Tuesday, December 27, 2011

QR Bar Codes & Readers


Well...everyday it seems there is something to learn. Today it was how to install a third party QR reader on my Blackberry phone so that I can read that weird looking special code found on magazine ads, postcard, business cards and more.


The codes is simple to create and download to your computer at: SPARQ or http://www.sparqcode.com


You can make up to 5 different codes after joining a free, light membership. The optional predesigned features of the code will allow you to create a Phone Number Code (scan will auto connect a call) A URL Code (sends user to a web site) or an Index Card for yourself or business (lets user add you to their contacts automatically).


Of coarse, the user needs to be able to scan the QR code with the proper code reader for the specific "smart phone" he/she owns. The allowing of contact registry, web browsing and auto calling are also dependent on the specific phone abilities.


Using the Internet you should be able to research your own phone to see its capabilities for scanning QR codes. A Blackberry will yield search results to make you believe you can access this feature through BBM. It does not work, at least my BB Curve won't do the job. The work around is to download Blackberry's "App World" and get a third party app to do the job. For my phone I am using NeoReader, available here:

NeoReader or http://appworld.blackberry.com/webstore/content/55538?lang=en

It works well.


For a list of QR readers for different phones go here: SPARQ or http://www.sparqcode.com/scanner


After figuring all this out...you can apply the process by scanning my QR codes shown throughout this article. It is easy to scan these codes right from your monitor. Only fill 70% of the camera window with the code showing all four corners. The first is the index card, the second the web site URL and below is a Phone Number code.


Enjoy.


Tim

Graphic Investments Inc.


Monday, July 5, 2010

Boundaries


If you believe…”The Customer is always right”, to be the best way to keep clients, then you have realized that demanding customers can cut into profits.


Graphic Investments will always provide more services than what is actually paid for by the client. We try to educate the client as to when the extended service has begun compared to standard product development. We cannot assume that clients have will understand, realize or even care that you have gone beyond the normal “scope of work” to make them happy.
The time to apply the brakes is well before a project gets started. Defining exactly what is to be provided is obviously the best solution to keep all parties on the same page. This works, but, there is always a company willing to provide more for less. We find ourselves willing to provide the customer with what they need at someone elses price. This is exactly when you need to make sure the client understands that you are providing services at a discount and that anything beyond this negotiated price will incur additional charges.
To be clear, I am discussing the average small business owner who specializes in a product or service that has nothing to do with graphic design.
Using the web site package as an illustration, there is way too much information for a client to digest when getting into the specifics of the work. That is why they want a package price to begin with. This package needs to defined so that both the designer and the client know what is included.
A basic web package might include: 5 pages, domain name, email accounts, hosting for 1 year and search engine submission.
This is not enough information to keep a project from getting out of hand. I visited a client who wanted a five page website, then, wanted me to scan over 200 pictures and place them on one very long page, in a specific order, grouping five pictures at a time. This was a construction contractor who thought this would be standard because “prospects need to see the pictures”. A different client wanted custom flash movies to load on each of five pages.
Here is our standard web site package that I submit to a client who just wants a start up web site.
  • Custom design with your corporate branding includes page layout and images for web site design. Logos, copy and product or service images must be furnished by client.
  • 7 pages – Home, About us, Products, Services, Contact us form, Thank you, Privacy Policy
  • 5 Email accounts. (unlimited capability to add more)
  • 5 Web links to outside web sites.
  • 5 Links to PDF's.
  • Up to 20 images for a slide show for 
your products or services
  • Analytics to track your web site traffic.
  • Web site submission to Yahoo, Google, Ask, 
MSN.
  • Meta tags for search optimization.
  • FTP file transfer access
  • Unlimited storage for your files.
  • Free web editing tool (training at additional charge)
  • One year hosting.
Options for additional services to enhance you visitors experience include:
Video Production - Video Loading - Flash Elements - Counters - Maps - Full Tracking - Web Site Optimization Facebook - Twitter - Administration Pages - Administrator Access - Data Base SQL Management - Customer File Uploading Page - FTP Access - Blogs - Feedback forms - Shopping carts - Site Search - Private or Shared Servers - Unix or Windows Based
This almost covers everything. A client gets a good look at what they are getting and also options to get more.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Garbage In, Garbage Out!

