Monday, November 30, 2009

Automation Requires Standards

It is impossible to automate any task without standards. In the printing industry, many smaller printers have been trapped in thinking they had to be a job shop and take any job that came in the door, no matter what. This type of thinking has allowed web-based printers such as Vistaprint and Printingforless to carve out a good business because their business model is built around standardization for automation.

The printing industry has a number of standards already in place, but it is up to individual companies to use the standards and require their customers to follow them. Two of the most important standards are GRACoL 7 and G7. These are standards that many printers are implementing to make sure that the printing meets the requirements of customer and the printing quality is consistent.

One good overview of the subject can be found at:

More specific information can be found at:
G7 Process:

In addition to those standards, you also need to be aware of the PDF and JDF standards. The standards set by the Ghent Workflow Group ( are what are used by GRACoL and G7.

Interestingly, the GRACoL standards at basically the same standards relating to customer files and PDF files that CPrint® International ( has been promoting for years. The “big” printers and those who work with high end color for agencies have been promoting these standards to customers for a number of years.

Printers who institute standards and then require their customers to follow them will be able to automate in the coming years and see their sales per employee rise dramatically.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Find Customers and Build a Brand with Search Engines

Everyone is talking about having a "brand" for their company. A brand is the collective consumer perception of a company, product or service that is uniquely your own. This brand is shaped through the brand identity and its marketing execution as well as by personal or corporate experiences with the brand, by word of mouth and by the media.

The general public can get an impression of your company from a number of places. One area that many printers overlook is the Map areas of many search engines when they are branding their companies.

Successful quick printers use the various mapping programs provided by the different Internet search engines to find more customers. For example, you can go to and enter your address. Then use the Search Nearby to seek out businesses that need printing. Type in "Associations" and see how many are close to you. How about marketing companies? Training companies? Any type of business that might buy printing? You’ll get a list of businesses and can easily get contact information. There isn’t any excuse for a printer so say, “I don’t know who to call on.”

Your customers are also using the same search engine maps to find out information about you. You will also want to make sure you visit,, and others to post information about your business. For instance, Google gives businesses a free listing on Google Maps to make it easy for customers to find you. Any business can use the Local Business Center to create a free listing. When potential customers search Maps for local information, they'll find your business: your address, hours of operation, even photos of your storefront or products. It's easy, free, and you don't need a website of your own. Go to to sign up. Bing, Yahoo and other search engines offer a similar service.

But don’t forget to check the reviews for your business online to help protect your brand. Google, Yahoo and Bing allow visitors to post comments and reviews about local businesses online. You might be surprised what customers are saying about you online. Sadly it is usually a customer who had a problem who takes the time to post a poor review. You might want to suggest to your better customers that they can post a review for you at the different search sites. It might offset any bad reviews.

The Internet can give customers a perception of your company. You want to make sure the face you are showing to the world is the face you want them to see and you don't have people talking behind your back.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


During several of my recent visits to printing companies, the issue of prepress pricing came up. Several CSRs were concerned about the prices they had to charge for design and prepress services. They believed the prices were too high and that the customer was being “gouged.” When I reviewed the prices I found them to be either good or below market value. I never found a job that had been priced "too high." The CSR just didn't know what the value was and was having "sticker shock." They had never sold printing before and they didn't know what went into creating the job.

Owners need to review the value of prepress services with their CSRs. If the CSR isn’t comfortable with the prepress price, he will tend to lower the price. Most prepress prices are arbitrary in most shops and sometimes CSRs will skip the charge in hopes of just getting the job.

Owners need to explain the value of prepress. Equipment costs and software applications are very expensive. Most customers don’t have the knowledge to properly prepare a file for print nor do they have the ability to design work with a professional look. This type of service is only available from a printer or graphic designer. Using the equipment and software is more than just typing. CSRs should remember the printing problems and additional costs caused by amateur designers submitting files. The customer is paying for professional help to assure the file is created properly.

