Posted in blogs, business lunch, creative writing, Digital printing, dining out, graphic design, printing, publishing, small business, small business sales, trenton nj, trenton restaurants

Highlight of My Day? Lunch!

burgerDessertRosasPaniniRosas

Well, not really. But it is something I look forward to each business day. While pondering this blog title, I stumbled upon an old review by Small Business Trends:

SBTrends

Matchmaking business lunch.

The recent expansion of LetsLunch builds on the fairly common blending of eating and doing business. What’s not to like?

You Can’t Eat Social Media

So, either you or your organization has an awesome social media strategy. You’re immersed in LinkedIn updates 24/7. And, you cross-post on a variety of platforms. Is there something missing? As we stress in our Social Media seminars: “never forget you are connecting with people. It’s hard work making and keeping friends on line or off.”  Here are some reasons to try LetsLunch, or something like it:

  • –        People like doing business with people they know
  • –        Lunch helps a conversation blossom in a way the web-based cannot
  • –        Networks will expand through mutual introductions
  • –        Conversations are more confidential
  • –        Real connections mean better understanding
  • –        Opportunity to sample new restaurants and foods

Often, lunch is brown-bag or fast food, as time permits. But, they can be shared as well. One of our paper sales reps dropped by and we both brown-bagged lunch, chatted about new products and services and saved the time and expense of a restaurant.

Martini.jpgThe Three Martini Lunch

Because we use a variety of machines in our business, it’s not a good idea to operate them “under the influence.” But, there are many other options for the business lunch. Our local Downtown Deli is a favorite spot for a meet and greet. Despite being busy and crowded, there is always a place to talk without shouting.

More formally, Trattoria Rosa Bianca  in Yardley offers a relaxed atmosphere where you are certain to linger, (if only for the fresh and unique dishes they create!)

Are You in Silicon Valley?

If so, we’re not having lunch anytime soon. But, if you are within the Mercer County, NJ area, why not form a local chapter of LetsLunch or something similar, like Highlight, Banjo or Grubwithus? LetsLunch emphasizes the business/professional purpose of the midday repast, as compared to the others. Truthfully, you don’t really need a social media platform to organize a business lunch. For about two years, I was part of an informal business lunch group we called TABLED: Trenton Area Business Leaders Eating and Drinking. Appointments were made by e-mail blasts and texting, with good results.

Restaurants, of course, should have a vested interest in social dining groups, and we should encourage them to develop geographic loyalty. In addition, sharing their menus online helps with planning the business lunch and saves time.

AppleGirlBottom Lines and Waistlines

I know; there are those who worry about the expense and the additional calories. So here are some suggestions to help overcome those fears:

  • –        Limit the number of lunches each week
  • –        Order less, or less filling food
  • –        Walk to lunch
  • –        Have a brown-bag business lunch in a park or in a food court
  • –        Order the lunch specials, which are frequently smaller and less costly
  • –        Remember the purpose of your business lunch.

Do Not Click On This Photo if You Are Over 30.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Anyway, here are 10 ways to make your lunch break more productive, even if you are over 30: Productive Lunch

Thanks for reading. Lunch anyone?

-Ray

RayRenBall

(First 3 Photos © Trattoria Rosa Bianca, 2013. Used with permission)
Advertisements
Posted in Digital printing, graphic design, printing, publishing, trenton nj, Uncategorized, web design

Toy or Tool? It’s Printing in 3D!

Well, if you ask me, it is both. But, no one can disagree that 3D printing is a current wave trending into the future.MC910216995[1]

Some of my colleagues went to the Chicago 3D Printing Conference recently, and brought back some key points that need to be shared about this rapidly expanding technology. So, here you are, in digest form:

Demos from the Conference

  • 3D printers create objects from computer models, building them layer by layer, using dozens of different materials.  Printers are priced between a few hundred to a quarter million dollars.
  •  Because an industry patent will expire next year, more low-cost 3D printers with more features will become available. This will mean new products can be copied, such as auto parts, jewelry and (gasp!) human tissue.
  •  As more 3D printers and products increase, prices will fall.

Here’s a neat way to copy a wrench:

So, you may ask, what can a 3D printer do for me?

The fastest growing market is household items, such as replacement parts for appliances, or things commonly made from ABS plastic, namely bottle openers, shower curtain rings, paper towel holders, iPad stands, iPhone cases, toys, spoons, lamps, and cups. In business, 3D printing is important, supplying models for architects, engineers and the creative arts, as well.

