Taking Control of Your Company’s Reputation

Reputation Diagram Displays Stature Trust And Credibility

My personal and business reputation are a critical component of the success of my business. Being viewed favorably and being publicly recognized for achievement goes a long way in the very competitive industry that I am in, commercial printing. I’ve had my business for 14 years and it took ample time and effort to build my reputation, but it has been well worth it. Building and maintaining your reputation is a combination of personal actions and business policies.

Have a mindset of helping others. Make introductions for people. Share your knowledge, experience and advise. Give referrals. Help others reach their goals. Make others look good.

Establish trust. Keeping your word, no matter what, in terms of providing services, paying vendors when they are due, and keeping promises to customers – all these will help solidify and build credibility with customers.

Go beyond what’s expected or requested. Make suggestions that the client may not have considered. Include some unexpected service or item at no cost. When a frustrated customer calls, offer to make it right before they ask you to.

Be responsive. Return calls and answer emails promptly, letting the customer know they are important to you and your organization.

Act quickly when it comes to customer complaints. When a customer comes to you with a concern, make the time to talk to them directly and listen. Never make excuses or place blame on the customer if it is an issue that is the fault of you or your company. Make an effort to resolve errors or mistakes as quickly as possible.

Treat every customer fairly. Everyone will come across an angry customer at some time. Regardless of their demeanor, remember to reply calmly, politely and clearly.

Offer value. Offering specials to loyal customers and paying attention to details and preferences of the customer can go a long way.

Be transparent. Communication with customers should be direct and to the point. Keep customers apprised of the status of their job. If there is a delay or a problem, let them know immediately.

Act with integrity. Even a small act of selfishness, greed or jealously can have a serious negative impact on your business. Don’t promise something that you cannot deliver.

Set expectations. Let your customers know what they can expect regarding the process, the deliverables, customer support, etc. so there are no surprises. It is amazing how far setting expectations goes toward building good customer relationships.

Ask for and respond to feedback. Stay on top of what your customers think about your products and services through social media, surveys or by just asking them. Respond quickly to negative feedback including how the issue has been addressed.

Give back to the community. Volunteer regularly, sponsor events, or be a mentor. Your involvement builds your reputation as a knowledgeable, reliable and supportive person.

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Avoid Delays and Additional Costs – What to Look For in Your Proof

There’s nothing more disappointing than seeing errors in material you just had printed, especially if it has already been distributed. The key to avoiding spelling errors and other problems with printed material is to very carefully review the proof that the printer supplies. The proof is supplied so the customer can be sure that everything is correct and as they expect. Use these tips and tricks for reviewing a proof so you don’t miss anything, and are completely satisfied with the outcome.

Print it out. Your proof is supplied digitally but don’t just glance at the screen and sign-off on it. Neither the proof on screen nor a printed proof will show the final colors. However, a printed copy will give you a clear sense of the size, and let you see all the elements of the design. Printing it also allows a close and deliberate scrutiny of the content.

Check the design elements. Check that the finished size is correct, and the typefaces and font sizes are what you intended them to be. Confirm that all content and images appear as you envisioned.

Check for glitches. Review the general appearance of the piece to be sure there are no scratches, spots, specks, holes or noticeable patterns in solid areas.

Bleed or no bleed. Make sure that elements that are supposed to run off the page (bleed) do and those elements that float in the piece (no bleed) are positioned as they should be.

Assess Registration. Letters, lines and edges should all appear crisp and clear. If text looks a little fuzzy, or if a color is protruding from the sides of another, then there may be a problem with registration.

Take a closer look at the copy. When we know what something is supposed to say, we often read a phrase, sentence or paragraph as correct, and totally overlook misspellings or wrong use of words. Read each word individually, even read the words backwards to insure spelling accuracy. Have another person review it as well. For large text filled documents, consider hiring a proofreader. Double check that nothing was omitted from your original content.

Don’t miss these. Carefully review your contact information for 100% accuracy. Also check page numbers, if your piece has them. If content moved around during the development of the material, page numbers can get out of place.