Graphic Investments is primarily a designer and production coordinator for print projects. This includes a wide variety of complex printing projects from 1 color to 5 color. This brings me to the heart of this article. “Garbage in, garbage out”! This is a very common term used by the graphics trade to refer to artwork.

With almost any printing web site there is a section dedicated to the type of files required and the specific dpi required to get work accomplished for a print project. These requirements are pretty standard based upon each companies ability to work with certain file programs. and can be found under, "Acceptable File Formats" or "Pre-flight Information". PDF format is now the choice of file for most printers.

One catch, your average business owner who needs a brochure, business card, pocket folder, book or sales material has no idea what is required to produce a project for printing. Secretaries are not working in the correct programs for printing and the owners do not want to be bothered with acquiring the knowledge of print production.


Owners do however have realized the benefit of owning a
web site. This is where they believe that print production designers can get artwork for the project in mind.

Someday I would like to see a front page national newspaper run an article with the headline splashed across the whole header of the publication:

“Warning: Internet images and logos taken off your web are Garbage for printing!”

Garbage in, garbage out.

Even the most awesome looking logo or picture online is not the quality required to print from. These images are 4 times less resolution than required to produce a printed project. The images above represent an image how it would look if used as a high resolution image designed for printing. The "fuzzy" image, represents how your image would print when taken from the Internet.

Good enough has now become the norm because of the ill conceived notion that If we have a good web site I can develop a brochure that will help keep your company branded.

My advise is to have a graphic designer, not a web designer, develop the branding with print quality artwork and scan and store pictures at print quality resolution.

This is the correct way to produce all your artwork. These images, logos and text can readily be converted for the Internet. The web art can not be converted for printing.

If all you have is artwork developed for the Internet you will need to have a graphic designer start from the very beginning to assure the quality and integrity of the printed piece. This will be costly and could have easily been avoided had you developed your art for printing, then used it for the Internet.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Preying on the Innocent

The state of the economy today has many people searching for opportunity. Yahoo Hot Jobs, Monster and many other employment search environments make it easy for “Work at Home “ scam companies to prey on people seeking work to support families.

My wife recently finds herself unemployed due to company cut backs. She is a very qualified individual specializing in corporate management, creative marketing and communications. Not easily fooled, she signed up for an opportunity that seemed like a data processing work at home program. The original opportunity was written to “look” like a posting by, Florida Job Markets. With Google as the main focus of a work from home program, and knowing how much internet marketing is in demand, she thought that Google would be offering an opportunity to load ads for companies on web sites.

Wrong! What a scam.

The advertisement had included language that took this program out of the “get rich quick” type marketing and promised benefits like customer support, tutorials and a package of tools to help get started making money in less than a few hours. All you had to do was work hard, stay on course and follow the predesigned marketing strategy that any 6 year could follow. Comments by users of the program were included as quotes and the main article described the success of a woman that is from Spring Hill, FL., our community.

What she got for her original $1.99 sign up was a membership, that if not cancelled within three days would cost a one time fee of $129.00 and a recurring credit debit of $49.00 per month as long as the membership was active. The sign up also automatically placed her as a member of a social network that if not cancelled within 9 days would have a recurring debit of 17.50 per month. There were no tools, no package of information to process and no customer support.

The link that was sent as part of the membership took us to a web site that shows how important it is to build your own web site. Advises to find affiliate advertisers to load onto your new web site then advertise with pay per click marketing companies. Advise on how to build blogs, network with social media and on and on. No real marketing tools or services.

I called all the customer service numbers for cancellation and customer support. You guessed it, no answer. I waited for recordings that implied my call would be answered in three minutes, then two minutes and for the next ten minutes “your call will be handled by the next customer service representative". Ultimately we had to cancel the bank card used for the original purchase of $1.99 or risk being billed the “one time fee” and recurring authorized credit debits.