And, what will 3D printing do for me?

Already possible and do-able but maybe not so affordable just yet—3D printers are producing artificial limbs, bikinis, buildings, furniture, an Urbee car, guns (yikes!) and in some form, food. Look here:

TECHNEWSDAILY

But wait, not so fast. The news is not all good.

There are downsides and detours that make this phenomenon less accessible, less affordable…such as:

  • There is no economy of scale, meaning the cost per piece is the same whether it is 1,000 of one object or one of 1,000 different ones. (Unlike printing 2D, where the cost per piece lowers as quantity increases)
  • There is no awesome app that would make 3D mainstream and easy to use
  • A simple and low-cost way to scan, then replicate an object is not yet available
  •  Most low-end 3D printers produce unfinished items that need to be smoothed, sanded or polished to be complete.
  • Computer Aided Design (CAD) files are the source of 3D printing instructions, but are not simply Plug ‘n Play. Files need to be tweaked, tested and reworked for the proper results.    MP900385572[1]
  • Most traditional 3D CAD software is limited in its ability to easily create 3D printable designs such as recognizing the layer below an object’s surface, printing multiple colors, printing with multiple materials along with considering the proper orientation of the object to be printed.  As a simple example, a properly 3D designed pyramid needs to identify the extent to which the inside is hollow, completely solid or MC910216342[1]somewhere in between.

Then again, every new technology has growing pains.

Need more info on this subject? Need 3D printing? Have a question or comment? Think this is all nonsense or inaccurate? Post a comment or send me an e-mail: Ray@Capitol-Copy.com

Thanks for reading.

RayRenBall

Posted in Digital printing, graphic design, political fundraising, trenton nj

That Warm and Fuzzy Feeling In Small Business.

“Message to small business owners around the world: If you want to be loved, move to America.”

hearts

What a great lead for an article about a normally boring topic! Well, it caught my eye, so I clicked on it, landing on Small Business Trends:Trust. The article highlighted two bits of research on how people feel about big and small business in different countries.

No food, no sex, but maybe a nice lump of trust.

cake2

smilegirl  In the business of print-copy-design-websites, not much can be thought of as “appetizing” or “sexy” and therefore, it is a challenge to be of interest in the social media. But, for every printing press there is a skilled operator, for every graphic design assignment there is a person thinking creatively, for every mundane mass mailing there is someone concentrating on getting it done accurately and quickly. Maybe this is a yawn, but it does earn your trust. And, judging from the article, customer trust is what we small companies earn.

Big or Small, Cheap or Costly

So, why do people trust small businesses more than large ones? I can’t speak for industries other than my own, so here are some reasons we have been given in the form of customer feedback:

–        Personal service. We tend to know, face-to-face, each one of our customers, including followers of this blog.

–        Each customer and each order is important because the customer volume is small.

–        Low error rates. (goals of large corporations actually set a high error rate expectation)

–        A good business relationship: anticipating upcoming orders, solving problems before they happen and knowing what is expected.

–        Part of the fabric of the community: we go to PTA meetings, buy Girl Scout Cookies, volunteer for local events, vote, and pay local taxes.

–        Honesty. The study showed people believed that big business is far more fraudulent and corrupt than small business. Surprise! We agree.

Is it all good? Not really. There is a downside to being small, also gleaned from feedback:

bigguy

–        Pricing is somewhat higher or inconsistent on some items.

–        We are not equipped to serve a large number of walk-in customers.

–        Though orders may be placed online 24/7, our public hours are weekdays, 9-5.

–        We do not have a legal department, a sales department, an accounting department, a fleet of delivery trucks, or a waiting room with Hi-Def tv and espresso.

Deadline Driven

Like many businesses, government agencies, non-profits, and many individual consumers, our products and services are subject to deadlines, due dates and time crunches. “Not enough people or resources to get things done in the time allowed,” is a lament we hear frequently.  And, lateness is not an option. Consider:

An ad book delivered after the event? Trash.

A website that has not been updated since dial-up? Sad.

An e-newsletter opened with last month’s save-the-dates? Useless

A 5-foot high poster snapped in half by Hurricane Sandy? Well, maybe insurance will cover it.

You get the point. Trust applies in all cases. And, it’s a good reason for having a 4-wheel drive delivery vehicle.


