THIS IS my 250th column for PRINTING
and, as I predicted way back in my first year—1984—the world population would reach 6.6 billion people. How is it I am accurately prescient? Remarkable!
I also predicted the U.S. population would reach 300 million. Yep. I was right about this also. Gee, I’m good.
Furthermore, in these very pages in 1984, I predicted the number of Websites and blogs would total about 6.7 billion—and, I’m pretty sure that I am right about that number. The remarkable thing about that last prediction is that 1984 was six years before the World Wide Web was invented by (Brit) Timothy Berners-Lee
and (Belgian) Robert Cailliau
.How I Invented the WWW
I was making sales calls in the South and met these guys at the Ramada Inn cocktail lounge in Geneva, AL. Soon we were joined by another young man, a politician from Tennessee named Al.Tim
and Robert were motorcycling across the United States, and Al had gotten lost looking for Tennessee and decided to spend the night.
We drank and talked about bass fishing and country music and, eventually, the conversation moved to more cerebral topics. Tim told us he had assembled a homemade computer. I said, “Well, you silly, why didn’t you just buy an Apple?” They had been introduced several years earlier.
I swallowed some more Jack Daniels and remarked how I had been a trouble-shooter for the first computer, the Eniac, in Philadelphia. Soon, I was telling these three new friends about an idea I had for something called the World Wide Web, where people and companies could set up Websites to sell stuff and tell about themselves.
My companions seemed to like the idea and started taking notes on cocktail napkins. I gave them several technical embellishments to add to their notes and, Voila!, I had invented the World Wide Web!
The young politician, Al, said he would introduce some legislation to help finance this ambitious endeavor. Tim and Bob have gone on to win many awards, and Al almost became President of the United States.Web Is First Impression
Nowadays, printing companies all over the world use Websites to introduce their companies to potential customers, and to receive and send files to existing clients. I visit a lot of these printing company Websites in my work as an investment banker specializing in the printing industry.
I see a lot of sites that are good. They are enticing, exciting and fun, and make me want to examine all the pages.
Others are atrocious. Some are boring. When I see atrocious or boring, I rarely get past the home page and click off to something else more interesting.
Websites should help you sell print communications—the entire range of services that you offer. A Website is a part of your marketing mix and a form of marketing communications.
Here are some of my basic likes and dislikes about printing company Websites.
• It frustrates (actually riles) me, when I have to search to find the company phone number. The phone and fax numbers should be on every page. If you have an 800 number, it should be on every page. What if some major league buyer just happens to be grazing the Internet for a printer, likes what he sees, wants to call you for some quotes and can’t find your phone number? I know you probably have a tab that says “Contact Us,” where you feature the phone numbers, but I am telling you to make your phone number convenient on every page.
• Every page should also feature your address, city, state and ZIP somewhere. It’s usually best at the bottom in about 10-pt. type.
• The “Contact Us” page should contain two user-friendly maps. One will show your immediate neighborhood. The other map should show the area of your location, say a 25- to 50-mile radius.
• The home page must be readable for even my old eyes; 8-pt. type may look trendy, but it’s useless if it can’t be read. Your designer should also be careful about using a reverse in small type against some dark background.
• The home page text and graphics must quickly capture the visitor and communicate who you are, what you do and how you are different. This means short and well-crafted sentences. Don’t leave this responsibility to some outside copy writer. Run the copy by your salespeople, CSRs, plant personnel—everybody. Sometimes, others will come up with some gems. Get a Second Opinion
Also, ask a handful of close customers to review the copy, and you will get some outstanding suggestions...assuming you have some close customers. . .assuming you have some customers. After all, your Website is designed for people who buy printing—and not for your sleazy, unworthy competitors or suppliers.
• Your Website must have a theme. The theme should be consistent with what you are as a printing company, representing one of the many printing segments and niches within the segments. I won’t belabor market segmentation because that is about four chapters in a master’s level textbook. But, if you are a short-run, fast-response, half-size sheetfed printer that offers up to six colors, your graphics and text should reflect your business.
The theme should also reflect your uniqueness or what differentiates you from your competition. For example, I saw a Website recently that used a down-home theme as in, “Bring your projects home to our folks, who treat your work like your Mama used to treat her family.” It conveys an emotion involving loving care, interest in your well-being and motherly understanding.
Well, I could (and I will) write a lot more about Websites as a sales tool. But first, I want to announce the first ever Mañana Man Printing Industry Website Contest.
The contest is for all companies, anywhere, who subscribe to PRINTING
. There will be three categories. Category One is for companies with sales less than $10 million. Cateogry Two is for companies that generate between $10 million and $50 million. Finally, Category Three is for those with annual sales revenues greater than $50 million.
Send me an e-mail, nominating your company or, if you dare, some other company’s Website. My panel of experts will visit the site and give it a score. The winner for each category will be featured in this magazine and receive a gift box of Philadelphia’s own Tastykakes. The contest will end on my birthday, June 30, 2007.
It’s kind of like “Dancing with the Stars” and “American Idol,” except it’s far more important. Your Website serves your livelihood.
Now put this magazine down and get out there and sell something! PI
DEWESEAbout the AuthorHarris DeWese is the author of Now Get Out There and Sell Something, available through NAPL or PIA/GATF. He is chairman/CEO at Compass Capital Partners and an author of the annual “Compass Report,” the definitive source of info regarding printing industry M&A activity. DeWese has completed 100-plus printing company transactions and is viewed as the preeminent deal maker in the industry. He specializes in investment banking, M&A, sales, marketing and management services to printers. Visit www.piworld.com to interact with the The Mañana Man by posting questions and comments for his review. For matters not related to his column, he can be contacted via e-mail at DeWeseH@ComCapLtd.