On January 9, 3D-Printing firm Glowforge announced the release of a new line of state-of-the-art materials designed to be used together with its celebrated 3D laser printer.
According to Bailey Nelson, a Senior Marketing Manager at the Seattle-based startup, CEO Dan Shapiro came up with the idea for the product, called Proofgrade™, which was built by the firm’s operations team and laser design experts.
Although Proofgrade™ was not crowdfunded like the Glowforge 3D laser printer, it was well-received by participants in the Glowforge Beta program. Nelson attributes its success to features such as “smart” QR codes which allow for fine-tuning of the product and hardwoods and leathers sourced from “the highest quality standards.”
(A Glowforge press release distributed via Business Wire notes that the materials are also compatible with other CO2 laser cutters and engravers.)
The new product is currently only available to Glowforge customers via Proofgrade.com, but Nelson stated in an email that it will soon be purchasable by all.
“We’ll continue to expand the range of Proofgrade material offerings,” she said, “and plan to open the store up to the public.”
Print-buying is often a difficult task for people new to business to wrap their minds around, especially smaller establishments.
They are typically unfamiliar with the jargon and conventions of the print trade, such as the capabilities of a commercial printer like the Renton Printery.
The key to understanding print-buying is to have a solid idea of what you want to buy beforehand. It should be a given that you have a PDF file to give to the printer that is properly formatted for bleeds and CMYK. But the three steps below should help you to get a better grip on what you need to know to hire a printer.
1.) Know What Kind of Printing You Want
You should know whether what you want to print is suitable for the printer you have in mind. If you’re looking to print a small batch of wedding invitations, a commercial printer like the Renton Printery is not the best choice for such a job. A better option would be a retail printer such as Staples.
On the other hand, if you want a large mailing campaign, a commercial printer like the Renton Printery does jobs like that all the time, and would be an excellent choice.
2.) Know How Much Printing You Want
Related to the above point, you should know if you want one copy or one-hundred. The size of your order will determine whether you should hire a small retail printer or a mid-sized to large commercial printer.
For example, if you just need a copy of a set of building plans printed out, your best option would again be to go to a retail printer like Staples. But if you want to print out one-thousand copies of a multipage, full-color newsletter, then a commercial printer like the Renton Printery is your best bet.
3.) Know When You Want It
As a print-buyer, you will need to know when you want your order completed. Along with how large it is and what you want, this will decidedly influence which printer you should hire.
For example, suppose you place an order Monday and need it filled by Thursday. A commercial printer like the Renton Printery will probably be able to do the job.
But if you need the order fulfilled sooner than that, then you have two options: You can pay extra to have the order rushed, or you can go to a printer which specializes in printing around the clock.
The chief problem with the second option has to do with the trifecta of Cheap, Fast, and Quality. Regarding a product, you may pick any two while excluding the last.
In this case, hiring a printer specializing in speed to do a large job will be Cheap and Fast, but not Quality.
Also, avoid placing an order prior to a three-day holiday. Huge rushes of orders occur around such times, and yours might get lost in the jumble. Wait a few days, and then order.
There are more gym memberships purchased in the month of January than in any other month, with the month of February bearing most of the corresponding attrition rate.
To the best of my knowledge, this phenomenon is distinctly American, and correlates with our culture’s tradition of New Year’s resolutions.
While you may or may not be serious about shedding a few pounds this year or eating more green vegetables, you are definitely serious about the one thing that’s still going to be there when you finish chugging that last bit of eggnog: work.
If you own a business, you are probably thinking about taxes right now. If you are a small business like the Renton Printery, this probably causes you a great deal of worry, sending you pouring over this year’s balance sheet, trying to figure out what to cut and what to keep.
It may be advisable, therefore, to make a new year’s resolution about your business. Maybe you used company credit cards too much this year. Perhaps you haven’t put as much effort into marketing as you should have.
Whatever ails the old store, you should approach a new year’s resolution for your business much more seriously than how you might resolve to buy and use a gym membership.
As with all goals, you should be able to measure your resolution’s success, or lack therefore. Also come up with a specific definition of success, and perhaps work with a partner to keep you accountable. Two heads are better than one, especially in a business venture.
My new year’s resolutions for the shop are to attend a networking event every month this year and to watch two Lynda.com instructional videos a day every weekday.
With luck, I will remember to follow my own advice and to deliberately approach this task with a sober mindset. I wish the same to all of you!
This last summer, our shop was hired to do a huge job for a certain union.
We had to fill an order of several hundred t-shirts, and we had to make it snappy.
