How to Get Repeat B2B Customers with Online Printing

B2C clients can be unpredictable in their buying patterns while B2B clients can bring a shop reliably repetitive business. However, bringing these repeat business customers on board is not as easy as securing the average one-off job. When companies order print products – whether it’s business cards for a consultant, booklets for a real estate company, or flyers for a landscaping business – they are not just paying for a piece of paper with ink on it. They are also paying for the good impression that they hope to give to their prospects and clients. A company’s image is one of their most valuable assets, and they will only provide a printer with that reliable repeat business if the printer can present that image effectively.

Business owners value their time almost as much, and if they find a printer that does high quality work and does it fast, they won’t go out looking for other options. So how can printers meet these needs effectively and snatch up that long-term business? We’ve all seen the TV commercials portraying services of large online printers and their happy, successful customers. The trend is obvious to the owners of printing companies and they don’t want to miss out. Creating their own online store has the potential to bring in a steady stream of orders that wasn’t possible for a brick-and-mortar model alone.

Also, web-to-print can ensure consistent, high quality branded materials that can be ordered immediately. So web-to-print is clearly the answer for repeat B2B clients, but not all printers realize the effort that should go into making their online endeavor worth investing in. Throughout this paper, we will take a look at some of the fundamentals of web-to-print as they apply to business printing, and how any print shop can gain their own collection of long-term relationships with business clients.

What B2B Clients Want: Convenience and Quality

If we take a closer look at the TV commercials mentioned above, we will notice that almost all of them target micro-businesses and small businesses: landscaping companies, restaurants, local brewers, small neighborhood grocery stores, and others. There is sound reasoning behind this. Large companies have all the resources and money they need to hire professional designers and art directors to take care of all their printing needs. In many cases, big corporations can do it all in-house.

On the other hand, micro-business owners and mom-and-pop shops are far too busy just keeping up with day-to-day operations. It’s impossible for them to also find the time to learn about graphic design and the most effective ways to present their collateral. If they relied on themselves to do this instead of outside help, their printed products would come out looking unattractive and unprofessional. We’ve all seen some examples of less-than-great design when it comes to local businesses. Just take a look at how well (or not so well) a business card from your car mechanic of choice is designed. Menus from local restaurants are often another source of design faux pas. If an unprofessional business card is a customer’s first impression, then they may be left wondering about the quality of the business’s product or service as well.

In a way, web-to-print makes it as difficult as possible for a customer to end up with an unprofessional design. Online printing usually provides the customer with several predesigned options that allow them to end up with good-looking, professional collateral, even if they don’t have a creative bone in their body. Because of this, small businesses see web-to-print services as a way to get more attractive materials and thus become more appealing in their potential customers’ eyes, rather than just a printing service alone.

Web-to-Print Delivers Consistency with Templates

We are at a point in time where both normal consumers and businesses overwhelmingly prefer to do their shopping online. Joining this revolution is no longer limited to the corporate behemoths in online printing. Local printing companies already have a customer base comprised of companies operating in their area, they have built a working relationship with them, and now all they need is the right tool to ensure these companies don’t go looking elsewhere for their printing needs. While web-to-print technology can give any printer their own online shop that can help snap up some of this repeat business, it’s important to understand how it works before diving in.

There are three major components that are necessary for a web-to-print solution to function: the e-commerce platform, the web-to-print editorintegrated into the platform, and stock templates. While we will not be focusing on e-commerce platforms in this topic, it’s pertinent to know that there are a number of open-source and commercial solutions available. Any interested printer should hire a consultant with the technical knowledge to help them deploy the platform and provide initial training. The scope of this post will be mostly limited to stock templates. They are the cornerstone for making web-to-print both convenient for business owners to use and effective for easily creating attractive designs.

Building stock template libraries

As we mentioned earlier, clients who order business collateral are paying for their company’s image just as much as they’re paying for their printed products. They may be great at running their businesses, but design sense may not be their forte. This burden will inevitably fall on the printer, and stock templates are going to be any print shop’s saving grace when dealing with business printing through a web-to-print system. In order to be prepared to deliver quality designs quickly and win repetitive business with local companies, print service providers should invest in a stock template library.

