May 27, 2012

Quality, and How it is Marketed and thus Perceived will Define Success.

There are many definitions of quality in business.  The ISO 9000 definition is the "Degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfills requirements". "The standard defines requirement as need or expectation".

Quality is something a product has when it is reproduced the same over and over and over to a defined set of specifications.  Some companies maintain quality by producing the product in one place.  Some companies maintain quality with well defined and well engineered systems.

Consumers buy quality - they know what to expect because of the quality.  This does not mean that the consumer is getting a better product. or even good product; the consumer just knows what they are getting. Having a better hamburger is not enough to compete with McDonald's just as having a better print product is not be enough to compete with Vistaprint.

May 25, 2012

Followup on "Who Me, Who Three - Fixing the Local Print Business" Can the Local Printer Survive?

 There is an economy of scale that the local quick printer (franchise or independent) needs to have to survive.  Read my blog entry "Who Me, “Who Three” - Fixing the Local Print Business", it will provide some further background and insight.

The local printer's first issue is utilization of assets which means increasing it's business.  Since they have higher end and more capable equipment than the new competition (office product stores and postal stores), they have a bigger financial mouth to feed.  Reduced copy business revenue and traffic and then losing some of the higher end business to online printers has made this difficult and their future questionable. It will require some aggressive creativity for these businesses to continue as an ongoing entity.

The local printer needs to aggressively network to two groups, the graphic designer and the local postal stores and signing them up as partner/affiliates (sound familiar).  This will require very attractive commissions be paid to the partners; so attractive that they wont want to do it with anyone else.  As it is said in the venture capital business, "Do you want to own a percentage of something or 100% of nothing".  It's a strong argument.  This is one of those areas where I can tell everyone the answer, and for one reason or another (can't execute, too busy, don't have talents beyond retail, etc), its doesn't happen. Let's just say they need to begin to collaborate with each other more aggressively.

The franchisors should be all over this as they need to help (save) their franchisees.  BetaGraphics (our make believe franchisor) needs to do more than educate, but actually push their local franchise into partnering with local graphic artists and postal stores, basically offering satellite franchises (BizOps) and relationships to the local BetaGraphics.  These people are looking for a solution that the local quick printer has.

What you read is the why our business model at LightsOnGraphics exists.  A player needs to unify the fragmented local market or the local market will ultimately disappear causing everyone to lose; quality will suffer (as it already is) and prices will ultimately rise.

Bob Leonard
LightsOn Graphics

May 22, 2012

Collaborative Marketing Efforts Make The Impossible - Probable.

One misconception I have found in talking to prospective partners and affiliates is that they think we are selling them a website - we are not.  We are simply partnering to bring local exposure (everywhere) to in exchange for the local exposure of the partner and affiliate resulting in local foot traffic, additional revenues and commissions (commissions from LightsOn Graphics).

LightsOn Graphics' business objective is to increase traffic to the website, and the local partner/affiliate to appear when the user traffic is in their locale.  It is not to drive traffic to (or from) a local area. The results and objectives are achieved through collaboration and not brut force.

Taking this approach gives the local printer and postal store a chance to compete for the market which is slowly being lost to the major online printer(s) as described in this past blog entry - Understanding the Changing Print Market. 

Bob Leonard

Talk - Demo - Talk - Demo, etc... and Loving It

 I am enjoying the reception and feedback I am getting from postal stores as we prep to sign up our second phase of "BetaLocals".  They so clearly understand new business opportunities and the value of a referral and a customer.

The biggest obstacle seems to be developing an understanding of collaborative relationships and marketing as well as collaborative branding and collateral.  Read our thoughts on collaboration and then what the local printer needs to do.  Learn a little more about collaboration at Wikipedia.

The print stores are going to be a different animal as we start to roll that out in a couple weeks.  Because of the tightly reined in and restrictive UFOCS, we may have to limit our sales effort to the franchisors.  The "why's" on why they should will be the subject of a forthcoming blog entry.


