Category Archives: General

Novelty items printed on Roland BT-12

The thumbprint version:

  • Roland D2G for printing novelty fabric items

The full version:

Last October your read here about Roland’s direct-to-garment digital printer, the BT-12. One purpose of the post was to point out that graphics and sign shops were diversifying into fabrics as an additional income stream. Well in a recent post Roland shared some great ideas for items that can be printed by the BT-12.

Among a number of different fabric bags being suggested, the one that caught my eye was a wine bag. I agree with Roland that wine bags present a number of online and direct sales possibilities. They’d be good for personalized items for weddings and other such events, for liquor stores, for wine suppliers, for vineyards, and probably a dozen other ideas if one put some creative thought into it.

If you’re looking for an additional income stream for your shop, a BT-12 would be worth considering. Give Rob or Graham at Stanley’s a call.


An industry survey looking for your knowledge (there may be a $100 Amazon gift card in it for you)

The thumbnail version:

  • Share your knowledge of the self-adhesive graphic film market

The full version:

Sign Industry Canada’s website has a link to a survey. They want to hear your opinion of the the self-adhesive graphic film market. They offer the assurance that your responses will be collected anonymously and will only be used for this research.

You may want to consider participating as a contribution to the industry after you’ve satisfied yourself that you’ll have access to the results of the survey—that’s the least you can expect. The possibility of winning a $100 Amazon gift card is nice but shouldn’t be the reason for participating; making a contribution to the betterment of your industry should be the incentive.


The thumbnail version:

  • SAC’s Mentor of the Year award serves as a reminder
  • Mentoring helps overcome “re-inventing the wheel”

The full version:

A mentor can make all the difference.

I’m a great believer in mentoring. I want to encourage you to be too, either as a mentor or a mentee. An excerpt from my book, Characters Who Can Make or Break Your Small Business, is appropriate here, “In the world of small business, ‘mentor’ describes an experienced and knowledgeable person willing to share his or her knowledge and expertise with a less-experienced and less-knowledgeable business person, the mentee.”

And to round out the picture a bit more, another excerpt from Characters, “The first two qualities a small business mentor must have are obvious: knowledge and experience. They’re so obvious we don’t need to explore them here. The third is not so obvious, but it’s certainly essential.

The third quality stems from a presumption that small business mentoring is free of charge. Those who are experienced must share knowledge with those who are inexperienced. This is how civilization advances. If the sharing can be done without charge, so much the better.”

So, either a mentor or a mentee be (to borrow and mangle an old expression).

2021 BOCSI winners announced

The thumbnail version:

  • The BOCSI winners have been announced
  • Plan to enter next year

The full version:

Every year I urge that you enter your sign shop in Sign Media Canada and the Sign Association of Canada’s Best of Canada’s Sign Industry awards. The exposure would be good for business. Winning would be great for business, and morale, and maybe free beers down at your local.

In addition to the sign company of the year award, the 2021 winners in each of the twelve categories have been announced. There’s a category for every shop, including yours:

  • Out-of-home media
  • Building signage
  • Commercial tenant signs
  • Digital signage
  • Display graphics
  • Fascia signs
  • Free standing signage
  • Illuminated signs
  • Sign systems
  • Vehicle graphics
  • Unique signs

See you in the winners’ list next year?

Sadly, a true story about pricing

The thumbnail version:

  • Pricing can make or break your business.

The full version:

Av few posts ago I discussed the importance of pricing. To further reinforce the point, here is a true story (only the names have been changed) told in excerpts from my book, Characters Who Can Make or Break Your Business. It’s about a textile screen shop, but is equally applicable to a sign shop.

To set the scene . . . Greg had resigned from a large shop, Nordic, to start his own operation, taking one of his former boss’s biggest customers with him. This big customer was going to be Greg’s only customer.

“I visited Greg’s new business about a month after he started up. He proudly gave me the grand tour, boasting, ‘It’s so totally cool that I’ve created this happening place.'”

To paraphrase for a moment before returning to the excerpts . . . He was busy, with three or four employees churning out Tees on a big, brand newly-leased automatic press. It sure had all the signs of being, as Greg put it, a “happening place.”