The value of the work particularly increases when original design is involved. Part of the charge to the customer will include the value of getting something no one else has. It is an original creation that the printer is selling to the customer. Check the difference between the cost of an original work of art and a copy. The original is always going to cost a lot more.

The prices can also be compared to other sources. Check the online printing sites and see what they charge for typesetting and design. Talk to freelancing graphic designers and ad agencies and see what they charge for their work.

Of course, work that is just replicated and reproduced does have a lower value than an original design, but it still has value. In many cases where the CSR feels the prepress prices are too high, there is no base line of pricing. Every year, the Crouser Estimating Guide includes the John Giles DTP Pricelist that can give a CSR the value price for many of the types of work sold by printers.

Customers will pay when they feel like they are getting value for their money. If you sell printing and apologize for the price, then the customer will feel like they are getting over charged. You need to be proud of your work and the services you provide. It costs what it costs. Price gougers won't survive, but neither will printers who give away their work.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Color More Important to Quick Printers

It use to that all a quick printer needed to worry about was black ink. As a quick printer matured, he might get fancy and be able to add a second color. Today almost every quick printer can produce digital color prints and some can print 4-color offset work. At the least, a quick printer has partnered with an outside vendor to do full color work for him.

To be competitive today, a quick printer must be able to understand and produce color correctly over a variety of output devices. Digital color printers have gotten good and it has become easier to control the color output. It is easier to control the color among different output devices. Print professionals want to ensure that the digital files they use produce the expected color results, so artwork is prepared using CMYK values intended for a specific output device. This approach ensures that CMYK color numbers specified anywhere in the workflow arrive unchanged at the final output device.

There are a number of resources on the Web that will help a printer understand the science of color. Adobe offers a very good tutorial on Color Workflow online at It explains the industry standards as well as the steps used to assure color is consistent. It also provides information as to why Adobe Bridge, a special program used to manage digital assets, is important when bringing together assets created from a number of different sources.

Want to learn more about Adobe Bridge? Be sure to check out Epicedits’ blog for a complete guide to Adobe Bridge. Visit the site at

CPrint® International affiliates are attacking the issues with color so they can maintain a competitive edge. The subject will be studied in detail at the upcoming Production Conference in Jacksonville in November. To find out more about CPrint, visit

Monday, September 21, 2009

Online Graphic Help Free

There is no excuse for not learning how to use a graphic application properly. The Internet is providing thousands of sources for teaching people to use software program and to fix problems they run into during normal daily production. MacFixIt, an online source of information on Mac-related repair and troubleshooting advice is now available free to Internet users. CNET recently purchased MacFixIt and plan to expand the information available at the site. Mac users should bookmark this page because it will help them with upgrade issues for the new Mac OS. The URL for the new MacFixIt site is

And if you don't like to read there are always online videos. Enfocus has set up a whole range of helpful product movies, from quick overviews to short feature movies. Find an answer to those problems you face as a print professional every day. The videos deal with such topics as how to detect trim marks, how to use Profiles and Action Lists, how to detect and fix objects without bleeds, how to outline problem text, how to find unwanted spot colors, how to apply Pantone colors and more. To find out more visit or

You will also want to check out and search for InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator and other applications. You will usually find a number of short "how to" videos that can make you even more productive.

Print shop owners and production managers need to carve out time in the production schedule to let the prepress staff take advantage of these resources. The skills learned will help the printer profit, so most of the training should be done during the workday. Most prepress staffers want to be more productive, but getting jobs out gets in the way. Management needs to make sure that the prepress people get time to train.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What To Say To Printing Customers?

Ever wonder what you should be saying to a printing customer? How do you start a dialog without sounding dry and boring? Are you tired of asking, "You don't have any printing today do you?"

Questions should generate conversation that is a two way street. You want to find out what your customer does and the customer wants to find out what you do. A good question to use would be "What printed material do you use to communicate to your customers?" That question would be quickly followed with "May I see samples?"

