Posted in association management, conventions, Digital printing, graphic design, newsletters, paper, printing, small business, Uncategorized

MY PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATION IS A JOKE

 

I mean that in a good way. The National Print Owners Association (NPOA) is a fairly new group consisting of industry veterans and leaders. NPOA

Our annual conference, meeting and trade show is the premier event in our industry for small and mid-size print and print related companies.

The theme this year? Pirates!

Among the themed items were…………

  • Personalized give-a-ways

  • Treasure maps and free eye-patch

  • Photo ops with speaker/celebrities

  • Promotional items and prizes

pirate

And, at the kickoff reception, we were “attacked” by a “pirate” who offered a ditty, customized for our industry.

Was this necessary? Sure, comic relief definitely has a place.

But, the real value of a conference is its personal and organizational benefits.

Do you plan, manage sponsor or attend meetings or conferences? Then, you will appreciate this.

Positives of this conference were:

  • Exceptional organization

  • Registration was fast and efficient

  • Conference materials were complete and easy to access

  • All seminars began and ended exactly on time

  • The presenters and subjects were just as described in advance

  • Breaks were brief but allowed time for networking

  • Every program and speaker had something of value to share or instruct

  • The vendors and sponsors were industry-relevant and accessible

 

Since there was so much content compressed into 2.5 days, the pirate theme was a welcome distraction. There is basis in fact for this approach, suggested by Meetings and Conventions:

 “A majority of meeting professionals agree that a theme enhances special events. In fact, 71 percent of those polled recently by M&C generally theme their major conferences and meetings. They find inspiration from many sources, including colleagues and media. Many recounted their favorite theme ideas; see the resulting feature Planner’s Favorite Event Themes”

 

 

So, I really don’t mind being attacked by a pirate…. if it leads to a memorable, productive and even a fun conference!  Ray@Capitol-Copy.com

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Ray
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Posted in blogs, creative writing, Digital printing, graphic design, newsletters, photography, printing, publishing, small business, small business sales, Uncategorized, video production, web design

Models, Images and Videos: How to do Your Best

Everyone is a designer. Everyone is a photographer. Everyone is a videographer. Or, so it would seem in the new tech world, where we upload and share 1.8 billion photos every day.

But, do you really want to be like everyone else? If you, design, edit or contribute to a newsletter, blog, ad book, webpage, technical report, or simply post on social media streams, there are a few things I’d like you to keep in mind.

The Subject Matters

DragandDrop
© Capitol Copy Service 2014*

Sure, there are candid, in-the-moment photos you can use. And, there are millions of stock photos on the web. But to really illuminate your subject, a professional model is best. For a recent photo display, we used a model. Here’s why:

  • Easy to photograph and takes less time than amateurs
  • Prepares for the photo shoot with clothing, make-up and hair styled
  • Patient
  • Experienced in posing
  • Offers feedback and suggestions for improving results
  • Photos customized to our product or service

Top tips for taking photos (from award winning photographer, David Pratt- DSP Photos)

3d little human read an open book

  • Be aware of photo opportunities
  • Make sure subject has enough light or use flash on camera  and never shoot into the sun
  • Composition- Shoot images tight, fill frame with what is important
  • Keep it simple – Just because you have the latest and greatest camera with all the bells and whistles does not mean you have to use them all the time.
  • Be quick – Just shoot it, if you think about it, it will be gone!
  • Use a tripod or mono pod in low light situations.

 

Videos Add Dimension

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video with sound must be worth more, right? Videos done professionally assist your audience in many ways:

Encourage Action!

Sure, it’s very basic, but this 12 second video, embedded on our webpage, increased response more than 75%!

 

How-To For Making a Sale!

 

We produced a video for a product just released to the market. It needed to reach a global audience and we needed to show ease of use:

 

 

Sound was not necessary for the demonstration, as you can see.

Visit the full website here: Stethoshield

In addition to the website, the video was shown at several trade shows and at presentations to buyers. Within a month, orders for the product came in from across the US.

 

Animation!