Unfortunately, because we did not mark the boxes prior to stuffing them with shirts, much time was wasted trying to determine just how many shirts were in each box. This small detail threw the entire job into chaos.
Not cutting corners while on the job can save everyone involved a lot of grief. Whether you’re working with an Excel sheet or stacks of paper sheets, this principle applies to every occupation.
Paying attention to the details of your work can save you a lot of trouble, defraying the risk of wasted time and resources.
The shirt job we did last summer was a perfect example of inattentiveness nearly leading to disaster. We had to make hundreds of shirts using a very monotonous process that could easily lead to careless mistakes being made.
But the job itself didn’t produce nearly as many headaches as our lack of a plan leading up to it. This was our first major order involving t-shirts. They’re not quite the same as paper, being harder to stuff into boxes and scale count.
We also had to take into account different shirt sizes, so as to avoid getting different types of shirts mixed up.
But being a tad overzealous in our desire to get the job done quickly, we almost completely ignored the job ticket and start churning out t-shirts willy-nilly. By the time we realized what we had done, it was too late.
We had made too many of one size of shirt, gotten other sizes of shirts mixed in together, and had failed to keep track of just how many shirts in were this or that box.
In retrospect, the smart thing to do would have been to figure out how many of the total order we wanted in each box. Then we could have printed out labels that clearly marked the boxes, indicating how many shirts of what size belonged in each.
As my boss always says, “Set yourself up for success.” By this, he means that when undertaking a long, repetitious task such as the t-shirt job, establish a fool-proof process that’s easy to follow and hard to deviate from.
To any printers in the audience who have done collating, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.
Big jobs and small jobs alike should be approached with the same degree of care. This commitment to craftsmanship will distinguish your product from that of your competitors, thus leading to success.
Such a commitment to creating a quality product by getting all your ducks in a row and not taking shortcuts will help you no matter what your business or trade is.
When I started doing marketing work here at the shop, I got some advice from my dear Uncle Bill, who used to work in advertising.
He suggested I start sending personalized thank-you notes to each customer who made an order. I immediately saw the use of such an action.
By writing thank you notes, we not only show the customer that we care enough to thank them in such a personal manner, but we also encourage them to continue doing business with us.
In other words, being nice sells.
We write thank-you notes to show appreciation for our customers, thus fostering feelings of endearment, which paves the way for future sales.
If your mom made you write thank-you notes after your birthday and Christmas, I’m you sure you have memories of not particularly enjoying the experience. I know I do.
But now I’m glad my mother made me write such notes. They were good practice for my current habit of sending thank-you notes to each customer that gives us an order.
The chief reason for writing thank-you notes is simply to express thanks. It’s the nice thing to do, just as if you thanked someone verbally for returning your wallet after you dropped it.
Bestselling author Guy Kawasaki, former chief evangelist at Apple, opines that being nice also gives you “Good Karma.” Someone, somewhere, somehow, will be affected by your niceness, which will in turn benefit you.
By being nice to your customers, you give them a reason to be nice in return.
For them, being “nice” might come in the form of referring a friend to your business, buying from you again in the future, or talking you up on social media.
Furthermore, people usually want to do business with their friends. What could be more friendly than sending a personalized, handwritten thank-you note?
In today’s day and age, word of your attentive customer relations work will easily get around, earning you the respect and admiration of customers and fellow businessmen alike.
On a slightly more tangible level, writing thank-you notes will help you retain repeat customers.
Repeat customers are your biggest source of income, and being especially nice to them will be extraordinarily helpful for making more sales and raking in the dough.
With all this in mind, the best thing you can do is to compile a list of your top ten customers and personally thank each of them for their business with a handwritten note.
Repeat this with every order you get for the next six months, and then see how you’re doing.
After months of fruitless cold-calling, I finally got in touch with someone who was interested in sitting down to talk about doing business with the shop.
My initial response to any receptive prospect is elation. But as the details of a face-to-face meeting were slowly hashed out, I began to quiver.
I’d never been on a sales call before, and apart from reading a book or two on the subject, I had nearly no knowledge of how to sell stuff.
It got to the point where I welcomed delays and half-wished that the set date would be cleared at the last minute to avoid the impending awkwardness.
Fortunately, my fears never materialized. The meeting went well, the quote was negotiated, and the sale was closed.
Sales calls may sound scary to the inexperienced, but good preparation, coaching from a more experienced partner, and sheer persistence will enable you to overcome these fears.