As the customer outlines what he uses to communicate, a printer will see what printing is done, how often it is done, and find out how effective it is. A savvy printer should be able to identify what printed communication products might be missing, how the current printed products can be improved, and how the printed products can be coordinated to provide a bigger impact on the customer.

What? No newsletter? That might be something that would help the customer sell more. All the customer's products described in one brochure? Perhaps a brochure should be created for single products so the reader is less confused and the product can be more targeted.

At the same time, the printer can be demonstrating his expertise. The printer should be able to provide the customer samples with what the printer is using to communicate with his customers. The printer can lead by example. If a printer is going to talk about printing marketing pieces for a customer, he should have his own marketing materials to use as examples.

Successful printers get out in front of their customers and drill down to get the information they need to make sales easier. It isn't a stilted speech. The information is found with a conversation that lets the customer know he is dealing with a profession.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Do You Know Marketing? Prove it!

Printers are always saying that they have to expand their services if they are going to survive. Many want to drop printing from their name and become marketing or advertising firms. They want to offer "value" to their customer with ideas on how to sell.

The only problem that most printers have is they know nothing about marketing. Yes, some offer some printing services such as direct mail, variable data and PURL services, but these are just tools marketers use in marketing services. Does a printer understand ROI? Can they plan and predict the results of a marketing plan and then measure it along the way? Do they understand the other media used in marketing campaigns? Can they do the research necessary to develop the strategy and select the tactics to use to complete a successful marketing plan?

It isn't just printers that are suffering from the economy turndown. Advertising agencies are also cutting staff as sales drop. You'll want to read a recent newspaper account at of how advertising and PR firms are going to survive. It may make a printer have second thoughts about jumping into a brand new market.

If a printer wants to go into marketing, he needs to prove he can do it by selling for his own company. Has the printer used the tools he has to promote his own business? Can the printer show measurable results of marketing campaigns that were done to increase sales? Can the printer explain the ROI he had for the campaign and the sales increases?

Most printers are craftsmen and not sales people. Most printing companies would benefit from the owner giving just an hour of dedicated time each day for sales activities. Most printers haven't even had a face-to-face meeting with their top clients to assess their printing needs in the past 12 months. A delivery isn't a sales call.

No matter how much "marketing" a printer does, it isn't going to drive business through the door. To succeed in today's economy, the printer is going to have to get toe-to-toe with the customer and ask for new business.

Once printers can handle the simple task of calling on a customer, expanding the benefits of their services, and asking for the order, the printer can delve into more sophisticated marketing efforts.

If you want to be a marketing company, prove it. Marketing yourself and become a successful, profitable printing company.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Work Can Be Fun

If you are too serious about life, it can wear on you. One source of "fun" is our customers and how some of them think. A recent Youtube video shows how funny pricing negotiations can be when looked at from a different perspective.

You will want to invest a couple of minutes in this video at

One piece of advice: when printing customers ask for a lower price they are opening the door to negotiations. Negotiations are a tw0-way street so make sure you are asking for something in return for the lower price besides just the job. One example: You can offer a lower price if the customer guarantees a year's worth of work.

Life is short so enjoy it. Love your job and have fun doing it.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Are You Your Own Worst Enemy?

A recent essay in the July issue of New England Printer & Publisher looked at why printers constantly self inflict damage on their business. Jack Epstein, a consultant, took the industry to task about not billing customers for valuable services.

According to Epstein, the industry is its “own worst enemy” when it comes to being treated fairly by customers. “Who else makes custom products under extreme deadlines and doesn’t collect full or partial payments along the way?” said Epstein. “We are more lackadaisical about getting paid than cobblers, dry cleaners, and the building trades.” Epstein believes there is a lack of respect for printing. He also thinks printers have low self esteem. He provided a number of rationalizations printers use when they are giving away their services. Do you recognize any?