“Greg was very pleased with himself for having ‘stuck it to Nordic.’ When I asked whether he’d managed to negotiate a good price with the customer he said that he’d only had to give them a slightly better price than Nordic was charging.

Consulting an accountant could have prevented this disaster.

I asked whether an accountant had checked the viability of his pricing and he assured me there was no need for that because if Nordic was making a lot of money at those prices, then he would too.

I had not been invited to offer business advice and when I sensed that I might be crossing a line I refrained from sharing my immediate thoughts—You did what? You just assumed that Nordic was making money at that price? You didn’t take into account your own overhead structure and cash flow commitments? You didn’t consider Nordic’s economies of scale? You plunged into this after undercutting Nordic’s already low price and without any understanding of how that price was calculated?”

Jumping ahead to the last excerpt . . . “Six months later we received a package from a firm of trustees in bankruptcy and wrote of Greg’s bad debt . . . ”

I don’t think this pricing story needs any more explanation.

Sell a concept to your local authorities (you do the signs of course).

Here’s and idea that popped up on LinkedIn.

It could be a good project for your shop that goes something like this:

  1. Approach your local municipality and remind them that your city/town/village has a littering/graffiti/dog poo problem.
  2. Tell them you have a great idea for helping to solve it by raising awareness in an eye-catching humorous way.
  3. Show them a mock-up of a sign like the one here.
  4. Crunch some numbers and give them a price for you to produce the signs.

If you do it right, it could pay off very nicely.

Market trends in inkjet

What does this trend mean for the future of my shop?


Do you know that the fastest growing applications for inkjet printing is building graphics and that fine art and photographic reproduction are in decline? What does this mean for your shop? Time to refocus?

How serious are you about promoting your graphics shop?

Many small graphics shops are like many small businesses in general, they’re reactive, not proactive. They sit and wait for customers to turn up, they don’t go looking for them. One of the biggest reasons for this is that many small business owners are technicians and would rather do anything other than sell. Or they may just be among the 30 to 50 percent of introverts to whom selling or self promotion does not occur naturally.

The problem is that in a competitive market, proactive marketing and selling is necessary if your business is to survive and thrive. In most cases there is no way around it. So what to do? Well, the obvious answer is to hire a competent salesperson to fill the void. But if the business can’t afford a salesperson or if you’re pretty much the sole employee, then a sales course might be called for.

No, you don’t have to be like this to promote or sell your business.

You might balk at the idea of doing a sales course, but don’t. You don’t have to turn yourself into the salesperson you think you could never be, but understanding some of the psychology and science behind selling can only benefit you. You can then pick and choose the techniques or ideas that you feel comfortable with and do a better job of promoting and selling your business. We’re all in sales in one way or another but we don’t have to fit the stereotypical image of a loud, fast-talking, pushy person.

Proactively promoting or selling your business is going to take you a lot further than sitting about waiting for customers. How you do it is up to you but I’m afraid you can’t avoid it if you want your business to realize its full potential.

Taking the initiative with sandwich boards.

If individual pub owners can do it, why not a sign shop?

Sandwich boards are produced by pretty much every sign shop as one of many products. But it seems that sandwich boards are an art form on their own. There are elements to sandwich boards that are unlike other advertising mediums such as billboards, POP signs, banners, and even digital displays.

For one thing, sandwich boards employ, puns, humour, and even expletives to attract attention and convey a message. For another, they are most commonly used by restaurants, pubs, spas and other small businesses that strive to draw in passing foot traffic. In short, they have a purpose and character all of their own.

This makes one wonder why there aren’t sign shops that specialize in sandwich boards. They have so much potential for creativity. There are a ton of sandwich board graphics and text ideas on the internet which are bound to appeal to restaurant, pub, and coffee shop owners in particular. And once someone really puts their mind to it they’re bound to come up with eye-catching phrases, puns, and graphics not seen before. What about a concept whereby customers are offered printed sandwich boards that can be rotated, say, weekly.

There surely has to be a business idea here for an enterprising sign shop owner. looking for an edge in a competitive market.

Partnership issue?

It goes without saying that a sign shop is not going to be successful if the necessary technical expertise is not there. But the other area of expertise that shop ownership demands is business management. Without it a business is severely handicapped. In fact, it’s usually the lack of one or more aspects of business management that will sink a shop—even a technically competent shop.

