Quark Marketing Services & QR Codes

Quark has announced the launch of QuarkPromote.com, a new online service aimed at promoting QuarkXpress 8 and creating new business for printers. The special website service is expected to help entrepreneurs and small businesses in the U.S. easily create their own high-quality, professional marketing materials that can be picked up at a neighborhood printer or received by mail in just a few days. According to the company, the service allows people with no previous design or printing experience to customize professionally designed templates for business cards, postcards, flyers, brochures, appointment cards, coupons, letterhead, and envelopes.

Quark hopes it can promote business for printers who use QuarkXpress 8. The customer using the service can opt to have the templates forwarded to a local printer for easy pickup. Quark has partnered with franchises such as Allegra Network, AlphaGraphics, PIP, Signal Graphics, and Sir Speedy as well as independents.

In addition to printers, QuarkPromote.com will also include a free directory of professional graphic designers that customers can use to find a nearby designer should they need other types of specialized materials. The designer and customer can then work together to create a logo, advertisement, or other items that go beyond the QuarkPromote.com templates.

The new program looks similar to the now defunct Microsoft Publisher Service Provider Program (PSPP). Printers who use QuarkXPress 8 can list their name and address on the site and if a customer orders a template, he can see a list of printers in his area who use QuarkXpress 8. He can download the template, make the changes, and send the file to a printer who supports the program, or he can have the template sent to a participating printer who will make the edits and then print the job. It doesn't look like there are any guarantees that the template will go to any specific printer. I anticipate customers sending the file to several printers and seeing which one will produce the job the cheapest.

It looks like the program may give printers a reason to upgrade to QuarkXpress 8. If the templates are created in version 8, then a customer will have to find a printer who supports that version. It looks like Quark is trying to create a need by helping designers who are using version 8 sell design and templates, and getting more printers to buy Quark 8 in the hope that they can support Quark 8 users.

Is the program a good deal for printers? If Quark pours money into advertising and marketing to consumers, then printers may see new customers trying to find someone who can output Quark files. If you are already a QuarkXpress user, you will want to sign up since it is free and it might drive a customer your way. If you aren't a QuarkXpress 8 user already, it is going to cost you for the upgrade. The question becomes is it worth getting the upgrade if you aren't guaranteed work?

Printers using QuarkXpress 8 will want to market the service locally and then convince the customer to send them the print job.

Quark already offers printers and service bureaus the QuarkAlliance Community Output Provider program. The service helps printers keep current with the latest software as well as offering access to first-line technical support.

To apply, go to www.quark.com and visit "Partners." The higher version of the QuarkAlliance authorized partner program has an enrollment fee of $495. As a partner, you can use the Quark-authorized partner logo in your marketing collateral and on your website. You will also benefit from co-marketing opportunities and a shared booth presence at trade shows when available. In addition to technical and marketing support, members receive complimentary software of selected programs and software discounts. The company also offers a complimentary version of the program at no cost.

If a printer wants to provide higher-end design services without a designer, he should look at the templates from Stocklayouts.com. The company offers a free trial for printers at its website. The templates are available in popular formats, including QuarkXpress and Adobe InDesign.

The company also offers its own Service Provider Partner Program designed for businesses that want to offer graphic design solutions to their customers. By displaying the StockLayouts design library on your website, your customers can get quick design ideas, inquire about custom design services, or purchase a template to create their own project. There is a yearly membership fee of $199.

One final thought about templates. Don't forget that InDesign will open older Quark files and Markzware offers Quark-to-InDesign or InDesign-to-Quark conversion plug-ins for $199 each. While most printers support both popular page layout programs, the prepress staff is usually most comfortable in one platform or the other. Markzware also offers a plug-in that converts Microsoft Publisher files to InDesign files.

The Big New Thing: QR Codes

A bar code called a Quick Response or QR Code is expected to begin having an impact on business information in the coming year. That means printers will have to know how to print it properly on customers' materials.

Printers already print bar codes. The QR Code (or 2D Code) contains information in both the vertical and horizontal directions, whereas a bar code contains data in one direction only. QR Codes hold a considerably greater volume of information than a bar code. In Japan, most current mobile phones can read this code with their camera and access additional information about products. Initially used for tracking parts in vehicle manufacturing, QR Codes are now used in a much broader context, including both commercial tracking applications and convenience-oriented applications aimed at mobile phone users (known as mobile tagging). Many of the mobile phones sold in the U.S. can support reading QR Codes.

QR Codes storing addresses and URLs are expected to start appearing in magazines, on signs, buses, business cards, or just about any object that users might need information about. Camera phones equipped with the correct reader software can scan the image of the QR Code, causing the phone's browser to launch and redirect to the programmed URL. This is known as a hardlink or physical world hyperlinks.

For instance, a menu may include a QR Code that links to a page with nutritional information. A business card may include a QR Code that links to a website, blog, or social networking site. The ability to direct a consumer to specific information will tie printed material more closely to the Internet. QR Codes are expected to start popping up in North America in the coming year as mobile phone companies add the software to their cameras. Printers should expect to get inquiries from customers soon.

Is Facebook Uncool?

A new survey from comScore reports that as Facebook has gained a broader audience, the older teens and twenty-somethings who drove its initial popularity are using it less. And research by WPP Group's Mindshare suggests that group is reevaluating the site's worth as a tool for developing friendships. Others believe Facebook's cool factor among younger users is waning.

The numbers have fueled a debate among agencies about the implications for marketers. For some, it has raised a warning flag that if the trend continues, clients may have to revise their social network marketing strategies. Others believe Facebook's broader growth outweighs any declining usage by the college-aged crowd. Still others aren't convinced that younger users, on the whole, are less enthralled with Facebook, and believe some may be accessing the site via mobile devices that don't show up in the comScore numbers.

According to comScore, the average time spent on the site among 18- to 24-year-olds fell in September for the third consecutive month compared to the same period a year ago. And the drop off rate is accelerating. Usage fell 3% In July, 13% in August, and 16% in September.
Mindshare surveyed 1,200 consumers about their social networking habits. More than half of the 18- to 24-year-old respondents agreed that "social-networking sites like Facebook are diluting the quality of relationships." And 40% said they now visit social networks that are based on particular interests, such as TV, music, or movies.

Even if college aged students are losing interest, Facebook and other social media networks can still be a source of leads for printers. Most businesses are just now discovering Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other sites. Business-to-consumer and retail companies are finding social media a good way to target messages and promote sales and interest. For instance, some bars and restaurants send out messages when business is slow and offer immediate discounts to customers who stop in within the next few hours. Business-to-business companies, such as printers, use the sites to make contacts and generate leads for face-to-face selling opportunities. Even if social media is starting to cool off, printers must be aware of how it supports marketing for their customers.

Being Social

Speaking of social media, be sure to visit my blog at johngilesiii.blogspot.com. It is a source of information about what is happening in prepress for the world of quick and small commercial printers. You can also follow me on Twitter by searching for JohnG247. Also, let me know about blogs and tweets that I should be following on a regular basis. There is a lot of good information on the Web. You just have to know where to look for it.