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.


  1. Very interesting point of view, and I agree on most of it, specially how having websites with identical framework and similar in content highly affects positioning. It's amazing how big companies are selling these service as gold, while not a single con is advertised.

    Anyway, my question is: how many online orders does Light on Graphics get weekly? You don't have to say a number if you don't feel like, but let's say -sometimes none/few/regular/lots/tons-. Curious about it, since you seem to have the subject very clear.

    Congrats on the blog and keep this up!

  2. Thank you for reading this. LightsOn is much more about localization and how partners with protected territories working together can collaborate together to create traffic and a brand; much the philosophy of businesses like ACE Hardware. The larger trade printers are trying to determine a way to beat the giant in the marketplace (Vistaprint) and more importantly get beyond the perception the taut (which becomes reality).

    As far as the number of orders we get, I can tell you its more than most as we understand the technology better than most. We have a collection of websites that generate a great deal of business each testing the market slightly differently.

    We like seeing other companies (especially in local print - like Minuteman Press) finally coming around to our localization model and duplicating our functionality - I never like or want to build the road ahead alone.


  3. I disagree. We have a branded site and we support it with both email marketing and outbound calls. As more people visited our site, our page rank got higher before we even did any meaningful SEO. The key here is phone follow-up to support the customer. Just have a site whether its branded or not won't bring in the customers, its how its marketed and supported that brings them in. We've never really been affected by Vista Print because we have created relationships with our customers and we've been able to have a similar pricing structure with Vistaprint through the deeper discounts of our print vendor. It does take work and planning but it is possible to make money with no printing equipment. Just need a couple of phones a computer and a branded website and the will to send emails and pick up the phone.

  4. It bothers me none to say that you most likely have an ulterior motive (sell some "branded web site solution") or you are a liar misrepresenting your success.

    Behind anonymity and the cloak of an unnamed website you claim success with "just have a site". You cannot compete with the marketing arm (or $$) of VistaPrint nor can you compete with the numbers of online print sites that exist (even if you push your local- North Hills, California – hmmm, wonder who this is? (pretty neat I know that)).

    You say: " is possible to make money with no printing equipment. Just need a couple of phones a computer and a branded website..." Helllooo... I think 1998 is looking for the last (yours) IBM Selectric back.!!

    I do think it is possible for local printers to compete with VistaPrint (the marketing elephant in the room), but it will take a collaborative effort under one brand, much like Ace Hardware does with local hardware stores everywhere with, not only cooperative buying, but collaborative marketing efforts.

    Please, feel free to brag who you are here - I will give you a chance to show us how real you are (or prove how fake you are).