• Rush delivery charges. “They’re not a house account, so we’re not paying a sales commission.”
• Additional RIP time. “That’s the nature of the beast.”
• What started off being a two-color job needs to be four colors. “We can print four-color. It made the job look better and maybe we’ll win an award.”
• Fronting postage. “Nobody charges extra for that.”
• The price of paper has gone up since the original estimate. “They can’t change their PO without sending it back out for competitive bids’
• Finance charges. “Nobody pays in 30 days”
• Press checks. "Chalk it up to relationship building”
• AA’s. “No way on that job. We were late and there were quality issues”

Among Epstein’s recommendations: instant notification to customers whenever specifications change or AAs occur; clear understandings with customers about services included in the base price vs. those that will incur additional charges; and tighter coordination of effort between estimating and sales.

Epstein argues a printer’s survival just might depend on being able to collect for justified expenses by applying them only when and where they belong.

Are you giving away services? Are you leaving money on the table? Do you overlook prepress costs because you are afraid of losing the printing job? It isn't any wonder that most printers don't make any money.

Printers only need 25 good customers to have a viable business. Usually the ones who get the deals and special treatment aren't even in a printer's Top 25. They hope that by showing "they're a good guy" with low prices and free services they will end up getting all the customer's business. Usually all they get is more work that the customer wants free.

If you are a good printer with good service and quality and who brings extra value to the table, then you ought to charge for it. Let the cheap customers go to your competitors and drive them out of business. Your Top 25 customers usually appreciate what you do and will pay for it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Going Green Getting Easier for Printers

Everyone wants to be "green." For printers, it is a constant battle to get the message out that a printer can be green and that the work being done doesn't contribute to the loss of trees.

There are a number of high dollar groups you can join who are suppose to "certify" that you, after paying a large fee, are a green printer. Even if you decide to go that way, most of the certifiers are only looking a paper use and nothing else. Is this really being green?

There is help for small printers without a large budget. The DMA (Direct Marketing Association) offers an online “Environmental Policy and Vision Statement Generator” that can be used to not only help you write your own statement, but it is also a checklist for sustainability activities. It can make it easy for a company to go green.

While the DMA is a trade organization for companies who use a variety of media including direct mail to sell their products, the online statement generator is useful for any company using or producing printed materials. It covers five areas:
• List Hygiene and Data Management
• Design
• Paper Procurement and Usage
• Printing and Packaging
• Recycling and Pollution Reduction
According to DMA officials, because this checklist/statement generator is used by print buyers/users, as well as print producers, printers can also use it to understand how direct marketers are thinking about sustainability.

When you’ve completed the checklist and customized the statement to fit your operation, have a copy emailed to you. In a matter of minutes you have created a formal environmental policy statement that you can put into your own format and publish. Get the checklist at

International Paper has published a “Down to Earth” series to help printers explain some of the printing industry environmental practices to customers. The latest is “Pixels vs. Paper,” which compares print with electronic media in terms of their respective “greenness.” Among the advantages of paper are that it comes from trees, a renewable resource, and it is biodegradable, with some 60% of all paper being recycled vs. 18% of all electronic devices. Others in the series cover certification, recycled vs. virgin paper, and carbon footprints.

There are three other brochures in the “Down to Earth” series including “Certification: Where does your paper come from?”; “Recycled vs. Virgin: Is recycled paper the best you can do?” and “Carbon Footprint: How big is your carbon footprint?”

You can find the PDFs or order brochures at It is listed under Sustainability information in the left column.

Every printer should be doing his or her part in helping the environment and every printer should be telling the customer about it.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Just Do It!

Many printers spend hours and dollars trying to come up with the best solution to drive business to their company. Too often it doesn't work because they left out one component: what they do once you get the lead.

Today printers have a multitude of ways to get customers interested in using their company. Digital technology makes it easier for the customer to buy. Web sites offer customers many advantages. Run lengths can be shorter. Color is more affordable. This is going to interest some customers.

