Why do we still need business cards?

bloggy-business-card-stackDoes anyone remember a smartphone application from just a few years ago called Bump? With this application, the idea was that you would “bump” another person’s smartphone (if they also had Bump) and it would exchange contact information. I remember someone saying “no need for business cards anymore.” Well, what happened to Bump, or the countless other applications that are meant to transfer information from someone’s business card straight into your phone’s contacts. That sounds cool, but you know what? It STARTS from a business card.

My job requires that I set up templates for online business card orders. And that is something that does not seem to be going away. In fact, most of our clients start as inventory fulfillment only, and then branch into the other print-on-demand services we offer, starting with business cards. But why do we still need business cards in this digital age of smartphones and Google contacts?

WHY WE STILL NEED BUSINESS CARDS

Now, do I think business cards will be around for another 50 or even 100 years? Yes, butblack-white-business-cards-6 most likely in a diminished capacity. And the business cards of the future will incorporate more augmented reality, and ways to get you to engage with your handheld device. But here in the early 21st century, business cards do two things very well, and they do them much better than a smartphone application or Google contact list:

  • They convey your brand – business cards, married with other branded materials such as note card, letterhead, presentation folders, and marketing materials, are the focus of your entire brand. Think of the business card as the narrow part of an hourglass. You can have wonderful branded marketing materials or stationery items, and they may bring larger messages of your brand. But it’s the business card that has to convey all that in a brief moment.
  • They give more than just contact information – sure, your name, number, address, and everything else is on there, but there might be more to it. There might be something like a quote or a QR code that can engage the recipient into investigating you and your company more.

WHAT CAN I DO TO MAKE SURE THE PERSON I GIVE MY CARD TO KEEPS IT?

Let’s face it, what do YOU do when you get someone’s business card? If you’re like me, you enter the contact info into Outlook or Google contacts, and then – unless card is memorable – you toss it. So, how do you make your card memorable? Let’s look at some quick ideas:

  • Creatice-business-cards-44Make it square – sure, it won’t fit into your standard business card holder booklet you buy at Staples, but it will stand out, and the recipient may even keep it out, simply because of the size and the uniqueness. Another option is make it portrait format, instead of the usual landscape format.
  • Try different paper –  most cards are done on 12 pt of 14 pt board, and if they’re digitally imaged, they have a UV applied to it. BORING! Unless the design itself is interesting, those cards are tossed out. But what if you print the card on say 130# double-thick cover, with a nice texture? Or maybe a textured sheet like a linen or something like Classic Columns. Maybe something that has color with some interesting characteristics like the Neenah Environment line. Avoid the usual gloss cover stock, and try for something unique.
  • Post-press finishing – with letterpress having a resurgence, maybe have yourpilates-studio-business-card embossed or debossed, or with a foil applied, or both. Combine it with a thick stock and it will have a very dynamic impact. Perhaps having a bit of a die-cut element as well, like an angled corner. Try anything to make the card different.
  • Personalize them – instead of 250 of the same card, change something about them so if you’re going to hand them out, every 3rd or 4th card is different. Mix it up, and it will become both memorable and a keepsake. Also, make sure your social media information is included.

So, business cards are not going away, but it’s how you have your cards printed that can ensure that your card will not be trashed – instead, it will be kept as an example, and keep your name and your brand in front of your target audience.

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Posted in Branding, Letterpress, Marketing, Paper, Print, Print Marketing, Print sales | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How do YOU define good customer service?

f1257_s1057_it0499Sometimes, a trip to the grocery store can lead to an idea for a blog post. I like where I do our grocery shopping: the store is clean, always well-stocked, and the clerks are friendly. The young man bagging our groceries this morning was polite, wishing my teenage son and I a nice day. And that inspired me to share with my son the value of good customer service, and where I learned that.

CLEANUP ON AISLE FIVE!

My first (and third) job was bagging groceries. Both times I worked at the same store. The manager was a long-time company man, and former Navy. The first time I was there I really didn’t try very hard. But the second time, I did. And I learned some great lessons from Leon Riley about taking care of customers:

  • Always talk to the customer, and do NOT talk to the clerk unless it’s a 3-way conversation with the customer.
  • Mop the floors correctly.
  • Make sure the shopping carts are brought in and the cart area is full.
  • Bag with the cans at the bottom.
  • Always have someone bagging groceries on the express lane.

