Tuesday, May 24, 2011

It Is Hard To Believe: Customers Lie

Rising fuel costs are pushing prices up for everything we buy. Printers are seeing jumps in paper and every other thing they buy. The rising costs mean lower profit margins if a printer doesn’t react quickly, but we aren’t seeing a jump in print prices because customers tell the printer it isn’t happening.

Every day I talk to printers who are concerned about raising their prices. They tell me that they can’t raise prices because their customer told them they could get the job cheaper somewhere else. When we drill down in the conversation, I find that usually the printer doesn’t have any facts to what the prices really are. He is just going on what he was told by the customer.

Printers lose jobs every day because of price. A certain percentage of customers requesting a price will make their buying decision on price, but that doesn’t mean everyone buys on price. There is usually one other factor besides pricing that affects the decision.

I think a printer would be hard pressed to find a top 25 customer who buy from them based solely on price. Usually top 25 customers have a history with the printer where the printer has proven it can meet the customer’s needs with a fair price. The printer delivers the job on time. The printer assures the quality is high. The printer will work with the customer’s budget and his emergencies. There are a lot of intangibles that can’t be obtained from the low-priced printer.

Yet printers don’t listen to their top 25 customers when it comes to price. They listen to the person who walked in off the street and is buying his first printing order. He is shocked when the price is high. The printer is listening to the person who just saw a price on the Internet that was low, but doesn’t realize the specifications for the low cost job are limiting. Does he really want the Internet printer’s name and web address on the back of his business card?

Printing isn’t a charity. You can’t give people special prices because they can’t afford the printing. You are allowed to make a fair profit on your products and services. You need to make a fair profit so you can pay your employees and purchase the equipment that gives customers better and faster service.

And the average invoice for most quick printers is in the $300 to $500 range. If you added $25 to the $500 order, would you lose the customer? That is a five percent increase? Would a customer leave you because the bill last time was $300 and now it is $315 to cover your rising costs?

Next time you hear that walk in customer or price shopper complain about your price, just think of your top 25 customers. Did they complain when you stayed late to meet their required delivery date and you charged them the normal price? Your top 25 customers buy from you and your staff because they like you and you give great service at a fair price. Know the facts before you start cutting your prices just because a customer couldn’t afford what you sell.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Now You Can Prove It Is Ugly

Science may have gone too far. You can now have quantified that print design is ugly. 3M has added automatic face and text detection to its Visual Attention Service, a web-based scanning tool that digitally evaluates the impact of creative and graphic designs. Users simply upload images to 3M’s Web portal and within seconds, the Visual Attention Service (VAS) tool analyzes and reveals the results. The suite of enhancements for the 3M tool also include a mobile application for the Apple iPhone, a plug-in for Adobe Photoshop, an ability to test key areas within a creative design, and new pricing options.

The tool is supposed to help designers identify problems during the creative process.
The tool will indicate which design elements the human eye will react to in the first three to five seconds, providing the accurate, fact-based scientific feedback needed to speed up the revision and approval processes. Websites, photos, creative content, packaging concepts, advertisements and all manner of creative media can be evaluated in different scenes or contexts. For a free trial of VAS, visit http://www.3M.com/vas.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Is Your Website Ugly? The Critics Will Tell you

Looking at bad design can help you create good design. As more printers start getting into website design, the opportunity to either impress prospects or embarrass yourself with your design skills looms large. Since web design is new to most graphic designers, the site http://www.webpagesthatsuck.com can help you learn what to avoid when design your next website.

The website also includes several lists that outline major or fatal flaws to web design. Some of the flaws include too much Flash navigation, a splash page, taking longer than four seconds for the site to load, and hard to find focal points. Give webpagesthatsuck.com a visit before you start designing a web site and see how your design ideas are going to stack up.

There are good websites out there. Time Magazine has listed the 50 best websites for 2010 at http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/completelist/0,29569,2012721,00.htm

A printer's experience with good print design will help when it comes to designing a page. You know what looks good and works in print. The same rules apply in design on the web. If you have good designer on staff, let them learn the website creation tools so you can have a new product to sell your customers. Your print customers need websites too.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Don't Forget Designing for Mobile Phones

Your Internet site isn’t just for the computer anymore. More people are accessing websites through their mobile phones. This means you and your customers will need to create a mobile-friendly alternative to your primary website so the smartphone user can have a better experience.

You may need to get together with your website developer and create a mobile website. It does require changes in layout, design and construction. This means the most important information will have to be at the top of the page. You will want to minimize left/right navigation and arrange content in a single column.
Content will have to be easy to read and navigate. You can select what information you want from your regular website to be displayed on your mobile site. You want to help the user keep from zooming around.

Coding really isn’t that different but most mobile websites are created in either XML or XHTML code. Images are using jpeg, gif or png since they are usually smaller files. Some sites let the user browse with the images turned off. Page size for a mobile page is only Kb, You should keep the Kb small since some users are charned per KB of mobile web data. The maximum page size is 20 Kb, but you should shoot for 10 Kb. Experts say a good mobile website design provides back buttons and links. It is difficult to get around on a mobile phone so avoid dead ends. Make sure all pages are linked to other pages. 

QR Codes and Microsoft Tags are a great way of pushing eyes to your new mobile site. Make sure you are printing QR Codes or Microsoft Tags on all of your marketing material so customers can easily find your mobile phone site.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Where Are The Young Guns in Quick Printing?

Industry consultant John Stewart recently released the 2011-2012 Quick Printing Industry Pricing Study. The document is packed with interesting pricing information, but to me one of the most striking observations was not in pricing, but in the Basic Company Data section. According to the report, the average age of the 350 printers participating in the report was 55 years old. The average age of the company was 28 years.

If this report is representative of the industry, then quick printing is going to go through some major changes in the next 10 years. The age factor raises more questions than answers.

Are younger people not coming into the industry? The baby boomers who started the quick printing industry are still here, but where are their replacements? Are their children going into other industries and forsaking the businesses their fathers and mothers built?

Why aren’t younger people attracted to owning a quick printing business? The industry has become more high tech over that past decade. Profitable shops are computer driven and integrated with the Internet. Don’t younger entrepreneurs see opportunity for their future in printing?

Has the core business changed and older owners just not recognized it? Much of the work that was once the bread and butter of print shops has disappeared. Today’s printing growth is in marketing related printing. This type of printing is integrated with Internet-based services such as social media. It includes variable data printing and data base management. Are younger owners attracted to a new business model where printing is only a minor component in the array of services offered?

Are younger owners just not attracted to associations that do these types of studies? Do the younger owners not see themselves as businesses that put ink on paper, but as more of a communications partner to help customers sell their products and services? Association membership in the printing industry is dwindling. Is it because there are fewer print shops or is it that there are fewer owners who see themselves as traditional printers?

Has the age of quick print owners hampered the advancements in the industry? Does the age of printers cause them to overlook the changes in the way people communicate?  Have older owners been too slow to adapt to business and cultural changes to keep their businesses viable for the future?

And the biggest question of all: if young entrepreneurs aren’t coming into the quick printing industry, who will be buying these quick print shops from the soon-to-be retiring owners?  Many of the 55 year old owners can probably make some money over the next few years, but can they sell their shop for enough to support their retirement? Have they modernized their business so it will sell? Do they have the trained people on staff? Are they selling the products and services that customers need and want?

There is always going to be printing, but how much printing will there be? I’m hoping the 55-year-old printers are concentrating on making their business something they can sell in the next few years because it doesn’t look like there are going to be many buyers available.