Category Archives: Letterpress Craft and Hobby

7 Reasons I Want my Competitors to Thrive

As I wrote about last month, Graphic Art Monthly magazine has ceased publication. Some readers called to congratulate me: “You’ve knocked another one out of business!” I had to laugh at that mental picture. I am sure the Trader is not even on their radar. Plus, their magazine did not close due to financial problems or lack of advertisers. The parent company simply wanted to divest itself of a couple dozen titles (magazines and other products), and those serving the printing industry were among them. It was purely a business decision. Nor did the magazine close for any lack of editorial quality, since it had stellar editors, writers and contributors.

It’s probably hard to believe that I want my competitors to thrive. Here are a few reasons to consider:

1. First, your competitors are out there selling what you do. Talk about maximizing your sales force! They are selling the benefits of your product or service. When you make a call on customers who have heard from the competition, you don’t have to start at square one to educate them. You only have to dazzle them with why you’re a better choice.

2. Second, having lots of competitors keeps your product or service at the top of your prospect’s brain. We all know that repetition and multiple touch points help close the sale. Use competitors’ awareness-building campaigns to your advantage.

3. When your prospect is thinking about buying, no matter who he is thinking about buying from, it is a good thing for you. Getting prospects in the mood to spend money is hard. Let your competitors do some of that work for you!

4. Having someone to sell against keeps us all motivated. How boring would it be to be the only game in town? Competition creates excitement and keeps our edge.

5. Your competitors can be your allies. If you don’t believe me, look at the most successful print companies in our region. Their owners and key employees attend industry events, network with peers, travel to trade shows together, share ideas, and help each other out. Read David Archer’s article in this issue for more on this subject.

6. Having lots of competitors validates your existence. If there are lots of you, you must be a necessary thing, right? Without your competitors’ presence, you’d be spending a lot of time showing why your product or service is even viable. Let others help you do that.

7. Gives you a ranking. We all know it’s important NOT to say bad things about our competitors. However, we can certainly say with humility and generosity that our competitors are “very good” but we’re “better.” There can’t be a better or a best without someone to compare ourselves to!

Which brings me to my next point. Now that we’ve figured out that our competitors can be an advantage in our selling process, now we must figure out how to be the best, or among the best. And that’s a sales strategy as well. Being the best is hard, hard work. Being among the best sometimes is sufficient.

One way to do this is to change who your competitors are. It’s hard to be the best four-color printer in any market. But if you have a niche within four-color, you are going to reduce your number of competitors. You are also going to reduce the number of jobs you will be quoting, so you’ll have to make sure your closing percentage is higher. 

I believe it is easier to have a niche that targets a specific kind of customer rather than a certain kind of product or process. For example, it might be easier to wrap your head around selling to investers of private cardiac clinics than to think about selling forms to hospital chains. You can really visualize yourself walking into a clinic and having a successful meeting, catering to all the various needs of an affluent investor and a busy surgeon. Those happy customers network with their peers, and their referrals are golden. Carrying a bunch of samples into a hospital and tracking down a purchasing agent (who never networks with anyone) — that’s a tough sell! Being the best in that losing situation won’t win the job; only being cheapest and most willing to turn control over to the customer will.

So I am hoping you will entertain a new outlook about your competitors and where you stand in the pack. I am always happy to brainstorm with you on making your business more successful.

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Eyeballing the E Scale

Right after I got out of college (with one major in Film Making and one in English), I moved near Los Angeles and took a job at a small printing franchise.

Every day I scanned the classifieds before I headed to work, looking for that elusive never-advertised film director’s job, never dreaming that the printing industry would end up to be more appealing than the bright lights of Hollywood.

Before the print shop owners hired me full-time, they sent me to a class to learn the basics of design, layout, typesetting, daylight camera work, plate burning, and printing on a duplicator.

Flash forward.

My husband and I are cleaning the basement. “Do you still want this?” he asks. Inside a musty box are two volumes and a notebook with dividers: my training manuals for the little print shop.

Needless to say, I wanted to keep them.

As I perused the notebooks, I came across a plastic organizer filled with my old supplies: a pica pole, a proportion wheel, a halftone exposure chart, my set of Exacto knives, non-repro blue pens, typesetter codes and commands, and my trusty E scale.