One aspect of business management that causes some small businesses to fail is the question of partnership. Do you take a partner or do you go it alone? What do you need to consider before entering a partnership? And once you’re in a partnership, how do you manage it to avoid conflict and ensure harmony?

These are all serious questions because if you get it wrong the survival of the business could be at risk. Yet time and again small business owners will enter into partnerships with hardly more thought than they put into the selection of their morning coffee. There are many aspect to consider—personality compatibility, work ethic compatibility, strategic priorities, money expectations, division of duties, to name just a few.

Sometimes it’s something seemingly simple that can destroy a partnership, and hence a business. Here’s one I’ve seen occur in screen printing and graphics shops. It’s seems really silly and it’s not something you’re likely to think about when considering a partnership, but it can cause a lot of friction between partners and even result in a split.

It’s not fair! You’re out having a good time while I’m stuck in the shop until late.

A and B enter into a partnership to launch a sign shop. A is the technical person and B is the sales and marketing person. As is typical of a new business, the partners put in long hours. A’s hours are spent in the shop until late most nights while B is out in bars and restaurants with potential customers. This is fine for a while but after a few months of slaving away in the shop, A begins to see B’s activity as more fun than work. Resentment creeps in.

Is this something adults should be able to handle? Of course it is, but often it’s not handled in a rational, adult way and the partners begin to squabble until eventually they can’t get along at all.

This is why partnerships should not be entered without a lot of prior contemplation. Have frank exploratory talks with the potential partner, not just about the potential positives bit also about the likely negatives. Seek advice from experts and people involved in business partnerships. Don’t put your sign shop at risk because of a poorly conceived partnership.

Don’t forget about better alternatives.

Thanks! That’s a much better solution.

Customers usually favour the kind of business that offers them more than just the product they request. This applies to sign shops as much as it applies to any other type of business. Customers don’t always know what they need and ask for something that might not be as effective as something the supplier can suggest.

Just by offering service beyond what is being requested, particularly if it is helpful to the customer or saves them money, a supplier can create customer loyalty and even generate referrals. Customers talk about positive buying experiences.

For instance, a customer requesting a sign might be much better off with a banner. But they may never realize this if you, the expert, don’t bring it to their attention. They might not realize the flexibility a banner offers. A banner can be printed on both sides, it can be used indoors or outdoors, it can be hung or be free standing, it can be vertical, horizontal or square. A banner can serve almost any purpose—advertisement, announcement, or business name.

It all depends on the intended application, but that’s where your value-added aspect comes in. Instead of just taking the order for a sign, suggesting a banner might be a much better solution for the customer—they just wouldn’t have known it on the way into your shop, but they’ll know it on the way out. And they’ll be impressed.

Today a banner might be a better alternative and tomorrow it might be something else. But it’s the fact that you’re demonstrating a concern to deliver the best result for your customer that will differentiate you from your competition.

Don’t accumulate junk

Accumulated junk..

Here is a tip for your business and home . . . Don’t accumulate stuff you don’t really need.

Not only is it silly from a financial perspective, bad from an ecological perspective, and a source of clutter stress, but it’s guaranteed be a major headache when you move.

We all move businesses and homes sooner or later and it’s then, during this high stress time, that you want to avoid having to make decisions about shipping or chucking. It’s the very worst time and circumstances in which to have to make these decisions.

The answer is to commit to an ongoing process of acquiring and keeping only what you really need and use. Chuck out, sell or donate the stuff you don’t need. Do this regularly. Do this in your home and your business. When moving day arrives, you’ll be very pleased that you didn’t leave the ship or chuck decisions to the very worst time—right before your move.

And in the meantime, between moves, you’ll live a less cluttered, less stressful, existence at home and at the business.

Not so static media

How can I make static media less static for my customers?

In an era when digital media is muscling in on the traditional sign and billboard territory of static media, there are encouraging accounts of static media remaining relevant by effectively employing creative ideas.

Sing Media Canada recently reported on one such creative idea. A division of L’Oreal Canada placed static ads that were not so static in fitness clubs in Toronto and Vancouver. The not-so-static aspect involved a sample bottle of Lipikar body lotion attached to the static ad. While the ad promoted the product, the sample bottle enabled club members to try it.

