Friday, December 13, 2013

Why online document printing is better value?

According to market research an online document print order saves would be up to 35% below the average retail cost from a selection of print and copy shops randomly selected across the UK.
As well as the cost saving, online offers the benefit of quality consistency – with printing produced on the same equipment, paper and card with the same methods of binding – so corporate identity and company image can be controlled.  
And there is also the predictability and control over costs and prevention of “rogue spending”.  With 24/7 pricing there are no hidden charges and prices are calculated by the consumer within a few seconds.
This makes online print pretty good value for money.  It appeals to the small business and sole trader as well as the home-based executives for reasons of cost and quality.
However, it also appeals to larger companies due to the simplified administration and better cost control, whether payment is made by credit card or “on account”.  
One of the most alarming elements from the research undertaken last year was the wide variation in prices for the same specification from different outlets in different parts of the country – even from two different branches of the same organisation.  For example, two print and copy shops within a few miles of each other in the same organisation had a 30% price variation for a relatively small order of under £250.
There is no doubt that online printing is getting better value all the time.
To understand why there are cost discrepancies you only need to see the diversity of print products offered by the typical retail printer.  The “all under one roof” concept of printing requires a wide range of equipment, experience and capability.  Most printers are able to provide a large number of options but are usually unable to benefit from scale due to the limit of their own local marketplace.   It appears that being "a jack of all trades and master of none" is especially troublesome in the printing industry.
There is no point having a specialist piece of equipment if it is only used a few times in a year.
However, the internet allows for specialist niche printing companies to concentrate on a particular specialism.  Rather than “re-inventing the wheel” the products can be offered on a national or international basis with good digital marketing and search engine capability.
Customers can now gain access to production quality machines and special finishes even for small quantity orders.  Whether you want printed playing cards, serviettes, beer mats or brochures – the more specific your requirements the better value you will find.  And the range of printed products that is now available via the internet is expanding rapidly.
In the last couple of days alone, Direct2Print have been asked to source two particular products by sub-contracting to specialists.  One is for a printed wallet for inserting photographs quickly and easily and another for the production of Counter Mats to insert promotional point of sale messages in retail outlets.  Both products can be sourced at discounts of more than 50% because the suppliers have already produced similar products in the past.
With printed presentation folders this has always been the case  the die cutting tool could cost upwards of £100 and so using an existing template would be of immediate financial benefit.  It is just that now technology makes the search process faster and easier to the benefit of all concerned.


Chris Jepson, Managing Direct, Direct2Print Ltd.
About Direct2Print ( – Direct2Print provides a specialist online document and digital print service from a production site strategically based in the middle of the UK near Birmingham.  It prints, binds and delivers documents for companies and public bodies of all sizes – from 6 working hours to 3 working days.  This year documents have been distributed to the United State, Brazil, China, Hong Kong and the Middle East.  For media relations contact Chris Jepson (Managing Director) on 0800 0346 007.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Online Document Printing – What’s it all about?

Online Document Printing – What’s it all about?

Online document printing has been around for over a decade now but it is only just beginning to build up the growth momentum seen with some of the other printed products being sold online – such as greetings cards or business cards.
New customer take up for the production of manuals, presentations, price lists, tenders or reports at Direct2Print has increased by over 35% this year alone.
Direct2Print introduced online document printing to the UK over 10 years ago based upon a business model that was operating in the United States. 
The core product is to have documents printed on production quality machines, with quality finishes and binding, delivered when and where you needed – the service was boosted by the developments in broadband communications, PDF software and the very high cost of toners and inks for smaller office and home printers.
Quality and cost were the two particular issues that were improved by online ordering of documents. Having a single supplier meant that documents presented in different parts of the country were offered consistency of presentation and cost control.  There were frequent examples of price differences of more than 50% on the same job depending upon location.
Delivery was often quick but the pressures are now for ever-shorter deadlines.Direct2Print still offers a 6 working hour delivery option – often quicker than many printers and copy shops can respond with a quotation or a small home printer can print a complete memory and ink-intensive PowerPoint presentation.
With real-time pricing the order process became simple and easy – after entering a small number of prompted variables a customer could hit the “Send” button and within 24 hours get some pretty impressive documents.  Usually with free delivery and at half the cost of what they would have previously paid!
In short the service was faster, more convenient, offered better quality at a better price.
Yet it has taken ten years to gain popularity?
There are many other reasons.  We are all more confident and comfortable with online purchasing but there must also be other factors involved.  Search engines are now the prime source of finding a supplier for any urgent job – and printing is no different to any other trade.  Much of the work that had previously gone local now goes online.  This trend is accelerating with mobile and tablet device users and developments such as QR code scanning.
The order process has become more reliable.  The web site was rebuilt and upgraded in 2011 to accommodate technological developments.  Documents are now distributed around the world within a matter of days. 
There are also no verbal misunderstandings – so you don’t end up with 13 documents rather than 30!  Orders are quality checked at every stage to ensure there are no errors – and each order is covered by a total quality guarantee.
But perhaps the main reason is the pressures on each and every one of us.  Time is becoming an even more precious commodity.  So the thought of driving to a printer’s premises on increasingly congested roads, finding a parking space, waiting for the printing and then driving back to the office is not as attractive of a few clicks of a mouse and sitting back and waiting for the courier delivery.
You can now impress without the stress!