What About Tomorrow?    binocs

Part of customer trust relates to the permanence of the company. Many businesses fail within the first five years. You would probably not buy from a company if you knew it was teetering on bankruptcy. Big businesses tend not to disappear but to be acquired, absorbed, merged or re-invented, often without advance notice to the general public. But the rule is the same for big and small: adapt or die. We are not the same business we were in year one and neither are you. Simply stated, we change with you or because of you.

Thanks for reading. (And trusting)

-Ray

Posted in Digital printing, graphic design, trenton nj, Uncategorized

Outsourcing: I Can’t Do it All!

My first job was in government research and grant proposal writing.

copierThe small firm I worked for started with a Xerox machine the size of a refrigerator. It made about 2 copies a minute. I spent a lot of time with that machine. It kept me warm at night while I copied hundreds of pages that needed to be submitted before an unshakable deadline. But, was that the highest and best use of my time? Could I have been of more value to the company writing and doing research? One thing was certain: you could not seek new clients while running a copier in the back room.

The same principle applies today. Should you be managing your own e-mail campaigns? Can your organization’s image best be presented with a do-it-yourself website?  Do you really have so much available work time that you can spend hours on line designing your own business card?

I know you can do it all. It’s the independent spirit we were all born with. But, there are times you need help. We at Capitol Copy outsource or sub-contract when it makes good economic sense and is clearly more efficient. We can fix machines and trouble-shoot computer problems, but only to a point. Our goal is to meet customer demands, not fix things. So, we have a support team that helps keep us up and running. Sometimes a print job is just too large for us to do profitably so we rely on other vendors to the trade, with the same end result: deadline met and production quality preserved.

So, what is good or bad about outsourcing?

First, the bad news

√        You give up some control of your operations

√       Security and information management could be at risk

Businesspeople in Meeting

√        Added expense to your bottom line

√        Oversight and coordination of tasks is required

And now, for the good news!

♥       Gives you a great opportunity to explore new products and services with minimal risk

Office workers in meeting

♥       Less staff to be hired over the long term

♥        Frees up your time to focus on priorities

♥        Reduces repetitive tasks

♥        Potential for huge savings for one-time or highly specialized services

♥        Cost savings on overhead

♥        Get things done: faster, better, cheaper

What was that again? “A great opportunity with minimal risk?” Yes, that can happen. For example, we sensed an increase in demand for posters and signs, especially for trade shows, conventions, meetings, etc.  We were providing the printing and web-based design, but there were frequent requests for display products. So, we first offered that service as a broker, built up the market and then bought the equipment to produce all of it in-house. Faster, better, cheaper…..and more profitable.

fistpumps

A few cautionary pointers before you outsource. Here they are:

√        Be fully aware of what you are paying for. If there is any doubt about the services or products you expect, draft an agreement, unless the subcontractor normally provides one.

√        Be certain that outsourcing is consistent with your organization’s image and goals.

√        Agree on a payment schedule and terms. You are your subcontractor’s client; they do not work for your clients.

√        Since it is your name and reputation at stake, see who takes responsibility for any meltdowns, missed deadlines, uneven quality and the like.

√        In some cases, a close working relationship between two firms raises questions about copyright, ownership, creative control, and liability. If this is an area of concern to you, seek an attorney’s opinion or rethink outsourcing.

√        Be wary of outsourcing online services to someone in a foreign country. They are subject to a different set of laws, if any. Do your research before e-mailing them a username and password. Is there a physical address? A phone? Trusted referrals?

More info?  SeeSBTrends Small Business Trends.

Now, get back to thinking great thoughts with fewer burdens!

Thanks for reading.

-Ray

RayRenBallRay@Capitol-Copy.com

Posted in Digital printing, graphic design, political fundraising, trenton nj

Political Printing: Hurry Up and Wait!

The campaign season is upon us. This year, in New Jersey, there will be many legislative contests, energized by the race for Office of the Governor. From our 30 years’ experience with all types of printing for political purposes, we’ve come up with a few brief, to-the-point, pieces of advice for preparing  your, or your candidates’ next campaign.

Here they are:

Foresight.votegraphic

Stake your claim on a slogan, theme, logo and color scheme right away. If photos are part of that, have them done professionally. Experiment with different sizes and media to make sure they work just as well in e-mail as on a billboard.

First Strike.paperboy

Since you have established your approach, be the first to let the voters know you are in the race!  Envelopes, letterhead, door hangers, postcards, should all be lined up, ready for your message.

