Alphagraphics blog

Think LARGE! – Posters, Signs and Banners

Signs, Posters and Banners in Phoenix ArizonaHow much does a sign, banner or poster effect your decision making process? Recent studies indicate that it has a major effect on your initial decision to explore a purchase from a vendor.

Here are some things to consider from that study:

79% remembered a business at a later time just because of the sign
76% actually entered the business because of the sign or banner
75% told someone else about a business because of a sign that they saw
51% went home and looked up the business because of a sign or banner they saw
53% told another person about the specific sign or banner

It seems that the magic number of signs is three. This study showed the effects of multiple signs and the best bang for the buck was 2.8 signs.

The process of making signs used to be expensive and had a long lead time. Today’s digital technology allows a printer, such as AlphaGraphics, the ability to quickly design a sign, print the sign and then mount it on the appropriate materials. We also provide installation services for many of the signs and banners that we produce. Our signs are produced on equipment we have in-house or we have dedicated trade vendors who produce our products for us.

Here are some of our recent products in the sign, banner and poster arenas:

Outside and inside banners
Tradeshow banner stands and backdrops
Window clings and decals
Golf tournament sponsor signs
Corrugated Real Estate signs
Feather cloth banners
Posters used for directions and event information
Window vinyl including installation
Custom printed tablecloths
Custom wallpaper for offices
Menu Boards
Backdrops for video and photos
Street side A-Frames

Use plenty of white space. Your message needs to be simple and it needs to stand out. Using a lot of white space improves the message.

Bold colors rule. Yes, you have to consider the colors of your brand, but the bolder the colors, the more your message will pop.

Location, location, location. The right location is paramount to getting the message out to your customers and prospects. Choose a high traffic area for posting your message.

A picture is worth a 1,000 words. Use images to catch the eye.

Go 3 dimensional.  A sign that can be seen from different angles improves your chances that your message will be seen.

We are ready to help you with your signage needs. Please give our staff a call.

May 30 / 2013
Author Stephen Eugene Adams
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118 Seconds

Jeff Hayzlett's "The Mirror Test"At last year’s AlphaGraphics conference in Tucson, our featured speaker was Jeff Hayzlett, the author of “The Mirror Test” and the recent Chief Marketing Officer at Kodak. The context of the title is a question about whether your business is still breathing.  In the book, he talks about the 118.  This is his name for the elevator pitch.  The name reflects the amount of time, in seconds,  in a normal elevator ride. You have 8 seconds to get their attention and about 110 seconds the tell your story in an interesting way to hook them. If you haven’t made the sale in the 118 seconds, you have lost.

Based upon that analogy, Alphagraphics asked the franchise network to submit videos of their 118 with prizes going to the best presentation. The focus of the contest would be to present our offering based upon the “New Now” and the theme of our upcoming conference in Las Vegas in August of “All In”. I will say that the videos are great and most of them are very entertaining.  The world can go see the videos at this link. 118 Seconds Videos. My favorite is the DJayMoney video.

The videos are all fine and good and they reflect very well on the talent we have in our system. However, I do not believe that these videos reflect the spirit of a 118 second pitch.  I rarely see a projection or TV screen in an elevator. The pitch has to come out 1-on-1.

With this, I submit my 118 second elevator pitch for the world:

Hi, I’m Steve Adams, owner of the Alphagraphics Center from down the street. Our role, in this day is to get the revenues of our local small and medium-sized businesses back to where they were prior to the recession. Most of the these businesses in the Phoenix market have seen reductions of revenue over the last 36-months of up to 40%. My job is to help these businesses get this revenue back.

We have a 5-pronged attack to accomplish this:

First, we help our customers to identify their best prospects by analyzing their current customer habits. We do an in-depth analysis of their current customers and then we identify the prospects that will best respond t0 that businesses messages. From this customer analysis, we also identify current customer needs that can be focused on by future marketing efforts.

Second, we plan a detailed marketing plan which will include several channels of communication. This marketing plan will cover such things as branding website rankings, seo and sem, print media and mailing, email marketing,  social media as well as opportunities to use mobile marketing.

Third, based upon this approved marketing plan, we will help a business plan their marketing budget and their marketing timeline.

Fourth, we will implement the plan using our experienced marketing associates.

And finally, we will provide the metrics that show how the current marketing plan is working which allows us to adjust the marketing effort as we go.

Can I arrange a meeting to start the process with your company?

Well, not as exciting as the videos, but this is how it will have to happen in real life to get the sale.

You can always contact us at the following AlphaGraphics websites:

AlphaGraphics Mesa Printing and Marketing FaceBook Fan Page

AlphaGraphics Tempe Printing and Marketing FaceBook Fan Page

AlphaGraphics Phoenix Printing and Marketing FaceBook Fan Page

Twitter: @steveadams291

LinkedIn: stepheneugeneadams


Branding-Is It What It Used To Be?

A few weeks ago, I attended a short session facilitated by Professor Richard Ettenson from the Thunderbird School of Global Management located in Glendale, Arizona down the street from my AlphaGraphics Phoenix location. Richard is the head of the marketing department at Thunderbird.  In this session, his audience was a group of CFO’s from the Phoenix area. His main topic was trying to convince these CFO’s that the marketing departments are valuable assets in every company and essentially, the CFO’s should learn to appreciate them.

