Digital Original: Lost in (Cyber) Space

Are printers missing out on the technology revolution? My experiences are showing that many printers have new technology but don’t use it. From PDFs to the Web and email, printers are ignoring what the technology can do for their business.

Like any business owner, I have to make cold calls in an attempt to get new business. My target is quick and small commercial printers, so I’m trying to find out about the printer by using the Web before I call. I’m constantly amazed by the impression that printers are making on customers with their websites.

My first surprise: half of the printers I contact don’t have a website. Using a variety of search engines, I try to cross reference the company name, address, and telephone number with a website. I usually come up empty. If you don’t believe me, go to www.maps.google.com and search for your address. Then go to Search Nearby and look for printers. It will put up the name and addresses of printers close to your location. If the printer has a website, it is usually included in the information about the company. You will see many printers don’t have a Web presence. You can also use other search engines to verify whether the company has a site or not. I predict that fewer than half of your competitors will have a website.

Even if a printer has a website, it may not project a professional image. You should visit each of your competitors and see what they offer. You will find that many of the sites are just “yellow page” ads. They list the address, telephone number and, perhaps, offer a way for a customer to submit a file. Most don’t use the wide variety of online services that prospering printers use.

Who Are You?
Another glaring omission is the failure of a printer to personalize the website. You can search every page and not find a single name of an owner or employee. Don’t any people work for these companies? Is everyone who works there named “Info”?

Printing is typically sold because of the relationships printers build with their customers. Despite that, some companies don’t even allow their customer service staff to have personalized email addresses. Some owners don’t include their own contact information on the website, even though the owner is usually the best salesperson a company can have. The website doesn’t do anything but project a faceless, sterile organization that doesn’t want anything to do with customers.

There are several companies that specialize in professional websites for printers. They do a wonderful job of providing the tools printers need to communicate with their customers and make buying easier. The websites look professional, but unless the printer does some customization on the site, the templates are just too generic to be beneficial. In larger markets it is easy to find competitive printers with the exact same website. The only change is the address and phone number. Even the photos are identical.

With all of the talk about social networking, few printers seem to be taking advantage of the opportunities to network. The real value of social networking is finding that link that allows a relationship to be built between two people. Finding that link, and then supporting it with relevant information using Twitter and a blog, is something most printers ignore. But it shouldn’t be surprising since most printers don’t even send out a monthly printed marketing newsletter to customers or prospects.

Truly Connected
There are good websites out there, but they are few and far between. Successful printing companies are using websites to communicate with customers and to make buying printing easier. This does require the printer to promote the site among his customers and to train them to use it effectively. The ones who are taking the time to be proactive with their websites are capturing and holding customers and growing their businesses. Unless customers are told about the site and how it will be an advantage to them, it won’t be used.

In today’s business world, having a website is as basic a business requirement as having a telephone. Would you have a telephone and send all calls to voice mail? Would you have an answering machine that just says hello and doesn’t tell the caller to whom they have contacted? Would you have a business telephone, but never publish the number? Printers are doing similar things with their current websites. In the current economy you need to be using every good business practice you can to attract and keep business. How your website looks and the functionality it has are going to reflect on your company.

Printing Industries of America and the Digital Print Council have an annual contest for websites that are print-centric. The contest names the best websites in the print/marketing service provider industry. A visit to PIA’s website at http://www.printing.org/web2awards will let you see its criteria for creating a proactive printing website. You will also see examples of good websites from past contest winners.

Getting a website is only half the battle. Getting out and telling customers about it and showing them how to use it is the challenge that helps a printing company prosper. If you are the owner, can you demonstrate the features of your website? Do you have an email address on the site to take questions about your company? Does your website make it easy for customers to buy from you? Does your website pay for itself in the work it brings to you?

You don’t want to become a statistic because you failed to learn about and use the tools available on the Web.

Cool Tip
Anne-Marie Concepcion, an Adobe CS expert, has posted a visual reference to all of InDesign’s on-screen hidden characters and markers. These are InDesign’s visual clues that indicate that you’ve entered a space, non-breaking space, line break, tab, or other difficult to recognize character. In order to see these characters on the screen, Type > Show Hidden Characters must be chosen.

Concepcion’s blog outlines the need to know the special characters and provides a five-page PDF chart of what the characters look like on screen. This is a must have for any InDesign user. To visit her blog and download the InDesign Special Character Guide, go to http://InDesignsecrets.com/free-guide-to-InDesign-special-characters.php. She also provides good tips on Twitter.

Markzware Adds Content Management
As printing companies attempt to becoming more marketing savvy, they find themselves having to manage content for customers to use across different media. Markzware is making it easier to manage content in Quark and InDesign files with PageZephyr 2.0. The software allows users possessing proprietary files to manage more of their digital data. It captures, indexes, and converts content created in proprietary or non-common formats without the need for the original authoring application.

PageZephyr 2.0 offers the ability to discover content inside popular file formats that are “non-common” such as .indd (Adobe InDesign), .pub (Microsoft Publisher), and .qxd (QuarkXPress). It can also search in a specific area of interest across these different file types to merge, edit, and combine content for easy creation of new and relevant information pertinent to that topic.

Priced at $199, PageZephyr 2.0 runs on Macintosh platforms OS X 10.5.8 and higher. More information can be found at www.markzware.com.

John Giles is the author of “12 Secrets for Digital Success” and “The DTP PriceList.” He is the Technology Director and a consultant for CPrint International. He can be reached at 954/224-1942 or john@johngiles.com. You can also find John on Twitter.com (search for JohnG247) and LinkedIn.com. You can also visit his website at www.johngiles.com and link to his blog. This article is available as a podcast at www.quickprinting.com/podcast and from iTunes.

Loading