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WEB WISE

Apr 1, 1997 12:00 AM


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Quick printers may be divided on whether the Internet is here to stay and or how it will impact the industry. Some chose to be early adopters, pioneers, while others have taken a more conservative approach. Everyone, however, recognizes the need to formulate a strategy that addresses non-print-based communication technologies.

For Kinko's, one of the largest chains of document production and business services stores in the world, the creation of its Web page has been an extremely beneficial marketing tool.

Although she wouldn't release any concrete figures, Karen Sopiea, vice president of marketing at Kinko's world headquarters (Venture, CA), claims "the Web site gives us a chance to showcase new and existing products and services. We regularly update the pages with new press releases issued to the media. In addition to an extremely high number of hits, we have customers frequently comment on how much they like the look of our site", she continues.

Kinko's is a privately held co-operative organization with 20,000 co-workers and 850 locations around the world, including retail stores in Japan, Korea, Canada and the Netherlands. The 80-page site feeds all Kinko's outlets throughout the world.

Useful tips on services such as videoconferencing and presentations also can be viewed. There is a location finder to help search among the 800-odd locations in the U.S. and around the world.

Although Kinko's Web site is designed primarily for their image enhancement, other organizations are using Web pages as sales tools.

For example, Bob Galloway, owner of Insty-Print (Herndon, VA), is making money through the Web. "On average, we make between $5,000 to $15,000 per month doing business on the Net," says Galloway. "It's a tremendous tool for marketing."

"When we first went on the Internet, we thought it would be a good way to do business with customers who were out of state. It definitely gave us a global marketing arena. But what we did not anticipate was the huge amount of local business that's being generated through the Web," observes the Insty-Print exec.

"In the beginning, we used to get a lot of people clicking on our Home Page, but we didn't know who they were or why they were visiting the site. So, as a marketing ploy, we created a contest and posted it on the Web," explains Galloway. "There are five multiple choice printing questions. Whoever gets all the answers correct, has their names put in a hopper. At the end of the month, we draw a name and that person wins a golf shirt valued at $25."

In order to be part of the competition though, printers have to enter their names, addresses and E-mail addresses, which enables Galloway to capture information about potential customers. "Having this information enables us to do follow up work and to up-date our database regularly which, in turn, increases business," enthuses Galloway.

Galloway says that he has been "spotted" on the Web by companies all over the U.S. and is beginning negotiations with businesses in England and Scotland. "A company from the West Coast was doing business in the Washington, DC area and noticed that we were located in Virginia," explains Galloway.

"The company wanted me to print handbooks at our plant in Virginia for distribution in Washington, DC. We got the material for the book through the Internet, then pulled it into a desktop publishing program, printed it and had the material ready for the seminar at the DC hotel before the client even arrived," he exclaims.

Laura Moore, prepress manager of Rocket Printing and Mailing (Troy, MI), has taken a slightly different route. When her boss, Rick Litwin, decided that his company was ready to "spin" a spot on the Web, he brought in a consultant to help teach Moore and another employee how to do the programming themselves.

When Rocket wants to make a change on its Home Page, Moore is the one who physically makes the change. On the other hand, Galloway sends changes via an E-mail message to an outside bureau that maintains the Insty-Print page.

"It's been somewhat expensive for us, but that is mostly because of the training we received," says Moore, whose tasks include overseeing Web activities. "Once you know the basic concept of the HTML language, though, it's pretty easy to make changes on the page."

The Rocket Web site includes a page for obtaining estimates. "It was essential for us to put that in," says Moore. The page invites the reader to input specs for a print job and than wait for a quote. In order to get the quote, users must enter their name, company name, address and phone number.

AlphaGraphics (Scottsdale, AZ) has created a Web site through which clients can do on-line nearly everything they can do in person at any of the chain's 300 franchised print shops in 21 countries.

The site has electronic gateways for locating stores, requesting quotes, submitting orders, sending digital files and obtaining information on the products and services AlphaGraphics offers.

The franchises don't abandon face-to-face communications either. "Buying services from AlphaGraphics will continue to be a relationship business for a long time," says Gary Baraff, director of marketing.