Leon had a simple rule, and all of these rules pointed to it: keep the customer happy.

CAN YOU PLEASE…….

Leon, being ex-Navy, taught me how to “swab” the tile floors. When I’d get the call at 4 AM0efb216179bd44005d7c260c5dda9ea4 that the custodian had called in sick and would I come in and clean BEFORE I did my regular shift, I would. But if I had another takeaway from all of this was the little fragile lady that none of the others baggers wanted to help. She was very insistent that we bag her groceries ONLY in the small paper bags, and ONLY putting in one layer of cans at the bottom, nothing else. She would always request this of each of us by saying “Can you please….” For a while, I too thought she was a persnickety old woman. Then I decided one day to do it the way she requested. And not only that, I went beyond that, always making sure that if I was on duty and I saw her that I bagged her groceries. Soon, this persnickety old woman started to smile, and make light conversation, and was pleasant. She even insisted on tipping me (we weren’t allowed to take tips). But what was important to me was that she was being taken care of as she expected to be. The reward was that she was happy. And, that made Leon happy. And more than once he pulled me aside to thank me for taking care of her.

HAVE A NICE DAY!

grocery-baggerThe bottom line is that good customer service is not always a natural thing, but can be taught. The reward for it is happy customers. And happy customers become loyal customers. They become customers that will forgive hiccups along the way. They become customers that refer you to someone else. Yes, we can give lip-service to customer service, or do it JUST ENOUGH to get by. But when you go beyond, and really take care of the client, the client rewards you by staying.

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Tips for a successful print job

digital-printing-2When I began this blog, my primary intent was to be a voice from within the printing industry (the “print trenches” as I have in my header) to readers who are clients, prospective clients, designers, or anyone that has an interest in printing. Therefore, I tend to focus most of my posts to an audience that might need information, whether it’s about file prep, or paper, or even printing vocabulary. And today, I wish to take my readers on tips that I believe will make your print project – and you – successful.

DETAILS

QuoteLetterFirst and foremost, the devil is in the details. Long ago I learned that when a client gives a printer specs for a pending job, they are in the conceptual stage – and quite possibly, they don’t have files or an idea of the final specs of the piece. And that’s OK. It’s OK to get your printer to work up a quote or quotes based on concepts so you can get a general idea of what the budget may need to be. But, to insure that your project stays on budget, whenever you change the specifications of the job, make sure that is communicated to the printer. They can work up a new quote based on your revised specs, and that can be the new “budget” amount. Or, it can help you and your team determine that your initial concept – which might be less expensive – is better for the budget.

Also, make sure that you communicate clearly your specifications to the printer. Make sure the page count is correct (and remember, a sheet of paper has 2 pages on it, one page on each side), what the flat and finished size is, and ink colors. Be as precise as possible, and if the printers asks questions, recognize that they are the experts, and there is information missing that will prevent them from giving you an accurate quote. And finally, that quote letter is really an estimate, based on your specs, and if the files come in and they are different from the estimate, you will receive a new and updated price.

FILE SET UP

This is also an area that can make or break the budget. Thankfully, Adobe has really made??????????????????
the preparation of files for printing very easy. You can export InDesign files out to a print-ready PDF, maybe even have a special profile that is set up for the printer that it is going to, with specific attributes that they prefer. But here are the biggies that you must do every time:

  • Make sure that when you collect the file for output that you have the setting selected to insure that all your links are collected in a folder, and all the fonts are collected in a separate folder. Most printers want all links in CMYK, but there are times (with digital printing) that RGB is preferred. It doesn’t hurt to call your printer and ask that question.
  • Make sure all your fonts are embedded in the PDF.
  • Export the PDF out to include 1/8″ bleeds (.125″ or 9 points), and printer’s crop marks. You don’t need all the other crop mark definitions. Just so the printer knows where to trim it.
  • Finally, even if you DO export out a PDF with bleeds, crop marks, embedded fonts and graphics, also submit the source file with all support files in a zipped or stuffed folder. This allows the prepress team to correct anything if they need to, or re-export the file if you missed the bleeds, or fonts were not embedded.

