’t match long queries to very many results. The more words a user typed, the fewer listings they’d return. Google also struggled to connect queries that didn’t contain exact match keyword phrases. For example, a potential customer may search for brochures by typing, “where can I get pamphlets printed online?” If your website didn’t use the word pamphlets, then you wouldn’t appear in front of the user even though you offer the product.
Google recognized this as a flaw, and now they’re on a mission to truly understand user intent. In the example above, the user clearly wants to find a brochure printer; he or she just doesn’t use the word brochure in the search. So Google’s trying to focus on semantics as well as past behavior (aka the knowledge graph) and social media signals to improve the relevance of their results.
If you’re engaged in content marketing, then this is great news for your SEO. Hummingbird rewards sites that provide a quality user experience through good content, so there’s less emphasis on technical details i.e. keywords and backlinks. You can attract visitors by publishing regularly, answering questions for your customers on your blog, and starting conversations on social media instead of chasing inbound links all the time.
Actionable Tips: Get to know your users. Find out what problems they’re having, what they’re interested in, and give them a voice in your company.
The Data Drawback.
Unfortunately, Google made it harder to figure out what users are looking for unless you’re using AdWords for paid search traffic. You’ve probably noticed that the majority of your organic search data is “not provided” in Google Analytics anymore. That means you no longer have an easy place to find long tail searches, which often appear in the form of a question. These low volume searches allow you to capture highly targeted traffic, so don’t give up on these juicy marketing morsels. There are other ways to obtain this type of data, although none of them will be as easy or inexpensive.
Actionable Tips: Leverage data from suggested searches, Bing Webmaster tools, and third party providers, such as Wordstream or Wordtracker. Pump your customer service reps and sales team for information. Encourage all staff to write down the questions your customers ask for reference, and get suggestions from your social media communities.
Capitalize on Online Marketing Weaknesses.
You’re covered on the online marketing front, but what about your customers? Chances are the people who fit your target market aren’t as internet savvy or they’re so frustrated with poor results that they’re giving up on SEO. That’s where you come in to save the day with affordable offline advertising solutions that increase web traffic and sales. Turn their angst into selling points; position print as a way to create real-life brand awareness and stimulate online activities without search engines as gatekeepers. Low cost services, such as EDDM (Every Door Direct Mail), are the perfect alternative for brick and mortar businesses suffering from SEO woes. Recommend personalized direct mail for those with bigger budgets or as a follow up for an EDDM campaign. The key here is to help your prospects see that there’s lots of light outside, and it doesn’t come from computer screens.
Google didn’t intentionally revitalize the printing industry, but if we printers play our cards right, we’ll be able to reap the benefits of Hummingbird on all fronts.
Katherine is a professional copywriter and social media manager at PrintFirm.com. She fell into online marketing in 2010, and built her career around this dynamic field. She earned her B.A. in Political Science from California State University, Northridge (Summa). When she’s not writing, Katherine enjoys photography, skateboarding, graphic design, and chasing her dog around with her husband. Connect with her on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google Plus.
November 7th, 2013
Written by Bill Michael
eMarketing Manager, Xerox Corporation
How does an online print provider continually achieve a 100% increase in revenue, year after year? And how does that same provider, in a single month, surpass 3.53 million print impressions between their two workhorse digital production printers? To find the answer, all you have to do is look to the example set by the great online printing team at Smartpress.com. A keen eye towards benchmark quality and an uncanny knack for customer service has resulted in nearly 80% of Smartpress.com’s current business coming from repeat customers.
“The customer is really at the heart of everything we do,” says Chuck Reese, President at Smartpress.com. “From our meticulous quality assurance processes, to our 100% customer satisfaction guarantee, to our smart buyer program rewarding our graphic design professional customers – every component of our business is strategically designed with the customer in mind.”
Launched in 2009 and based in Chaska, Minnesota, Smartpress.com has already outgrown their two Xerox iGen4 Digital Production Printers. To accommodate their growing online business and customer base, the company invested in a brand new facility, opening in December, and the first equipment installed In the building is a brand new press offering the latest in digital printing technology – the Xerox iGen 150 Press.
The iGen 150 brings the same substrate versatility Smartpress.com customers have come to appreciate and expect, while also delivering enhanced speeds (a 36% increase in page per minute output speed) and improved quality. These press qualities are paramount to a steadily growing company that seeks to stay on the leading edge and continue to meet customer deliverability expectations. The improved technology will enable Smartpress.com to maintain high quality standards for booklet printing, postcard printing, brochure printing and more, even as the company continues to rapidly grow in the future.