Not only was it a clever idea enabling interaction between a static ad and its target market, but it was cleverly based on research that showed that 85 percent of gym users run errands within two hours of a workout. The hope was that the target would buy the product while a favourable impression of it was still on their mind.

How many static media customers do you have who could benefit from this kind of creativity?         

Is poor taste poor business?

Now THAT is really bad!

Every now and then a billboard or sign makes news because of perceived poor taste. They’re often of a political or sexual nature, and often they’re pretty bad. I realize that “bad” is a matter of interpretation but some that have made it onto the news really do cross the line. However, this isn’t about the degree of “badness”, it’s about whether your shop will take a print job if the image or text is “bad”.

Is it good business practice to take any job regardless of content? Is there a downside for your business being associated with a controversial sign or billboard? Is it fair to expect your staff to work on any job no matter how much it might offend them? Have you considered what you might do if approached to print a “bad” job?

One wonders about the production process behind these signs and billboards. Is the print shop proud of it’s work? Does it even care?

Does your shop care?


Demonstrate your Roland

At the recent Adobe MAX 2017 in Las Vegas, Roland collaborated with Coca-Cola in an interactive project. Attendees were able to design their own Coke bottle labels which were then produced on a Roland TrueVis VG-640. Apparently it was a huge hit with thousands of attendees taking home a Coke bottle with their very own label design.

People are charmed by the gesture of giving.

So what did this project do? Well, it demonstrated a few well-known traits of human nature. First of all, people are intrigued by the connection between creativity and technology—as in seeing their own label design on a Coke bottle. Then people also like receiving something for nothing—like a free Coke—because we’re all charmed by the gesture, even if the gift is something simple. And we all have a tendency to collect curios to remind us of a pleasant place or experience—like keeping a Coke bottle with your own label on your “trophy” shelf. And finally, we like to show our “trophies” to family and friends and tell them about the experiences they represent.

This was a clever project. Adobe got to show off their design software, Roland got to show off what their printer-plotter can do, and Coke got to promote their brand.

So what a small Canadian graphics shop can learn form this is that the human traits on display in this project can be used by it too the basis for marketing tools, either individually or together. The scale will be different but the principle will be the same—find a way to attract attention to your shop and it’s capabilities by giving away samples of what your Roland can do. Consider partnering with someone else to your mutual benefit. If the big guys (Adobe, Roland, and Coke) can do it, why not smaller guys too?

Expanding your income-producing capabilities

Selling more to existing customers is said to be a lot less costly than finding new customers.

For a small sign shop with, say, a Roland printer-plotter, this could mean finding more printed items to offer—there’s almost an unlimited variety of stuff you can print on your printer-plotter from lawn signs to T-shirts. Couple a little research with some creativity and you could produce an offering of products to enable you to proactively approach customers instead of waiting for them to approach you.

A Roland desktop engraver.

But even if you extend the range of output your Roland printer-plotter, what about the types of signs it cannot produce? What about engraved signs? You know, washroom signs, name plates, and so on. This is where you may need another piece of equipment such as an engraver (you can get desktop engravers without a huge capital outlay) and start offering engraved signs. You’d do your homework first of course and crunch all the numbers. But who knows, it might work out to be an additional income generator.

And if one idea doesn’t work out, keep looking. When you add a new item to your product offering, tell your customers and the rest of the world. It’s a much better strategy than sitting waiting for customers to approach you for what they think you may be able to produce.

Every staff member is an ambassador for your sign shop

The face of a dislikeable customer service person. It’s going to cost you business.

In spite of it often being pointed out that people like to do business with people they like, some business owners and staff still don’t get it.

Here’s a story of how a sign shop just lost a customer because of two staff members doing their best to be dislikeable. And the worst part about it is that they lost a customer over something unrelated to printing. We can all learn a lesson from this experience.

I’ve used this sign shop in question in the past for various small printing jobs such as personalized mugs, mouse pads, and plaques. Not big jobs but then they have no idea who I am. Like any other “small” customer I could have been someone involved in politics who may one day need lawn signs, or someone associated with a company who may one day need a big order of POS signs. Just because someone has only bought a few mugs and a couple of mouse pads in the past, you can’t make assumptions about future purchases.

