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Another Printing Disasters—and How to Avoid Them story…

For years, I received periodic sales letters from one particular print rep. He tracked me down wherever I worked, probably via LinkedIn. If you buy printing, I’m sure you know a sales rep like him.

His pitch letter began, “I can’t remember whether we met when I worked at Printer A, Printer B, or Printer C, but…” That’s such a great opener, isn’t it?

The letter went on to say, more or less, “More about me, still more about me, blah, blah blah, and yes, we can do it all for you.” Yep, the same tired, old-boy print salesman routine this guy has used for decades. (See The Four Ps of Printer Selection for my Disaster Avoidance Tip on “We can do it all.”)

Whenever I got his letters, I would wonder, “So does this kind of thing ever work for him?” I had never worked with this man and I hardly knew him. Here is the problem: He was employing relationship marketing when we didn’t have a relationship! 

Disaster Avoidance Tip

If you do not have any real prior relationship with a prospective customer, please do not use this sales approach. It can come across as stalking, and it’s creepy!

So you may be asking, “What does work if this approach does not?” I will never forget my first meeting with one printing sales rep. She briefly introduced herself and said she wanted to focus her presentation only on the services that would be relevant to us. Then she asked at length about the kinds of print projects we did and what our challenges were. She asked many questions before saying a thing about what her printing company had to offer. Taking the time to get to know us made all the difference. I was so impressed by her approach and offerings that I began a business relationship with her that lasted for years.

Check out Seth Godin’s writing on permission marketing. As he says, “Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them. It recognizes the new power of the best consumers to ignore marketing. It realizes that treating people with respect is the best way to earn their attention.”

That’s pretty great advice.

© 2013 Nani Paape

Another Printing Disasters—and How to Avoid Them story…

The page design makes it clear to the recipient which way is up.

A couple of years ago, the United States Postal Service made changes to Standard Mail mailing panel design rules that frustrate designers and print managers no end. Just trying to parse out what the postal service rules are can be a challenge.

One of the main changes is that the mailing block now has to be in the upper half of the page of a flat. From a design perspective, that’s some awfully choice real estate to give up!

The cover sheet of this Print magazine direct mail piece follows the letter of the law, while masterfully playing with the question, “What is top?” It’s also a great example of aligning content to context.

Read more about mailing panels

Another Printing Disasters—and How to Avoid Them story…

Over the weekend I bought an Apple iPod Shuffle to use at my new writer’s desk. I could hardly wait to unwrap it and start using it!

Apple’s industrial design choices were smart and beautiful, as usual. The iPod came in a sweet little clear plastic cube, sealed with clear plastic tape with a subtle arrow that showed me how to unwrap it. Inside the box, the iPod sat on a little tray, beneath which were the earbuds, a USB cable, and a booklet labeled, “start here.”

Every customer action had been thought through, so taking the components out of the box was like unwrapping a specially wrapped gift. Lovely!

I did not love the instructions, though. They were extremely minimal and were set in tiny type. Nowhere in the booklet did it say, “For complete instructions, go to:”

If I need a magnifying glass to read the instructions, they are too small!

Instead—on the very last page—it said, “For important safety and instructional content, see the user guide:” Instructional content? What is that? As usability expert Steve Krug says, “Don’t make me think!”

Read more about not frustrating your audience →

Another Printing Disasters—and How to Avoid Them story…

Quality check of finished banners before they shipped to Squeaky Green Organics

In part 1 of my trade show displays crash course, I discussed vendor and manufacturer considerations.

In Part 2, I will share with you the many questions that I’ve discovered are crucial to ask before designing or producing a display that will work well for the user and for the trade show.

Read more about trade show displays →

Another Printing Disasters—and How to Avoid Them story…

When I was a novice print production manager, a few highly experienced print reps took me under their wings and  gave me offset printing crash courses. This on-the-job print education helped me make my agency and our clients look good—and kept my feet from landing in the poop more times than I can count.

Lately I’ve been producing portable trade show displays for my clients, and although I’ve produced them before, I’m finding that the many considerations and materials choices available today make producing these displays quite complex.

If you’re in the young pup stage of this kind of production management, you may find this trade show displays crash course useful.

Read more about print management for trade show displays →

Another Printing Disasters—and How to Avoid Them story…

One of my readers asked me to write an article about how to select a printer. I have been pondering this question for quite a while now, sifting through the many factors I consider when recommending the best printer for my clients’ projects.

In this increasingly virtual world, I still strongly prefer to work eyeball-to-eyeball with my printers. I want collaborative partners who will work closely with me as we create great products.

This means I buy local when I can, and if all goes well, I will be a repeat customer: I believe that building on past project successes makes subsequent jobs go more smoothly and produces better products.

So how do you find a printer with whom you will enjoy an eye-to-eye relationship and from whom you will get the results you want?