"The main purpose of having a Web site for us is to add speed and efficiency to existing customer relationships on a local as well as a network-wide scale."

Mark Mesler also is designing a Web page for Pegasus, Inc., Quick Printing & Copy Centers (Washington, PA).

"We're interested in the business having a Web page will generate," says Mesler. "We believe it is much easier for most customers to do business with printers on the Web and they can electronically send a file or place an order."

Most printers who support their own Web site agree with this. According to Galloway, printers have just scratched the surface of what the Web can and will be used for. In fact, since Galloway owns a franchise of Insty-Print, he has had some people inquire through his home page about other Insty-Print throughout the country to handle regional work. In essence, he is becoming a print broker as well as a printer.

Other business opportunities also are possible for entrepreneurial printers. David Horning, owner of The Graphic Center (Fond du Lac, WI), got onto the Web through a series of circumstances. About a year ago he had a customer who wanted to have a presence on the Web. "The client figured we are a print and design company and could design a Web page," says Horning. "But at that time we didn't know how to do this, so we found someone else to do the job," he explains.

As a result, Horning decided to bring a Web page designer on board, permanently providing an extension of the existing service. Through sub-contracting with other local service providers, Horning began helping some of his customers on-line.

"We now have about 40 clients on-line and hope to get another 40 on as soon as possible," enthuses Horning. "Right now we are partnering with other quick printers to get their customers on-line. Most printers have a typesetting layout or design department and so they have the electronic files that are necessary to put their customers on-line. It's a perfect partnership between the customer and the printer and also between the printers and us."

Jim Colt, owner of High Tech Express Colt Reproduction Center (Boulder, CO), has been on the Web and is currently doing $20,000 per month in revenue just from what's coming in on the Web.

"Most local sources, even people who have Docutechs, haven't figured out how to teach people how to create files for them yet," explains Colt. "We teach customers how to create files, and, once they create these files, clients send them to us because they trust us. At the moment, we have to teach our customers how to make it work. Print on-demand is one of those things that not many people know how to do yet."

Scott Tilden, director of technical services for Printing Industries of America (PIA), presents an interesting perspective. "It's precisely because quick printers typically have smaller jobs than commercial printers, with fewer pages, colors etc. that their files are amenable to being sent in via the Internet.

"On top of this is the convenience factor of being able to send files at their leisure. It's like having a salesperson/ customer service representative available 24 hours a day. Anyone who has access can hitch up to the Web site and get specifications or whatever, whenever it suits them," says Tilden.

"Also, it allows one small quick printer located anywhere in the world to look as if it's a global multi-national operation in competition with everyone everywhere else. There's added value in being high-tech," he concludes.

For those printers who wish to sell Web page design services to their clients, Vallon, Inc. has designed a comprehensive program called Net Propulsion.

Alan Maruggi, Vallon's director of communications, believes that the first and most important objective of the Net Propulsion Web site program is to drive traffic to printers by providing them with a new product offering that can produce a 50 percent profit margin.

"We believe this product offering also will stimulate additional print jobs such as new business cards, stationery and other marketing materials," says Maruggi. Signal Graphics, the Colorado-based franchise system with centers across the country, is the first quick print franchise to offer the national Web design services of Net Propulsion.

"The templates make it easy for quick printers to build Web sites," says Vallon's designer Tom Baker. "It's as easy as choosing a business card design." Vallon offers clients sites that range from a basic layout at $150 to a fully loaded, multi-media site in the $1,000 range.

"With the program, printers can take their printing and marketing expertise to the Internet for their customers, offering clients a national brand for building Web sites while delivering local, personal service," says Tom Peck, vice president of SAMPA Corp. and franchiser of Signal Graphics Printing.

The Net Propulsion album contains everything from basic Web sites to specialized designs for specific industries and professions, to totally custom high-end venues.

In all cases, customers define the aesthetics of the site that will fit with the image of their business. This includes choosing colors, styles, fonts and layouts from Net Propulsion's extensive library.

Then, customers provide the copy, photos and logo just as if they were ordering a standard print job. Net Propulsion provides the restdesign, development, publishing to the Web, hosting and maintenance.

Net Propulsion researchers constantly evaluate the Web marketplace to keep on top of the changing medium.