Just a little background on myself. Before I became an entrepreneur and started my AlphaGraphics printing and marketing companies, I was a partner with Deloitte & Touche in the audit department. I am still a non-practicing CPA and my love is still in the numbers.

Richard’s discussion was that as time goes by, a company’s marketing valuation make-up becomes more and more of the intangible variety and less and less of the tangible variety. In the intangible area, marketing and brand have become an increasing percentage of market valuation.  He quoted Peter Drucker as saying in 1954 “Business has two basic functions–marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs.”  Richard then went on to show how strong brands allow companies to charge a premium price while still controlling market share, thus being more profitable.

He then described the marketing and brand value chain.  It went like this:

Marketing Activity-Promotes your products and services

Brand Image-What customers think of your brand relative to competitors

Brand Equity or Loyalty-The extent to which your brand image creates a preference for your brand

Customer Behavior-The extent of the change in customer behavior due to this preference

Business Impact-Incremental cash flow resulting from changes in customer behavior.

So Is Branding What It Used To Be?

During the breakout sessions where the CFO’s were supposed to come to the realization that the marketing departments are important and that the CFO’s should cut them some slack, I asked Richard how current his data was. My contention is that after the recession hit, brand loyalty took a big hit. The premium price that a brand was historically able to demand was then being compared to the price of the lessor known brands. I recited my personal experience that our customers were demanding that our prices match our lesser known competitors because price became more of an issue that loyalty and brand equity.  Walmart grew while the premium brands suffered during 2009 and 2010. Richard did agree that more current data may show different results for those years, but in the end, the companies with great brand equities will become dominant again. I do agree that this is what I am seeing now.  As time goes on, pricing has become less and less of an issue.

I also made the comment that the person in charge of building the brand needs to be protected from the CFO by the CEO. Branding is a long-term process and it needs time to develop.  Richard responded that most companies with strong brands also have a very strong CEO.

AlphaGraphics and Branding

There are five key elements of branding:

Brand Position– This is what describes what an organization does and for whom, what its unique value is, how a customer benefits from working with it and what key differentiation it has from its competitors.  Once this is identified, it can be put into a 25, 50 or 100 word version (elevator speech).

Brand Promise-What a company promises to deliver, every time.

Brand Personality-What a brand is known for. This should be 4-6 traits

Brand Story-The company history and a summary of products and services

Brand Associations-This is where AlphaGraphics really shines. Brand associations are the specific physical artifacts that make up the brand. This is the name, logo, colors, taglines, fonts, imagery, etc. Brand associations must reflect the brand promise, all of the brand traits and support the brand positioning statement. All of these factors are then displayed into the company websites, social media sites and in its marketing collateral.

You can always contact us at the following AlphaGraphics websites:

AlphaGraphics Mesa Printing and Marketing          FaceBook Fan Page

AlphaGraphics Tempe Printing and Marketing        FaceBook Fan Page

AlphaGraphics Phoenix Printing and Marketing     FaceBook Fan Page

Twitter: @steveadams291

LinkedIn: stepheneugeneadams

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February 20 / 2011
Author Stephen Eugene Adams
Category alphagraphics
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Do You Really Know Your Customers?

I have been meaning to write a post about this subject for some time now.  I always put it off, because I never felt sure that I really knew what I was going to talk about. At my Mesa Alphagraphics center, we have sold quite a few demographic profiles to our customers with an overwhelming great response from our customers. Unfortunately for me, I was not the person who sold the project or did the footwork necessary to make the project a success.  Since then, I have taken a few webinar classes on the subject and I now feel more comfortable talking about this very important part of our marketing arsenal.

So, What is an AlphaGraphics Demographic Profile?

A customer demographics profile is also know by other terms such as a “data append” or a “customer snapshot” or a “customer data analysis”.  In simplistic terms, what this really entails is a complete analysis of your existing customer base. We take a listing of your customers, along-with their address and put this listing through national data banks to get a profile on those customers.  For a consumer listing these demographic items include: how many adults in the house, age, credit cards held, dwelling type, gender, home ownership, household income, marital status, interests, children’s ages, whether they respond to direct mail, ethnic category, home equity, home value, length of residence, number of children and a few more categories. Once your customer list is crunched through the computers, we then get a great analysis of who your existing best customers are and what are their buying habits. This analysis then gives us the right filters to use to determine who your best prospects are. We can then buy a very targeted list of your best prospects to devote your marketing dollars towards.

A Satisfied Customer

I will give you one example of how we have used this process with one of our clients.  This customer runs a collection of adult living facilities. In the past, we have mailed out over 30,000 pieces per month into various zip codes using a target age as the only filter. The object of the mailer is to get a tour of the facility where the sales staff can do their job.  These mailers were successful (in the 1% range) in helping this facility maintain a high level of occupancy. We proposed to this client that we do a demographic profile of the people that had shown up for these tours. (My client captured this information from each person who agreed to a tour.) Crunching this information into the computer gave us a great profile of who my client should be targeting. Based upon this information, we upgraded the mailer from a postcard to an open house invitation inside an envelope. We decreased the mailer to 1,000 pieces per month. The response rate increased significantly and the first facility was filled in an economy where all other adult living facilities are experiencing significant vacancies. We are now working on the other facilities of this client.