ROLL WITH IT, BABY!

SolutionsFinally, printing is a science and a craft, and is done by humans on machines, which sometimes break down. Or you might find your 1 PM press check at 5 PM because the client on press before you made several color shifts, taking their 20 minutes for each press check and turning into 45 minutes. Or your printer may be unable to make the delivery date, but is offering to do partials. Things happen. And on the rare occasions when something on your print project goes bad, just take a deep breath and listen to the solution your printer offers up (and printers SHOULD and MUST have a solution or solutions ready to share with you!) Presses go down. Paper doesn’t show up. Issue with the plates. A post-press finishing vendor is slammed. All these things can impact your project. Learning to roll with it, and finding solutions with your printer, will enhance your relationship with them, and make you a favored client.

So, remember these few tips, apply them, and you’ll have a better track record when it comes to successful print projects.

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What’s my motivation?

OWNERSHIP-SLIDER Having been in the printing industry for over 30 years, I can tell you truthfully that there were days I just wanted to leave that world behind. But ink is in my veins: my dad was the Graphic Arts Department Manager at Lockheed for several years, so I grew up in the graphics world. I took print in junior high, high school, and in the local community college. And I worked in a small mom ‘n’ pop print shop while still in college. Printing really is all I know.

IF NOT PRINT, THEN WHAT?

My actual first job was bagging groceries. I never thought of that as a “career”, although I worked with several people that had been doing the grocery business for years, even decades. I really hadn’t thought of printing as a career either. But because of my taking classes, and having a dad involved to an extent within the print industry, I was probably destined to follow his footsteps to a degree. I had thought of doing music as an avocation, but print always was the thing to do. And, when you spend so many years at it, there is little else you can do. So, I’ve never really thought of myself out of the printing industry – even when I was let go from my employer of 30 years, and toyed with the idea of going into marketing.

So, what does get me out of bed every morning? What makes me pack my lunch and take the 45 minute drive to work? What motivates me?

Keep-Calm-And-Take-OwnershipIT’S ABOUT OWNERSHIP

Frankly, over the decades, I have found the greatest satisfaction is taking ownership of something. I have had large and critical print projects that I have guided successfully through the maze of production and distribution. I have established healthy relationships with my own clients, my company’s clients, and our “internal clients” – my coworkers – because I tell them all that “I’ll take care of it”, and I do. It’s not an ego thing. And I don’t do it for the “Atta’ boy!” slap on the back or positive email. I do it because of the personal satisfaction I get by seeing something through from beginning to end. If I am engaging team members with something, I take responsibility for certain aspects of whatever it is we’re working on, but I also delegate or ask them to handle something – believing that it WILL get handled. I don’t micromanage. I give my fellow team members the benefit of the doubt that they too wish to have ownership of their duties, and will accomplish them.

SO, JUST DO IT

Own-itI look at new tasks or duties as new opportunities to excel – to take ownership and make it “my baby”. I’m not afraid to discuss the project or task, and get feedback from other team members. I endeavor to learn all I can to make the task or project a success. And I do that because the client expects it. So, just do it. Take the opportunity or task by the hand, grasp it, and take ownership of it. Yeah, it could be a headache. But it also could lead to some other great things!

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What to look for in a print services provider

printing_pressDuring my 30-plus years of being employed in the printing industry, I have witnessed a great many changes. Many of those have been in the technological arena, such as desktop publishing, direct-to-plate and digital printing. Web-2-Print is gaining a strong foothold, and soon, printers without some kind of web ordering portal for pick ‘n’ pack or print-on-demand will be finding themselves squeezed out. Big companies like RR Donnelley are buying out other big companies like Consolidated (CGX), and smaller printers are merging together just to keep alive.