About Direct2Print ( – Direct2Print provides a specialist online document and digital print service from a production site strategically based in the middle of the UK near Birmingham.  It prints, binds and delivers documents for companies and public bodies of all sizes – from 6 working hours to 3 working days.  This year documents have been distributed to the United State, Brazil, China, Hong Kong and the Middle East.  For media relations contact Chris Jepson (Managing Director) on 0800 0346 007.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Let’s Get Started!

The number of people deciding to start up their own business continues to expand. It is estimated a record of 500,000 new businesses have started in 2013.

Sometimes it is a lifestyle choice and sometimes it is out of necessity. Sometimes it is the implementation of plans that have been a long time in the making, and sometimes it is seen as the only way forward to develop a career or provide an income.

In almost every case you will need to generate some income as soon as possible to start covering the overheads that will arise and the household bills that will continue. Anyone planning to start up a business needs good advisors to point you in the right direction. It is important to get good support on all the key aspects of business, including financial and legal from an accountant and solicitor respectively.

The banks are usually demanding that a fairly detailed and comprehensive business plan supports the commercial viability of your project. And you will often need to submit management accounts to make sure the project was “on track” and their risk was being monitored.

However, the hardest part with most new businesses or when going self-employed is building up profitable sales. Finding advisors to help you with this most important of tasks is not easy. Marketing specialists normally demand high fees for offering any form of specialist advice. Agencies do not normally work unless the new business is of a sufficient size to afford a monthly retainer.

So where do you start?

The budding entrepreneur will probably already have built up some useful contacts and may even be lucky enough to have clients from the first day. However, any new business will almost certainly need to generate revenue fairly rapidly to survive, grow and prosper in the future.

Putting the detail behind the marketing plan is difficult. Failing to achieve anticipated sales turnover is the primary reason for the failure of most businesses and business plans.

Any marketing plan needs to allow as much flexibility to adapt to circumstances and concentrate on those marketing activities that are proving to be the most cost-effective.
And how do you generate new customers and translate this business into profitable sales revenue?

In the “old world” this would range from anything from putting a few adverts in the local paper or a shop window right through to trying to replicate larger companies with a colour brochure. The more sophisticated businesses would use other traditional methods such as direct mail and telemarketing.

However, marketing a small business in the current environment requires a more holistic and comprehensive approach because the multi-channel opportunity of business communications.

Spreading a limited resource over different channels in this age of digital communications and social media marketing requires expert help and guidance. It is difficult to find this sort of help because there are very few multi-channel advisors or providers.

Direct2Print the online digital print and online document printing company are offering a business service specifically aimed at the new business owner – wherever they happen to be based in the UK.

“GROWTHPLAN” is a marketing package tailored to each individual budget. Starting at an annual cost of £1000 it provides a multitude of services from one single supplier.
Direct2Print have combined the design and print function along with a web design and digital marketing service.

There are three options which provide a fixed cost for an integrated marketing service. The combined services are classified as a Bronze, Silver and Gold “GROWTHPLAN” marketing package tailored to each individual budget. These marketing services can be managed utilizing new communications technology online with video link meetings. The services can be adapted to each client and are particularly relevant to start-up businesses.

The “suck it and see” approach means different communication channels and campaigns can be tried, tested and adapted as the new business evolves. Any further investment would then be directed at those activities that prove to be the most cost-effective.

The small business benefits from a structured campaign or combination of marketing activities which are integrated for maximum impact from a limited budget.

For more information – Contact Direct2Print on 0800 0346 007

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Brand Control for the Smaller Business

There has been a considerable amount of comment and debate on the issue of the brand value of the Royal Family to the finances of Great Britain following the birth of Prince George.   Opinions are divided over the value of the monarchy in terms of the impact on tourism and trade.

There are often similar differences of opinion on the value of a company’s brand.  Putting a financial value to a brand is often only at a time of a merger or an acquisition because the treatment of “goodwill” has considerable taxation implications for all parties.

However, building up the value of a brand is often a strategic priority for senior management.  It can take many years of careful investment and management and it can be destroyed in one flippant remark or situation.  Perhaps the best example being the infamous speech by Gerald Ratner on the quality of the jewellery sold in his chain of stores!

Large companies usually invest fortunes in developing, maintaining or enhancing their brand image.   They will usually do whatever is necessary to protect their investment.  Communications specialists and agencies are hired to manage the process.

In some cases, the brand is regarded as the most valuable aspect of a business, even though accountants prefer a more conservative approach to valuation and recommend that the value rarely appears on a balance sheet.

Even minor modifications to a logo can carry very substantial financial consequences.
But is an investment in brand management a worthwhile investment for the smaller business? 
Without the resources available to larger companies how should they approach creating, managing and protecting their brand?

Building up a brand can be an expensive process for any small business or sole trader and the benefits are often only intangible and can rarely be quantified. 