What About Business to Business?

A few years ago, trying to do a demographic profile on a list of business customers was very expensive. The cost is now comparable to doing the consumer list. The demographic items that a business profile uses are as follows: annual sales, legal status, minority owned business designation, owner vs. renter, SIC Division, Website URL present, number of employees, location type, non-profit business, owner gender, SOHO, number of years in business and many more.  We have yet to do a business profile yet, but we are in the process with one of our customers to provide this service.

You can always contact us at the following AlphaGraphics websites:

AlphaGraphics Mesa Printing and Marketing          FaceBook Fan Page

AlphaGraphics Tempe Printing and Marketing        FaceBook Fan Page

AlphaGraphics Phoenix Printing and Marketing     FaceBook Fan Page

Twitter: @steveadams291
LinkedIn: stepheneugeneadams

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February 03 / 2011

Survey Says!

A few months ago, about the same time that I stopped posting on this blog (which will be the subject of another post), I started a monthly survey of my AlphaGraphics customers to see how well we are doing.  I am using a company by the name of Survey Advantage.  The cost to me is fairly cheap and over time, I have been able to survey the customers from all three of my centers using the one account. We have received some great feedback.  Here are the charts to date.

How likely are you to recommend us to colleagues and friends? Response percent Response total   Very Likely  HistogramHistogramHistogram 78.5% 179   Likely  HistogramHistogramHistogram 16.2% 37   Not Sure  HistogramHistogramHistogram 3.5% 8   Unlikely  HistogramHistogramHistogram 1.3% 3   Very Unlikely  HistogramHistogramHistogram 0.4% 1

 

How satisfied are you with the quality of the final product? Response percent Response total   Very Satisfied  HistogramHistogramHistogram 76.2% 176   Satisfied  HistogramHistogramHistogram 20.8% 48   Neutral  HistogramHistogramHistogram 2.2% 5   Dissatisfied  HistogramHistogramHistogram 0.4% 1   Very Dissatisfied  HistogramHistogramHistogram 0.4% 1

 

How satisfied are you with the quality of our service? Response percent Response total   Very Satisfied  HistogramHistogramHistogram 77.3% 177   Satisfied  HistogramHistogramHistogram 17.9% 41   Neutral  HistogramHistogramHistogram 3.1% 7   Dissatisfied  HistogramHistogramHistogram 1.3% 3   Very Dissatisfied  HistogramHistogramHistogram 0.4% 1   Apart from the products you just purchased, what other services do you have a need for but do not currently purchase from us? We offer all of these services: Response percent Response total   One & Two Color Printing  HistogramHistogramHistogram 30.8% 20   Full Color Printing  HistogramHistogramHistogram 36.9% 24   Variable Data Printing  HistogramHistogramHistogram 10.8% 7   Black & White Copies  HistogramHistogramHistogram 29.2% 19   High Speed Color Copies  HistogramHistogramHistogram 10.8% 7   Finishing/Bindery  HistogramHistogramHistogram 18.5% 12   Mailing Services  HistogramHistogramHistogram 16.9% 11   Signs, Posters and Banners HistogramHistogramHistogram 52.3% 34   Promotional Products  HistogramHistogramHistogram 56.9% 37

 

The great thing about these monthly surveys is that when we receive a negative response, we immediately get an email from Survey Advantage.  We are able to read the comments on the survey and address the issue immediately.  You can also see that there is a question about what services that we provide that the customer would want to know more about.  This has been a great conversation starter with a lot of our AlphaGraphics customers.

One last area of the survey is a question about if the customer knows of anyone else who might need our AlphaGraphics services.  We give each respondent a $20 gift certificate to a place of their choice.

Feedback is critical to the overall success or our three businesses.

You can always contact us at the following AlphaGraphics websites:

AlphaGraphics Mesa Printing and Marketing   FaceBook Fan Page
AlphaGraphics Tempe Printing and Marketing
   FaceBook Fan Page
AlphaGraphics Phoenix Printing and Marketing
   FaceBook Fan Page

Twitter: @steveadams291
LinkedIn: stepheneugeneadams

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Think Before You DON’T Print

Why Print Is Saving the Forests

Have you ever seen the phrase “Think before you print” or “Do you really need to print this email message”. One of our AlphaGraphics owners even has a phrase at the bottom of his emails stating “Please consider the environment. Do you need to print this email?”  These phrases and those that are similar have been born under the going green, climate changing, ecological, conservation minded, save the forests mode that the world is in right now. These are causes that, we at AlphaGraphics whole-heartedly support and are conscious of every day.  The only problem with the “don’t print this” mentality is that the reduction of printed material has the exact opposite effect on the long-term health of our forests.

Print Grows Trees

The Printing and Graphics Association MidAtlantic (PGAMA) is associated with the Printing Industries of America (PIA).  They took it upon themselves to start a program entitled Print Grows Trees and they published a book under the same title. I recently purchased this book from them from the PGAMA website.  The book is only a few pages long and is more of a coffee table book with lots of large printing and beautiful pictures. In fact, I have read the book twice and both times I finished it in about 20 minutes.  I would highly recommend the purchase for any printers that are struggling to explain why print still has value and it makes great lobby reading.