But what happens after the customer gets interested? What do printers do with the leads they have? Printers have to develop a plan to close the sale and open a new account, not just get a lead. It means getting out and getting in front of the customer.

Getting leads is a lot easier today. Sign up on and visit the different online communities right in your own backyard to find prospects. Follow and see what local business leaders and owners are interested in this week. Visit local blogs and learn who is doing what. You can generate more leads than you can visit.

You have the lead. Are you ready to get in front of the customer? Can you probe and ask questions to find out the real needs of the customer? Do you know how to qualify a customer and know if they are worth your time? Do you have a procedure to open a new account? Can you tell the customer what you do?

Printers need to quit planning and get out and make a sales call. Will you visit your Top 25 customers this month and try to get new business out of them? A push of the button of your print management system will give you that list. Do a Google search for specific types of businesses and find prospects you've never heard about in your town. There are leads all around you.

Want to be a successful printer? Get out of the shop and make a sales call. The print owner needs to be out asking for business. He or she wants new business from old customers and new business from new customers. You got the leads: Just Do It!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Great Sales Lead Idea

If you sell to non-profit organizations, don’t forget to use the website Want to find out about how much printing a non-profit organization buys? The website includes a statement of the organizations purpose, contacts names and how much they spend on printing for every non-profit customer in your area. Visitors to the site can find a block that says “Find non-profits” and then enter their city or zip code. You will be redirected to a page listing all the non-profits in your area.

When you find an organization you are interested in, you can review their Form 990 of its tax return. This form is required by law and includes full information about the organization showing their income and expenses, net worth and also will have names of the people that serve on the board of directors and more. The report also lists the expenses of the organization which includes a separate line for printing and publications.

With this information, you don't have any excuse not to make a sales call.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Printers Flying Blind Will Crash

Bob Hall made an interesting observation in the July issue of Quick Printing about printers and estimating programs. He reported Eastern Kentucky University technology professor Dr. Marlow Marchant, recently published a paper that said the inability or unwillingness to track and understand financial data is a sometimes fatal flaw in the quick and small commercial printing industry. “Sadly, business failure in printing, particularly in small printing companies, has been linked to top management who are unable to understand their own financial statements and are therefore unable to take timely and appropriate action,” he writes.

As the nation continues to ride out the economic slowdown, more and more printers will be closing their doors because they didn’t stay on top of their business. The simple act of learning how to read a financial statement could have helped print owners make decisions that would have kept their businesses viable. Too many printers forgo the cost of monthly financials complied by a professional accountant as a cost cutting measure. They try to do it themselves even when they don’t know what it really means.

All printers should take time to learn what their financials mean and how they can be used to guide decisions. Some will learn that they need to raise prices to stay in business. Others will learn that they should shut their doors and quit losing money.

This isn’t the time to fly by the seat of your pants and be blind to your financial realities. Its finally going to bite you.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Printshop Automation Real

Printshop automation was the theme at the CPrint(r) International World Conference in Indianapolis. With experts such as Julie Shaffer of Printing Industries of America's Digital Print Council and Patrick Ruebensaal of Xpedx, CPrinters learned that automation is a reality right now and even the smallest shop can take advantage of the technology out there.

Joe Urback, production manager, PressTech, Des Plains, IL, described how his company is doing more than $2 million in sales with 9 employees -- all because of automation.

Any printer can start automating his or her print shop today. Most digital printers have hot folders and imposition programs to automate common tasks. Enfocus and Adobe provide software to automatically correct PDF files with a push of the button so they will print properly. Workflow systems link all the tasks together for a seamless workflow.

What do you have to do? Learn about PDF files. Know the common problems and how to fix them. Delve deeper in the software you have and learn how to use it. Look at your work and identify what your standard work is. Automate your shop to produce standard work more easily.

It takes time to learn and owners will have make time for their employees to learn it. You can't just say "Automate my workflow." You have to commit time and a few dollars, but it will work. The time you save will translate into higher margins and more wiggle room when negotiating price.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

It is Wednesday: Have you looked at your website lately?