Before we went to the meeting, we made sure to be as prepared as we could. “We” in this case means my grandfather and I, who worked together on this sale. Grandpa is our Goodwill Ambassador, and an experienced salesman and printer.
We brainstormed questions to ask our prospective client, checking and re-checking them to make sure they were on the right target.
We worked out a basic outline for how we wanted the meeting to go, what we needed to find out, and how we would work together. We agreed that I should do most of the talking while Grandpa worked as backup.
It should be understood that everyone who is just starting out in any field should find a mentor. Your mentor should have several more years of experience than you and have the heart of a teacher.
I found such a mentor in my grandfather.
Grandpa proved invaluable to this sales call. His advice and insight into the matter was essential in the preparation process. During the meeting, he was able to provide valuable product knowledge that cemented our rapport with the client.
The long and short of it is that without Grandpa, I would be quite lost in my pursuit of the sale. I’m glad he’s around.
The final piece of advice that I can offer as a novice salesperson is to be persistent.
Although I was afraid of being seen as boorish and rude by the prospect, it turns out that she was impressed by my determination to secure a meeting, not to mention my courteous manner. This helped us build rapport, which in turn led to the sale.
The lesson here to be bold. Don’t be afraid to pick up that phone start calling. Once you get a viable lead, make sure to not only differentiate yourself from the competition, but to do it nicely.
With the correct preparation, a good mentor, and a plucky attitude, I was able to secure a new client. With luck, I’ll learn from the mistakes we made during this sale (we nearly forgot to bring samples) and to study what we did right.
Having learned all of this from just one meeting, I now hope to apply my knowledge for the purpose of arranging more meetings.
This last weekend, my boss and I helped as volunteers for the Downtown Renton Committee's annual Halloween party.
A public event aimed at kids and families, it was a tremendous success, thanks in part to volunteers from Renton High School and participating local businesses.
My boss frequently involves me in the volunteer work he does for such events, he being a member of the DT Renton Committee. But it was only at this event did I realize the innate benefits volunteering can yield.
At the Halloween party, a series of tents were set up in the empty lot behind St. Charles’ Place. Games and activities were arranged. Prizes were awarded. Food was served.
Having nothing better to do, I went to help at the Cake Walk. The Cake Walk involves several kids walking around on squares with numbers on them on the ground while music is playing, and then all of them stopping right where they are the second the music stops.
The person who stopped on the number I called out got a prize. I soon got the hang of it and began to have a little fun myself.
To the assortment of kids in elementary school or younger, I shouted, “Are you ready?”
They replied weakly, “Yeah…”
“I can’t hear you!”
“Yeah!” came their shout.
It dawned on me that my enthusiasm was contagious, which brings me to a rule I have about salesmanship: If you don’t care, they won’t care.
So I helped the kids march around the cakewalk, operated the music player, handed out prizes to the lucky winners, shooed would-be thieves away from the prize table, and kept them all entertained.
When the crowd began to disperse from my assigned attraction, I knew I had to change tactics.
I immediately went into pitchman mode.
“Come to the Cake Walk!” I shouted. “Win a prize! Get something good to eat!” (Benefits!)
Curious passerby immediately stopped. “Come on, we need people for the Cake Walk!” I said. “The more the merrier!” Soon, we had enough people, and we began to play again.
At another attraction I got to exercise my customer service skills. Here, kids had to throw bean-bags through holes in a giant pumpkin-shaped target.
After taking it over, I made sure that all the kids stood on the right spot, gave some brief instruction on throwing technique, and awarded prizes based on how well they did.
During this activity, I made sure to learn the kids’ names, inform them of the rules, and enthusiastically congratulate them on their progress. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but that’s my idea of customer service!
So if you’re a job-seeker, a business owner, or a regular employee, don’t hesitate to get in some volunteer work!
You’ll not only find it rewarding, but you’ll also get to practice soft skills related to customer service, salesmanship, and leadership.
Also, a belated happy Halloween to you all!
During a business expo hosted by the Maple Valley Chamber, I was flipping through a handout from a certain non-profit.
I noticed that the pamphlet I had been given contained several testimonials singing the praises of the organization.
Then an idea popped into my head.
Why not create a testimonials page for our shop’s website? We had plenty of happy customers who would surely be willing to share how glad they were to do business with us. Thankfully, I was correct.
Our Testimonials page provides a way for new customers to see what of our present clients have to say about the shop.
I’ve heard that the secret to good marketing is to study the methods of those who are doing it best and then copy them. This is how military forces the world over better themselves, the principle being equally applicable to business.