Anyway, I knew that they also served as a FedEx agent. So when I recently had a FedEx parcel for pickup, I took it to this print shop. Two people were sitting at desks each about ten feet behind the front counter. Without getting up one of them asked me what I wanted. I told her that I had a FedEx parcel to drop off. She told me to just leave it on the counter. I said I’d like to have it weighed since I didn’t know the weight and I also didn’t want to leave a $1,200 original pencil drawing lying on the counter. She reluctantly got up, weighed the parcel, and sat down again. I asked about insurance and was told that since I was paying FedEx I would have to call FedEx for that information. If I were paying them, she’d find out about the insurance. The second person agreed with her. They weren’t going to help me.

The indifferent attitude and no attempt to be helpful was a big turnoff. I took an immediate dislike to them and, by extension, the sign shop. And since people do business with people they like, and avoid people they don’t like, they lost me as a customer. Okay, so they will survive just fine without my occasional mug and mouse pad orders, but what if I were a customer with a big sign order coming down the pike?

Every staff member needs to understand what being dislikeable can do to your business. Do your staff members understand this?


The wordless billboard

Message delivered in a nanosecond.

We’ve all heard that a picture is worth a thousand words. I doubt if there’s ever been a better example of the wisdom of this expression than a certain YMCA billboard. It had a basketball hoop sticking out of the middle and the YMCA logo in the upper right corner. There was nothing else on the billboard. A basket ball hoop and a logo on a plain white background — nothing else.

Only a complete idiot or someone intentionally obtuse wouldn’t instantly understand the message. It could be absorbed in a nanosecond. You’d have to be driving by at way over any legal speed limit to not have time to get the message. Leonardo da Vinci once said: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” He probably didn’t have billboards in mind but the concept applies to billboards. This board imprinted on one’s brain an image of a basketball hoop and the YMCA logo — message delivered. But better still, you can bet people told their friends about the clever billboard — message delivered some more.

I hope the designer won an award or at least received a handsome bonus. This board was sheer genius. Not all messages can be delivered this way but, with some thought, there are probably many.

Winter supplies deliveries

I’ve planned my supplies for winter.

Winter in Canada can mean shipping problems. If you’re a sign shop receiving vinyl and ink deliveries for your Roland, you should know that these items are okay to ship even when it gets really, really cold like down around minus 35 Celsius. But what you must also know is that these items have to be brought up to room temperature before you use them.

If your shop does graphic screen printing, keep in mind that one of the products most sensitive to freezing is emulsions. They will separate when thawed after freezing and cannot be reconstituted once that happens. UV ink can be shipped in low temperatures but must also be brought up to room temperature and stirred before using.

If your shop does conventional textile screen printing you don’t have to be concerned about plastisol inks freezing. But again, they too must be given a chance to warm up to room temperature and stirred well before you attempt to use them. And be careful to not put plastisol containers near a heat source to thaw because you could trigger a gelling reaction in the bucket, particularly if you get distracted and leave the bucket there for longer than you should.

Some shippers offer heated service but it’s of course quite a bit more expensive than regular shipping. And heated service has been known to fail if a vehicle breaks down or if the shipper is careless about overnight storage. Also, heated shipping is usually only offered between main centres. So if you’re outside a main centre, say, in a rural area, your winter shipments are at risk even if you request heated shipping.

All of this is just not worth the cost and hassle. If you’re concerned about winter shipping, call Stanley’s and discuss it with them: Cambridge – 1 877 205 9218; Calgary – 1 877 661 1553; Edmonton – 1 888 424 7446; Richmond – 604 873 2451

The money thing . . . employment or your own sign shop?

Industry salary survey.

Signmedia has conducted its 11th annual survey of the sign-making industry in Canada. It was an online survey to be completed by 4th September, so if you didn’t participate it’s too late now. However, when the results are published you should make a point of studying them.

If you’re employed in the sign-making industry you’ll want to know how your pay stacks up against the industry norms in your part of the country. You may also want to know how it stacks up against other parts of the country. This is the type of information that helps you plan where you choose to work and live. If you’re not realizing your market value where you are now, you may want to do something about it.

If you own a sign shop with employees you’ll want to know how your payroll relates to market norms. It’s useful information that may help your planning and budgeting. Your employees are likely to be aware of the results of the survey so you’d better be too.