Don’t make the mistake of giving your printer’s proof a quick glance. When you sign-off on a proof it means that you are responsible for the outcome. A quick glance can lead to an oversight or error, reprinting and additional cost.

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Before You Press the Print Button, Read This!

Many businesses are often unsure whether to outsource their printing needs or try to take care of them in-house. Often the only aspect considered is cost but there are several factors to consider.

Professionalism – Whether it’s your storefront, your website or the printed material about your company, image matters. Your reputation is on the line so you want to insure that the outcome is the best quality possible.

Time Management – Although in-house printing gives you a certain amount of control of a project, any quality print job will take you away from other areas of your business. Can you afford to spend hours on design, late changes and monitoring the quality of the job? A good printer will take care of the entire job for you and be an excellent time and resource saver.

Cost – As the print quantity rises into the hundreds, the cost advantage for outsourcing becomes clear. Not only is the cost per copy less, but you won’t incur the management overhead associated with in-house printing.

Expertise – Regardless of the size of the job, professional printers have the resources to ensure that the potential of your marketing material is maximized. They can recommend design and printing options that are best suited to fulfill your goals and that will produce the best outcomes. The help and guidance that comes with working with a professional printer is invaluable.

Flexibility – With outsourced printing you can easily ramp-up or scale down printing due to business conditions. There’s no need to stock paper or ink. You always have the technology required for any type of printing you need done.

Innovation – Professional printers have the latest print technology available, providing the best possible commercial printing solutions. Plus, they have the capability to produce a variety of formats and to provide a wide breadth of services that you couldn’t duplicate in-house.

When you look at all the areas that are involved in the execution of a professional, quality print job, it is easy to see how outsourcing is the best way to go.

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How to Make Direct Mail an Effective Part of Your Marketing Strategy

Since the rise of email, direct mail is often overlooked as a marketing strategy. But what you may not realize is that direct mail, if done correctly, is a very effective, measurable and targeted means of promotion. As we are all bombarded by so many emails daily, direct mail can really stand out if the following steps are taken.

  • Pick a format best suited for your audience and your message. Postcards are an effective medium for most products because they eliminate the barrier of the envelope between the recipient and the message. However, some direct mail is more appropriate when crafted as a letter, for example when a more personal approach is needed.
  • Be creative. Make it possible for your audience to complete a story in their minds of how your product or service solves a problem that they have. Use graphics and messaging to engage your audience, thereby lengthening the time that the piece is looked at, and improving the odds they’ll take in the information from the piece to heart.
  • Use the right list. It is impossible to understate the importance of using the right list. If you have the best format and offer, but send it to the wrong list you will have nothing. Even if you are sure you have sent it to the right list, if that list has not been qualified, your campaign will flop.
  • Include an offer. The offer is a critical element to a successful direct mail effort. An effective direct mail offer drives traffic to your website or physical location for further qualification and/or selling. Including time bound, bonus, money saving or problem-solving aspects in your offer will instill a sense of urgency.
  • Personalize the campaign. Defining narrow segments and personalizing offers for each one will yield the best results. You don’t need to rewrite your mailer for every campaign – small tweaks will help you stick out.
  • Track the response. Coding mailers can make it easy to track response rates. You can do this by adding exclusive codes to your mailers such as a unique campaign URL, email address, or phone number, and invite respondents to use their unique code.
  • Test. Like other marketing efforts, don’t forget to test the performance of your direct mail offerings. Use the data to refine the campaign. Don’t worry about sending multiple flights to the same prospect. Continue until you convert the prospect to a customer.

Direct mail is an extremely effective channel that when used properly can yield excellent results and provide a high return on investment. Your local printer is ready to help you set up an effective and affordable direct mail campaign.

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Let Me Introduce You To Our “Big Boy”

An important aspect of a successful printing business is the equipment. At Minuteman Press of Newark we pride ourselves on having the most up-to-date equipment possible.

C1060-70We recently installed a new, state-of-the-art Konica Minolta C1060 with lots of bells and whistles that will print beautiful, amazing quality documents, performing multiple operations in one pass. With older equipment you would print booklets, for example, on flat sheets, then fold them, then saddle stitch them, then trim them …. very time consuming.   This new machine allows us to do multiple functions together on one machine.

