What is 3D Printing?

You know who uses 3D printing?

  • Jay Leno of the Tonight Show. He uses a 3D printer to make hard to find and custom parts for his collection of classic cars.
  • Bespoke Innovations. They have created some of the most intricate prototypes for prosthetics for those who have lost limbs while serving in the US military.
  • Nike. They use 3D printers to develop multi-colored shoe prototypes.

So, that’s the power of 3D printing…

Traditional Printing

You know what traditional printing is. Business cards, brochures, flyers and a host of other printed material help brand a business. The quality of the printed material reflects on the quality of the business so it makes sense to enlist a professional printer for all of your print media and marketing material. Save your personal printer for non-critical print items.

But, recently there has been a lot of talk about 3D printing and it’s possible emergence in the personal and small business sector as a tool of choice.  It sounds like something out of the Jetsons’s or a far-fetched sci-fi thriller, but the new technology is making headlines. And it’s being utilized to create everything from plastic snowboards, to model ships.

What exactly is 3D printing?

A Mini-Manufacturer

Manufacturers have used 3D printers in the prototype design process for decades. In the near future customized products may be printed using this technology. In fact, 3D printing is really a mini-manufacturer.

The 3D printer works with a computer aided design (CAD) file which is created with a 3D modeling program or scanned in with a 3D scanner.  Software then divides the design into thousands of layers. That’s when the 3D printer takes over. It reads the file and creates each layer to spec. As they print, the layers blend together and form a three dimensional plastic object.

How does 3D Printing work:

3D Printing turns all who use the technology into creators. It allows the user to transform a 3D digital file into an actual  physical part that you can hold in your hand. 3D files can be downloaded from the internet or you can design your own 3D part. The technology can be used to print teaching aids, common household items, and even IPhone cases.

Disadvantages of 3D Printing

However, like much technology in its infancy when it comes to mass consumer use, there are hurdles to overcome for the typical user.

  • Desktop 3D printers can spew a considerable amount of harmful chemicals into the environment. One landmark study  suggests that 3D printing may be as harmful as cigarette smoking.
  • The printers can be difficult to use unless you’re a techie with a specific interest in the technology.
  • The software programs that create the object are very difficult to learn. While there are less complicated versions of 3D software becoming available (Google SketchUp for one), they may not produce the results you’re seeking.
  • All that can be printed is plastic, which, while it may be ideal for prototypes,is not always practical since screws, springs, gears, etc. are usually needed to make a total product.
  • There are legal issues to consider. For example, if you want to print a crate of Legos for your kids, do you think that the Lego Company will allow that? Probably not. At least without a cut of the action.
  • It’s expensive to print plastic.

3D printing may eventually go the mainstream. Until then, unless you dabble in it as a hobby, it might be best to examine the possible uses of 3D printing for your business later down the road, when the process is a little more user friendly and geared toward small business.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for creative ideas on how to grow your small business with print marketing, this gallery is a great resource.

Related stories

 

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Plan a Unique, Memorable Birthday Bash for your Little One

Remember when you were a wide eyed 6 or 7 year old filled with awe and wonder? Receiving a handwritten birthday invitation in the mail was more exciting than getting a letter from the President of the United States, or the Royal couple!  You were bursting with anticipation as you tore into the envelope. Wow!

Recapture that excitement for your little one’s big day with paper invitations.  Paper invitations are even more revered today than 25 years ago, thanks to the digital era.

If you want to plan a successful, fun-filled birthday bash for your special prince or princess, start with state-of the art invitations. If you are lost for a party theme, borrow an idea from this list:

Draw inspiration from the Great Mother Goose with a nursery rhyme themed party – select from one of these timeless classics:

  • Jack and Jill
  • Humpty Dumpty
  • Mary Mary Quite Contrary
  • Hickory Dickory Dock’
  • The Old Lady in the Shoe

Super Hero Party

  • Batman
  • Superman
  • Wonder woman
  • Bat girl

Other Popular themes for kids ages 5-12

  • Pirates (everyone dreses as a pirate)
  • Princess Party (give out tiara’s to all the little girls)
  • Beach-(Arrange for a slip and slide or shallow plastic pool)
  • Dr. Seuss: All attendees receive a Dr Seuss book, and the birthday girl or boy dresses up as their favorite Dr. Seuss character

Remember though that the seed of excitement is planted with colorful, dashing invitations. The buzz can begin long before the big day if you use the right ones. Here are a few pointers for creating state-of the art party invites that will wow ‘em!