Upon further review of the original article that had her impressed, the bottom line on the page, in the smallest web rendered type available, was this statement:

"THE STORY DEPICTED ON THIS SITE AND THE PERSON DEPICTED IN THE STORY ARE NOT REAL. RATHER, THIS STORY IS BASED ON THE RESULTS THAT SOME PEOPLE WHO HAVE USED THESE PRODUCTS HAVE ACHIEVED. THE RESULTS PORTRAYED IN THE STORY AND IN THE COMMENTS ARE ILLUSTRATIVE, AND MAY NOT BE THE RESULTS THAT YOU ACHIEVE WITH THESE PRODUCTS. THIS PAGE RECEIVES COMPENSATION FOR CLICKS ON OR PURCHASE OF PRODUCTS FEATURED ON THIS SITE."
*We are not affiliated in any way with CNN, WebTV, News Channel 7, ABC, NBC, CBS, U.S. News or FOX. CNN, WebTV, News Channel 7, ABC, NBC, CBS, U.S. News and FOX are all registered trademarks of their respective owners.
All the above “affiliations” were mentioned in the Fake article.

Before signing up to any marketing program or Home Based Business, check out:
www.snopes.com.
A quick search might save your peace of mind.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Web Site Optimization...To Be or Not to Be?

Imagine that you are at a Florida Gators football game (www). The event at halftime will be that a spectator (web site) will have the opportunity to win Superbowl tickets (land on the first page of Google search) The only requirements are that the spectator have on tennis shoes, an orange or blue t-shirt and confess to being a football fan (keywords). WOW, you meet all the requirements to win the tickets (you have a web site and its been optimized). What would be your chances of winning the tickets in this crowd of 35,000 Gator fans? Multiply those odds by 25.000. Those would be the real odds that web site optimization will get you the exposure you need.

SEO is an acronym for "search engine optimization" or "search engine optimizer." The truth is that it takes a lot of time, money and strategy to be visible on the internet. For a reliable company to perform SEO, you can count on $1400.00 to start and a regular maintenance fee of at least $400.00 to update your web site every month. SEO includes links into relevant web sites, the writing of blogs, building client data bases with opt in forms for email campaigning, creation of meta data for each page, linking to sites that promote your products as well as the competition. If you have the time you can do all this yourself, but, who has that kind of time? With all this, what is your guarantee? Nothing! Nobody can guarantee placement in search engines.

I wouldn’t present a problem like this without a solution.

If you are looking for more business, do not count on a web site alone to get this done for you. I tell my clients that a web site offers much more “real estate” for information than any other means of advertising and a web presence is absolutely necessary for today’s web savvy prospects. A web site offers the best way to communicate with your audience and detail the products and services being offered. With a web site, you are ready to communicate with your prospects, now you need to let them know where you are. Web Site Optimization will not do this. What will?

• Direct Mail Campaigns
• Google Adwords
• Opt in Eblasting
• Personalized Direct Mail
• PURL Micro Sites
• Cable TV
• Radio
• Magazine Advertising
• Local Market Advertising

All the above forms of advertising drive traffic to your web site. Spend your money on high rate of return advertising instead of a shot in the dark. No amount of SEO will compare to the results of a successful advertising campaign.

Rant against the agency machine.

I've been meaning to get this off my chest for a long time.

Ad Agencies have all but destroyed the profitability of the commercial printer!

There has always been the need for professional agencies to brand and develop marketing strategies. We wouldn't be aware of many opportunities available to the consumer without agency involvement. However, the profitability of the agency to coordinate all aspects of a customers campaign requirements is directly related to how much they can save on vendor pricing, no matter how much the contract with the client is to handle these outside services.

Speaking only from the view of a commercial printer, agencies have taken advantage of the printers need to have steady work to offset the immense overhead involved with running a print facility. With printers beating each other up to get the work, and agencies negotiating the cheapest price to the vendor with the best capabilities, printing markups are rarely over 10%. Agencies mark these great prices up 200 to 300%. This would not be so bad if agencies could give printers the required files to get the job done correctly. Ad agencies are notorious for providing final print files to a printer that need to be "fixed" before the job can be printed correctly. As commercial printers, we have bent over backwards to help agencies "learn" how to use the programs so easily purchased by their designers. With very little equipment overhead, agencies can constantly upgrade to the latest and greatest software without ever learning how to operate the version in hand, hoping the newest upgrades will do more of the work for them. Unfortunately this requires the commercial printer to keep up with these updates as well. If we don't, the agency just goes on to printer who will. Very little loyalty, no matter how much help was given in the past. On top of all this, you have an art director who seems to be paid on how difficult he can make the color management and printability of the project. If a commercial printing company can not handle the temperment and oftentimes ridiculous requirements set by these art directors, the work disapears.