May 15, 2012

“Who Four” - The Biggest Target - Fixing the Local Print Business – Part Four

"Who Four":  The local postal store, franchise or independent.  Many years ago someone told me about a company (a start-up at the time) called Mailboxes, Etc. (now The UPS Store)  My original thought was, why use them instead of the post office?  I believed the business concept was flawed - I was way wrong.  Yes, many of these businesses are feeling the strain of the economy and being a franchisee, but the outlook for this group is very positive in my opinion - just walk into one on any given weekday (especially after 2pm).  The question I have is - can the franchisors bring in higher margin products to more utilize their current foot traffic - and give the franchisee a chance to succeed?

Being a target market for LightsOn Graphics is the wrong phrase; it is much more a prediction. Postal stores provide a convenience that creates foot traffic and business in that it is hyper localized - one stop to send mail, UPS, Fed-X, get the boxes and packing you need to complete your mailing.  They have morphed from a post office box and shipping center to a business center providing copy service, document shredding, limited but critical office supplies, and limited emergency print (copies, business cards).  Just a note - If you need shredding, buy a shredder.

Offering print and collateral marketing services is a natural expansion to their business; some would say they already do.  I tend to use Postnet in my examples because, not only are they in that postal store target bunch, but they also use a service that, from my research, provides nothing except the satisfaction that they can say, "we have an online print site".  No they don't, but that is just my opinion.  I have interviewed several small printers that use the same system - orderless (like zero) - they stretch to find value in something they pay for every month.  The system they use does provide marketing benefits and a few  convenience tools, but not sales.

Now that the market has been identified, we can start talking about the product and what makes different (better) in both product and concept - see our forthcoming blog entries (or see an an earlier taste - Fixing the Local Print Business).

In Review - Targets:
  1. Postal Stores - this is where the customers are..
  2. Local Quick Printers with poor web presence.
  3. Postal Store Franchisors Postnet, Postal Annex, Goin' Postal, etc.)
  4. Quick Print Franchisors (AlphaGraphics, Minuteman Press, Sir Speedy)
  5. Local Graphic Designers.
  6. Vertical Market providers (newly identified)
Thank You For Reading.!.!


May 12, 2012

Why Branded Websites Don't Work With Any Business, Especially with Local Printing

Several of the larger trade printers will provide their customers with somewhat sophisticated websites for them to call their own.  There are several problems with these which are listed below.

1 - When there are more and more websites, especially websites that are both functionally and visually identical, the net result is noise in the market place (web market place).  The only people that are going to find these sites are people that the local printer tells.  This is a big negative in my mind as the job of the local printer is to service the local customer; sending the customer online is reducing service levels and introducing your customer to the online competition.

2 - Maintaining the website (just the prices) is a job in and of itself assuming the branded site allows you to determine prices.  If you have the time to spend on this, you may already be out-of-business.  My most commonly used 'line' for printers that say "We already have a website" is "how many orders have come in from your website" or "Have you ever had ANY order from your website?"

3 - Limited Product Line - Typically limited to the trade printer providing the branded site.

4 - Getting Traffic - As was pointed out in the first problem, you do not want to send your face-to-face customer to your website (EVER IMO).  SEO is a very very expensive process as it is a job, not a task - don't be sold SEO by the "expert around the corner"; in my opinion, 99% of the people that sell SEO are fraudulent and don't know the meaning...  Just my opinion ... as a friend of mine says, "tell me how you really feel...!!"  The other way to get traffic is Pay-Per-Click which is expensive, but very real; you will be competing with the big boys and you must position your products against the big boys to convert that click into an order.  Just a note, we estimate the cost of a converted lead in the printing business to be about $150 - How does anyone make money at it?  They do - maybe for some future blog entry.

Finally, I ask,  does anyone know a local printer whose website (branded from a trade printer, or their own home grown) makes them money?  I don't.  All I ever hear is people complaining (always off the record) about Vistaprint - sometimes they will spend 20 - 30 minutes telling me how Vista doesn't effect them - touch a cord..!!

What makes different?  Follow me.

I need to start talking about the business rather than the business plan - soon.