Use a reputable, high quality online printer to help you create bright, bold exciting invitations. Some printers offer a nice collection of pre-designed templates that can be customized with the child’s information. Otherwise, you can work with a good graphic designer to help you create a look perfectly tailored to your child.

Make sure you use bold, crisp colors,and thick, durable, paper stock. For a more daring look add a little bit of gloss or “spot uv.”

Take your invitations to the next level with bright, matching envelopes and eye-catching address labels. You’ll be the talk of the town and your child will feel like the king or queen of the neighborhood.

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Should I Mobilize my Small Business Website

75% of Americans admit to bringing their phone to the bathroom.

Startling, but true. Just take look around – We as a society are addicted to our mobile devices. And it’s not going away any time soon.

In fact, by this time next year, mobile shopping is expected to take over desktop shopping.  If you are thinking about optimizing your small business website for mobile shopping, first consider these important factors:

  • Your current website may be successful, however that doesn’t mean it will work well for mobile shoppers. A number of recent studies show that if a site is not properly formatted for a small digital browser, users will go elsewhere.
  • If you want to make the transition to mobile, keep in mind that almost everything about your existing site will need to change, including the user experience.
  • In addition to the differences in technology, Smart phone users have different buying behaviors and expectations than desktop/laptop shoppers.
  •  Everything about your site will need to change; including the features, fonts, graphics, messaging and user interface.
  •  Mobile users expect immediate gratification, and are usually in a hurry. This means the basic workflow of your site, as well its purpose and structure will need to be repurposed by people who know mobile intimately. If you are committed to going mobile, these five factors are a must:

 

1. Less is More: Scale Down

The content on your site should be compelling, simple and easy to navigate.  You’ll need to engage the smart phone user in 30 seconds or less, in order to be successful. Remember the old WIIFM (What’s in it for Me? the shopper). Remove any fluff or irrelevant information from your landing page. Your home page should tell customers why they are there, what they can get, what it will do for them, and how they can get it, in 30 seconds or less.

Fortunately there are a host of online services that can easily convert your site and make it mobile friendly (: http://www.mobilizetoday.com).For those who prefer to DIY, there are a number of good tutorials. http://www.google.com/think/collections/make-website-work-across-multiple-devices.html

2. Accept Mobile Payments

Many small business owners are already using mobile payment devices. Providers usually charge a fee between 2 and 3% per transaction, or give you the option of paying a small monthly fee for the device. Some of the more recognizable mobile payment products come from companies like PayPal, Intuit, and Google. If you are new to this arena, do an online search for best mobile payment providers. Some websites offer a side-by side comparison, making it easy for you to see which one will work best for you.

3. Offer Mobile Deals that are Hard to Resist

Announce a special offer exclusive to mobile shoppers.  For example, every mobile shopper can receive free shipping, or 25% off on their first two purchases. By consistently offering mobile deals, you’ll encourage customer loyalty and generate word of mouth advertising.

4. Promote your Mobile Shopping Site with Old Fashioned Print Marketing

Good print marketing is a very effective way to promote your mobile site. It serves several purposes: assures those who aren’t ready to go mobile that you will still cater them, generates leads, and increases awareness. Combine the announcement with a special promotion for best results. Make sure you include a great call to action that will compel readers to act now, and visit your store.

First 100 mobile shoppers receive an extra 15% off entire store.

            Offer good through end of month.  Buy now. www.mymobilesite.

5. Test your new mobile site with a group of smartphone users prior to launch.

Ideally, each tester should have a different type/brand of phone. This will allow you to catch potential errors, and ensure a smooth process.

What are you doing to get your small business ready for the mobile shopping boom?

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Make your Mark with Fresh Father’s Day Marketing

While it may seem that mom’s get all the love, Father’s Day gift sales are sizzling!

Did you know….

That Father’s day spending reached $12.7 billion in 2012 and is expected to be even bigger this year?

The percentage of people who used the internet to purchase gifts for Dad’s day last year was up by 6 percent from the previous year.

Avoid cliché ties, socks and slippers this Father’s Day. Dad’s everywhere will appreciate it and sales of novel gift idea promotions typically outperform the competition.  Statistics show that consumers start shopping for Father’s day two to five days early. So get ready!