Printing companies are being left behind by the Internet. You may find a lot of printing companies have websites, but you would be surprised by how many printers actually use them.

Websites offer a powerful tool to help printers make print buying easier. A good website can serve as a cyber CSR. A bad website can turn off customers and lose business for the printer. Too many sites are just an Yellow Page ad.

When was the last time that you looked at your company’s website? In too many cases, the owner is the “webmaster,” but he or she has too many other responsibilities to keep the site current. Someone in the organization needs to be on top the site and make sure it reflects what is really happening with the client.

With all the inexpensive print-specific website providers, a printer doesn't have any excuse not to have a fully-functional website. Even in these tough times, a website should have a positive effect on sales and make it easier for customers to buy from you.

All you have to do is invest time in learning how to use it and then keep it updated and responsive. Refresh your site today.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

New Position: Same Objective

As most people know, I accepted a position with CPrint® International, a franchise that works with existing printing companies and helps them prosper. The printer retains his or her company name but uses the business and marketing model Tom Crouser has developed over the past 30 years. Crouser & Associates were one of my biggest clients over the years. They always adopted my suggestions that enabled their clients to stay on the cutting edge, so it is fun to be working as a consultant and technology director for an organization that is forward thinking.

The move has allowed me to expand my knowledge and I'm getting an education in the financial side of the business. Now I'm able to put financial information together with sales, marketing and production. To me, this is an exciting time to be in business.

What is unique about CPrint® International is that it monitors the success of the individual shops. The affiliates are working toward a 2:1 current ratio, sales growth of 15 percent over a 3 year period and 20 percent income before owners compensation. Those are tough goals to meet, but when a company does hit those numbers they really begin to make money and enjoy life.

As technology director, I'll be working with the affliates on new techniques and procedures to improve production and sales. From websites to workflows, I'll be helping to make the printing buying experience easier for the customer and more profitable for the printer.

I'll still be writing for Quick Printing magazine and other publications. I'll still be writing and selling books such as 12 Secrets for Digital Success and The DTP Pricelist to help printers undertand the changing print environment. I'll also be available to select speaking engagements and customized digital audits. I'll be sharing the knowledge I'm getting with CPrint through this site and other outlets.

But all in all, I made the change because it is fun. The CPrint staff is excellent to work with and the CPrint affiliates are typically market leaders in their local community. It is great to see printers succeed and meet their goals. As an independent consultant, it was disheartening when a client doesn't implement your suggestions. With CPrint®, I am developing a deeper, long-term relationship that shows how the industry is changing....for the good.

So if you do have questions, comments or concerns, just contact me at or I'll be looking forward to hearing from you.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Economic Turndown?

Is the economy as bad as the press says it is? I've been talking to printers who say business is down, but when asked, none of them report doing any sales activities. The amount of business walking in the door is down, but they really don't know how there customers are fairing in this recession.

The cure here is to get out and talk to your top 25 customers and find out what is happening in your market. When was the last time you did a mailing? When was the last time you got a new mailing list? When was the last time you vertified the mailing list you have with a telephone call?

No one needs to be sitting around idle in the shop. Talking to customers and asking for the order is going to be the best way to get out of any sales slump.

By the way, I am finding there are a number of printers making money during these hard times. They are getting out and calling on customers, especially new customers, and asking for new business. There are others who are taking the time to use the technology they have to streamline production. It isn't all doom and gloom. I think it is a good time to be in printing.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Getting My Feet Wet

Information keeps coming at us faster and faster and it seems a blog is a good way to get the news out to my readers. As a consultant and journalist, I am constantly researching and writing and I'll be using this blog. This will be another way to share information. You can also follow me on as I blast out interesting tibits I find to help quick printers prosper and be productivity. I will post news at on a regular basis.

I hope you'll find some of my news helpful and profitable.

John Giles