The book starts out with a few facts:

A third of U.S. soil is covered in forests, about 747 million acres

Over half of the forests in the U.S. are privately owned.

60% of the wood harvested in the U.S comes from family-owned forests.

About 20% of family-owned forests are owned by someone at least 75 years old. It is expected that approximately 55 million acres of these forests will be transferred or sold in the next 5 years.

Between 1850  and 1910, the U.S. lost about 1/3 of its forests to agriculture and other development, approximately 190 million acres. Most of the farm land in the middle of our country was once forest lands.

80% of all rain that falls east of the Mississippi River falls on family owned forests and 1/3 of all drinking water comes from forest lands.

It is expected that by year 2050, we will lose another 20 million acres of forests from natural disasters, development or conversion to agriculture lands.

So Why Does All of the Above Matter?

Most people realize in this day and age why forests are important. They sequester carbon, they help provide clean air and water, they provide a natural habitat to a lot of animals and plant life and they help keep the earth from warming.  The private owners of these forests have supported their investments in the forest lands by harvesting selected trees on their land and then replanting those trees, called silviculture. As time has gone by, the methods of doing this have become even more sensitive to the environment. As the demand for paper decreases, we will start to see a process called “cut and run”, whereby the landowners will harvest the trees and then not replace them. The land will be re-purposed or sold for development. The land has to produce some revenue just to pay the annual property tax and estate taxes upon death.

So the conclusion here is that print increases the demand for paper and this helps to keep the forests alive with new growth. If we shut down that demand, the new growth will stop and the forests will slowly decrease in acreage.

The book covers a few other areas that I will not go into detail here but will summarize:

The production of paper has become quite environmentally efficient. 63.4% of paper is now recycled and 60% of paper produced uses bio-fuels and the excess is used for bio-energy.

Significant jobs will naturally be lost in the printing, publishing and paper manufacturing process in the next 8 years, somewhere between 16% and 25%.

The Lacey Act of 2008 prohibits the importation and use of paper which has been harvested illegally.

The process of printing has become more environmentally friendly in the last decade.

An average digital server farm in the U.S. uses the same energy as 25,000 homes and are the fastest growers of the usage of fossil fuels in the world. Their energy usage is doubling each year.

We, at AlphaGraphics, have taken steps to make sure that the paper we use in our printing process is mostly from FSC certified forests and we have obtained our FSC chain-of-custody certification so that our customers can have the FSC logo on their printed materials if they so choose. I wrote a previous blog post on what being FSC certified means to our customers.

So, in conclusion, “Please think of the environment. Do you really need to forward this email?

You can always contact us at the following AlphaGraphics websites:

AlphaGraphics Mesa Printing and Marketing   FaceBook Fan Page
AlphaGraphics Tempe Printing and Marketing   FaceBook Fan Page
AlphaGraphics Phoenix Printing and Marketing   FaceBook Fan Page

Twitter: @steveadams291
LinkedIn: stepheneugeneadams

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August 09 / 2010
Author Stephen Eugene Adams
Comments No Comments

Disrupting MY Future

Disrupting the Printing Industry

A couple of months ago, I did a post on the changes that will be going on in your neighborhood print shop in order for them to survive and thrive in this new digital age. In that post I cited the book Renewing the Printing Industry, written by Dr. Joseph Webb (Dr. Joe as we call him in the industry) and Richard Romano. Well, this year they came out with their second book on the subject entitled “Disrupting the Future, Uncommon Wisdom for Navigating Print’s Challenging Marketplace”. The picture on the cover says it all. The photo appears to be centuries old with a printer using a manual letterpress to print a document. Standing in the crowd watching him is a person holding up the iPad for him to see. Talk about the contrasts that we are seeing in the printing and communications business right now.


The book can be downloaded free for members of What They Think, an online source of information for the printing industry,  or is available at Lulu.com in the hardback version for $19.95. Even if you are not a member, go to the free section to see some interesting analysis of what is happening in our industry.

So What Does the Book Say?

Well, the authors start out by saying that if the printing industry had grown at the same rate as  the GDP from 1993, that total printing shipments in the U.S. would have been about $176.2 billion in 2009. However, printing revenues were only $88.2 billion, making the case that, in that period, the industry has lost 50% of what it should have had if it had grown at the same rate as the country. Therefore, the decline that has become quite evident during this Great Recession really started back in the mid-1990’s.

One of the defensive arguements that a lot of printers, including myself, have been using during this period is that print has value and print is vital and therefore the decrease in not entirely warranted. The authors argument here is that print is not vital. It continues to be one of the communications mediums out of several and, in fact, may be the most expensive option available in a lot of circumstances. As the choices of alternatives have developed over the past several years,  print has suffered the consequences.

So, Is Print Dying Declining?

The answer is yes. Print will not die in the foreseeable future but it will continue to decline as more and more alternatives become available to our customers. So, what are we going to do from a printing standpoint? Well here are some of the answers.