For best results, create a dedicated Dad’s Day campaign. Since Father’s Day falls on June 16 this year, start your campaign in early June. Many shoppers are still undecided at this point. A timely, compelling, targeted promotion can be very powerful.

Here is a roundup of Six Fabulous Father’s Day Promotions:

  1. Offer free shipping – beginning ten days before dad’s day.
  2. Add a service or product to your inventory for a limited time, designed exclusively for Dad’s Day out. For example, even if your product or service isn’t related to these industries, create a special DAD’s DAY OUT PROMOTION: sell gift certificates to a day at the golf course, ½ day fishing trip, steak dinner, full body massage, or tennis lessons. Prospects may have something else in mind when they visit your shop, but now they can kill two birds with one stone and find the perfect father’s day gift as well. Consumers are almost always willing to pay a little more for convenience, especially at the last minute.
  3. Create a coupon code just for dad’s day.   As an example, give an extra 30% off to shoppers who enter or say the word “DAD.”
  4. Hold a contest for and kids and spouses. Ask them to write about why their dad or husband deserves to win 50 dollars’ worth of free merchandise. If you have a brick and mortar business, make sure you have something on hand for kids and women (candy, coloring books, flowers, etc) as this type of promotion will draw them in.
  5. “Father-Daughter-/Father-Son promotion. This works especially well if you sell a service, like photography, massage, personal training or hair styling.
  6. Hold a raffle-Announce the drawing on your website and with compelling direct mail pieces. This will generate word of mouth advertising, attract more business and create buzz.

How will your small business make a mark this Father’s Day?

Related:

How he broke sales records with a brilliant postcard marketing strategy:

Power words that sell

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A Sea of Santa’s..on Harleys-Small Businesses Giving Back

The Overnight Prints Spa Play day for Dogs charity event stemmed from an exhilarating charity toy ride that I participated in last Christmas:

  • It was late November 2012.  The beach town I live in was flush with leaping dolphins clad in Santa hats,   twinkling lights, and avid boaters welcoming the season with animated decorations. Christmas music permeated the airwaves. The seaside city had been transformed into a magical waterfront wonderland.
  •  I was feeling the spirit and wanted to team up with a local charity.  But it couldn’t be just any charity. It needed to be something that resonated with and inspired me.
  •  Enter Southern California Harley riders. I stumbled across an intriguing postcard  about a Santa Harley toy ride for needy children. This was the ticket!  This sounded like a blast, and an ingenious way to help kids.

Mind you I don’t own or ride a Harley. I just knew I wanted to do this.  I really had no idea what I was getting into. It just sounded too good to pass up.

Here comes Santa….on a Harley

Somewhere between 75 and 100 Harley riders and passengers were told to gather at a nearby pub at 7am on Christmas Eve morning. The only requirement was that we had to dress as Saint Nick, Mrs. Claus or Santa’s helper. I donned a brand new Mrs. Claus costume that I found on eBay, complete with long shiny, stiletto black boots. As I pulled up to the parking lot, dozens of Harley-riding Santa’s were posing for a group photo.  I captured the moment on film, and joined the festivities.

  • We were treated to hot coffee and a delicious breakfast buffet, courtesy of Fitzgerald’s Irish pub.
  • With full tummies, and warm toes, we began loading hundreds of toys that had been collected over the past two months, into knapsacks and bags. We filled the back of two U-Haul trucks with the colossal stack of bulging sacks.
  • Then, after a looooong thundering roar, (that only a herd of Harley’s could make) we were off. And dare I say, this endless caravan that spanned for miles gave Santa and his reindeer a ride for their money.

Imagine for a moment….. 85 big, burly, Santa’s and dozens of elves, with festive helmets and long leather boots, riding through the interchanges of Southern California on  chrome plated, boisterously loud Harley Davidson bikes.  We rode single file – in a caravan through the streets, boulevards and five lane freeways of Orange County, CA. Every rider was decked out. It was an array of Red Velvet, long white curly beards, leather Santa gloves and festive helmets. The elves were clad in green and red felt costumes with funny drooping hats and pointy green shoes.  What a sight! As this convoy rode through the highways and byways we literally stopped traffic! It was spectacular.