With all this change in the industry, we really haven’t paid too much attention to the most significant change that affects our industry: the print buyer. Years ago, a large company would have a person or small staff that was responsible for that company’s print procurement. Now, you often have marketing teams or design teams that are responsible for not just print, but all sources of media, including web, email marketing, social media and blogging. Print is only part of the marketing mix, and these individuals or teams divide their time dependent upon where the marketing focus of their company is. If print is 25% of their marketing mix, then they probably give only 25% of their time to it. The new print buyer, therefore, is not looking to be “sold” print, but is looking for a printer that can take things off their plate, make their job easier, and make them look good, both on the paper, and on the company’s ledger.

Now, I will be blunt and say that I’m biased about what the new print buyer should look for in a good print services provider, since I’ve been on that end. But I’ve also been in account management and sales, and have witnessed the needs of the buyer, and so I would like to take this time to give the new buyer three things that I think they should look for when partnering with a printer:

THEY PROVIDE EDUCATION

To a client, things that can help them understand more about print, without making them “experts”, can help them both in their current position, as well as future jobs.  A printer providing things like tips on how to prep files, or paper sample swatch books, or links to onlineseminar tutorials, or on-site or off-site seminars, educate the buyer, and enhance the perception of that buyer towards that printer. After all, if a sales representative calls to tell a prospect or client about an upcoming seminar on paper, or a new video posted to YouTube about InDesign tips and shortcuts, the prospect or client is not going to go “what are you trying to sell me now?” Instead, they see the sales representative as a resource – someone that is knowledgeable, or represents a knowledgeable company – and might be more inclined to award that company with their business. A printer’s marketing collateral needs to be designed with this fact in mind. So, first, be a source of knowledge for your prospect or client.

THEY PROVIDE QUALITY

proof-checkPrint has become viewed more as a commodity and less as a craft, yet it is still expected to be high quality for low pricing. Sure, printers can cut corners by decreasing the amount of paper they order to cover spoilage or various post-press operations. Sure, they can have a minimal management staff with no group of persons keeping an eye on quality and deadlines. Sure, they can keep the old press that cannot print solids well. In doing so, they can keep their prices low while still having decent profit margins. But the trade off is in the print quality. Granted, not all low-priced printers print poorly, and a big print shop with the newest press and top-notch press operators doesn’t guarantee quality. But from what I’ve seen, a majority of the time having those tools in place give the printer a better chance of meeting client expectations. Might it cost a bit more? Yes. But what happens if you pay say 20% less for something, get the job 2 days late for an important meeting (and have to run off copies from your desktop Epson printer), and then your brand color is not consistent throughout the run and there are issues with folding. You might kick yourself thinking that you may not have had these problems with the other printer who charged 2% more, but had procedures and presses in place to make sure those issues don’t occur.

THEY PROVIDE INTANGIBLES

Intangibles are those things you cannot put a finger or a dollar value on. Does the sales6a00d834517f9d69e20120a812d1d5970b-800wi representative come to your office to show proofs, or do they send them via a courier? When you email your rep, do they respond, even if it’s just to say they’ll check on your request and get back to you? Do you get invoiced quickly, or do you get the invoice 10 days after the job’s delivered, and you are set at net 30? Do you get samples, specifically for you, and not just pulled from one of the boxes when the job delivers to you? Do you call your rep only to go through auto attendant hell? Does the driver delivering the job look like he could be from a “Walking Dead” episode? These are all things that don’t have a monetary value, but present to you something that you cannot place a value on, but are important to you. Yes, these factors might influence whether you wish to pay a bit more on a project, since you as the buyer see these attributes as things that make your job easier. And bottom line, isn’t that what you want?

So, before you award that $24,000 print job to the guy who’ll do it for $23,500, just think about what you really are saving, and the value you place on the print relationship.

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How paper is manufactured – the specialty papers

prodbanner1Two weeks ago we covered how coated paper is made with a great video by Sappi Paper. Last week we covered the steps to making uncoated paper, such as opaque, text and offset papers. This week we’ll go over the manufacturing of 3 specialty papers: Neenah Environment®, Mohawk Carnival Linen, and Yupo®.

