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Small Business Marketing

Make Print Pay Off For You

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Contrary to the statements of some, print media is not dead.

In fact, print is more cost-effective and offers more opportunity for small business owners than ever before. Developments in recent years make print easier and more affordable.

Desktop printers are more capable than ever, but you’re better off having your marketing materials printed professionally. Desktop printers still don’t have the quality and capability of a professional print shop.

To learn more about how small business owners can make the most out of printing I talked with Kevin Whelan of Pioneer Print Communications. I was very satisfied with some work they recently did for me and he was happy to teach me a few things.

Digital printing has changed the game for small business owners.

Advances in digital technology have opened the door of opportunity. Printing costs have been reduced and small runs in full color are now affordable. Variable fields (discussed later) offer great marketing opportunities and small business owners need to consider ways to take advantage of what’s now available.

Top ways to save money on your print job

- Consider multi-use in the design. If you want to have a brochure to hand out, consider a large postcard or something that can also be mailed.
- Consider time sensitivity. Does the piece HAVE to focus on holidays alone, or can it double as a year-round appeal?
- Make sure the design file is truly ready to send to the printer. Have it proofread and be sure that the prepress work is done properly. This will help you avoid additional charges from the printer.
- About paper - Use the printer’s house stock whenever possible. They’re able to buy quality paper in bulk. Specialty paper can greatly increase the cost. “Going green” with postconsumer waste paper is nice, but you’ll feel it in your wallet.

Money-saving attempts that are NOT recommend

- Buying cheap printing online. “Gang runs” are done when printers take a group of jobs and run them together. The paper is often low quality, color rendition suffers and cutting is not as crisp. If you want to put yourself in the best light, avoid getting cheap printing online. The adage, “You get what you pay for” applies here.

Some of the most common mistakes people make

- Failing to include bleeds in the design file. A “bleed” is when ink is applied beyond the edge of the printed material. It’s a desirable effect that can’t be produced on a typical desktop printer. If you design a printed piece that needs ink all the way to the edge, the design requires special treatment.
- Using images taken from the internet. Buying high resolution stock photos online is fine. But if you copy an image as it’s displayed on a web page you’re asking for trouble. The images you see online are typically very small files. They load quickly and they display well in your browser. Files for print, on the other hand, need to be much larger.
- Making changes AFTER the file has been sent to the printer. Make sure that your file is truly “print ready,” requiring no corrections or any additional treatment from the printer.

How to know if a file is large enough for print

- Image files for the internet are typically low resolution. The standard is 72dpi (dots per inch.) Print files need to be high resolution. The standard for print is 300dpi. A low resolution file cannot be converted to a high resolution file, but a high res file can be turned into low res.

Digital vs Offset presses – which is better?

- Digital presses have greatly improved to the point where there is no longer a quality difference between high end commercial grade copiers and offset. The question of which to use relates to physical dimensions, quantity and operating efficiency. If the size of the images or physical dimensions of the printed piece exceed the capabilities of a digital press, you’re forced to use an offset press.
- Offset presses are better for longer runs. They have lower maintenance costs but take longer to set up. Once they get going, however, they run a lot faster.
- Digital presses are great for shorter runs. They require no setup, so there's no paper or time wasted. They do, however, run slower and require more maintenance. The toner in a digital press is also more expensive than the ink used by an offset press.
- The rule of thumb for quantity is 1,000 press sheets with dimensions of 12 X 18. When you exceed that number you’re generally getting into offset territory. NOTE that it’s PRESS SHEETS, not printed pieces. For example, each press sheet will yield a good number of post cards, depending on their size.

The two main things Kevin wants people to know

- Print has great “shelf life.” People are more likely to keep an attractive piece on their desk as a reminder, but they might not be so willing to keep the browser tab or email open until they’re ready to act.
- Paper offers the tactile experience. Sometimes people prefer to hold a physical printed piece in their hand.

Kevin Whelan can be contacted at Pioneer Print Communications, a quality St. Louis printing company.


- More information on setting up bleeds
- Why is the Web 72 dpi and Print is 300 dpi?

- Learn more about DPI (dots per inch)

Steve Smart works with busy entrepreneurs who want to improve their marketing efforts. He can be reached at or 636-699-8772.




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