Creating a library sounds like a daunting task, so where to begin? Printers that have years of experience in the local market already have an understanding of the type of printed products that are popular in the area. In a coastal area, there will be businesses specific to the region such as vacation house rentals, boat cruises, and surf shops. When launching a web-to-print site, the printer should make sure they have a number of well-designed templates for different products that reflect these kinds of local businesses that they are familiar with. The next time a fisherman specializing in deep sea fishing cruises needs to replenish their business cards and brochures to be distributed through the local information center, they will prefer a local printer if they have professional predesigned templates for fishing trips.

Although it may sound difficult and time-consuming at first, creating stock templates is more feasible for printers than it may appear. First of all, some of that library may already be completed. If a print service provider has been working in the local market for a while, then they have already accumulated a large template library of previous designs for some of the most popular product categories. Moreover, printers usually have designers among their staff that do not always have customer projects to work on, especially in slow seasons. This is the perfect opportunity for them to create some of these stock templates for the web-to-print site. These efforts will certainly pay off down the road. Instead having to design a template from scratch, the printer will have a repository of designs available on the web-to-print site to save time for both themselves and their customers.

Using template restrictions to control the design

Let’s take a moment to discuss the difference between templates created for a web-to-print site and the templates that are designed as a custom project for clients. Small business owners are not professional designers and the templates that they will be working with in the web-to-print editor have to be designed having that in mind. The template should allow the customer to personalize it to a certain extent, but there should be boundaries for essential design elements. For example, some complex products like brochures consist of tens or even hundreds of layers. The customer shouldn’t be able to change every element – they only need to insert their texts and images into designated blocks, fill out contact information, and nothing else. All other elements should remain intact to ensure that the customer doesn’t accidentally break the layout, and the final product still maintains a level of consistency.

When creating a template, graphic designers need to keep in mind how a given template is supposed to be edited by the end-user, including what they can and cannot do with it. Because designers know nothing about programming, all of the pre-programmed personalization restrictions must be set up within the confines of the template itself.

Initially, it can be a challenge for designers to get the hang of the web-to-print concept. They must consider how a design is edited by the end-user rather than just how the final design looks on paper. However, they quickly get acclimatized to this idea and become some of its best advocates because they see how it can help preserve the consistency of the design after the templates are personalized by the end-user. It’s easy to see how customers with no design skills and too much freedom in the web-to-print editor can mess up a design, and it’s always frustrating for a designer to see their hard work destroyed. Perhaps because of this, many designers will welcome the ability to set up additional restrictions on layers to make personalized versions of a template look the way they were designed to.

InDesign and  Photoshop support with Customer’s Canvas makes it all easy

In order to control the permissions in a template for the end-user, the printer needs to choose the right web-to-print solution. Having to train staff in new software can be a pain and a drain on resources, but that doesn’t have to be the case today. There are a number of web-to-print editors on the market that support templates made in an existing software that all designers know very well: Adobe InDesign and Photoshop. Some web-to-print solutions – Customer’s Canvas being a great example – add the notion of permissions to the INDD or PSD format.

These permissions are inserted into the individual layers via a string of text by the designer, and define how a specific template can be personalized in the web-to-print editor. Some templates can be designed in a very restrictive way that only allows users to make small changes, whereas other templates can grant the user more freedom.

Conclusion

Web-to-print is helping the printing industry have its own e-commerce revolution by providing the same experience that both the everyday consumer and business consumers have come to expect from the convenience of online shopping. In fact, the convenience is so great for business owners that this is the new normal for them, so it is likely that they will become a faithful customer of a local print service provider that offers a web-to-print solution. Of course, business owners want their image to be presented in a way that will wow their own customers, and using stock templates with web-to-print is the best way to do this efficiently.

Printers can use the templates they’ve compiled over the years as the beginnings of a template library, and add more designs for some of the most popular products they see locally over time. Even customers who are not design-savvy can edit these templates in the online editor thanks to permissions that control what changes the end-user can make to the design. These permissions help preserve crucial design elements and maintain consistent company branding.

Web-to-print software, stock templates, and the permissions controlling the manipulation of templates all work together to provide businesses with a seamless experience that gives them a product they can hand out with pride. Seeing their company’s image presented beautifully, in addition to the time they saved in the process, will make them a loyal customer for several years to come.