Seeing the E scale took me back instantly (oh no, now we’re having a flashback within a flashback!) to memories of my neighbor at the time, a bubbly actress who spent a lot of time at auditions and little time on screen. I won’t say she was ditzy, but you get the idea.

One day she picked up my E scale and held it at arms length. “What are you doing?” I asked. She squinted at the scale.

“This eye chart is easy,” she announced. “E . . . e . . . e . . . e . . . ”

I tell that to younger people in the industry, and they don’t see the humor. I guess I should explain that an E scale is a transparent sheet with a whole bunch of letters on it — all being the letter E — ranging from very big to very little. It helps you gauge what size type you need to match. An anachronism now, for sure.

When I look back at everything that little shop did to take a customer’s job from idea to printed piece, there were definitely some steps that we don’t have to worry about today. Camera work has evolved into customer-provided files; typesetting is a breeze these days; fonts issues are (almost) a thing of the past; and options for plateless printing are many.

Yet most of the concepts I learned in that course still serve me.

I still use a proportion wheel and a pica pole. I still use design principals for determining leading, headlines and white space. I still know how to copy fit, so when a writer submits hard copy for a story, I can quickly calculate how much room I need to allocate on the page.

As far as the E scale . . . I haven’t used one in years. But, then, I already know I’m nearsighted.

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Letterpress & Book Art Supply Company opens Sept. 15

Bartleby’s Letterpress Emporium opens Tuesday, Sept. 15 with a grand opening at 1236 SE Oak St. (corner of SE 13th and Oak, one block north of Stark) in Portland, Oregon. Phone is 503/922-2310. Let me know if you’re going — I’d like to visit when other friends will be there.

If you’ve never visited Oblation Papers’ Pearl District Store, you’re in for a treat. On-site letterpress printing and papermaking. Gorgeous cards and wrapping papers. Great gifts. Totally fun place to do your Christmas shopping. Put your favorite publisher on your shopping list!

Mr. Robert Basel – thanks always for your help in promoting Printer’s NW Trader magazine and www.printerstrader.com.

Welcome to Chapel Printing, who is advertising their letterpress services and expertise in our upcoming print and online edition.

Let me know your Portland area Letterpress news, classes and events, and I will spread the word!

— SANDY

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Filed under Letterpress Craft and Hobby, Portland Letterpress Fair, Printing and Publishing Industry

On the Way to Everywhere

Sandy HubbardLetterpress Printer’s Fair – Portland, Oregon

It was a hot day and the place wasn’t air conditioned. But I couldn’t have asked for a more entertaining afternoon.

On August 8 my son Ben and I attended the Letterpress Printer’s Fair at Liberty Hall in North Portland. Out front of the modest community center, twenty-somethings were holding cool beverages and snacking on healthy-looking pastries. People of all ages were walking and riding their bikes to attend this event.

I was really glad I brought Ben.

While I mingled and took pictures, he operated a tabletop letterpress, pawed through boxes of woodcuts and lead type, made a folded paper printer’s hat, used a folding bone and Exacto knife to create a mini book, browsed through paper samples, and met printers who started their careers at his age with their own small presses.

Never one for many words, Ben said, as we left, “I thought it would be boring, but that was really fun.”

Now that’s how to recruit kids!

And there were young people everywhere — at least young-looking to me. In Portland, letterpress is hip. There are non-profits, classes, galleries and websites to support and perpetuate the craft.

I was suprised by the number of people I recognized, and who recognized me. I overheard someone talking about Printer’s NW Trader. It was Nic Marshall from Bellevue, Washington. I said, “I’m Sandy from the Trader!” He peered at me and said, “Well, so you are!” He tried to sell Ben a Chandler & Price press and offered to show him how to use it.

Ben’s eyebrows went up, and he looked over at me. “Not today,” I laughed.

I have a box filled with business cards and samples from the show. I made promises to attend upcoming events and visit shops.

For a hot day, it really was pretty cool.

Sandy Hubbard is publisher of the monthly trade magazine, Printer’s NW Trader, in Portland, Oregon. Visit the magazine’s website at www.printerstrader.com for news, classified ads, features and editorials. Copyright, all media, 2009. Printer’s NW Trader.

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Filed under Letterpress Craft and Hobby, Portland Letterpress Fair, Printing and Publishing Industry