Even something inanimate benefits from video. The concept was to show the product as a shopper would see it on a shelf. (Package design and video by Capitol Copy)

 

Top tips for producing your own video (from “Social Media in a Nutshell” seminar, 2014)

  • Use the best equipment you can afford
  • Learn or understand editing
  • Use professional models
  • Give most attention to sound or don’t include it
  • Make sure your video plays on most major platforms
  • Keep videos short
  • Start your own YouTube page to upload, download and showcase videos

 

Legal and Ethical Issues

It’s happened to us hundreds of times………..

Customer: “Can you print this from my file?

Us: “Sure, we’d be happy to. I see you have photos and graphics in the file. Are they yours?

Customer: “No, I just downloaded them from some website.

Us: “Well, they will not print well because they are low-resolution. And, there are copyright issues.

Customer: <big sigh>

So, how do you avoid this conundrum?

 

Top tips for using images

  • Take your own photo (your smartphone camera can do it!)
  • Pay for professional design services (capitol-copy.com)
  • Use a model
  • Buy clip art or photos from legitimate websites, like IStockPhoto or DollarPhotoClub

 

Thanks for stopping by!

RayRenBallRay@Capitol-Copy.com

 

 

*Contact information for Hulda Lind: Lindmodel@gmail.com

twitter-bird-white-on-blue@Huldalindkrist

68051_10151509108346729_1731694342_aIcemodel Hulda Lind Kristins

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)
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 blogs, creative writing, Digital printing, graphic design, newsletters, political fundraising, printing, publishing, Uncategorized, web design

Psychopaths and the Cost of Proofreading: Be Bored for a While, Rewarded Later

Here’s an expensive mistake: A town in New Jersey was applying for grant money to develop a public park. The grant application was done by converting voice to text. Some words sound the same, as is in this sentence:

“The park will have many psychopaths….” (say it out loud and it could easily be cycle paths, as intended).bikegirl2

Sadly, the grantor did not have a sense of humor.

So, what of it? Have you ever done any proofreading? Now, more than ever, with Twitter, texting and e-blasts, proofing your text and images is critical. Clicking on words that link elsewhere compounds the importance.

How many times have you clicked on an image only to be whisked away to an unrelated site?

cameraicon

How many times have you clicked on a sale offer and then landed on some FAQ or Home Page?

buypageicon

How many times have you typed an e-mail address that bounced back as undeliverable?

atsignicon

How many times have you clicked on an icon that responded “not found”?

internetbutton

Blame it on the lack of proofreading and testing.

Proofreading is a big issue in our business of graphic design, printing, website creation and signage. When rushed, most people give a quick glance at a proof without really checking phone numbers, dates, links, e-mail addresses or captions. Sometimes we catch errors, but most often there is no way of knowing the correct spelling of proper names.

With the power of MSWord and other programs, there are tools available to help you avoid errors, automatically proof and make it easier to catch mistakes.

Here is a great blog article that sums it up, with some neat tricks I never thought of:

Proofreading – 28 Step Guide to Doing it Right

A Middle Eastern woman lying down reading

Even the comments are helpful.

Still think proofreading is a forgettable chore? Some errors are almost earth-shattering. This misfired Tweet nearly caused a catastrophe:

City of Yokohama Mistakenly Tweets of North Korean Missile Launch

smallmissile

The most common (usually not earth-shattering) mistakes we encounter are with business cards, for a simple reason: most text is unique, so the “burden of proofing” falls on the business cardauthor.

The second most common text error is the calendar day does not match the date or the year has not been updated. These are basic error and ones which are easily overlooked.

We all know that once something is printed, posted on a website or sent via social media, it is very expensive and difficult to correct. (If the faux pas is serious enough, we suggest posting an “apology video”). But there are other costs along the way that are caused by not editing and proofreading thoroughly, before it goes to a designer:

deanheadache

  • –        Added time for layout when text and graphics are added or deleted
  • –        Time and costs for additional proofs
  • –        Time needed to share with other editors, writers and proofreaders
  • –        Re-reading previously proofed copy
  • –        Re-sizing graphics to make them fit
  • –        Expanding or shrinking the number of paper or web pages
  • –        Pushing deadlines
  • –        General increase in irritability!

So, maybe the next time you compose that business e-mail, or look at your new business card content, or finish writing that eloquent article for a newsletter or blog, just hesitate a moment before you hit “send” and re-read. You may save the world a lot of trouble!

 smallmissile

Thanks for reading. And proofreading. Corrections welcome. I’m not perfek.

Ray

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