  • People of all ages and walks of life literally stopped in the middle of whatever they were doing, last minute shopping errands, talking on their phones, jogging, eating, whatever. They looked on in wonder to marvel and gasp at the illustrious sea of Santa’s.   And remember that Southern California freeways and streets are typically jam packed with the hustle and bustle of hurried, impatient drivers focused on getting to their destinations as quickly as possible. They certainly don’t have time or patience to stop for anything that’s going to slow them down.
  •  But THIS was profoundly different.  It felt like we were filming a slow motion movie.  Drivers fought to pull over to the shoulders and watch in awe –as the caravan of Santa’s were taking over the 405 freeway.  Viewers were star struck, grabbing their Smart phones and digital devices to capture as many images and videos as the moment would allow.After spreading laughter, love, shock and awe through the streets we headed for our main destination- The Orangewood home for Children.This part of the journey was dramatically breathtaking- A true moment in time!
  • We climbed off our Harleys’, lifted oodles of bulging toy-filled knapsacks over our shoulders and ho-ho-hoed our way to the front. We delivered hundreds of sacks stuffed with games, toys and bikes to the awe-struck children.
  • But it wasn’t going to be over anytime soon. We drove around the building to a courtyard in the back, and greeted the children with red and green lollypops. The braver kids that dared were allowed to climb aboard one of the dazzling machines. A low rumbling thunder was interspersed with the sounds of exhilarated children squealing with joy.

After about an hour or so of action packed activity the kids were beginning to fade. It was time for us to venture back. We formed our parade once again and took a detour through the Orange Circle in historic downtown Orange, drove in the slow lane of the Garden Grove freeway and meandered through a couple obscure side streets. We even got some waves and claps from a few homeless people! We ventured back to the coast and rode through the charming seaside town of Balboa Island, tossing out candy and smiles to passerby’s of all ages. We stopped for pictures on a number of occasions. We rode North on Pacific Coast highway to Main Street in Huntington Beach to for a final parade of sorts.  Then it was back to the pub’s to decompress and enjoy a hot lunch.

If you are a small business owner trying to market on a shoestring budget, you’re not alone. You don’t have to have all the bells and whistles in place to host a charity event. It just takes a little creativity. Ask your Facebook fans for ideas, or hold a contest. There are no bad ideas. Give the top three ideas a free service or product. Make sure to take lots of photos of the event so you can blog about it later, and maybe even use them to create promotional calendar, and inspire other small businesses to follow your footsteps.

By:Courtney Knapp

 

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Get Ready for Summer with Promotional Calendars

For anyone who has experienced a lull in sales during what are supposed to be the carefree, easy, summer months, we have a simple solution.

Promote your small business 365 days a year with personalized promotional calendars.

People of all ages are tasked with juggling multiple projects year round, and summer is no exception.  Even if your prospects are using mobile devices to keep track of schedules, paper calendars are a perfect supplement. Potential customers can easily see appointment reminders, deadlines, and event dates, without having to dig into their cell phone settings.

Summertime is typically a fun filled, busy time of year, with graduations, birthdays, weddings, Mother’s Day, July 4th  Father’s day, and summer parties.

Leverage the power of the hot summer months with customized calendars:

Summer seasonal calendars: create calendars that highlight special summer occasions. For example, in May consider using a photo of a beautiful bouquet of flowers honoring moms everywhere. The month of July can highlight photos of fireworks displays, and in August showcase summer picnics or camping destinations.

Hobby or themed calendars: Design calendars around a hobby or theme that is related to your business. For example if you sell jewelry, feature a different gem each month.

Showcase your local area: If you have a local business, highlight the area by using unique photos of landmarks, festivals, and special events.  Each month can feature a favorite spot or local event.

Calendars that double as a portfolio: Use calendars to show case your work. Feature your 12 bestselling items – Promote one each month.

Motivational calendars: Inspire prospects with a calendar full of motivational and positive quotes. Add in photos that you have taken, or do a Google search for stock photos.

Interact with customers with a summer contest:  Hold a contest and publish pictures of the winners on branded calendars.

Helpful tips calendar: List helpful tips related to your product or service. Each month can highlight a different tip.

Designing the calendar: You don’t have to be a designer or computer genius to design a promotional calendar:

Use an online printing service, click on calendars and browse pre-made templates.. All you have to do is customize it to your liking and voila, you have a new marketing tool that will promote your business 365 days a year.