1.  Embrace the new media and become experts in it. In order to promote our own businesses, we need to not only understand the new media but we have to become experts in it. From getting a FaceBook personal page, to setting up a Twitter account for our business, to registering on LinkedIn and to setting up a FaceBook fan page for the business. We need to claim our listings on Google Places (Maps), Merchant Circle, Yelp, Bing and Yahoo. We need to understand SEO and how that increases our rankings with Google and Bing. We need to advertise our businesses by using email marketing.

2. We need to start thinking of ourselves as Print Communications providers. For centuries, the only communications medium that we concentrated on was print. In most cases, that was all we needed because, quite frankly, we made a lot of money producing printed items. This has to change. There are now more ways for our customers to communicate with their customers. The great thing is that most small and medium sized businesses cannot adopt these new communications avenues without help.  As we become experts in these new mediums, we can help our customers in all of their communication needs.

3. We need to start thinking about the entire marketing and communications process instead of just the print project. This means we have to have more in-depth discussions with our customers. We cannot survive in this new environment by waiting for our customers to call us when the file is ready to be printed. We need to be part of the overall planning and discussions of the communications project. This means we need better trained salespeople who become more than order takers.

4. We may have to set up a separate division away from the printing company. This is a point that the authors made in their book that I have not entirely accepted. Their major concern is that there is a perception out there that we are printers only and that the best way to become marketing and communications experts in the eyes of our customers is to have a separate company or division that specializes in these areas. I think that having the right conversations with the right customers will ease these erroneous perceptions over time. Will the general public seek us out for our marketing advice? Probably not. But that is not our target. Our existing customer base is where we need to start.

5. We need to hire different people. I’m not saying that we need to fire all of our printers and bindery people. What I am saying is that we need to focus on the marketing and technical skills when we are looking to start hiring again. (If that ever happens). A lot of this will happen naturally. Most of our new hires will be coming to us having grown up in this digital age. They will have their own FaceBook page and they will be active on Twitter. You would not believe the qualifications of the candidates for my last bindery/delivery position. Most of the candidates had a marketing degree at a local university.

6. And lastly, we need to continue to talk about how print is an integral part of the marketing and communications process. We need to start explaining how print can enhance the results of a marketing campaign by many multiples. We need to explain how print is not destroying the environment and, in fact, is better on the environment than all of this electronic equipment over a long period of time. We need to get across that print is the Cadillac of the communications process. Yes, it is more expensive but the returns are significantly better than its digital brethran.

I know that I have not done this book any justice, and I do suggest that all printers read this book, the sooner the better. I will use one quote out of the book that I think summarizes where we have to go as a printing industry:

“The successful printing company of tomorrow will be the hub for managing the creation, coordination, deployment, measurement, and management of communications logistics.”

Thank you Dr. Joe and Richard for a book well on-point.

You can always contact us at the following AlphaGraphics websites:

AlphaGraphics Mesa Printing and Marketing FaceBook Fan Page
AlphaGraphics Tempe Printing and Marketing FaceBook Fan Page
AlphaGraphics Phoenix Printing and Marketing FaceBook Fan Page

Twitter: @steveadams291
LinkedIn: stepheneugeneadams

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The AlphaGraphics Shameless Keyword Plug

One of the valuable lessons of SEO (search engine optimization) is that a business blog needs to have links back to its main website using anchor text. I have had a lot of problems doing this since I started this blog in December, 2009.  I have used this blog to show that AlphaGraphics has marketing expertise in addition our normal printing and copying expertise.  However, our current website designed by the AlphaGraphics corporate people has very little marketing expertise elements included. If you look at one of my centers’ websites you will see our expertise in printing, copying, bindery, mailing services, graphic design and large format (signs) is well displayed. The only discussion in the marketing area is a couple of pages on 1-to-1 personalized marketing and the use of purl’s (personalized url’s)

Here Comes the Shameless Part

The holy grail of keywords that I want my centers’ websites to rank highly for are: printing mesa az, printing tempe az and printing phoenix az. Its hard to write a blog on marketing services and use these anchor text words in the middle of sentences. Believe it or not, we do rank highly for such words as: business cards mesa az, business cards tempe az and business cards phoenix az. Unfortunately, business cards are not a high profit area of our business. We even rank highly for blueprints mesa az, blueprints tempe az and blueprints phoenix az. So much so that we out-rank a lot of dedicated blueprint houses in the Phoenix market.

Piling On

What would some of the other keywords I would like to emphasize? Well how about mailing services mesa az, mailing services tempe az and mailing services phoenix az? Another hard term to rank for is: direct marketing mesa az, direct marketing tempe az and or course, direct marketing phoenix az. Over the last couple of months, I have seen that our rankings for; marketing mesa az, marketing tempe az and marketing phoenix az has improved significantly.

So there you have it, a shameless show of stuffing a blog full of anchor text keywords linked back to our center websites. Next week, I will be back to trying to write my blog posts with good information on marketing and other relevant information.

You can always contact us at the following AlphaGraphics websites:

AlphaGraphics Mesa Printing and Marketing FaceBook Fan Page
AlphaGraphics Tempe Printing and Marketing FaceBook Fan Page
AlphaGraphics Phoenix Printing and Marketing FaceBook Fan Page

Twitter: @steveadams291
LinkedIn: stepheneugeneadams

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AlphaGraphics-The New Now

Cary Sherburne, a writer for “What They Think”  is a well-known author, journalist and marketing consultant whose practice is focused on marketing communications strategies for the printing and publishing industries.