First out of the gate might be EDDM (Every Door Direct Mail). Introductory video, showing comparative media is here.

YouTube Video

Funds.paperworkwoman

Sure, you can solicit contributions on a website or through a Facebook page or with e-mail, but direct mail with a reply envelope is still the most effective method, and much more secure with no fee load. Ask Dave about campaign mailing. Print@Capitol-Copy.com.

Flexibility.

womantasking

As the campaign evolves, so does your message. But, your logo, color scheme and other identity basics should not.

Filter and Clean.cleanbucket

Don’t waste your limited campaign money on bad addresses! Your mailing list should be scrubbed, de-duped (eliminate doubles) and checked with the NCOA. USPS Info Page

Follow the Rules.

legalguy   If your direct mail requires disclaimers, include them only after legal vetting. The opposition is reading your fine print! NJ ELEC Rules  Legal Resources, NJ

Facebook it.68051_10151509108346729_1731694342_a

Your message and communication must be present in the social media. Include your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn connections on all printed materials, even if it simply connects the clicker to your website. Should you choose not to use a social media platform, you should at least stake a claim there and MONITOR any activity. Respond promptly to legitimate inquiries or complaints. Ask us about a social media campaign, Ray@Capitol-Copy.com. And, here’s some sound advice: Lying, Cheating No Good Crook!!

Follow Through.

tunnel Save some energy, funds and time for the last push in the campaign. Have envelopes, mailing lists, and a crew ready to go.

Final Recognition.

     Win or lose, there are many people to thank. Have a way to do that…. letters, postcards, phone calls or whatever conveys sincerity….. and you will be banking good will!

Low angle view of two business executives shaking hands

Of course, you’ll need more than a few pointers to run a successful campaign. There are a million or so bits of advice we can offer along with recommendations for professional fund-raisers and managers. So, what are you waiting for?

Thanks for reading.

RayRenBall

Ray

Feel free to e-mail me for more help. Ray@Capitol-Copy.com. Or, get things going by consulting with Dean, our wizard of design. Design@Capitol-Copy.com.

Posted in Digital printing, graphic design, trenton nj, Uncategorized

My Top Thirteen Info-Sources. Are They All Good?

photo (13)

The daily avalanche of news and comment.

I try to stay informed, don’t you? Here is what I look at every day. What should I add or delete?

logo_NYTimescom

New York Times, digital edition. And, print editions, Saturday and Sunday. Why? I like the quality of the writing and getting the full story; outstanding source of world and regional news. Oh, and the headlines usually do not scream: Panic Now!

NJ.Com.  NJ.comThe Times of Trenton, and the daily print edition. Why? A good source for local and State news.

PolitickerNJ.com. b1ef2cf5-4d63-44d0-a1f2-8f9847aec502Why? NJ political news and an amusing forum for all things political in NJ. Goes deeper into a political story than mainstream media. Important for us to know since we do political printing.

Facebook. Why? More than one billion people are on facebook and most of my 68051_10151509108346729_1731694342_acustomers and vendors have a business presence. I log on for some social time but also to see what others in the business world are doing.

LinkedIn_Logo60px

LinkedIn. Why? Increasing and sustaining business relationships is so important. I can track career moves, new opportunities and, of course, communicate.

4235924_ir0113_cover

IcelandReview.com. Why? My personal interest. A small nation’s perspective on the world events, in English.

twitter-bird-white-on-blue

Twitter. Why? When there is no time, Twitter boils down the news to 140 characters, fed from the sources I have listed above. To balance the normally bleak news, I get regular, funny tweets from Jim Gaffigan.     412HVXj7P2L._SX500_

NWS-logo

National Weather Service. Why? The cold and rain slows our walk-in business. The wind makes it difficult to deliver fragile posters.

Printowners.org. Why? This is a world-wide, e-mail subscription service for owners of POL_headerprinting companies only. We share information, purchasing advice, pricing strategies, problem-solving and industry trends. Often heated discussions of graphic design, direct mail options, new binding techniques, signs and poster production and all the other fun stuff that we do.

Client websites. Why? We monitor our client websites. Sometimes they just don’t work, become horribly outdated or just need some TLC. Also, a good source of client news, staff changes, new services and so on.

ColorQuora. Why? Ask and answer today’s pressing questions. Fairly serious-minded and well written.

