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Winning Websites

Bettering your online presence can pay off.

Often a print provider's first customer contact point, your website has the potential to have a deep impact on sales. And in a challenging economy like the one we currently reside in, your site becomes even more critical to your profitability. Because of its innate ability to reach a worldwide group of customer prospects, your website is the most cost-effective means of advertising and promotion you have. And if you've previously considered sales leads from your website to be "icing on the cake," now might be the time to re-evaluate that marketing recipe.

One key element to website success is making your shop's site stand out in the crowd. But how best to do so? To help answer that question, we've tracked dozens of print provider's websites and provide information on some of their more intriguing features here. Each highlighted site has managed to differentiate itself from its competitors in one way or another--whether that be by emphasizing its home-page graphics, being unafraid to experiment with video or other multimedia, or simply putting a strong emphasis on key profit centers.

Home-page emphasis
Books have been written about the importance of a website's home page, but it's fair to say that one thing the page should do is quickly engage the reader. Just how it goes about doing that can vary, of course, and we've seen print providers take a variety of steps and actions to help this. But one thing that seems to make sense if you're trying to get across the idea of wide-format is: Don't be afraid to run large images on the home page.

OEC Graphics and Display (oecdisplay.com), for instance, uses a rotating slide show of stock images sourced from iStock Photo to emphasize particular aspects of its service: dynamic color, accurate color, exceptional value, quick turnarounds, value, precise detail, etc.

"The site is designed to very quickly communicate three things: outstanding customer service, beautiful graphic reproductions, and a great value for the product being purchased," says John Sweeterman with OEC. "We thrive in an industry where lead times are short, pricing must be competitive, and where the customer service experience needs to be exceptional to retain great business relationships."

Portland Color (portlandcolor.com) takes a similar approach with its home page, utilizing a single large image. "I think that it's important that your Web page reflect your brand," says Andy Graham. "That is, the website must convey both how you want potential customers to perceive your company and product offering, and support and reinforce the image that your other communications are conveying."

"A good website," he continues, "allows the right customers to identify with and align themselves with your brand. It encourages the customers you want to attract and discourages the customers you don't want to attract. And, it supports your value proposition."

In the case of Megapixel Digital Imaging (megapixeldi.com), the shop immediately hits readers with an oversized scenic shot and the "Go Big!" tagline. The photo featured on the home page was taken by Ken Holyfield, the company's owner and the site design is by Isaac Powell, the shop's designer.

Think Big Solutions (thinkbigsolutions.com) and Jumbo Graphics (jumbographics.com) have also taken the large-image approach in order to make a good first impression.

Keep in mind that you also want to make the home page quickly navigable and approachable, particularly to the new visitor. Take a look at what Xtreme Performance Wraps (xpwraps.com) does with its home page, for instance. It's easily navigable and there's no doubt that wraps are where it's at for this shop.

Social networking and multimedia
There's never been a better time to have non-static content. Many shops are now taking advantage of social networking-type functions – blogs, Twitter, etc. – as well as multimedia features including videos to promote their company and services.

The aforementioned Think Big Solutions and Jumbo Graphics have both set up blog pages, using these to publicize recent news (eg, new marketing production divisions, their latest jobs and clients) and other information. In addition, Think Big is using Twitter to allow for quick snippets of information to clients and prospects.

“We have seen dramatic results,” says Think Big President Shawn Allison. "Not only have we had a huge increase in site visits, but the number of requests for quotes and information has increased dramatically. Typically in a 'normal' week we are getting three requests for information or for quotes. The other advantage to our blog and Twitter is that our customers and prospects have a closer interaction with our company. Newsletters are great but the ability to inform and keep people updated is the real advantage. It is a commitment to do both on a regular basis. It is challenging for me – I don't consider myself a great writer and you are throwing yourself out there for the world to see. It’s very important to have your staff contributing content; it engages them in the effort and makes them find appropriate topics.”

Zentx Media Group (zentx.com) also has set up a blog page with an emphasis on project news via WordPress.com (zentx.wordpress.com), as well a YouTube link that provides new prospects with the basics of the advantages to vehicle graphics.

Rainier (rainier.com), meanwhile, has worked with Visual Media Group to create its company videos, which receive their own page on the company's website, and are separated into Display Solutions, Fabric Solutions, and Shelter Solutions. "We invited VMG to our new 140,000-square-foot facility in South Seattle for a day of shooting video of our team," says Rainier's Bruce Dickerson. "VMG captured the integrity of what we do here every day at Rainier with the combination of our talent, equipment, and facility. The videos have been a fantastic vehicle to spread our corporate message to clients especially out of our region. They certainly have paid for themselves."

To emphasize its environmental efforts, LAgraphico (lagraphico.com) has set up a video on its site focused on green. "Especially now, existing and potential clients want to be aware of our sustainability efforts," says Michael Griffin of LAgraphico. "As we continue to research and to allocate many man-hours toward the use of eco-friendly materials and procedures throughout our facility, we’re able to direct customers to our website for an overview of some of the leading-edge processes we’ve put in place." The video is also available on a separate DVD, and the shop uses it in its press kits and for potential and existing clients.