I have seen first hand the operation of agencies in the automotive industry in Detroit. Large agencies with huge buildings and luxury offices. Egos larger than all that and payment strategies that require printers to be their bankers.

Trade service companies, that used to manage preprint only, have all but disapeared when agencies figured out that they could "do the work themselves" with the software available. Right. Nevermind that the talent that produces these type of files don't come out of college kids earning an appenticeship with the agency for little or no salary.

In twentyfive plus years in the printing industry I can't think of one instance when proper files were delivered from an agency that did not require additional work to make them correct, unless being forwarded from a trade service provider.

What's the point of all this? Only that when looking for someone to do your branding, stop there. Once the creative is done and the marketing strategy figured out, outscource printing and fulfilment services with your commercial printer directly. We can do as much for you as we would do for an agency. We often have designers on staff and can manage your print materials without agency involvement.

The printer will actually make more money on each job, pay as much attention to details working directly with the client and the client will pay less for the work with out the agency markup.


Thursday, July 2, 2009

PURLs

The use of variable data printing, variable data email messaging and variable data internet communication makes personalization of the Internet possible.  Your company can connect with new prospects or existing customers by sending personalized messages that will drive contacts to a specific goal online.

Personalization may be the deciding factor on receiving a new client or satisfying an existing clients need to be personally contacted and reminded of your services and offerings.

What is a PURL and how can these benefit my business?

PURL is the acronym for Personal Uniform Recource Locator.  This is what it may look like:

www.FirstnameLastname.yourcompanyname.com

Inserting a persons name in front or behind your company name.com will drive people to a micro site that will personally greet them by name.  There are many events that need to "line up" to make the PURL a live web page that works.  

The most deciding factor on a campaign being a success is not the message, it's the list.  Lists are available with a selection of many demographics that will tailor the audience to your message.  If you have existing data on your previous clients you will have the greatest success targeting them for a new offer or advise.  The data manager at the vendor will configure your data base to accept the PURL assignment, determine which "fields" variable data will come from to load into the web page and do all the back round programming that makes a PURL so valuable. We'll get to that in a minute.   

There are responsibilities for you as well as the vendor that will be hosting and customizing the PURL campaign. Once you have your PURLs from the data manager, you need to hire a designer to produce a direct marketing piece, hire a web designer to design and implement a variable data PURL email message, contract a web designer to create Landing, Submittal and Thank you pages for the micro site and submit all this to the PURL vendor.  Of course you could visit www.graphicinvestments.com and have all the work done seamlessly and avoid all the fuss.  Cheap plug:)

Once the personalization is created and the campaign started, the PURL begins to work for you. The real value of the PURL campaign is the ability to track your direct mail advertising and get real time notifications for events happening on the PURL site. The benefits detailed below should be included and insisted on when choosing a vendor for your PURL campaign.

  • Domain name with each campaign
  • Email campaign set up (if required)
  • Receive real time email notifications on every visit to the PURL Page with detailed information on who visited and how they arrived. (eblast or direct mail)
  • Receive real time email notifications detailing an event you would like to be notified about. (This could include contract siging, requests for more information, profile updates, clicks onto PDFs and clicks directing them to outside web sites)
  • Capture updated profile information in a “Change Log” file that will be used to update data base information accurately, without placing a single call.
  • Access tracking information online through you own password protected administration page. 
  • Download a complete history of event tracking as Excell files for sorting, evaluating and taking advantage of warm leads.
With all the above your campaign has the ingredients for success.  To see a live demo of how a PURL page loads and includes variable data please visit:
You won't be disapointed!