If you’re a one-person sign shop owner or have just a couple of employees, you’ll also be interested in the survey results. You’ll want to gauge whether you may be better off as an employee at a big shop rather than an owner of a small shop. However, like so many small business owners, the pay may be secondary to your need for independence. The numbers may not matter. Or perhaps you already know that you do better with your small shop than you would do working for a big shop. And that’s fine but you should still study the survey results to at least you’ll be aware of how you compare with the rest of the industry.

So, regardless of your circumstances in the industry, check out Signmedia’s salary survey results.

Unlawful signage

Does your shop comply with sign regulations?

Is your shop meticulous about complying with regulations for proper positioning of signage?

Members of The Sign Association of Canada (SAC-ACE) are concerned about the the amount of unlawful signage. The problem is not a shortage of regulations in most jurisdictions, the problem appears to be inconsistent application of the rules and, in some cases, a lack of enforcement.

The problem of course is that those companies willing to take a chance on not being caught are able to cut corners, incur lower costs and under-bid law-abiding rivals. And it seems that there’s a fair chance they won’t be caught.

Here’s an example of how dodging regulations save costs. Some cities have introduced a requirement for land surveyor certification to ensure that signs are installed at appropriate distances and in accordance with permit applications. This sounds like one way to enforce regulations but there is of course a cost attached — apparently between $1,200 and $1,500. The SAC-ACE points out that, “sign companies willing to take the risk of not following the law can offer a cheaper product, faster.”

So the objective is to encourage proper regulation enforcement to level the playing field. But, realistically, there are always businesses willing to cut corners and offer their products at a lower cost than they would be able to do if they were conducting legitimate business.

The SAC-ACE encourages reporting of enforcement issues. Where does your shop stand on this?






Slaps created by the Roland team.

Slaps? Your Roland can produce them, so what are they?

Ben Fellowes, writing for the Roland website, says that “slap” is: ” . . . the term given to sticker art that goes beyond the realms of mere graphics and into an artistic world inhabited by mad creatures  and bizarre characters.” Apparently slap designs draw inspiration from graffiti, street art, tattoos, surfing, and skating.

Another feature of slaps is that the stickers are contour cut in any shape and size you can imagine — something your Roland printer/cutter can handle.

If you’re not producing slaps on your Roland equipment, perhaps you should be. Stickers are expected to be cool and in demand for a long time to come. They’re popular with bands, hip businesses, boarders, and people who slap them on their laptops and just about anything else they want to decorate. There’s bound to be a market for slaps in your neck of the woods—you just have to get out there and find it or, perhaps, create it.

Your Roland is ready and waiting . . .

How do you compete for business?

Tell them abut your signs.

I recently received a promotional email that got me wondering why I hardly ever see any promotional material from smaller sign shops—not even signs. It seems ironic that one doesn’t see sign shops using signs to promote their shops.

The promotional email came from a large printing company that prints everything from business cards to billboards. This particular email was promoting their sign business with the headline: “Summer display solutions. We’ve got you covered this summer for all of your outdoor marketing needs.”

They included images of lawn signs, banners, canopy tents, teardrop flags, and sandwich boards. In short, all the stuff a smaller sign shop can produce on a Roland. But if the big shop is telling everyone what they can produce, and the smaller shop is not, guess whose business is going to grow and whose is going to remain small or perhaps even disappear.

How the small sign shop promotes its work depends very much on the market and other local circumstances. One thing is for sure though, if the small sign shop doesn’t promote itself, it’s going to remain a small shop, if it remains at all.

A design oops!

Small details matter

Here’s more feedback from a member of the target audience for the signs you produce—me!

Like any other consumer, if I take the trouble to read your customer’s advertising sign—which is after all why you produce it in the first place—then I expect to be able to get the message right away. If I don’t, your customer would have wasted his or her money paying you to print the sign, and that’s no way for you to build a repeat customer base.

Even if the design complies with all the conventional wisdom for making the message clear and easy to absorb quickly, the smallest oversight can still mess it up. Consider this example of a vehicle wrap that didn’t turn out as intended . . .

I was driving behind a Mini wrapped to promote a local coffee shop. Overall it was a very attractive and well-designed wrap inasmuch as you knew the name of the coffee shop right away. But there was a flaw which detracted from the effectiveness of the message the design was trying to convey.