Showing off your shop and its work
Highlighting just what your shop can produce can be a primary and important site feature. Commerce Color (commercecolor.com), for instance, has established 10 different image galleries of types of jobs it produces – from billboards and construction to events and wallscapes. From within each gallery, a prospect can zoom into each individual image. Importantly, a "quick quote" box always appears, no matter which gallery is called up.

"Featured project photos has always been a vital part of our online business model," says Commerce Color's Tom Croghan. "The scale and scope of our work gives us the street credibility we need to get new and better business. When potential customers see our work they know we've got the chops to get things done! We've also found that customer testimonials play an important role in building credibility. Real-life client reactions help to give new customers the courage to place orders. Notice that we run market-specific client testimonials right next to many of the specific product pages as well as the gallery pages.

And he adds, "The quick quote form lives on every page of the site. We give our visitors every opportunity to contact us with project specs as well as general questions and comments. We also like visitors to sign up to receive our online newsletter. It helps us to stay in contact with them and offer free goodies once in a while."

Another option is to show off the business itself. Point Imaging (pointimaging.com) has created a virtual video tour of its plant that enables the site visitor to see just about every aspect of the shop floor.

"Our facility was designed to be the optimal selling tool," says Marco Perez, Point Imaging's director of marketing. "We wanted a place that brought pride to our team members, impressed our visitors, and supported the message that we can handle our client's largest and most complex programs. When you enter this facility, it becomes clear that this is not your typical printing company. So, in designing our new website, we searched for ways to best deliver that 'wow' factor our plant brings when seen in person. Naturally, a panoramic view of the plant, with several angle options, was chosen.

"We recognize that many of our clients and prospects are adding people with print industry backgrounds to handle their marketing needs. Adding the equipment videos and technical information to the website was important because it better informs our clients and prospects of our equipment's capabilities and application possibilities," he adds.

Profit centers
If you're going to have a profit center, make sure it doesn't get lost on your website. In fact, do just the opposite and promote the heck out of it, perhaps by providing that profit center with added emphasis or its own page or even a separate website.

Portland Color, for instance, has created a dedicated site, ferroxsystem.com, for its sustainable system for retail signage, FerroX, while OC Image Works (ocimageworks.com) dedicates a separate page to its SharpSwag program for horse-show participants.

And DGI-Invisuals (dgi-invisuals.com) has created a separate website for its Advanced Visual Technologies digital electronic signage division, avtplus.com. "Clients love our website," says Bob Bekesha, DGI's vice president of sales and marketing. "It's clean, easy to read and navigate, and provides just enough info to get what they need. But we still want to be a service-oriented company, so we don’t want them to feel that they can’t call us. We have more changes on the way but so many ideas and biz is picking up."

• Don't hesitate to have a little fun: O'Neil Printing (oneilprint.com) isn't afraid to have some fun with its "mascot" – Mr. Cato. In fact, the company has even given Mr. Cato his own website, including a track list of songs that visitors can listen to (including "Orange Crush," "Pale Blue Dot," "Get it Together," and "Kiss This"). "Cato has been a great marketing tool for us," says O'Neil's Tony Narducci. "His name was derived from our Staccato offset screening process. We originally used him to tell the story as we transitioned from 200 line rosette dot screening to 20 micron Staccato – a very successful campaign."

• Food never hurts: We like Philadelphia-based Berry & Homer's (berryandhomer.com) "Lunch & Learn" page, which showcases the shop's client programs hitting on all things wide format. And as the shop says, "Although we call it a lunch and learn, breakfast or dinner are not out of the question!" They wisely run some images of food on this page as well.

• One-stop shopping: Holland & Crosby (hollandandcrosby.com) emphasizes on its "One Stop Resource" page that it can pretty much do it all for its clients.

Says Scott Crosby: "The concept…is to appeal to the print buyer who is overworked and understaffed (aren’t they all?) and looking for someone to take the entire project off of their plate. Instead of dealing with several different companies to handle creative design, various forms of print production, finishing, collate and packaging as well as distribution, Holland & Crosby’s “One-Stop-Shop” will handle the project from beginning to end and, at the same time, manage the integrity of the image between print processes to ensure the program has the same look and feel. It has worked well for us."

• Fun, part II: On the "What We Do" page of its site, Cranky Creative (crankycreative.com) uses fun images and text to quickly get across the shop's process. "You can come to us for the whole wrap campaign she-bang!" Cranky says.

• Sometimes simple is good: To help its customers better understand the various categories of being green, BigInk (bigink.biz) has a separate page of green terms.

• Wearables: Gatorwraps (gatorwraps.com) sells company-badged hats, hoodies, and more on its website.

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