All it took was one glance into the horizon for Chuck Reese, President of Smartpress.com, to see just how important the new press would be for Smartpress.com. “In 2001, print orders placed online through a print service provider’s website represented only 3% of the total marketplace. By 2014, that number will steady climb to reach 30%, with early indications projecting it to reach a staggering 50% by 2017. Our customers, both today and tomorrow, are placing their orders online – and they need the peace of mind knowing they can count on us for quality and reliable print.”
Which is why Smartpress.com has chosen to partner with Xerox and invest in the latest technological advancements in digital printing. The new iGen 150 will allow the company to maintain a tight turnaround time for customers and continue promising a 100% customer satisfaction guarantee. As an additional measure to enhance the efficiency of the press, Smartpress.com has added a new workflow system that streamlines the proofing and printing process from start to finish. With these investments, the company will continue to deliver on really fast turnarounds throughout its projected growth into 2015.
It all adds up to exceptional quality, outstanding customer service and a company committed to fulfilling its promise of complete satisfaction. Which is no surprise, as Smartpress.com has always billed itself as a company full of real people…who really know print!
October 23rd, 2013
Written by Vladimir Gendelman
Founder & CEO, companyfolders.com
Research shows that using Twitter helps foster communication, promotes informal learning, and allows shy personalities a forum for increased participation and engagement. As the founder and CEO of Company Folders Inc., the standard bearer in online folder printing, I’ve experienced the value of keeping up to date with the latest print news and research, seeking out helpful tools and resources, and engaging with other print providers on Twitter.
In light of #NationalPrintDay as well as the 75th Anniversary of Xerography (#XeroxNext75), I’ve compiled a list of over 40 print-related Twitter accounts to help you build social links and create streams of helpful information. With Xerox’s reputation for valuable content (as well as encouraging fellowship and solidarity through #PrintWins), Digital Printing Hot Spot blog seemed like the perfect place to share this resource.
If you’re a reader of the DPHS blog or participate regularly on Twitter, you may recognize many of these accounts. However, for someone new to the industry (or just Twitter), this list will provide a baseline for getting to know the “Printerverse” on Twitter. I focused mainly on the U.S.-based community, but if you feel I’ve forgotten anyone, feel free to leave info in the comments below.
Print industry experts
Stay up-to-date with everything Xerox and share your voice with the rest of the print community. You can also discuss the strengths of the print industry with the #PrintWins hashtag. Be sure to check out the complete list of Xerox Twitter feeds.
Print Media Center is not only a go-to source for industry news, resources and integrated marketing strategies, but a place to find printing-related humor and fun articles. Use the #PrintChat hashtag to join in the conversation Wednesdays at 4PM EST.
Deborah Corn is a self-described print BUYERologist, an integrated marketer, and one of the brains behind Print Media Center.
Sandy Hubbard is the co-moderator of #PrintChat, a publishing strategist, and a marketing guru. She’s a friendly face in the online print community and a champion for the power of publishing.
The brainchild of Sandy Hubbard, Help Print Thrive is exactly what it says on the box – a campaign to help promote the effective marketing power of print.
Jamie McLennan is a printing specialist who shares his years of experience with followers, along with lots of inspiration posts and a bit of entertainment.
Janine Simmons is the account executive of ESKO, a package marketing innovator and a big supporter of #PrintChat.
Julie Shaffer of Printing Industries of America is passionate yet down-to-earth, with tons of great information to share about print.
PrintFirm’s online marketing director Katherine Tattersfield is friendly and personable, sharing helpful articles from a wide range of sources. She’s also an active participant in #PrintChat.
Christopher Price is the VP of GASC, the organization behind Graph Expo. Follow him for industry news and information on the GASC community.
Print Media Network’s Printer’s Lounge is a large online community of printing experts and a go-to source of print design tips and inspirations.
Brian Ruiz is a Xerox print and workflow solutions executive who occasionally treats his followers with free gifts, but always delivers effective strategies and print business news.
Gina Testa is the vice president of the graphic communications industry for Xerox. Follow her for tips on how to use print to grow your business.
Bob Wagner is the director of global communications for Xerox Technology Business and a great source of information on getting the most out of your print marketing collateral.
The National Association for Printing Leadership focuses on helping printers grow their business through better business practices. Also follow Howie Fenton for insight on technology, operations and workflow.
What They Think provides industry news, commentary and analysis from top names in the printing community. Follow Randy Davidson and Cary Sherburne if you want to know more about who “they” are and why they think that way.