Taking a look at several nearby businesses, I saw that all of the best ones used testimonials from their clients.
One non-profit in Federal Way has a series of blog posts dedicated to relating stories of people their organization has helped. They often carry an emotional tinge to them, meant to pull heartstrings and summon the reader to action.
Elsewhere, a local car dealership has a whole page dedicated to allowing customers to share their experiences buying cars through the firm. This shows that they trust their customer base and that they’re willing to listen to them.
Having resolved to create such a page for the shop, I immediately began sending out messages to some of our most loyal clients in order to obtain testimonials from them.
This was much easier than I anticipated. Several of our clients were more than happy to provide detailed statements explaining how happy they were with our services. This was quite encouraging.
A little later, Kristin, our graphic designer, had a brand new Testimonials page up and running on our website! We plan to add to it as we get more testimonials.
In a nutshell, testimonials are a great way to hype your business because they give you credibility by bringing in a third party, like a witness in a court case, to validate your product or service.
We strongly encourage you to let your customers speak for themselves when it comes to marketing your business. Give your fans a means of communicating their happiness with you, and they’ll do the rest.
As part of my duties at the shop, it falls to me to handle various administrative tasks, such as filing invoices, sorting packing slips, and taking care of billing and payments. Often this last task can be rather frustrating.
Pictured here is a reenactment of my typical posture when faced with difficulties with the order entry program.
If you look closely, you will see that our order entry program looks like something ancient, a relic of the pre-internet age. Indeed, I understand that this particular program dates all the way back to 1989.
You can probably understand my plight when I say that it can be supremely aggravating to enter in deposits and other information into the order entry program. Navigating this nigh-prehistoric contraption is more of an art than a science.
To be perfectly clear, my primary duty related to the program is to enter in the payments for completed jobs. Jobs are categorized within our in-house accounting system as Level 1 (Entered), Level 2 (In Progress), Level 3 (Completed), and Level 4 (Paid).
(Being young in years and having less experience with the program than my boss, I may be mistaken in some of the particulars, but this is the gist of it.)
Problems occur in the order entry program when something gets misfiled. For example, a job that is ordered, printed, shipped, and paid for may still linger at Level 1 or 2. Alternatively, a job that has not been paid for may have miraculously found its way to Level 4.
The explanations for such phenomena are often mundane. They are typically the result of operator-error, either by me or one of my coworkers. On other occasions, this misfiling occurs due to a wonky payment deal that we’ve negotiated with the client. I decline to share further details regarding such instances.
The larger point is that our order entry program is quite archaic and is the source of hundreds of wasted man-hours that could have been spent fine-tuning our product and helping the customer. But until we can afford to invest in a completely updated order entry system, it will have to suffice.
My responsibility, therefore, is to try to make sense of it as much as I can while my boss is busy with other tasks. The better I can understand the program without his aid, the better my chances of continued employment are.
That said, I really wish we had something else. Really, it would be great.
As part of our marketing efforts here at the Renton Printery, we’ve delved into video production.
This mainly amounts to us posting whatever footage we happen to accumulate at the spur-of-the-moment.
For instance, we recently posted a video of our main printing press in action on our YouTube channel, featuring our trusty pressman, Mr. Tran. It was a short video, as most of our videos have been, and got us some buzz on social media.
Typically, we’ve found that video draws a lot of attention here at the shop. The first video we posted, really a clip show from the Renton River Days parade earlier this year put together by our graphic designer, got us a ton of hits.
Since then, we’ve put out some other videos, but they are few and far between. Progress is slow on our videography efforts, but progress is being made.
I’ve began serious work on a new video, currently in pre-production. It will be our most ambitious video project to date. No details yet, but when it comes to fruition, you will all be amazed!
We have a few other ideas on the shelf, including an ongoing series of segments we were going to do about printing history. Unfortunately, we got stalled in the scripting process and the idea got put back on the shelf.
But despite this setback, we are actively working on other projects which we prefer to stay tight-lipped about for now. However, there is no need to panic.
I will say that I am working with a good friend of mine who’s something of a film buff to the tell a very important story regarding a very important person doing a very important task at the shop.
(Please take my repeated stressing of “importance” with just a grain of salt.)
In summary, we’re working hard, we’ve got a plan, and we can’t wait to finish our project to so we can show you all how much we love doing this.
Remember, we’re sprinting— eh, printing for you!
Marketing Director at the Renton Printery. Providing advice on print-buying and business, along with notes on the state of the shop.