 

Promotional notepad ideas

Dating and Print Marketing: How first impressions can make or break you

 

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FAQ’s about QR Codes

Wonder what all of the rage is about?

  • A QR code, put simply is a quick response code, designed to lead a consumer to a web landing page, product or promotion. You see QR codes on everything from T-shirts, to postcards to milk cartons.
  • QR codes were originally invented in Japan by a large auto manufacturer. The explosive growth is due in large part to the convenience and easy “readability” of the codes.
  • QR codes act and look like bar codes. Marketers embed them into promotional items to entice customers to take specific actions.
  • Customers often receive a special discount or reward for scanning the code with their mobile phone. Incentivizing QR code scanners is highly recommended. It makes them feel like they are receiving special treatment.

Why should you use a QR Code?

  • Beyond mere convenience to the consumer, QR codes can increase conversion rate (or chance of a sale).
  • QR codes can only be scanned with a smart phone. Research shows the number of consumers who are using their phones to shop is expected to skyrocket by 2015.
  • As the world converts to digital shopping, business owners everywhere should consider putting QR codes on their marketing materials. They’re cheap (or free), convenient, and easy to implement.

How to add a QR code: you don’t have to be a techy to do this:

  • A number of websites will create black and white QR codes for free.
  • You can also create a colorful code with colors that reflect your brand, for a small fee. Read more about how colors can affect sales here.
  • If you have a Smartphone, download an app for a QR code (do a Google search for QR codes).
  • The apps are all very similar, but read the ratings to help you select the one that is best for you.Once you’ve downloaded the app, start scanning QR Codes. Notice what types of incentives the marketers behind the codes are offering.
  • You’ll see these funny looking codes on cereal boxes, brochures, postcards, magazine ads, etc.  Pay particular attention to where the code leads you, and whether the discounts and promotions are worthwhile.
  • After you scan half a dozen codes, you’ll have a better idea if this is something you want to implement in your business.

When you’re ready, visit a service online that will create a code for you free of charge. Make sure they have a tracking system in place so you can determine the effectiveness. And place a strong call to action next to the code, to motivate consumers to scan it.

What has your experience been with QR codes?

Related articles:

More marketing ideas for small business owners

Small business website basics

Marketing strategies that won’t break the budget

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How one photographer used savvy marketing to skyrocket his leads

This article is a guest post by photojournalist Alan Staats.

Having owned my own photography and video production company for more than 30 years, I have always believed in the power of print.

Don’t get me wrong, I relish the internet and all of the marvelous things it offers. For example, without it, you wouldn’t be reading this article.  Unless, of course, someone printed it for you.

I also look to the internet to maintain a complex (as well as a hopefully informative and attractive) website, send out query letters, estimates, contracts, and maintain an active social media presence. But experience has taught me not to rely exclusively on the World Wide Web for all of my marketing needs.

After experimenting with a plethora of digital, social media, and print marketing activities I can honestly say that melding internet outreach with print marketing yields far greater rewards than using either as a sole source

  • One of the problems I’ve run into with internet marketing is, for lack of a better term, noise. Sure I can buy an email list targeted specifically to the client demographic that I want to reach. I can create a beautiful HTML-based document detailing all the wonderful things I can do for those potential clients. The issue is, many of the thousands of recipients will hit the delete button, before reading my beautifully crafted message. Or, it will get buried or lost in the “chaff” that clutters my prospects inbox.
  • By chaff I mean those truly annoying (yet occasionally entertaining) emails (among other offers) from, say, Princess Shewanna of the landlocked kingdom of Katangaland-who desperately needs help moving her 600 million dollar inheritance.  If only I could reap even one percent for each spam message I receive.
  • So, sending out an email message promising great photography and video services has an unlikely chance of being read, much less acted upon.

However, I am not averse to internet marketing. What I am averse to is using the internet as a “single source” for marketing. Used in conjunction with “traditional” marketing methods, it can yield results far beyond what you’d expect.

