How to beat global online printers at their own game – Part II

22/12/2006

In my yesterday’s posting I listed 3 main weak spots of global online printers:

– poor designs
– small choice of designs when narrowed down to a category or style
– questionable quality (not necessary bad, but it’s not clear what it will look like on paper)

I’d also add one more – complicated interface. It doesn’t apply to VistaPrint, thou. Have a look at OverNightPrints. I find them very complicated.
A completely opposite opinion was expressed by a friend of mine who does a lot of orders with OverNightPrints and thinks that ZetaPrint’s web-to-print interface is too simple.

Enough of yep-yep-yep, bad-bad-bad.
A bit on the positive side for all the other small printers…

Good designs, great choice

It’s unrealistic for a small printing shop to produce thousands of great designs for their customers to choose from. It is plain stupid to tell a customer to go find a designer and get a design done. Very few will ever bother. It is too expensive to provide design service onsite for small one-off runs.

How about a single design central with web-to-print?
Something with thousands of templates produced by different designers for different occasions. You can choose with the customer right then and there. The rest is easy. The customer would type in details, pay a few dollars online and download a press-ready PDF file. Maybe 15 minutes? OK, make it 20 to have a proper look. The customization shouldn’t take more than 3 minutes. All done while you are busy doing other stuff around the shop.

Sounds too easy and unrealistic. Well, there is no service like this at the moment. Watch this space and pssst … don’t tell anyone. We are busy here making it all happen.

Quality stock, quality print, quality service

You obviously need to excel in what you do, unless you try to compete on price and loose it in the end anyway.
There is a clear advantage in being local. Your customers can touch and feel that stock. They don’t need to learn the difference between 200gsm gloss and 300gsm satin. It’s so much better to touch it and just point your finger at “This one, please.”.
Of cause the print quality must be good. It must be really good or they won’t come back.

Price

Well, it’s hard to compete with the enterprises of scale on price alone. I’d say that 10% to 20% price difference on a small business cards order won’t make any difference to the consumer. The effect is more psychological here – “VistaPrint is half your price!” and the rest doesn’t matter.

I’d expect 30% difference to be in the range when you can say something about print quality and stock. Anything more than that 30% difference and you need to be a very good salesman to convince the customer.

Marketing

Marketing online to a local audience using web-to-print is much cheaper than doing it country-wide or globally. The cost per click would be something around $1-$3. Your ad may say something like “Order online with your local printer. Pickup or overnight delivery.”. That would be a better proposition than from some obscure printer without any local contact details.

Thinking of a small town situation (just like the one I’m in) it would make perfect sense to stick a large poster in your front window

100 business cards for $xx while you wait
Choose from 5000 designs
www.your-local-printer.com

A footpath sign and maybe a banner outside won’t cost you much either.
Don’t forget that if you do great funky business cards for one builder then all his mates will come to you too. The word-of-mouth advertising is probably your most powerful weapon here.

Corporates

And the usual bread and butter of a local printer – small businesses around you. Set them up online. It’s not gonna cost you anything. A small leaflet drop around the CBD with the URL of your website is all what’s needed, assuming you can take orders online.

Conclusion

There is no silver bullet and there is no one simple answer. A design portal with web-to-print can be a powerful tool in your hands. Then it comes down to the quality of your service and how effectively you market it.

And as usual, on the lighter side of things …

Check xkcd.com for more :-)

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