 EnviroPolitics Blog. Why? Brief, to the point and well-written articles concerning issues of importance to all of us.

blogrank_icon

Blogrank. Why? Top 100 blogs, indicating trends and popularity. I don’t think this blog is in the top 100 yet, but maybe…someday.

Thanks for reading.

Best for the New Year.

RayRayRenBall

Ray@Capitol-Copy.com

Posted in Digital printing, trenton nj, Uncategorized

Going Postal: 5 Ways to Make Sure your Mail Does Not Bounce

You Have Mail!

Many don’t like snail mail because it’s slow, bureaucratic, complicated, expensive, time consuming and old fashioned. Many continue to use snail mail because it is effective, reliable, legal, hack-proof, portable and attention-getting. Whatever your view is, here are steps to avoiding bounces:

– Weigh and measure. This is a simple guide available from Capitol Copy or the main post office. Use the rule of 10: bundle ten identical pieces to be mailed, weigh them and divide by ten. This is a quick way to get an accurate reading.

–        Visit. Obvious but reliable: Take your mail piece to the Post Office, ask them to weigh it and price it different ways. West Trenton post office in Ewing and the main distribution facility on Route 130 in Hamilton are recommended.  Directions here

–        Web. Go to US Postal Service website and search for answers.

–        Look. Examine mail you have received, even bulk mail. How much postage was on it? What type of paper was used? What is the exact size? Are there sealing tabs on it? If so, how many? Was the piece mangled or damaged in any way?

Standard. Use standard sizes, paper and weight. Capitol Copy Service can help you with that.

Happy Mailing!

-Ray

Posted in Digital printing, graphic design, Theater, trenton nj, trenton restaurants

You Work in Trenton? How Horrible!

I’ve heard that comment too many times over the past forty years. But, we’re still here. Maybe I can explain why Capitol Copy is in Trenton.  And describe us to those of you who have no idea where we are.

Dean and Reggie chat about map.

The negatives:

Well, the news media have that covered fairly well. But, be aware that this is a small city (7.5 square miles), dominated by government: Federal, State, County and City offices occupy a huge chunk of real estate here. Not really negative, just a definition.

The positives:

–        Most of our Trenton customers can and do walk here. No car or bus needed.

–        There are five major banks within two blocks.

–        There are two colleges downtown—Thomas Edison State College and Mercer County Community College, both bustle with activity year-round.

–        A world of choices for places to have lunch—beer and a burger; a four course Italian feast; Chinese, Greek, Soul food, and several deli’s, including my favorite, the Downtown Deli

–        A small but well-known art, history and culture groove—Artworks, Trenton Historical Society, Passage Theater , to name a few.

–        Neat places to visit—the Old Barracks, Planetarium, State Museum, Trent House and dozens of others.

–        A group of people who think great thoughts, (we’ve been told) “think tanks”, lobbyists, associations, researchers, and attorneys.

Sure, there are challenges as in any city; traffic and parking, to name the most annoying. But, traffic means people and business and jobs and that can’t be all bad.

Thomas Edison State College, West State Street, Trenton

Still not convinced? Well, here’s a comment from Joe Guzzardo, Communications Director at Thomas Edison State College , who also has a rosy view of our State’s capital city:

You get to work in a place that is home to some of the most important history in the world, and especially our country.  It is an honor to walk on the same streets that George Washington did and see every day the Old Barracks, the place where the Continental Army changed the direction of the American Revolution. It is a privilege to work in a true landmark building, which was designed by the father of the American skyscraper, Cass Gilbert. It is exciting to work on perhaps the most interesting street in New Jersey, where every day is a new debate, protest or rally.” Well said.

Here’s a scene from today’s rally. And some more commentary……

State House Rally, May 14

Adding to the mix is an observation from the new Executive Director of the Trenton Downtown Association, Christian Martin: “Trenton is connected to all the major centers of commerce on the east coast, and has a good transportation infrastructure.” Yeah, you are spot on with that. We just needed to be reminded!

Sometimes our location is really irrelevant for us to do business. Many of you have been ordering from us through our website for more than twelve years and have never visited us. You receive your poster, business cards, program booklets and other printed products by courier, UPS, Fedex, or US mail, anywhere in the world.

And, lastly, even though it is great to do business face-to-face, it can’t always be that way. Your website is maintained by us and remotely updated, your e-mail campaign is designed and sent online and we get to know each other only through the social media. Like our blog.

Well, our door is always open to visitors. And there really is parking here. Map it!

-Ray

Capitol-Copy.com