Printing Focus is an extensive business directory for the print and design industry. Connect to learn more about the other printers out there and their approach to the business of print.
Printing Hub has a massive collection of articles to help printers evolve their business, with helpful tips on a daily basis and plenty of thought-pieces to help you broaden your business horizons.
Matthew Parker of Print and Procurement offers fantastic advice for both printer and print-buyer alike. If you work in print sales, he is a must-follow.
Printing research and resources
A virtual who’s-who of the printing industry – follow People of Print to find even more great printer resources and community members on Twitter.
Need help convincing a client that print marketing is the way to go? Choose Print has the facts and figures you need to show them the big impact print can have.
Have an idea for a print job, but nobody to print it? Offer specialty print services that nobody seems to be taking advantage of? Printchomp is a service that pairs people with unique print needs with their ideal printer.
Print in the Mix is based out of the Rochester Institute of Technology and features plenty of academic studies, alongside print-related news stories on the effectiveness of print.
A spin-off channel from Printing News, this account provides you with the tools to stay socially connected to the rest of the print world and on top of industry intelligence.
Printing impact and environmentalism
Print Grows Trees promotes ecologically-responsible printing and the positive effects the print industry has on the environment, with a focus on reforestation. Follow them on Twitter, then go out and join in the cause by planting some trees!
Not only does this paper company promote environmental issues, they also have a lot of resources on the paper industry itself – plus some fun inspirational posts thrown into the mix.
The Two Sides organization helps to educate people on the sustainability and versatility of the paper medium. Follow them to learn more on how to print responsibly.
Print is Big offers a unique look at the impact the printing industry has on the global economy, with daily factoids comparing print to other large-scale industries.
The SGIA is the world’s only international association of specialty graphic printers. Get on board to get connected to the specialty graphics community. Follow SGIA Expo for information about the annual SGIA convention.
My business, Company Folders, specializes in presentation folder printing and provides an abundance of free templates, mock-ups, design tips, giveaways and more. Our feed is updated with print designs, tips, resources, case studies, and general promotion of print.
Quad/Graphics celebrates the innovation and technological achievements of the print marketing industry. Follow them for a glimpse of what the future holds for print.
The Dieline is a celebration of clever and creative packaging design that consistently updates with plenty of packaging eye candy.
Fine Print NYC is a veritable online art gallery of inspiration posts that not only show you gorgeous print jobs, but give you tips on how to make yours look just as good.
If your interest in printing centers around the production tools themselves, then you’ll want to follow Printoolz, your daily news source for stories featuring the top developers of print production tools.
This monthly online magazine for small commercial printers and in-plant printers features daily updates with “quick printing” industry news and information.
Trish Witkowski is the Chief Folding Fanatic of Fold Factory. Her Twitter account is dedicated to demonstrating the creative and fun ways you can fold a piece of printed marketing collateral.
Kallima Paper is a paper stock company focused on high-quality printing, beautiful design, and environmental sustainability. Their Twitter feed is frequently updated with facts, tips, and techniques related to print and graphic arts.
The experts at American Printer Magazine have been writing about the commercial print industry since 1883, so they know a thing or two about sharing stories that are as interesting as they are informative.
Get your daily fill of news, opinions, inspirations and other stories of interest to the print design community. Print Magazine caters to all graphic designers, but runs daily features on imprint design.
This graphic arts news source caters to both digital and print designers, releasing daily blog updates filled with inspirations, tutorials, freebies and fun.
This weekly publication features stories on every aspect of printing, from business and industry analysis to environmental impact and even print design.
This news feed helps you stay connected to all the top names in the print industry, while also plugging you into the top print stories of the day.
Don’t be fooled by the name – although this print magazine only publishes on a monthly basis, their Twitter account can be relied upon for daily news and interest tweets related to the printing industry.
We’ve only scratched the surface of quality printers to follow on Twitter, but if you’re looking for more, try using the following hashtags in your search.
Is there a Twitter account that you think is a must-follow for anyone in the printing community? I’d love to hear your suggestions! Please leave them in the comments below.
Vladimir Gendelman is the founder and CEO of Company Folders, Inc. He leads a team of talented graphic design and printing specialists who help clients create their ideal print marketing collateral. Follow @vgendelman
September 8th, 2013
Written by Mary Roddy
Global Marketing Manager, Premier Partners Global Network, Xerox Corporation
Workflow automation can deliver significant process improvements, increasing speed and productivity while reducing costs, errors, waste and process steps. But it can also reach beyond process, to expand capabilities and increase revenues.