During last week’s AlphaGraphics conference in Tucson, Arizona, Cary interviewed our CEO, Kevin Cushing about the future of the AlphaGraphic franchise. Here are the questions asked by Cary, Kevin’s responses, and in some cases, my comments on the question from the franchisee standpoint.  The original article can be found at What They Think.

AlphaGraphics Unveils Bold Plan for Network Growth

NetVision 4 calls for transformation of all AlphaGraphics Centers to Marketing Services Providers

During its annual owners’ conference, franchise operator AlphaGraphics unveiled the next phase in its strategic plan for the network. CEO Kevin Cushing kicked off his opening talk at the conference by saying, “Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.” This was a lead-in to his introduction of NetVision 4, which outlines a bold and aggressive roadmap for franchisees to transform their businesses to what the company is calling “The New Now,” with a goal of 20% of network revenues being generated from marketing services by 2015. Cushing talks about the strategy.

Cary: Kevin, you just concluded your annual conference in Tucson, celebrating 40 years since the AlphaGraphics franchise was founded in that same city. What’s different about this conference as compared to others in the past?

Kevin: It is more about what is different in the marketplace. We have had our NetVision program in place for a number of years. The NetVision document is our roadmap and strategic plan for growth and development of the network. Five years ago, we brought NetVision 3 to our franchisees, and this year we are launching NetVision 4, themed “The New Now.” The purpose of NetVision 4 is to set out an aggressive roadmap for our network to address today’s new market realities. In addition NV4 is a “living” document, updated regularly rather than a plan that is set in stone for three to five years at a time.

Steve: One of the great things about being part of the AlphaGraphics system is the leadership, planning and direction that is given by the franchisor. A lot of thought goes into our current and future operations by AlphaGraphics and its franchisees. Each of our NetVisions in the past has been timely and has resulted in a more homogeneous sytem of separately owned operations. We, as franchisees, pretty much march to the same drummer.

Cary: As part of NetVision 3, you made it a network standard to do things like offer wide format printing and become ISO certified. Where does NetVision 4 take you?

Kevin: For one thing, we have created NetVision 4 as a digital document. Certainly, we will have printed copies available for our owners or the files to enable them to print them themselves. But by making this a digital document, we can more easily keep it up to date as market conditions change, as well as link to a myriad of resources that will help our owners educate themselves and navigate the aggressive roadmap we have laid out for the network and for individual centers.

Steve: It might seem weird that a printing company does not print its own strategic plan. That is our New Now. We understand the changes that are incurring and we understand that it is futile to fight the changes. A working digital document that has links, videos, audio streams and current samples is a more relevant and usable document.

Cary: Can you share some of the key roadmap elements?

Kevin: At present, we have just under 270 centers with network revenues of about $250 million. Our long term goal is to grow to 500 centers and $500 million in network revenues.. In order to do that, we realize that we must begin to offer a wide range of new products and services, while still growing and protecting our copy/print/mail legacy business. This sets us, as a network, on a path of transforming our business from print service provider to marketing services provider. We’ve had our sights set on “500-500” since we introduced NetVision 3, but no one could have predicted the impact of the “Great Recession” and restrictive access to capital.

We have some great momentum towards the goal, however; system sales have been rising since February, 28 centers have extended their expiring franchise agreements, and we have something like 28 more owners in the pipeline at various stages in the opening process from just signing, to in training, to build-outs. Brazil is on fire for us now as well. We are most proud of our renewal rate, 100% of qualified and invited owners have extended their agreements. No better testimonial as to the strength of your system than that!

Steve: We are no different than the rest of the nation and the rest of the printing industry. Our individual center sales were down in 2009 and we had to make some reductions in order to survive the declines. With that said, it is a positive statement that, while we have been adjusting at the franchisee and franchisor levels, we continue to sell new franchises, successfully transfer ownership for those franchisees that want to do something else, to convert independent printers into Alphagraphics franchisees and to renew expiring franchise agreements. The goal of 500-500 seems like a reasonable goal when you consider how we survived and thrived through one of the roughest economic periods in history. Our system grew when the other print franchises contracted.

Cary: As with any network, I am sure there are different levels of competency in your network. Does NetVision 4 take this into account?

Kevin: Certainly. We are developing a robust set of training and services through the AlphaGraphics Service Center that will help our owners make this transition. We have identified a number of products and services categorized at various levels, and have provided a timeline by which centers should be competent in delivery of these products and services.

Steve: This is the beauty of the AlphaGraphics system. Not only do we have a plan, but we have a reward system that assures that almost all of our operations obtain the level of service dictated by the plan. As new owners come into our system, AlphaGraphics assures that they have the qualities neccessary to lead us forward.

Cary: In your press release, you mention social media, QR codes, augmented reality and personalized URLs as some of the key services your centers should be using to promote themselves and to improve the value of their services to customers. Are any of your centers already doing these things?