NEENAH ENVIRONMENT®

Neenah’s Environment® paper is known for it’s unique characteristics, such as a broad, earth-toned color selection, double-thick cover (130# basis weight), and the small specs of recycled fibers that are left in the paper pulp as it is formed into sheets. The manufacturing process is the same as with all paper, with the exception of dye added to create the unique colors, such as Desert Storm, Moonrock, Wrought Iron, Concrete, Weathered, Stone, Grocer Kraft (looks like an old shopping bag), and Honeycomb. The sheets have a smooth surface for good ink laydown, but the paper in itself becomes a significant element of the design of the printed piece due to its color.

MOHAWK CARNIVAL LINEN

Mohawk’s Carnival line is also a textured text and cover sheet, with smooth, felt, and linen finish being its most popular finishes. The colors are in the primary line, with black, green, yellow and red. To achieve the textured surfaces, after the sheet is dry, it’s run back through the paper press against a roller that has patterns de-bossed into its surface, and as the sheet runs between the rollers, that deboss presses into the sheet, embossing the paper with the surface texture.

YUPO®

Yupo® is one of a handful of synthetic sheets that are manufactured with oil-based resins – basically plastic. Due to this characteristic, the paper is moisture-resistant, making it ideal for use in the commercial kitchen. It also is tear-resistant, so any kind of high use document, like instruction manuals, will last longer. It can be recycled (just not with regular paper), but does require special inks to be used, and due to the high heat of digital presses and copiers, it’s not recommended for that use. (YupoBlue® is an exception, but ONLY for use with the HP Indigo.)  You can find out more about Yupo® from there excellent Q&A section of their website.

So, make sure you get paper swatch books from your print services provider, and keep those handy for future reference.

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How is paper manufactured – uncoated paper

prodbanner1 Last week, with the help of the video produced by Sappi Paper, I shared a brief synopsis of how paper is manufactured, emphasizing coated paper. This week, we’ll spell out the process in more detail, and go through the process of manufacturing uncoated paper.

Uncoated paper has many names: offset; opaque, opaque offset, text, uncoated book, tag, as well as other names. Regardless of the name, uncoated paper means paper that does not go through a finishing process where a coating is applied, and the paper is calendered or “polished”. When you buy a book at Barnes & Noble, or you buy a ream of 20 lb. bond at Staples, you’ve got an uncoated sheet at your fingertips. Uncoated paper can be in either text or book weight, or cover weight. And while paper companies do manufacture specialty coated papers, like Neenah’s Environment line, we’re going to focus this post on regular uncoated paper.

THE PROCESSimage_8900

Just like coated papers, the process starts with the paper mill taking wood pulp, or recycled paper products, and subjecting them to a bath that breaks down the pulp or paper to the fibers. This turns the pulp into a slurry or a paste that is placed into tanks where chemicals and additives such as clay, chalk or titanium dioxide, which all modify the properties of the slurry and help bond the fibers. The slurry is then pumped through various machines to clean and purify it.

Once the slurry hits the paper-making machine, more water is added to it, making it a thick liquid that is applied to a wire mesh via high-pressure sprayers. As this liquid is applied to the wire mesh, the moisture is removed by both gravity and suction, which causes the paper fibers to spread and become a thin mat, which closely resembles the final paper product.

TBig-Rollhe paper now is called a web, which is lifted from the wire mesh and squeezed between rollers, dropping the water content substantially. It then passes through more rollers, which are heated, and this process dries out the sheet even further. The paper then is sent through a final drying process before it is subjected to various means to even the surface. The paper is then wound onto large reels, and at this point, is either sheeted for packaging as cut sheets, or sent into the further process of coating.

THE SURFACE

I am often asked what, in particular, is the difference between an offset and an opaque offset. And what about text papers. So, let’s look at the three types and their primary differences:

  • Offset – offset is a grade just slightly higher than bond. The surface is smooth, but still has texture. Ink tends to absorb easier into offset, so it’s use is best suited for textbooks and anything text-heavy, like training manuals or user manuals.
  • Opaque – or opaque offset, is offset, but its surface has been polished, so that the ink sits on it better. You can use opaque offset for catalogs that have photographic images within the text.
  • Text and cover – these sheets are often polished more than an opaque sheet, and often have unique properties like colors, textures, or even specs of recycled matter in them. We will actually go into text papers next week

So, next week we’ll cover how specialty papers and synthetic papers are manufactured.

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