However, research amongst consumers’ shows there is no doubt that purchasing decisions are frequently influenced by a strong and effective corporate identity.  

There are many examples of how small businesses have used their brand as a key part of their marketing strategy.  Even London plumbers can turn up in uniform driving smart new vehicles with personalised number plates!

First impressions are always crucial in any business and the value of first impressions should not be underestimated particularly in a service company where there is often little else to differentiate between competitors.

If a sole trader or small company is clever they can easily project the image of a larger company with greater resources and capability than would otherwise be the case.  Many self-employed management consultants work independently but add the term “Associates” to their title to imply they can draw upon other specialist colleagues for larger projects.

High quality printed stationery and in particular business cards and quotations are essential for the self-employed or smaller company, particularly in the service sector.    

Networking meetings are the new growth area for local small businessmen and tradesmen because they do not eat into the working part of the day.  Having fantastic quality business cards can make a big difference to the impression passed onto potential clients.

Documents used in all areas of the business should look professional and communicate effectively.  Quotations handwritten on a plain piece of paper can raise doubts in the minds of the customer.

Good graphic design can also be applied to other parts of the business viewed by customers and potential customers.  The most obvious are the staff appearance, vehicles, signage and the web site.

A logo often encompasses the brand and it has traditionally been a good investment to employ high quality designers at the outset.  A logo is a chance for instant recognition and differentiation.  It is difficult and expensive to change logos and so it is important to get it right, first time.

Creativity and style in design are important but the really difficult part is the co-ordination and control during the implementation.  Printing and visual identity can often involve a large number of suppliers – all with their own specialisms and pre-print design and artwork requirements.

It is rare to engage a single supplier for the production of signage, stationery, promotional pens, exhibition stands and training manuals.  All involve different print processes and equipment from screen printing, offset printing, large format printing and digital printing.

Many a client has been disappointed after receiving printed material that looked great on the computer screen but looked dark and dull when printed.

So if corporate identity is a vital part of business communication, how easy is it for the smaller business to control?  How does the logo look when printed in RGB or CMYK or are most people even aware of the difference?  There are many factors that can cause problems with visual identity
This is usually the function of a good graphic design agency but the costs can be comparatively high and usually the service is tailored more towards medium or larger sized companies. 

Very few small companies or sole traders have the budget to employ any form of agency and usually depend upon their own efforts or the graphic designers employed by the various printing companies.

And yet, whatever the size of business, it is essential to control this valuable business asset.
As a result of this particular dilemma a new service has just been launched earlier this year.

Direct2Print Brand Control now offers a new and low cost solution for the self-employed or smaller businesses.    

Graphic design at Direct2Print is an in-house service and is seen as a route to obtaining more print volume.   The service is available for companies wanting to use design in the production of training manuals and utilise visual charts and slides to make training easier to comprehend.

With more and more customers of online printing providing their own digital artwork this service is an ideal way of better utilising design staff and equipment by targeting a niche market with a very competitively priced and important service.

In our opinion it was a win-win situation from the outset.
Creating a simple digital logo is the first step.  For as little as £60 the client can get a new logo or a modification or an update of an existing design.  The client completes a fairly comprehensive brief and provides any preferences for colours or styles. 

It is then left to experienced graphic designers prepare a choice of 3 visuals for consideration and possible adaptation and amendment.  These proofs are provided in hard copy format and digital format.  There is world of difference in how certain colours work together in a digital or in a printed format.

After any modification and selection of a logo the client has the option to have this applied to any number of important files or documents for safe storage and easy application.

In short, this is a basic Digital Asset Management service for a small company. 
The next step is to apply the logo to all the applications required for the visual identity of the business.  A CD and manual are prepared with artwork for all types of business stationery or digital marketing files – indexed for easy reference to allow for fast, low cost editing as and when required. 

The files contain all important marketing materials and documents.  It can be used to store and archive professional looking tenders, contracts, presentations, stationery, uniforms, web design images and much, much more.

The total cost depends upon the amount of work required but it is always a fixed price based on an estimate of the amount of time required for the completed project and supply of the Brand Manual. 
A typical assignment is to create a CD/Manual for all the artwork a small business is likely to need for a total cost of less than £200.

The optional third step is to set up the benchmark pricelists for a wide range of products.
The basic starting cost of the Direct2Print Brand Control service would be £260.  A small price to pay for that extra peace of mind, improvement in administration and efficiency and control over one of the most valuable asset’s any business might have. 

It also saves very valuable time having all the artwork in an easily accessible form.  So, there are fewer problems searching for files – particularly if you wish to switch suppliers, or if your files become corrupted or you upgrade computers.

This is the type of investment that can be really worthwhile and can give the small businessman control over the quality process whether supplying artwork for a business card, web site, leaflet, uniform, vehicle livery, letter or email. 

The investment may be difficult to find on a balance sheet but should help to create more sales and strengthen the service offering.  It will make the business and save you the one commodity that is invaluable – your own time.  And, like the new Royal parents are soon to find out, anything that saves time and gives you more control is a worthwhile investment!