Purchasing this “Big Boy” wasn’t a decision that I took lightly. It took careful assessment of my business to be sure that we had the volume of work to support it and the financial means to acquire it. I set out specific goals that the new equipment needed to fulfill and evaluated my choices based on those goals. Among those goals was to find a machine that would deliver the quality that my customers expect as efficiently as possible.

So when my customers send in jobs at the last minute, I know we can deliver. The “Big Boy” allows us to handle more at higher standards. We can meet large orders with ease. Because of improved efficiencies we continue to deliver exceptional quality with quicker turnaround. You can probably tell that I’m super excited about our newest addition. Watch this video and you’ll see why.

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Yes, It’s a Big Role. Here’s Why I Stepped Up

A few days ago, I began my term as the President of the New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners (NJAWBO), the longest-standing statewide women business owners’ organization in New Jersey. You might be thinking, wow, that’s a huge position to take on. Why would someone take on something as big as the leader of a statewide organization, when you have your own business to run?

It’s hugely rewarding – Taking the opportunity to make a difference outranks all the other benefits of taking on a voluntary leadership role. It is hugely rewarding to give back to a community that you really believe in and where you can see the results of your contribution.

Cultivate new relationships – Not only will you meet people you may not know, you will get to know them on a much deeper level. You’ll share mutual interests and show how you are a giver, someone they may be interested in doing business with. And, they’ll be friends for life.

Learn new skills – As a small business owner, I’m always mindful of the bottom line. Volunteering especially on a board, can be a great way to acquire new skills and have the freedom to learn and experiment.

Get your employees on board – Business leaders who get involved in volunteer causes demonstrates the principles that your company stands for. This is important for morale and it builds a collaborative and inspired team.

Credibility with customers and prospects – Taking on a leadership role on a board goes a long way in exhibiting your reliability, integrity and authority. It distinguishes you from your competition.

Exposure for your business – Done right, volunteering can be a great way to stretch a limited marketing budget, gain powerful brand awareness, and generate new leads.

For me, first and foremost, stepping up in a volunteer leadership role makes me feel good. I love NJAWBO and working with women business owners. In my new role as President, I’ll be working for an organization that I am dedicated to and that I want to succeed. What could be better than that?

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Why Exactly Would Anyone Want to do Business with You?

stand-out-in-the-crowdIn the commercial printing industry, it can be a challenge to define a unique selling proposition, but as for any business it is an absolute necessity in order to stand out from the crowd. How you differentiate yourself helps lure prospective customers to your business and away from competitors. Your unique value proposition will depend on your industry and your business and it may be a combination of values.

Customer Service.  The problem with differentiating yourself based solely on customer service is that everyone claims to offer great customer service. If service is really going to set you apart, you need to get more specific. Make it easy to do business with you by providing easy access and availability. Be transparent with your customers about things you do and why. Explain when your product or service will be delivered and what’s involved in getting it to them.

Value, Not Price. Price is often the first area that companies will try to compete on, but it rarely works, and your bottom line can suffer. Instead, use a combination of qualities to prove value to your customers such as quality, customer service and expertise.  Most importantly, communicate those qualities.

Be Authentic in Your Message. In this age of electronic media, communications can seem impersonal. Businesses often use templates and themes to create their content. As a result, messages can look and sound the same. Invest in content that is customized to appeal to your target customer.

Be Authentic in Your Relationships. Leverage the opportunity to show each of your customers that you care about them and what they want. Customers are real people and they respond best to companies that treat them that way.

Offer Consistency. Whether it’s in your marketing message, in the products you deliver, or in your relationship with customers, be consistent. It takes patience, but a consistent effort works time and again in making companies leaders in their industries.

Longevity and a Track Record of Success. If you have been in business longer than your competitors, reflect that in your messaging. Also, a proven track record is a great way to differentiate yourself. Use testimonials to communicate this area of success.

Innovation. Continuously try to improve your products and processes to deliver better results to your customers. If your services are the same as your competition, make the way you deliver them, or how you work with the client better or faster than the competition can deliver.

