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Bettering Your Shop's Website

(August 2007) posted on Mon Aug 06, 2007

How to make a print provider's online home stand out in the crowd.


By Gregory Sharpless

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'We have good machines here and we like to point out their capabilities for the experienced print buyers,' says Peter Evans with Icon. 'In addition, many clients look for brand-name printing-EFI-Vutek, 3M, and so on.'

You can also highlight a certain machine or technology by showing it 'in action.' For instance, Design Image (www.designimage.com), in Maryland Heights, MO, has dedicated a separate page of its website to its i-Cut machine-and added a QuickTime video of the machine as it works.

Tools for the Customer

Providing current as well as prospective customers with quick and easy solutions to their most basic problems can generate more interest than you might think-and it can head off potential problems as clients calculate what they believe they need from you. Meisel (www.meisel.com), Dallas, TX, provides four different calculator tools to its online customers: a DPI Calculator, a Proportion Calculator, a Thickness Calculator, and an Upload Calculator. 'We added this section to our site to better serve our clients,' says Hoddy Peck, Meisel's executive vice president.

Helping Find Solutions

Keep in mind that customers are not necessarily seeking certain types of printing or even specific applications; instead, they often are seeking solutions to visual problems. Click on 'Solutions' on the home page for OnPoint Visuals (www.onpointvisuals.com), Yulee, FL, and you're provided with a secondary tool bar listing eight applications including: tradeshows, retail, pro sports, architectural, museums, municipal, outdoor events, and collegiate. Click on any of those eight applications, such as 'Pro Sports,' and you're brought to that solution's page, complete with a dominant image and introductory text, as well as specific applications plunked into 'outside' (special event banners, signage) and 'inside' categories (light boxes, championship banners, dasher boards). Each sub-application lists advantages to the application type, details on the application, and even the printer they'll likely utilize.

'In the world of large-format graphics, there's often too much of a focus on the technologies used to print the graphics and not enough on what the graphics will be used for, and why. This can be especially evident on print providers' websites, where they're justifiably proud of their big printers (with equally big investments that go with them),' says Bill Anderson, director of marketing/business development, at OnPoint Visuals.

'But from the end user's perspective, do they really care which printer you're using, or substrate, or any of that? They just want bright (or correct) color that looks good and fills their need. That pretty much sums up why we included a Solutions section on our website, and made it the first menu item: a general overview of where, when, why, and how to use large-format graphics. We of course mention our printers and link to the more detailed technology-oriented pages for those that are interested.'

Steering Customers to Find What's New

When it comes to 'What's New' sections on your website, it's important to keep the information fresh-or at least fresh-looking. If you cannot update this type of section frequently, then don't date your items.

Importantly, the items in a 'what's new' section shouldn't be of interest only to your internal staff or simply be objective news. Rather, these items should steer customers and prospects to take advantage of new services you might offer, new technologies you have put in place, new systems that cut down on turnaround time, and so on. ColorX in New York City (www.color-x.com), for instance, has done just that on its "What’s New page,' where it highlights its ability to print white on rigid substrates.

Gregory Sharpless is associate publisher/editor of The Big Picture magazine.


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