The Hole Not There: Master Your Core Competencies First
Quite a few years ago I received a promotional wall calendar in the mail. It was from a small company, and it was clearly homemade. By “homemade” I mean it was conceived, designed, printed and bound in the office of the representative company. Design and print professionals were not consulted.
This isn’t automatically a bad thing. In the case of this calendar, I’m pretty sure the company’s budget was zero. If it wasn’t homemade it wasn’t going to happen, and the company was at least making an effort.
I’ll bet someone said to the owner one autumn day, “Hey, let’s put out a wall calendar. My teenager can design it, and we can print it on our new office network color printer. We have that coil binding machine that we use for proposals, so we can bind it, too. It won’t cost us anything.”
Thus their calendar was born. Sure, the layout was amateurish, and the color was barely pleasing, but it represented a good effort from a small firm that only has a few clients and doesn’t do much marketing. Truth be told, most of their clients probably didn’t look as closely as I did at the finished product.
There was one thing that I’m sure everyone noticed: the hole, or more accurately the lack thereof.
The calendar was clearly designed to be hung on a wall or bulletin board, but there was no hole for a nail or tack on which to hang it. The company thought they had everything they needed on hand to make a calendar, but most offices don’t have a paper drill lying around.
This oversight wouldn’t have occurred if they had taken the product to a professional printing company that specializes in calendars.
Last year I received another wall calendar in the mail that was the opposite of the one described above. The sender was a major manufacturer of commercial digital presses. The design screamed of high-end ad agency with its unconventional layout and heavy use of professional photography.
The actual imaging was done by a large regional commercial printer using the manufacturer’s highest quality inkjet press — and it showed. The image quality was impeccable, so the photography seemed to pop right off the oversize (nearly 18x24˝) pages.
It arrived via FedEx in an enormous chipboard mailing envelope. This project was first class all the way. Obviously, no expense was spared.
There was only one thing missing. You guessed it: the hole.
As a professional print provider, you are told to be an expert resource in all things to your customers. Be a “marketing services provider” (whatever that is). Bill yourself as a wizard in database management, digital asset management or integrated marketing.
Go ahead, if you really have the expertise in these far-flung disciplines but, first, how about making sure you have expertise in your core competency?
Can you print catalogs with unique versioned pages customized for every recipient? That’s fantastic … unless the pages fall out.
Can you apply both gloss and dull spot coatings to make images really pop? That’s great … unless you let your customer go cheap on the paper so the print doesn’t look its best.
Are you a printing trade association that publishes an annual directory that you distribute to print buyers throughout your region? That’s great … unless you forget to include a printed spine within your design, leaving it blank so the directory “disappears” on a shelf, thus negating the primary advantage of perfect binding?
This last example really happened, two years in a row, until I insisted that spine copy be included in the next edition as a condition of renewing my paid advertisement. Neither the association, nor their designer, nor their printer, nor their bindery, caught this oversight. Neither, apparently, did any of the membership.
Preflight software can be automated to catch mistakes such as low-resolution images and missing bleeds. That is not what I’m talking about here.
You could print a children’s book on 35-lb. offset paper, but it wouldn’t be a good idea. You could saddle bind an 800-page book, but there are better ways to do it. You can make a postcard any size, but inexperienced clients will appreciate your alerting them to sizes that minimize postal expense.
Customers are counting on your expertise in design, paper, printing, binding and mailing. For their sake, I urge you to be sure you’ve mastered your core competencies before venturing further afield.
Steve Johnson, president and CEO of Copresco in Carol Stream, Ill., is an executive with 40 years of experience in the graphic arts. He founded Copresco, a pioneer in digital printing technology and on-demand printing, in 1987. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.copresco.com