Kevin: Yes, we have over 25% of our network actively engaged in some, if not all, of those activities. Our Social Media Summit, held the day before our conference, had over 80 attendees including franchisees and staff. We also have centers that are conducting full integrated marketing campaigns that include QR codes, personalized URLs, a mix of email and direct mail, and telemarketing to promote their own services and well as for the benefit of customers. One of our owners recently quipped that when customers have received one of his multichannel promotional campaigns and ask whether it works, he tells them, ‘It got your attention.’ That opens the door for us to share with clients the kinds of results we are achieving for ourselves, and it gives us the credibility to do the same for them.

Steve: At AlphaGraphics, we walk the talk. Every day, I see more and more mentions of AlphaGraphics in the daily Google Alerts. We are quickly coming to the point where every center has its own Twitter account, LinkedIn account, FaceBook Fan Page (as well as a personal page) and has claimed its own Google Places, MerchantCircle, Bing and Yahoo listings. I am even seeing more and more centers posting their own blogs. Using QR Codes, PURL’s and Augmented Reality is quickly becoming second nature to us. We manage email marketing campaigns for our customers and some of us help our customers with their SEO and SEM activities to help promote their websites.

Cary: You have a fairly aggressive roadmap laid out through 2013, with quite a bit for franchisees to digest and implement over the next 18 to 24 months. What was the overall reaction of owners at your conference to NetVision 4 and the roadmap?

Kevin: Overall, a great sense of pride in being a part of a brand that is so forward thinking and deliberate in its strategy. At the same time, leading isn’t easy and there’s some anxiety around that. Many of our more concerned owners are taking great comfort in the stories shared by owners that were in the same place a year ago and have jumped into marketing services with both feet, with great results. We have centers that have landed campaigns worth more than $200,000 and others getting contracts for $5,000 or more a month. It is a lot easier to achieve that when you have the resources of a network backing you up.

Steve: Amen

Cary: Sometimes when businesses are making this type of transition, they neglect legacy revenues that are needed to develop new businesses. What are you doing to protect against that fatal error?

Kevin: Design, Print, Finish and Mail is what brought us this far and will be a fundamental part of our business for a long time. Also, we do not expect a huge shift away from legacy products immediately. We anticipate that 20% of our revenues will come from new marketing services by 2015. As we begin to offer these new marketing services, we also anticipate it will bring in more legacy work – prepress and design, printing, finishing, mailing – that we would not even have been considered for in the past. By taking this path, we are redefining ourselves in the marketplace, changing the perception of the customer, and partnering with them as a member of their team in a larger swath of the marketing supply chain. We are also reaching out with similar services to other departments and lines of business within our client companies. The value of integrated campaigns and new media communications extends beyond the marketing department for most companies.

Steve: Believe me, we will not be forgetting our legacy revenue areas. As Kevin said, we look upon this as a way to supplement our legacy revenues and at the same time enhancing these areas by providing the print for the multi-channel and cross media campaigns that we help to design. We understand that there is a longer lead time in selling these projects and we have to be careful not to devote all of our sales effort in the new communications areas to the detriment of what is currently putting food on our tables. It will be a balancing act before we really figure this out but, in the end, we are entrepreneurs who pride ourselves in figuring this stuff out.

Cary: What process did you go through to develop this plan?

Kevin: It was not developed in a vacuum in Salt Lake City! We did a significant amount of research, both ourselves and using third parties, as we began developing NetVision 4. We wanted to understand market trends, how quickly things were changing, and dig into media such as social media and mobile communications to understand what others are doing in those areas, how rapidly the market is moving, and what role we might reasonably play. We interviewed owners, customers, industry experts and consultants. We also took a close look at both traditional and non-traditional competition to understand where they are and where they are heading, as best we can tell. We learned a great deal during this process, much of which we shared with our owners in the NetVision 4 document and at the conference. As a result, we believe that our plan is not only viable, but a necessity for our network to not only survive, but to meet the growth goals we have set.

Steve: As a member of the AlphaGraphics Network Leadership Council, I can assure you that this plan was not done in a vacumn. We used the insight and intelligence of the best industry consultants and the best owners in our system. The plan may or may not be perfect but I believe that we are going in the right direction.

Cary: Will you be changing your branding?

Kevin: Yes. The first thing we will change is our tagline. From there, we are working with an agency to refine the AlphaGraphics brand to align with The New Now. Much of this work will be done over the summer, and our owners will be very involved in the discussions prior to any changes being made or announced. Most of our owners are enthusiastically embracing these changes and see the value it will bring to their centers and to the network as a whole.

Steve:  Top Secret, no comment. Well, maybe a little. I believe that the AlphaGraphics brand represents a brand of quality, personal service and knowledge. The brand also represents copies and printing which may be a detriment to our planned transition. I am not part of the committee that is looking into the brand, but I am sure that any change will be done with a lot of thought.

Cary: What are some of the first things customers will see change at the center level, other than possibly the branding?

Kevin: We expect to see centers making more frequent use of agDirect, our customer-facing web order entry interface. Most centers are using this, but not as actively as they could. We also expect our centers to become FSC certified by the end of the year. In terms of new skills, data competencies will play a central role, and we will be working with our owners to ensure they continue to enhance those skills in their centers. All of these will lay the groundwork for moving quickly along the rest of the roadmap. And, of course, many customers will see the evidence of this work as they begin receiving increasingly complex self-promotional pieces from their local AlphaGraphics Center.