Across the back window was bold lettering which said: “We might not be number one.” Underneath was smaller lettering which began: “But we sure . . .” and I couldn’t read the rest because it was partially covered by the window wiper. So the message would have been wasted on most people with more important things to do than be annoyed by a poorly-positioned window wiper (or message).  However, I was curious, and for the next kilometer or so I drove behind the Mini until I figured out that the full line was: “But we sure have a lot of fun!”

The lesson here is that details matter. An otherwise great piece of sign design (in this case a vehicle wrap) can be spoiled by a small but important detail, such as the positioning of a window wiper.

Your sign business can start with a Roland, but that’s not enough . . .

What can you and your Roland put on this?

So you have a Roland printer-cutter and you’ve discovered that you can produce great signs with it. Now what? Do you wait for customers to beat a path to your door? And what if they don’t? Unless you’re in extraordinarily fortunate circumstances they’re not going to beat a path to your door — you have to go out and find them.

And finding customers often means showing them that they’ve always needed what you can provide, they just didn’t know it. Here’s an example . . .

I know a coffee shop owner who has a lot of difficulty attracting new customers. Part of the reason is that even people walking by don’t notice the coffee shop because the landlord insists that all the tenants have the same black and white awnings and name signs — it’s hard to be noticeable. There are of course ways she can attract attention and one of them is to place a sandwich board to alert passers-by that they’re outside a coffee shop. I don’t need to tell you how effective a sandwich board can be if it’s eye-catching, and what’s more eye-catching than a funny quote or expression?

So in this case, if  a sign shop approached the owner with an offer to rotate a series of sandwich boards outside her coffee shop, say weekly, I suspect she’d go for it. From the sign printer’s perspective it could be expanded to include coffee shops around the city (obviously not competitors on the same street) and the signs could be rotated among them.

A quick search yielded some great examples of sandwich board material for coffee shops:

  • “We don’t speak Pig Latin, Klingon or Starbucks. Please order a small, medium or large”.
  • “Depresso; the feeling you get when you run out of coffee”.
  • “Hello darkness, my old friend.” (Accompanied by an image of a black coffee).
  • “We are open. Coffee awaits.”
  • “You’re going to do amazing things today but you need a cup of coffee first.”
  • “Coffee dealers and local milk pushers.”

Sandwich boards like these are bound to attract attention, a smile and business. And why limit the idea to coffee shops?  But you have to give it some thought, be creative, and get out there and find work for your Roland.


A tip for you

Write it down . . .


A tip from Richard Branson . . . “If you don’t write down your ideas, they could be gone by morning. Write down lists to keep track of your goals and you’ll be amazed what challenges you overcome.” Don’t lose another great sign idea because you didn’t write it down when you thought of it.

One consumer’s perspective on store signs

I’m that consumer. Allow me to explain something I’ve been telling business owners for years, particularly owners of small stores. Let’s use one of my favourite types of small retail businesses to illustrate the point — coffee shops. I’ve just been reminded of this topic by an image of a shop sign in the latest Sign Media magazine.

As a consumer I can tell you that unless the coffee shop has a readily-recognizable name such as, say, Starbucks or Second Cup, passers-by (particularly those in vehicles) are not going to know what the shop is offering. The exception to this of course is if the name includes the product on offer in text or graphics in a way that’s eye-catching and not over-shadowed by the business’s name.

Show them what they’re looking for.

For instance, the sign that reminded me of this topic had the shop’s name in small lettering and the word “coffee” in lettering at least four times the size of the shop’s name. If the less-than-memorable name of the shop had been the dominant word passers-by would likely have taken little notice, even if they were looking for a cup of coffee.

Many business owners spend a lot of time picking a name for their business and naturally want to proudly display it. For many types of businesses, that’s putting the emphasis in the wrong place — consumers care more about what you have to sell them than they do about your name. They’re overwhelmed by signs and are looking for the word or image on their mind, in this case it’s coffee. So show them “coffee” because, frankly, they don’t care about your shop’s name, they care about what they want.

Sign manufacturers could do customers a favour by pointing this out.


Appearance is everything – what does your email address say about your graphics and sign shop?

What’s your email address?