A case in point: the 2013 Xerox Premier Partners Best of the Best Awards. Automated solutions won a number of the top awards, including the coveted Digital Trailblazer Award, won by K-Print for personalized smart phone covers, and the equally distinguished Printers’ Choice Award, voted on by the Premier Partners members and won by APIX for personalized wine-bottle labels.
The Best-of-the-Best Awards are open to Xerox Premier Partners recognizing top work in seven application categories—books, collateral, digital and offset solutions, digital packaging, direct marketing, photo publishing and transpromo—in addition to Best Overall Solution, Digital Trailblazer and the Printers’ Choice. Winners are selected based upon business results, image quality, and use of Xerox technology.
Profiting from Mobile
While many graphic communications providers are finding growth opportunities by incorporating mobile communications into their service offerings, Japanese firm K-Print sought mobile growth by offering a smart phone accessory. They developed Synchroskin, a personalized skin sticker for smart phones and LCDs, which they produce with specialized stock on a Xerox Color 800 Press.
Customers—both B2B and B2C—can choose from K-Print’s designs or upload their own images to create truly personalized smartphone skins. In addition, K-Print’s system provides desktop wallpaper and packaging using the same personalized design. The business has grown every month since its introduction and brings a “cool” factor that resonates not only with smart phone skin customers, but with B2B customers and prospects as well.
Personalizing Wine Labels
APIX, also of Japan, established the personalized wine bottle label application on behalf of TAMBA WINE and Kotobuke Brewing, allowing customers to create a personal gift of wine or sake with an original label from among 116 design templates. The system also provides packaging, cards and personalized wrapping paper that coordinate with the label design and incorporate personal messages and images. Printing is on the Xerox 700 Digital Color Press.
APIX has marketed the personalized labels, known as “Sense 121,” through its Facebook page and a press release, and they’ve succeeded by several measures. One in four first-time buyers have repurchased their custom bottles, overall sales have increased, and customer feedback has been excellent.
Read more on these and all the other 2013 Best-of-the-Best winners!
July 2nd, 2013
Written by Bill Michael
eMarketing Manager, Xerox Corporation
MAR Graphics was approached with a particularly complex job— to more efficiently produce and streamline fulfillment for one government agency’s permit program. For this program, any truck that hauls a certain type of material needs a certificate and a sticker on the truck and trailer. Not only did the stickers need to be color coded by year, but they also needed to remain colorfast throughout their year of issue, stay affixed no matter what weather conditions the hauler encountered and incorporate authentication and anti-forgery features.
Combining Capabilities to Expand Business.
MAR Graphics was tasked with the challenge of not only providing this solution – but finding a way to deliver it at a lesser cost than what the agency had been previously paying.
“What we were trying to do is take a document that was extremely expensive to produce and didn’t incorporate security features and produce it cost-effectively with security built in,” according to Brian Coats, Director of Marketing for MAR Graphics.
The state’s previous vendor had been printing the stickers on an 8.5” x 11” vinyl sheet using a different process. This provided print-on-demand flexibility, but was expensive, cumbersome and lacked a high level of security.
MAR Graphics offered a new solution, with a shell that was preprinted, pre-perforated and stickers already affixed – meaning everything was ready to go once MAR Graphics received the data from the state each week. Xerox® FreeFlow® VIPP® solution was used to streamline personalization and the 8.5” x 11” preprinted sheets were run through a Xerox Nuvera® to produce an all-in-one document, containing a pre-perforated registration card and two stickers that went directly onto the vehicle.
Secure from the Elements – and Fraud.
The registration document featured key data, including mailing address, registration number and expiration date. A number of security features detered alteration and forgery, such as:
- Thermo Ink that disappears once rubbed and reappears once it cools
- Microprint in the color background
- A unique certificate border
- Hidden features right in the sheet
The two stickers each had a clear fluorescent varnish applied. To verify a truck or trailer’s authenticity, officials could hold a UV light source to the sticker and the clear varnish would glow. The preprinted inks on the stickers were colorfast and lightfast—fading only 2 percent after hundreds of hours of UV exposure over the course of a year. This was essential as the stickers must be able to perform in environments fluctuating from minus 40 degrees to over 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
A New State of Efficiency.
By creating this all-in-one document, MAR Graphics helped save the government agency 30%–40% in print and fulfillment costs. They are able to quickly turn around the printing and fulfillment of the stickers and cost-effectively produce small to medium runs while quality checking each piece to ensure accuracy. Most importantly of all, the agency was thrilled with the quality, performance and cost that this outside-the-box solution offered by MAR Graphics provided.
Looking for more success stories from print providers? Be sure to check out: