September 25, 2013

My Twitter IPO Prediction . . . and Why... it is not Facebook.

Twitter, the other "social networking" tool that few understand why.

So where is the great value here as I don't care what Kim Kardashian is wearing today.  Add to that, do any of us real people use it?

The first thing we need to understand is how it is different from Facebook.  Think of Facebook as your snail mail box at Christmas time; we receive letters and cards from our friends and relatives as well ads from places we buy - except with Facebook, it's Christmas every day.  We have the capability to keep up (or be kept up) with those distant relatives we normally see at weddings and/or funerals (and still receive Christmas cards).  We keep up with our interests and favorite places (stores) as well as get kept up with those places (stores) that buy in (advertising).

Twitter is much different from Facebook in that it is neither about being kept up or keeping up even though people do both with it.

Twitter is about being found.  Twitter is about creating relevance in the SEO world (Search Engine Optimization).  Relevance is what moves a search up on the the search engines (Google / Bing).

This is why TV and commercial brands create Twitter campaigns - It's why we see the hashtags (#) everywhere.

Every time, for every tweet, "bots" (Search Engine Robots) grab those tweets and create relevance tables - a far better approach to relevance than meta keywords.  For more detailed information on this read my article from June 14, 2013 "The SEO - Twitter Secret That SEO Service Sellers Don't Talk About ( Because they don't know it !! )" and my August 29, 2012 article "Search Engine Optimization (SEO)".  In Twitter it's all about creating relevance in the tweet multiplied (not literally) by the number of followers of the tweeter (bonus for retweets).  This is also something Facebook does not and can not do (at least with the same effectiveness).  Twitter, and specifically Tweets, gets you found by moving you up in the search engines - this has a huge commercial value.  It's less about people reading it and more about the bots seeing it.

So the Twitter IPO (coming any day).  Twitter will have the traditional run-up that high profile companies have on day one and two of trading.  Twitter does not have the hype power Facebook had - The few who have the opportunity to get in on the IPO (kinda like granted land rather than deeded land) will do well as Twitter will leave some "money on the table" (going public term - the difference between the IPO price and the close price on day one).  In Facebook's case, they took extra money off the table (the companies objective and dream). making entities (big entities only) upset because the did not get the day one score they normally get with high profile IPOs.

IMHO, this will be a good investment because 'the market' does not understand Twitter's value.

In full disclosure - I am biased.


September 10, 2013

The Perfect Storm (Economically Speaking) a Year Later. The Worst (Best) is Yet To Come.

To understand this article you will need to read my article from a year ago with a similar name.  The Perfect Storm (Economically Speaking).  What's different, what's new, what have we learned and how far have we come and where are we going?

Capital, even though it is hemorrhaging slowly, is still pent-up. It needs to flow faster to the capital demand and will as it realizes it is missing opportunities (which it is).  What do the markets think?  Go to almost any trade show this year - They are bigger and the crowds are huge, much larger than just last year.  This is definitely a leading indicator of the state of our economy (Peter Lynch style).

Businesses are spending and hiring; the pace on both is going to increase.  Last year I felt like we were in a sling shot still pulling back (potential energy) - it's definitely moving forward now (kinetic energy).

As I have said before, a government that is indecisive, causes money to sit still - no one invests when the rules-of-the-game have not been defined.  Today, even though the rules still need some tuning, the capital and venture markets can no longer hold back - we are moving to flowing dollars.  What is even more amazing (IMHO), business activity is driving our government policies to make decisions (immigration reform).

So what else is coming?  High interest rates, high inflation, low unemployment, cheap non-exportable energy (venture $$$ abuzz), re-urbanization and localization.

Fun times ahead, I wish I were a young entrepreneur again; I envy my children and my grand children as there is a bright future for the young entrepreneur.

Oh, and I took the summer off from writing :) .


June 19, 2013

Where the Money Goes in Growing Small Businesses - Small Business Week

Small businesses have several phases they go through in their early years much like a puppy or a child.  Each of these phases present different challenges and a different understanding of the numbers as they happen.  I am assuming a successful business startup here; success does not mean Easy Street, it simply means we have a product / service to sell that actually does sell at more than it costs and the business has cash flow.

The first feeling in a successful business startup (remember my definition of  "successful business startup") is truly amazing - the selling - the making of 'all the money' - the satisfaction of  'doing something good' and making the world a better place (seriously).  We feel 'in-the-money' as we are making money for each of the process elements of the product / service.  We feel the 'Magic' and want to do it more - the same feelings we get when we win at a casino (except you are betting on yourself) - you can taste winning.!.  Welcome, you are now an Entrepreneur.

Then the business grows - we have a product that people want and we can sell it.  The results though are not quite what we expect - twice the sales do not generate twice the personal income.  Additionally, we hit some stumbling blocks - all of a sudden we have employee issues, sick days, differences in throughput and a lower commitment than we ourselves have as owners - don't try to pretend this does not exist but also don't let this consume all your time and focus.  Sometimes we think we need to adjust prices to compensate for the additional costs - in reality there are no additional costs - those costs are simply not going to the entrepreneur anymore.

Remember: Price has nothing to do with costs
except that it must be higher than cost to be in an ongoing business.

Assuming we can get beyond making a lower percentage on sales (maybe even less money), we then run into the next entrepreneurial stumbling block - hiring sales people.  They will never be as good as you and they are motivated by money, not your businesses success (normally).  This is the point where the entrepreneur must become more of a manager then entrepreneur.  This is difficult as the business is the entrepreneur's child.  Success here has more to do with building an asset and creating wealth than making more money.  What I tell business owners that reach this point is that they will now feel forever broke as they continue to build the asset (the business).  This is one of the most difficult things to comprehend in small business.  They ask, "when I did one, I made $110K/year; now that I am doing 15 why am I only making $140K/year?"

What the entrepreneur fails to realize is, if they stepped back from the business, they would still make $110K/year as they now have an asset generating cash flow and profits.


June 18, 2013

Why a House to Live in is Always a Good Investment.

Another off topic article, but good information for equating personal finance and business financial decisions.

Our homes are typically our largest purchases in our lives.  I try here to add a little business thought to the process.

To understand and project a return-on-investment, the investment must be looked at from and with a business mindset.  This is true whether we are in business or making personal investments.  This is not a simple process when our home is the investment - there are intangibles and emotions to consider (which I won't here).  There are also location and demographic considerations (big ones).  These complications are compounded by the fact that the economic environment is different and more volatile than in anytime I know of in modern history.  Subsequent articles will utilize this information to determine whether real estate, be it commercial or residential, is a good business to be in beyond the home you live in. I will make several assumptions in these articles and will identify them so you can use your own assumptions. A final note - buying a home is not this complicated; being in the real estate investing and/or the property management business is far more complicated.

The first thing that needs to be determined is a baseline number - that being the cost of a place to live - it's a requirement.  This is a major factor in making owning the home you live in an attractive investment.  Let's say the cost for you to rent a place to live is $1500 per month; this is your baseline number.

Assumption One: We have the 20% down payment for the house we can afford (No PMI) and $0 closing costs.
Assumption Two: We intend to be in the house for 15 years.
Assumption Three: An average of 6% inflation and a opportunity cost of money of 4.25%.  These two items traditionally track each other pretty closely and it's better to assume this than predict why they may not in the future.
Assumption Four: We are in a 25% incremental tax bracket.

We are purchasing a $350,000 home, putting 20% down and paying a fixed 4.25% on a 30 year mortgage.  This equates to a $1,872 monthly mortgage payment including taxes and insurance.

Assumption Five: approximately $8,600 in interest and $7,500 in property taxes per year (note: interest is not straight line and taxes are different everywhere).

This is a $16,100 deduction and in a 25% tax bracket this represents $4,025 reduced tax bill.or approximately a $335 savings per month.

The net difference between renting and buying is $1,872 less the tax benefit of $335 less out baseline cost of $1,500 equaling a net difference of $37 (seems close).  Lets add $300 per month for maintenance and repairs (roofs, water heaters, furnaces, etc over 15 years). total difference is $337 per month (this is really really rough).  The present value of $337 over 15 years (using the assumptions above) is approximately $44,800.

At this point we can project our total investment $114,800 for our $350,000 home ($70,000 Down payment plus the $44,800).

At 6% inflation, the future value of the home will be approximately $839,000 after 15 years (super oversimplified - many other factors including and especially location).

The return = The $839,000 value less the total investment of $114,800 (for the $350,000 home) equaling $724,200 or a 14.2% annualized return over the 15 years - not bad for a very conservative investment (this is not the way you calculate your capital gain nor is it the way the IRS thinks as maintenance costs generally do not go back into your basis, but they would be considered in a businesses P&L).

Just note, that my article last week on gold prices predicts both high inflation and high interest rates in our near future.  This volatility increases the risk in any investment (as well as the reward if you guess right).

A forthcoming article(s) will consider the additional elements of real estate / property management as a business (income, depreciation and capital gains taxes).


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June 14, 2013

The SEO - Twitter Secret That SEO Service Sellers Don't Talk About ( Because they don't know it !! )

One of the largest ways to improve your website's organic search position is to demonstrate relevance to the search engine's BOTs.  I have been amazed that SEO people, who sell SEO don't know the best way to do this.  People who have something to sell, and sell heavily online do know it and don't talk about it or share it.  Why?  If you knew the winning lottery ticket numbers, would you share it?

Not much has changed since I originally wrote about this 10 months ago: Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

You now have the answer - you only lack the questions and the why.

Bob Leonard
561-371-4113 (Call My Cell)
512-593-8830 (in Austin)

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June 12, 2013

Where Gold is Going and Why is this "Up or Down" So Different.

Everyone needs to do a little research on some basic economic principles because our next economy is going to be very unique - unique in that what could occur will be unique, not only to my life, but in modern history.

What defines today's economic environment:
Low Interest Rates (3.25% Prime)
Low Inflation (1.72% annualized in April 2013)
High Corporate / Business Profit
High National Unemployment (7.6%)
Ridiculously High (and still growing) National Debt 

What I think the future brings us in the next 10 years.
Higher Interest Rates (duh). Yea, yea, but try to remember the 80s where good mortgage rates were 13% - 16% (think about what that would do to your monthly mortgage payment).  Prime rates exceeded 20% (21.5% on December 19, 1980).  So what will cause rates to go up?  Demand for capital and inflation.

Higher Inflation.  No one likes to talk about this one much but there is definitely the buzz  of borrow today (or yesterday) and pay back at and with tomorrow's dollars.  Can our government (the controllers of our M1) do anything else?  With a 100% inflation over a 10 year period (this is not a lot nor hyper) paying back the national debt will be only half as costly.  Think about that... and then consider that inflation could be as high as 250% in the next 10 years.  Back in 1980 inflation went as high at 14.7%; 1980 was a very interesting year.!  It takes only 7.2% inflation to double the cost of living in 10 years (rule of 72).  In a time of record corporate profits and stagnate wages, we can expect our wages to increase because of new and higher demand for labor and profit potential from that labor.

Corporate profits will, likely change hands and most likely drop from their current levels - but not much.  What does this mean?  Stocks are not necessarily the best investment.  Corporate balance sheets will also change from very high cash positions to lower, more normal, positions.

Unemployment can only go one direction and that is down.  This drop in unemployment will be a part of the fuel to drive inflation (again, remember the 80s and Reagen's 84 classic speech repeating what he said in 1980, "are you better off now or then you were 4 years ago".  In addition, there is a "feel good" to big raises even if they are only to keep up with inflation.

National debt is, like said above. The government will address this with tomorrow's less valuable dollar rather than today's more expensive dollar.

The title of this article is "Where Gold is Going and Why is this "Up or Down" So Different".  So where do you think it will be in 10 years?  A better question to ask is why (based on the information above) is the price dropping over the last several months.  My prediction: $8K to $10K per ounce before 2020.  Hmmm, consider contra-investing.! and ask why some pros are buying.


Personal Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 30 days. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it.

June 10, 2013

An Internet Sales Tax - A Good Idea.?. - Terrible Political Execution.!.

This use to be an engineering joke, but fit many of our government bureaucratic proposals - like the Market Place Fairness Act..

I am going to be going off topic for my next 3 blog entries not writing about the standard Local / Printing / Advertising theme (saving the world one community at a time theme).  It's been a couple months since writing my last blog and there is a bunch in my head that needs to come out (a friend asked me recently, "when I shake my head, does it look like a snow globe").  "Internet Sales Tax" is the subject that just jumped out first.

The Internet sales tax - the way it is being proposed by the "Marketplace Fairness Act", is a bad idea and bad for business - all business.  Let it be known that I am not against an Internet Sales Tax, I am just against the way it is being proposed.  What bureaucrat, or lobbyist, could have proposed this method? And the free, easy to use automatic software? None are free - the best I have found has transaction based fees. And automatic (??#>@#) - please...  I was in the automation software business and, unless I am selling it ( :) ), automatic is never free, or easy. 

This is not about the Overstocks", "Amazons", NewEggs or Dells. Its about the 15-100 employee company that is being singled out and burdened.  Remember, I am Pro-Internet sales tax. As I have said before, the states currently do not collect anything (very little from personal use-tax) now in "cross-state-border" commerce. The states are not losing anything (as I also believe they won't be gaining anything from this). I believe that there should be NO MINIMUM (see I am pro) and the making of a federal sales tax form that accounts for interstate sales tax only (of course, only for states where the company does not have an office). A five line form ('Sales' minus 'sales where tax was collected for any municipality' minus 'tax exempt sales' = interstate taxable sales). I don't care where the money goes.... redistribute it back to the states as a windfall (this is not about the 'how' and 'who' of the gift horse - I would rather see our one federal government rather than 20 million businesses have to address this distribution) -or- let the feds keep it (makes more sense to me as as it crosses state lines - Kinda like the FBI). Think about the enforcement !! if it is even possible... Last quarter one of my businesses would have had to report to 17 different local municipalities with an average sales tax collection of $3.25 (if it met the $$ minimum qualifications)... Does anyone see the problem with this? Not the guy that has the "use-based-fees" free automatic software - I hope I am not the only one laughing now....

Very simply, under the new proposed regulations, if a business ships to a different state other than where they are located (or have a location), they will have to do a sales tax return for that state.  Sure, they exclude businesses under a certain size (why, I don't know), but the issue is creating a need to create 46 new returns (at a minimum) for a $1MM business - that's not a big company (10-12 people in most cases).  Oh yea, there is "free" software that handles this "automatically" -

If this is passed, business will ignore it - much as people ignore the current "use tax" which people are supposed to pay when they buy something that is shipped from out-of-state and no tax was collected.  Both of these are ridiculous and unenforceable (Montana is not going to send someone to your business's door in Florida to collect the $10.50 you did not send them).

I also disagree with the other side; E-Bays approach.  They are obviously against an Internet sales tax suggesting at least a raise in the "exempt business size".  In the email they blasted out to their user base (that is just about everyone I think) E-Bay (CEO John Donahoe) stated "Congress can instead support small businesses by making a simple modification to the current bill: exempt small businesses with less than 50 employees or less than $10 million in out-of-state sales".  E-Bay suggests you send this letter to your congressman which they conveniently pre-wrote and provided a link. (Feel free to use and express your opinion).

There are good alternatives as well - like this writer who simply proposes all sales taxes be collected at "point-of-sale" rather than "point-of consumption".  Not my approach, but much better than what is being proposed around congress currently:


February 11, 2013

A Community Newspaper's Mission and My Vision

People have told me for many years that newspapers are a vanishing breed soon to be as extinct as dinosaurs.I believe those predictions to be true and imminent for the daily newspaper, however, the weekly newspaper is a different creature. It is much less threatened by the Internet news providers and likely to be the longest lasting of this dinosaur medium we call newspapers. I see them surviving well into this century's third decade.

I considered buying the local newspaper, but two things came glaring out of my due diligence;  one, I did not want to buy someone's current situation and two, I could, with the support of the amazing team I have put together, do it myself.

So my vision of a community newspaper.
  • Focus - On an affinity group geographically defined and bound.
  • Education - The basis for our educators to communicate with our community, be it anywhere from pre-school to collegiate level.
  • Theme - Rally around the community and people who support it.
  • Business - First serve the community from within. Second, support the community produced products that generate employment and third, be a communication conduit between businesses and the community to create a stable and efficient business environment.
  • Government - The portal for government information that the community needs to know and a method to discuss issues through civic journalism.
Thus my community, Windham, Maine 
Exemplified by - An Eagle - In our Schools and in our Community.
The Windham Eagle
Publishing Volume 1 - Issue 1 - March 1, 2013

February 6, 2013

No Saturday Residential Postal Delivery - The Post Office as a Lean-Mean-Competitive Machine.

The US Postal Services have taken the first step (maybe the second or more) in becoming a true competitive machine.  The elimination of Saturday postal delivery saves huge on costs without becoming any less competitive.  The USPS needs to continue taking competitive strides which will improve its position and perception in the market it wants to be in. Bring back the positive as stated United States Postal Service Creed.
  • UPS does not deliver Saturday unless you pay huge dollars for the added service.
  • Fed-x does not deliver Saturday unless you pay huge dollars for the added service.
Oh yea, the post office will still deliver Express on Saturday for a lot less than than the Saturday charges of its competition.  Hey - those other guys don't deliver the mail.

Competitive Advantage: USPS

Oh yea, still located conveniently near you. 

January 25, 2013

Advertising: That Works - That Does Not Work - Case 2: Having a "Blue Light" Special When No One is in the Store

So here I go dating myself again.  K-Mart used to have unannounced, impulsive-like sales in an attempt to both clear slow moving product and/or create an exciting experience for the shopper.
Modern Look of a
Blue Light Special

K-Mart would have Blue Light Specials at peak traffic times in the store - they created a sense of excitement and urgency in the store which brought more people into the store.  Everyone's heads would pop up when they heard "K-Mart Shoppers, we're holding a Blue Light Special in Housewares - 75% off.... for the next 10 minutes". OK.... We had no life in the 70s.... OK.!

I learned from these E-Ticket experiences (cough) that advertising is about getting to a group of people in your target market - both; and good advertising for you is never cheap, but at the same time, it is never too expensive.  The real cost of advertising is based on the return it provides.

"Doing business without advertising
is like winking at a girl in the dark;
 you know what you are doing
but nobody else does" - Stuart Henderson Britt

Advertising is not a generic product and there is a plethora of good choices - Pick the best one for you.

Avoid ROP* packaged buys as you will be packaged into slots where no one reads/listens/watches bringing down your cost per ad in the package.  They sound real good because your cost per ad is so much lower, but in reality, what you are buying is dead air.

After you have found the advertising opportunity that seems to fit your business's needs (verified because you ask people if they read/watch/listen to it and when), test it and then ask people if they saw it.

Remember, K-Mart never held a Blue Light Special for an empty store.


ROP Definition: "Run Of Paper" is an advertising term used by newspapers referring to an advertisement that may be placed anywhere within the paper.  Similar acronyms are used in other mediums meaning the same thing.

Read Case One - Advertising: That Works - That Does Not Work - Case 1: Our Restaurant is Empty on Tuesday Nights.

Age sucks; am I the only person that remembers what an E-Ticket was?

January 24, 2013

Advertising: That Works - That Does Not Work - Case 1: Our Restaurant is Empty on Tuesday Nights.

There are as many reasons why advertising works as there are why it does not work.  Each article will contain one case; welcome to Case One.

Case One:
  • You own a restaurant; it is busy on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
  • Objective: Create a larger Tuesday and Wednesday crowd.
I gotta find out why everyone
 waits in line for their Pizza.
Suggested Approach: Your first thought may be to promote specials, immediate seating, or no-reservations-necessary in your advertising for the slack times.  This type of ad says to me "Hey come buy something no one wants - no line to wait in".  A better alternative would be to create more demand during your busy time creating lines at the door - making your restaurant a destination.  People that finally get seated learn how good your restaurant is and thus visit it more frequently (ie: Tuesday and Wednesdays).  People that are either impatient or won't stand in line in the first place are curious to the mystique of what is so special about that place; they stop at the first opportunity of no line.

The moral here is that Good Advertising does not sell bad product or product no one else wants.


Read Case Two: Advertising: That Works - That Does Not Work - Case 2: Having a "Blue Light" Special When No One is in the Store

January 23, 2013

McPrint vs Local - Its no different than Big Box vs Local

So this morning I went on continuing my research on "Local" and, in particular, "NetBetter" printing.  I walked into Staples just to get up-to-date info on the McPrint business (Understanding the Changing Print Market).  I have difficulty sounding anything but sarcastic in this article, but it's the epitome of Big Box and McPrint.  Here is how my conversation went this morning (with some injected commentary).
  • Me: "Hi, I'd like to get some pricing on some business cards". 
  • Staples: "Sure, we have several different types. You can order them online.
  • Me: "Wow".
  • Staples: "If you need them now, order the "Instant" cards, we do them here".
  • Me: "What size are these, I don't like the undersized business cards like from Vista".
  • Staples: "Our cards are all standard 2" x 3"."
  • Me: "You mean 2" x 3.5"." (thinking she just mis-spoke).
  • Staples: "No, our cards are standard size, 2" x 3" (at this point she looks at me and sighs (like saying, 'you see which side of the counter I am on')).
  • Me: "No, standard business cards are 2" x 3.5"."
  • Staples: "No they are not". (the 'your stupid' look continues).
  • Me: "Go grab one, let's measure it - I just want to make sure they are not undersized like Vista cards".   
  • Staples: As she walks away with a frustrated look, grabs a card and measures - "Oops, we are both wrong, they are 2" x 3.25"."  She tosses the card on the counter next to a sample I brought in.
  • Me: "That's 2" x 3.5"."
  • Staples: With frustration she remeasures and then humbly states: "Oh yea, these ones are 3.5" wide".
  • Me: "OK - I'll check the pricing online".
  • Staples: "Order the 'Instant ones' if you want them produced here".
  • Me: "Bye"
My morning - I must remind myself that this is McDonalds and not Morton's: "NetBetter".


January 21, 2013

Local: Word-of-Mouth (Daytime) Marketing and it's Overall Effectiveness

You can not forget what works best in marketing - Word-of-Mouth (Daytime) Marketing. I call this "Daytime" because it is the only time you can do it.
  • It has a 100% open rate.
  • Prospect knows you are real.
  • The referral is already given.
  • Conversion Percentage is high(est).
Internet Marketing would thus be "Nighttime" marketing. Yes, it gets to the masses but the returns are lower.

Do both - get out - see the sun - meet people - shake hands - make friends - create relationships - network - sell.


January 17, 2013

Local: Competing with the Internet Print Giant in the Evolving Local Print Market and How I Plan to Disrupt (Fix) it.

This is about much more than the local printer - it's about "Local" everything.  It's also about the impressions (mis-information) that Madison Avenue style advertisers can create.  The printing business is so typical of "Local"; maybe that is because I know it that way; maybe it is because it used to be so "Local".  I have described in past writings what consumers want: it's "NetBetter".  As a primer to this, one should read my "Understanding the Changing Print Market" article.  This is a long one - I hope you have time.

The Defensive Printer 
The first thing I tell people in business, or starting a business, is to never take your first step with or from a defensive position - wins will come few and far between if you do.  Knowing this, which all printers do (at least today's survivors), why do they still?  There are so many things that can be said when a client walks in and says "... can you match that $3.99 Vistaprint price?"  So many good answers exist that put you on the offense.:
  • "We don't produce at that low a quality level".
  • "Here is our price, see if they can match it" (I like this one best).
  • "Here, lets sit down and try ordering some cards from Vistaprint; I'll match their price for comparable product" (when/if they do this you have won a customer forever).
  • Next time you see them ask, "Hey, how much did you end up paying for those $3.99 cards?"
  • When someone hands you a Vistaprint card, acknowledge such and show them the differences.  It will point out the importance of first impression and embarrass them in a similar fashion to them ripping their pants all without you looking like a jerk; after all you are only trying to help.  Any salesperson (someone who handles many cards) can "feel" a Vistaprint printed card - and that is never a good thing.
Let's provide some food for thought here.  This will include some research, opinions and some of my solutions.  Happy Reading.

The Price Comparison 
Vistaprint Logo From their website
How much did you pay for
your Free Vistaprint cards?
So today I thought I would do a little market research and evaluate some of the pricing of Vistaprint - every local printer's primary nemesis.  So I went in to the Free Business Cards area to get the numbers I have heard people spout.

Free business cards were for the quantity of 250; 500 are $9.99 and 1000 are $19.99; all these are amazing prices - if this is what they actually cost.  I selected 1000 cards for comparison.

I was first asked how quickly I wanted them - this surprised me.  Your typical local quick printer will have your cards available for pickup in 3 - 5 days at no premium.  At Vistaprint, the following charges existed:
  •   3 Day - $26.89
  •   7 Day - $17.40
  • 14 Day - $10.42
I have never had the luxury of having a customer say "get them to me whenever" so I am going to assume that most people, after going this far in the process, choose the "3 Day" option - after all, they need some cards!!!
Price compare vistaprint vs
Then came my choice of card stocks and finishes.  Now if you have ever felt Vistaprint Cards you know they are uniquely different.  The "Free Matte" stock is very light weight, almost like a heavy paper rather than card stock.  There are multiple levels of premium offering including both stock weight and finish.  I chose the second most expensive choice, which is on a premium stock with gloss finish.  I did not see a more specific description of the stock, but I recall in the past this being a 14pt card stock - a very acceptable card stock.  This choice added $18.74 to the price.

Then came the card's back.  If you want nothing done, it's $2.99.  Have them print "what you want" on the back - its $7.49.  The free version has a Vistaprint Advertisement on the back - How classy is that - sorry, I just laugh every time I see one of those "get your free cards.....".  I chose the $7.49 option.

Total Price for my Vistaprint Free Cards:  $73.11
(albeit I wanted 1000 rather than the 250).
Price sounds like less an issue when you know the facts.
vistaprint actual cost of free cards - not free
Vistaprint screen image showing
the real cost of their Business Cards
I like so much the way Vistaprint advertises their "Free" and "$9.99" cards that we added a similar (better) product to some of our websites; a "$9.99 for 250" set of business cards.  We considered free, but we don't see the demand for the real low quality stuff especially after someone holds one. The Link shows you how we do it - it's not meant to sell you something - after all you are in the business. Get Your $9.99 Business Cards Here.

The Click Comparison
Wow, who has the time to do this?  Actually it isn't so bad, especially for the B2C market.

I had 15 clicks and each one required some review so it was not like just clicking "next", "next", "next".  Vistaprint is the ultimate in "would you like fries with that" website. We can all learn from what they do, even though I do consider, they do it to an extreme.

It took me just over a half hour to order my first card.  If I had needed to do a second, it would be substantially quicker; probably in the 15 minute range.  This is why Vistaprint owns the B2C market. In B2B, time is money and this is the first thing felt by the buyer or manager.  What if you needed to order a second set (or more)?

One could argue that Vistaprint saves the customer design expenses - it's not about you - ever been to a trade show and you get two identical cards from 2 (or more) vendors?  How can this happen with so many choices?  Popular is Popular. Click.
The Quality Comparison
I don't think much needs to be said here. Just feel the difference.  Next time someone hands you a Vistaprint card (I can tell by feel), simply say, "oh, you get your cards from Vistaprint?"  Listen to what they say - it's usually funny - it's always a sales opportunity.

Vistaprint undersized undercut cards
The Vistaprint card is on top.The correctly sized card (2 x 3 1/2) is beneath.
Note the difference in size.

 Why The Local Printer Can't Compete
With a
Branded Website
Local will win only if the "Locals" can work together.  Their growth must be about taking back the local and not fighting over someone else's local.  Get back the Vistaprint customer - educate the Vistaprint customer.  There are many branded websites out there (Their site, your name), but they are each unique; like many many small fish fighting for the same food.  There is a need to learn from Brick-and-Mortar examples.  Bill's Hardware can't compete with the marketing and buying power of Home Depot; but it can under an Ace or True Value Logo.  Want more info?  See the articles from May 2012 "Why Branded Websites Don't Work With Any Business, Especially with Local Printing", from April 2012 "Who Me, “Who Three” - Fixing the Local Print Business – Part Three"; and, also from April 2012 "Understanding the Changing Print Market".

Our Solution and Plan to Disrupt
We Love The
ACE Hardware Business Model
(We Will Improve That Later)
Our solution at LightsOn is to provide a uniform online collaborative brand; much like Ace Hardware or True Value Hardware does for the local Brick-and-Mortar hardware store.  When  you visit note The local info (Your local info) on the right.  Our objective is to fill that with people in that local's graphics business.  Our plan is never to take your local business, we don't want the business from the phone call that the website generates, we simply want the business from the website - the order you would have lost anyway - with the local referrer/printer/designer getting an attractive commission.  Our Objective is to recreate the "Local" printer the way ACE Hardware recreated the Hometown hardware store.   How will we do this?  Read more.  Who Me, “Who Three” - Fixing the Local Print Business – Part Three. 

More to come.

Want more now?  Local Printers, Local Designers, Local Postal Stores - collaborate with us, collaborate with each other and Brand Local - turn the LightsOn in your home town. Call or email for more information.


~Bob Leonard
Local - Net Better

January 7, 2013

Collaboration: Localization: Is Buy Local a Collaborative Effort?

Collaboration is an "in vogue" topic these days.  "Buy Local" is equally, if not more so, in vogue.  But we really need to understand that these efforts did not begin yesterday.

A newspaper is a collaborative effort being managed by the newspaper company local to the area the newspaper is delivered with each of the advertisers sharing in the cost to produce the newspaper leaving some extra money as profit for the newspaper.

A strip mall (or any mall for that matter) is a collaborator in that the businesses, through a management company / owner / landlord, share costs. From the parking lot, to the signage, to the walkways (common areas) - a cost sharing collaborative is taking place.  The businesses share more than that, they share customers; the customer may come for one specific purchase, but see all the other "opportunities" (other stores).  It is why businesses like to rent where there is a popular "anchor" store (like a large grocer); because they can ride the coat tails of the anchor and collaborate as a larger force.

Collaborating is much more than good business, it is business.