Technology & Solutions
November 22nd, 2013
Written by Howie Fenton
Senior Technology Consultant, NAPL
I ran into Mary Schilling recently at an industry event and congratulated her on her new blog on the Printing Impressions website that focuses on inkjet printing. Mary has been focusing on the relationship between ink and paper for a decade now. I must say she came out of the gate running with her first blog when she asked the question, “Whose responsibility is it to ensure the paper is compatible with inkjet?”
At first no one responded, which made me wonder–did people think this was a trick question? It surely sounds like a trick question. Maybe it is, because the answer: it depends. It depends on whether you’re willing to live within the recommendations made by the manufacturer or try to save some money and deviate from those recommendations.
Although the circumstances are different, this strikes me as a question we’ve seen in the industry many times before. As some might say, “back in the day” we had the same types of questions in offset printing with the choice of printing plates or paper. If you went back even further, the same was true for film and cameras. The general rule of thumb has always been that you work with the manufacturer’s specified or recommended consumables if you want to hold them accountable.
But these questions and debates typically appear here in early stages of a new technology such as inkjet production printing. And there are different stages of adoption of new technology. These early stages include the pioneers or early adopters who often struggle with these questions until the technology and equipment goes more mainstream. Sometimes the adoption of a new technology becomes disruptive.
This is how Ray Kurzweil, an expert with revolutionary technologies, explained how certain technologies are disruptive and transform industries, business models and pose new opportunities—and hurdles.
The same is true with inkjet production printing. If the customer works with the approved ink and paper recommendations made by inkjet press manufacturer, then you can hold the manufacturer responsible. If the customer is looking for a better deal (read “cheaper”) and works with another ink or paper (read “non- approved”) it’s the other vendors or the customer’s responsibility.
For example, if I look at the Xerox Impika website, you will find recommendations about ink. When I download a presentation from the IMI show, I see that the different inkjet devices print on paper, plastic, and even packaging materials. As a result, I would assume that if you follow the manufacturer recommendations you should avoid the typical problems associated with new substrates.
As an added safeguard, Xerox has a process for inkjet customers to determine compatibility with various substrates prior to the customer’s purchase. If they want to pursue a paper stock not on the “tested media list”, Xerox can test their desired paper stock to determine if it is acceptable and supported. This takes the guesswork and risk out of the process so that the customer can be confident with the expected inkjet product and paper performance.
What do you think? Who is responsible for the quality from Inkjet Production Printing?
Howie Fenton is a consultant at NAPL. Howie advises commercial printers and in-plants on benchmarking performance against industry leaders, increasing productivity, and adding digital and value services through customer research. For more information click here
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 12th, 2013
Written by Howie Fenton
Senior Technology Consultant, NAPL
According to Forbes Magazine, the Internet has drastically changed the way companies market their services. The most significant change has been with inbound marketing and they predict that seven marketing trends will dominate 2014 including:
- Growth in content marketing
- Diversified social media marketing
- Image-centric content
- Simpler marketing messages
- Mobile friendly marketing
- Retargeting ads using cookies
- Search engine optimization
We have been monitoring this trend for several years in a variety of different research projects. For example, in the 2013/2014 and NAQP Sales and Marketing study, when participants were asked to list all the marketing tools companies used, their website was chosen 39% of the time, which was number two on the list. When asked what was the most effective marketing tool, the website was chosen 72% of the time, which tied for second-most effective.
But Internet marketing is about to change, and to understand the change we have to talk about the two competing strategies: trying to get ranked higher on the Google search engine list and participating in social media, helping people to discover your content on Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and a host of other sites.
We’ve talked about the difference between search engine optimization, or SEO, and social media optimization, or SMO, in a previous blog. That debate continues today and no one really knows for sure if SEO or SMO is more effective, and in fact many are hedging their bets and saying that it requires a combination of both to achieve a synergistic effect.
For those who believe in SEO or the synergy of SEO and SMO, you should be aware of a recent change to Google’s algorithm known as Hummingbird, which will make searches more conversational. Being able to handle “conversational search” means it can quickly parse entire questions and complex queries.
According to entrepreneur.com, “Prior to Hummingbird, Google would ignore certain words in search queries. Now Google considers each word in the query to get a better understanding of the intent. The importance of long tail keywords has increased tremendously as a result of Hummingbird.”
The best way to really understand conversational searches is to try them yourself. Apple gives dictation in both their most recent iPhones and most recent Mac operating systems (dictation and speech in system preferences).
Simply find where you can click a button and talk into your device and watch how your searches appear. This is the latest change in the Google search algorithm and will continue to become more important as more people do searches using voice activation on their computers, template sets, and phones.
The most important question however is how you can use this information about the change in the Google algorithm to help get higher in the Google search engine. The answer is most likely in the long tail keywords associated with Google searches.
Long tail keywords use more specific words to target more specific products or services.
Most experts believe that 70% of all searches involve multiple words and are known as long tail searches. For example, instead of saying “inkjet printing” you might search “inkjet production printing for transactional documents”.
My advice is to learn about keywords by looking at other sites that achieve high listings on the Google search engine with organic search. Look also to the Google AdWords page. Once you understand the long tail keywords, you can use that information to embed keywords in blogs, social media posts and webpages.
Howie Fenton is a consultant at NAPL. Howie advises commercial printers and in-plants on benchmarking performance against industry leaders, increasing productivity, and adding digital and value services through customer research. For more information click here.
November 11th, 2013
Written By: Nancy Chetron, Worldwide Marketing Manager
Production Customization/Workflow & Solutions, Xerox Corporation
Print Service Providers continually wrestle with the challenge of maintaining consistent color on their digital presses. The problem is not the color management technology, it’s the lack of automation and the reliance on multiple players in the print process to determine color outcomes. What if this process could be simplified by using a single color management solution for an entire fleet? What if you could remotely access and respond to the status of your presses, greatly increasing the efficiency of your workflows?
Well, these desires are now a reality thanks to a new cloud-based color management solution, which provides centralized automation of printer monitoring with a pre-defined workflow and customer-specific recovery procedures. The solution, called IntegratedPLUS Automated Color Management, uses web-based Software as a Service (SaaS) technology to eliminate the need for running local color management packages at multiple sites. The solution provides access to the iGen fleet’s embedded inline spectrophotometers (ILS) to quickly and easily monitor presses.
With a new interface that Xerox has introduced to its strategic color management partners, a color expert can submit and print targets and within seconds know the status of a press and whether it’s “in” or “out” of spec. This check is done using a partner tool such as CGS ORIS Certified // Web which connects with software in the cloud to perform the color check.
The Xerox® IntegratedPLUS Automated Color Management can:
- Improve productivity and reliability over current manual processes
- Simplify multi-engine/multi-site color management
- Cut costs by making color management far more predictable and efficient
- Reduce manual errors and eliminate wasted time and materials
- Increase the efficiency of your workflow
Think of the efficiencies gained by having the ability to run your entire color process remotely in a single, consistent workflow—even from multiple locations. Since this solution leverages your current technology, no new IT investment is needed – which means you can reduce costs and streamline your color management, allowing you to focus on getting more jobs through your shop.
The solution includes Xerox Professional Services support. This team of experts provides color and workflow support, helping you configure and set up the right level of print specification tolerances for your shop based on your color and productivity requirements. Whether you print color-critical graphic communications jobs such as auto brochures, or internal newsletters, Xerox Professional Services will help you to set up a recovery process to fit your needs.
How could an automated, integrated, and cloud-based color management process impact your business?
The solution is one of the technology solutions available as part of the portfolio. For more information go to http://www.xerox.com/IntegratedPLUSColor
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!