Take a hard look at your business and analyze your competitors. Then it will become clear how you can differentiate yourself from your competitors on one or many levels.

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Oh No! I’ve Lost an Employee. Now What?

Hiring good employees for small businesses is particularly challenging. Independently owned and operated companies face a unique set of problems when it comes to hiring, that larger firms often don’t have. Here are some of the challenges I find when it’s time to hire a new employee and how to address them.

 

Presenting compensation. Small businesses compete with large organizations for top talent and can’t offer the same level of compensation that larger companies may be able to offer. To be attractive to potential candidates, find out the industry standard for the position. You may not be able to pay top-dollar but you can offer a fair wage. Also, be sure to mention the many advantages of working for a small company, such as flexible hours, the ability to do more and have a larger impact on the business (big fish in a small pond), less rigid policies and procedures, and the ability to stand out as an individual.

 

Too few resumes. You may find that you’re not getting enough qualified candidates. Don’t simply post the position online. Let people know that you are looking. Spread the word among your business associates. Ask your employees for referrals. When your workplace is short-handed, they bear the brunt of it, so they are likely willing to help. Leverage social media to search for people you’d like to recruit or for organizations you can recruit from.

Too many unqualified candidates applying. Don’t waste your time with dozens of resumes of unqualified applicants. Make sure that your job description is clear. Describe the successful person in the job, not just the job itself. Be as specific as possible.

Don’t have time to go through the hiring process. When I am short on staff, I absolutely have to make hiring a priority. But it is difficult to find the time because my highest priority is always my customers. I highly recommend retaining someone to help. There are lots of good HR consultants around who can help with this process. It’s an important investment and you want to make sure it is done right.

Keeping employees is even more critical. When a small business loses an employee, it has a noticeable impact on operations. Retain employees by making sure they are well trained. Be sure to give them feedback, positive and negative, but do it in a constructive manner. If they deserve it, give them more responsibility. And most importantly, make them feel appreciated.

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How To Generate Effective Commercial Graphic Design

I often see artwork for flyers, brochures, catalogs and such created by my clients that are amazingly creative but miss the mark when it comes to fulfilling the purpose of the material. The message gets lost in the creative. It is important to understand that commercial graphic design is not the same as creative graphic design. Good commercial graphic design is not just creative. It also communicates the business’s story, brand and ideas in a way that will engage the reader and develop their interest.

Business design must address goals and solve problems. Creativity is needed not only to produce something brilliant, but to incorporate the goals of the piece. While you may want to make your brochure, sign, or whatever, into an artistic masterpiece, realistically it must also tell your story and engage the reader. Use these tips to combine the aesthetic with the practical:

  • Creativity and message need to work together. The creative of the piece must visually grab attention while the copy clearly conveys your message, and together they engage your audience.
  • The content must be concise. Include only the essential information that will help get your point across. Use paragraphs, bullets, etc. to help convey your message instantly.
  • Make information easy to read. Don’t let the creative elements overpower your message. Don’t be afraid to use a prominent headline or sub-headlines.
  • Ensure that contact details and essential information are prominent. Make sure your brand and contact information are legible and easy to see.
  • Pictures are worth a thousand words. Use images to show your products or explain the content more succinctly. Make your piece approachable with informal photography of people, if appropriate.
  • Be creative with the layout. Maximize the use of print space with creative layouts that include shapes, columns or grids.
  • Use an aesthetic that talks to your audience. For business materials, aim for an aesthetic that is minimal, subtle and calm. Use brighter colors for events and special promotions.
  • Use color wisely. Understated designs can be transformed from bland to brilliant with a deft use of color. Color is key in defining the mood and personality of your piece and will play a significant role in enticing the reader to look at it.
  • Provide high-res files. To ensure that your material prints crisply and looks great, provide hi-res files. Print files must have a minimum of 300 dpi resolution to print sharp, high quality material. Vector files are best because they can be resized without any image distortion. If you are not familiar with vector art, call us to learn more.

Graphic design plays a significant role in converting sales, but it isn’t necessarily award-winning design that will garner interest. The graphic designers at Minuteman Press Newark are trained to incorporate the aesthetic together with content to focus on what you are trying to achieve.

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