I’ve been updating Stanley’s email lists as part of a general upgrade of their online presence and noticed that many email addresses fall short of advice I received years ago when business went online.

The advice assumed that you had a web site in your business’s name — a fundamental requirement for a print shop if you are to be taken seriously in today’s market place. So, assuming you have a web site, the advice was to take the next step in the construction of a serious business image by having your email address reflect your web site address.  This might sound a bit frivolous but unfortunately it’s how things work.

I’m not a fan of small businesses portraying themselves as big businesses — there’s no disgrace to being a small business (in fact, there are many advantages) but in any case, why would you risk the embarrassment of being exposed as phoney? However, there is a certain minimal standard of business-like behaviour required to give potential customers and others confidence in your shop. So back to your email address and what it does to convey a serious business-like impression . . .

You decide which of these email addresses are more likely to inspire confidence and which make the business look a bit rinky-dink:

A1 Signs and Shirts

A1 Signs and Shirts

Signs 4U            

Signs 4U            

Everyone knows Hotmail and Gmail email addresses are free, and that’s fine for personal purposes, but not for your business. You don’t want people to wonder how established and serious your business is if it apparently can’t afford a few bucks for a business-like image. This includes something seen many times a day by many people — your email address.

Footnote: The business names and email addresses used above are fictional. If they resemble real-life names and addresses, it is purely coincidental.



Pitching ideas to customers

Plan your pitch!

We’ve pitched ideas on this blog before about using your Roland printer/cutters to diversify your product offering. When you get down to really examining them, the Roland series of machines are quite amazing in their versatility. The obvious question then becomes why not use that versatility to broaden your product offering? Surely this is something to consider as one solution to an increasingly competitive market place.

Something else your Roland offers you is access to the Roland web site where you can find a lot of useful information to promote business success. You should check it out from time to time. One such article by Ben Fellowes offers advice on how to pitch a customer a new idea. This applies to the type of new ideas we’ve encouraged as a means of diversifying your business using the many features of your Roland.

The point of course is that if you don’t pitch the customer appropriately, even a brilliant idea that could make you and the customer a lot of money might never happen. In the course of running my business I had potential suppliers pitch ideas and products but some of the presentations were so pathetic and the preparation so poor, that they left a bad impression. An “unprofessional” pitch raises questions about how “professional” the idea or product delivery is going to be.

Fellowes offers three main pieces of advice: (1) carefully plan your conversation; (2) be clear, precise and offer immediate value; and (3) put on a fearless performance and knock it out of the park. He also mentions some tips that I really like such as: be natural; draw on a board instead of using a slick Powerpoint presentation; crate a conversational atmosphere by allowing the customer to speak and ask questions; keep in mind the “elevator pitch’ concept; and create and show prototypes.





Look beyond the obvious (and a web site tip)

Look for what your Roland can do beyond the obvious.

Success stories are always a pleasure to tell. I know that equipment and consumable manufacturers like to tell them when their products are involved because it obviously promotes their business. But I like to tell them because its a way of showing what can be achieved – it’s a way of inspiring. A way of looking beyond the obvious.

In this case the story involves a business that started out screen printing skateboard decks and then morphed into a successful decal printer when they acquired a Roland VersaCAMM printer/cutter. The shop is Inkgenda of Costa mesa, California. Their Roland opened up a new world. It got them into magnetic signs, vinyl banners, static clings, window displays, custom decals, and even heat transfers for Tees.

Success has been such that their Roland is running all the time. Sometimes it runs unsupervised like when running, say, ten six-foot banners using Roland’s take-up system. One of the owners claims he can walk away and let the machine print: “It’s like a Crock-Pot – push the button, come back in two hours.”

So that’s the inspirational part of the story. Perhaps it can spur you on to expanding your business with the versatility of a Roland printer/cutter. And keep in mind that Stanleys can help you with this, all you have to do is call 1 877 661 1553 or 1 888 424 7446.

Here’s the web site tip part of the story . . . I visited the Inkgenda website and found that a number of the pages listed on the menu bar brought up error messages. If I were a potential customer it would have turned me off. So the tip is this: check your web site a couple of times a day and make sure it’s working. If you wouldn’t allow your shop door to jam and prevent potential customers in, why would you allow your web site to do it?