Steve: They will also see how smart we are in the marketing and communications areas. We will continue to change their perception of us by our continued conversations with them about their entire marketing budgets. The new decor that we installed under NetVision 3 was designed with the anticipation that we would become more consultive over time. Our front lobbies already look like a lot of advertising and marketing agencies.

Cary: Kevin, thanks for sharing your insight on NetVision 4 and the future of AlphaGraphics. Is there anything else you would like to add before we close?

Kevin: It’s an exciting time to be a part of the AlphaGraphics network, we’re GROWING places! Just watch us, better yet join us! We have had over 100 owners join our network in the past three years. That provides a healthy pipeline for retiring owners and new location growth as well. We just signed an agreement with a very capable owner to add three locations in the San Francisco market and independents are also showing a lot of interest in joining our network.

Steve: Amen again!

You can always contact us at the following AlphaGraphics websites:

AlphaGraphics Mesa Printing and Marketing       FaceBook Fan Page
AlphaGraphics Tempe Printing and Marketing     FaceBook Fan Page
AlphaGraphics Phoenix Printing and Marketing   FaceBook Fan Page

Twitter: @steveadams291
LinkedIn: stepheneugeneadams

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Purls and Gurls

Purls and GirlsSeveral years ago, a company by the name of MindFire came onto the scene. During  one of their first years they came to the AlphaGraphics conference as a vendor. They were selling the ability to do personalized url’s to attract a prospect to a website to register and provide additional contact information.  As I think back upon their visit to our trade show, I remember that the person at the booth was a very lonely man for the two 4-hour sessions. If he had 5 AlphaGraphics owners visit him during that week, I would be very surprised. Not only was the concept foreign to most of us, but the software was extremely expensive. In the following year, MindFire’s message was received loud and clear throughout the AlphaGraphics system and the rest of the printing industry. Studies were showing that the success of a direct marketing campaign using  personalized url’s (PURL’s) was significantly better than the old method of just sending out a promotional piece. Direct Marketing Association (DMA) studies were showing that response rates were improving from .5% up to 5-10% depending on the offer. I will say that we have had response rates off up to 30% using a combination of a 3-dimensional piece, a PURL site and a $20 gift certificate offer.

Direct Marketing Began To Change

So, in the past we would print and send out 10,000-30,000 pieces in the mail hoping for a half of a percent response rate. As we priced the job, our focus to the customer was on the price-per-piece, including postage. In the new world, we focus on much smaller mailings to a more focused audience. We often use demographic profiling of our client’s customer lists to provide a more targeted prospect list. Our pricing includes the cost of the MindFire hosting site, the cost of a premium mailing list, a more complicated, personalized mailing piece as well as the postage. So, instead of a 10,000 piece mailing, we might digitally print and send out a mailing for 500-1,000 pieces.  Using conservative math here, a .5% response rate on a 10,000 piece mailing would give you 50 responses. A 10% response rate on a 500 piece mailing would give you the same 50 responses.  A few years ago, a PURL campaign was a fairly expensive proposition so that the costs you saved in not mailing to 10,000 recipients were replaced with the cost of creating and monitoring  the PURL results. Our selling points were that when you were done you had more info on your prospects and that those prospects that went to the PURL site were actual buyers.  As you can imagine, convincing clients that a 500 piece campaign that was the same price as a 10,000 piece mailing was better was somewhat difficult.

Time Cures Everything

The best part of technology is that it gets cheaper as time goes on.  The costs of creating and reporting on PURL’s has become a commodity so the most expensive part of doing a PURL campaign has become cheap.  Now the 500 piece mailing can be done at a significant discount over the old 10,000 piece mailing. That’s the good news. The bad news is that as time has gone on, PURL campaigns have become commonplace and the response rates have declined somewhat. So it is more important now than ever for the list to be tuned to the proper prospects, that the offer is good  and that there is an attractive spiff to entice the prospect to go to the PURL site.

So, What is a GURL

GURL stands for general url. The PURL is based upon the fact that you have a targeted list with the name of your prospect included in the list.  This is most used in a mailing or email campaign.  So what happens when you put an ad into a multi-media location but you still want to get prospects to go to a website and register.  That’s where the GURL comes in. Prospects can still go to the designated website and register to get a gift certificate or win a prize.  The prospects just have to fill out their name, address, contact information and they get the prize. Another great way of identifying key prospects.

Return on Investment

If a PURL campaign is used, one of the best results is that their is a process of active reporting included with the campaign. Everytime one of the prospects hits the website, it is recorded. Their responses are immediately recorded and reported. If you have the email address, they will immediately be informed that their responses were received and that a salesperson will be calling them in the near future. After they log off of the site, an immediate email will be sent to the assigned sales person with the relevant contact information. Quite slick and it is impressive to the customer.

You can always contact us at the following AlphaGraphics websites:

AlphaGraphics Mesa Printing and Marketing       FaceBook Fan Page
AlphaGraphics Tempe Printing and Marketing     FaceBook Fan Page
AlphaGraphics Phoenix Printing and Marketing   FaceBook Fan Page

Twitter: @steveadams291
LinkedIn: stepheneugeneadams

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July 06 / 2010
Author Stephen Eugene Adams
Category alphagraphics
Comments 2 Comments