For example, this is a true story:

  • I recently ordered 500 rack cards from an online printing service, (overnightprints.com) branded with my logo and contact information, and select photos. (The chief reason behind ordering rack cards was not to place them in racks but rather because they fit in standard envelopes.)
  • I printed a cover letter on letterhead stock, “wrapped” the rack card in the letterhead and mailed 100 of them, to a targeted list (that I also had email addresses for).
  • Since the addresses were local, I waited two days and sent an email to each recipient; the subject of the email was simply the name of my company.
  • The email had a little more information about my company and a teaser directing the recipients to my website, which has literally thousands of pages of information and imagery… and a “hit” tracking feature.

By the end of the week the results were astounding!

  • On day four, hits increased from an average of 60 hits per day to over 400, a rate that lasted the rest of the week before tapering off
  • Eight recipients responded directly with a phone call and requests for rate information
  • Three recipients booked me for work,one recipient bought, as a stock photo purchase, the photo that was used as the primary image on the front side of the rack card.
  • In comparison, an earlier solely email-based effort to a qualified list of recipients (which cost me five times the amount) yielded only a dozen responses, five of whom insisted I take their names and email addresses off the list, and seven who asked for printed material as a follow up.The bottom line is that internet marketing can be successful, of that there is no doubt, but if you are looking to maximize your reach for the dollars, combine the internet with print for an unbeatable combination.

Related articles:True stories about small business owners

 

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Help Keep America Green with Print Marketing

In honor of National Keep America Beautiful month

Whether you own an e commerce start-up or a 30 year old brick and mortar company, your small business can be instrumental in keeping America beautiful and green.

8 ways your small business can help

  1. Promote your business by giving out postcards or bookmarks with environmentally friendly messages and photos of stunning nature scenes.
  2. Help “greenify” America – Put a button on your website announcing that you will donate $1.00 of each order to a national tree planting organization.
  3. Create a special landing page for your website that offers 25% off to anyone who enters (or says) the word “Green” at checkout. Then create a batch of postcards with a QR code that takes scanners to that page.
  4. Donate $1.00 of each order placed in April to an environmentally friendly organization, such as National Geographic, Sierra Club or the Conservation Fund.  Advertise the promotion on your home page and with over-sized postcards.
  5. Offer to pay sales tax for the month of April, in honor of Keep America Beautiful Month.
  6. If you have a brick and mortar business buy a large plastic trash bin and collect recyclables during the month of April. Promote this with eye catching posters, strategically placed around your shop.
  7. Hold a contest for kids: Ask kids to write an essay about how they plan to keep America beautiful this spring and summer. Reward the top 2 best entries with a gift card to Amazon, or Target.
  8. Partner with a friend to host a “clean up our parks (or lake) day.” Invite people to gather at a local park and spend two hours picking up trash. Create branded thank you notes, for all of the participants. Include a 25% off coupon on the notes. Make it redeemable through the end of April.

Remember that when you use green in your marketing materials, you are exemplifying nature, health, life and rebirth.  For more on how colors can impact sales read about the psychology of color.

How is your small business keeping America beautiful and green?

Related articles: Make sure your direct mail stands out, Pros and Cons of Postcard Marketing

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Save the Planet and your Bottom Line

Americans everywhere  will be doing their part this Earth day (April 22nd) to support the environment.  But as an entrepreneur, why not save the planet AND your bottom line every day, with simple “earth themed” notepads?

Use branded notepads to advertise an “eco-friendly” commuter promotion.  Give every customer who walks, rides a bike or takes public transportation to your business this month 15% off. Place the promotional notepads around town and make an announcement on your website.

Earth month” recycled shopping bag giveaway. Fill four recycled shopping bags with free swag.  Give one lucky customer a free bag each week this month. Advertise the giveaway with promotional branded notepads and postcards.

Hold a “green” contest: Ask customers and prospects to post their best ideas for reducing waste on your Facebook page, or a designated section of your website.  Use an online printing service to create promotional notepads announcing the contest. Include entry guidelines and a submission deadline. Give a notepad to each person who walks in or makes a purchase during the month. Finally, reward the top three entries with valuable prizes like free product,  cash, or a massage gift card.

Place a QR code on promotional notepads.  Each scan can trigger a $2.00 donation to an environmentally friendly organization.

If you’re  a hair dresser, hold a “cutahon” on Earth Day (April 22). Give 30% of the proceeds to an earth friendly organization. Advertise the event with branded notepads.

Create notepads with special “Earth month coupons.” Offer 20% off selected items during the month of April.

 

 

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