Referrals are Good

Finding a good printer is a lot like finding a good doctor—I value personal recommendations from friends. Ask a few trusted professional colleagues to recommend their favorite printers. Or, if you know any graphic designers, I’m sure they will be able to steer you toward a good-quality local printer or two.

Be sure to tell the recommender a bit about the types of projects you are planning to print and ask whether or not the printers they suggest have done similar projects for them.

Once you have a short list of printers to consider, call each one and arrange for a representative (often called a print rep or a rep) to call on you and present the company’s capabilities. If the person who has recommended the printer mentioned that their rep is great, ask for that rep by name.

When you meet, asking the right questions can help you determine whether the printing company is a good fit for your projects and for you. I call these questions the Four Ps of Printer Selection.

Read more about the Four Ps of Printer Selection →

Another Printing Disasters—and How to Avoid Them story…

I think I’m pretty good at writing instructions. Not long ago when I ordered some items online, I wrote these:

Seems simple, right? But here’s what the shipper wrote on the carton:

Ha ha! Not exactly what I thought I had asked for (but admittedly, it was BIG).

As I recycled the box, I mused about how easy it is to think we’re giving clear instructions when, really, we’re not. And in this electronic era when people communicate face-to-face or voice-to-voice much less often, more weight than ever falls on clearly asking in writing for what we want.

Read more about clear instructions →

Another Printing Disasters—and How to Avoid Them story..

I spent a busy September managing a series of print projects for a Seattle ad agency, including small-scale self-mailers, postcards and invitations; medium-scale posters and large-scale outdoor banners and billboards.

Reviewing all of the proofs for these diverse products got me to thinking about proofing from an audience or end-user perspective.

We print specialists and designers tend to view proofs with our noses pressed right up against them to spot even the most microscopic flaw. It’s necessary to give the proof close-up scrutiny, of course, but it’s also important to hold the proof farther away, too, in order to see it the same way the intended viewer will. Are you seeing what your reader will see? Just remind yourself that most people don’t own a loupe!

Read more about proofing with the end-user in mind →

Another Printing Disasters—and How to Avoid Them story…

Flexo printed window cling for Swedish Ballard

I just completed this window cling project for Worker Bees, a Seattle agency. I had the clings printed on a flexographic press.

Although I am an old hand at managing offset and digital print projects, this was my first flexographic printing experience.

In this article I’ll describe a few of the things I learned during the course of this project.

My flexographic adventure

A flexographic press is a type of rotary web press, so the plastic cling material for my job—backed with white paper—came on a roll.

Flexographic printing is a direct printing method, not an offset method. The black printing plate looked like a giant rubber stamp, and the image on the plate was backwards. The plate was wrapped around a cylinder about 15 inches long. The yellow background was a flood coat that didn’t require a plate.

Read more about flexographic adventures →

Another Printing Disasters—and How to Avoid Them story…

Last week I fielded a few requests for referrals to good graphic designers, printers, and building contractors. As I described the vendors I recommended, I found myself saying, “These guys do what they say they will.” That’s high praise in my book.

The Stuckrath maxim

You see, I believe in the maxim handed down by my German-American grandfather, Kendall Stuckrath: “Your word is your bond.” No, he didn’t invent the maxim, but he did try to live by it. (He also seeded two generations of perfectionists while he was at it, but that’s another story!)

Granted, nobody is perfect, darn it, and I for one have felt sheepish when I haven’t been able to keep a promise for one reason or another.

But I’ll bet that 99% of the time, most of us who provide a professional service knock ourselves out to make good on our word and refrain from making promises we can’t keep.

A designer friend and I talked about this just today. “That’s why parents tell their kids, ‘we’ll just have to see,’” he commented.

As the tables turn

A copywriter friend once advised me, “It doesn’t matter where you work next in advertising, it matters how you work. After all, you’ll see us all again.” She was so right! Former fellow employees became vendors, supervisors became clients, and co-workers became hiring managers.

Nobody can foretell which side of the bargaining table they’ll be sitting on in future business interactions. So when power relationships shift—as they inevitably do—and we find ourselves seated on a different side of that table than we were before, I am convinced that being regarded as people who keep our word can only help our prospects and yield great referrals.

Well we all shine on,
Like the moon and the stars and the sun,
Yeah we all shine on,
On and on and on on and on.

John Lennon, from “Instant Karma”

Story © 2010 Nani Paape

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© 2009-2015 Nani Paape & Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material in any form without express and written permission from Nani Paape is strictly prohibited. Are you aggregating my copyrighted content onto your website? If so, it's polite to at least ASK instead of just waltzing off with it. WITH my permission, SHORT excerpts and links may be used, provided that full, clear credit is given to Nani Paape and, with appropriate and specific direction and link(s) to the original content.