Letterworks Blog

Tarot and Tattoos in Kuala Lumpur

Posted by: Letterworks on: 1st April 2010

The new month of April arrives and with it comes my housekeeping review of our web visitor statistics for March.

Visitor numbers are slightly down overall (better jump on that); Page views per visitor are up (that’s good); Bounce rate down (fine). All roughly to expectation so far. Then we move to the more interesting element, the keyword phrases that have been Googled to reach our site and remember that we are a print and graphics company in Reading. I found that 27 searches were for a named competitor (too bad they haven’t sorted out their own SEO too well); 14 job searches (fair enough); 2 tattoo artists; wide angle reading glasses (should’ve gone to Specsavers); flower arranging classes; printers in Sunderland, printers in Leeds, even printers in Kuala Lumpur (now KL is a wonderful city but unfortunately we don’t currently service Malaysia) and my personal favourite is for Free Tarot Card Reading!

So should you ever need a free tarot card reading, whilst being tattooed at a flower arranging printer in Kuala Lumpur, according to Google, you need look no further than Letterworks!

Strange coincidence that it’s April Fools Day today….

As a personal footnote, there has been an inspirational woman that I’d like to thank for getting me to this stage of web analytics. The above bizarre examples are the ones that go wide of the mark, but for every one of those, there are dozens that hit the spot. So Jackie, thank you indeed for helping us find several thousand visitors this past year and for being a true professional in every respect. It’s been a real pleasure working with you!

BA and Printers ‘Unite’

Posted by: Letterworks on: 20th March 2010

BA cabin crew are grabbing the headlines for calling industrial action over their revised pay and conditions. I pity the poor travellers who are scuppered by such drastic action, I really do. The results of BA’s action will be felt hard by those affected. Meanwhile over at the far less glamorous world of print, Unite (print and cabin crew share the same union) is calling for BPIF members to receive an RPI linked 3.7% pay increase. This would usually be a reasonable expectation for Unite to make. But in the reality of todays print marketplace, where you’re doing well just to survive, this seemingly modest increase is just not do-able for many print companies. So what should unhappy Unite members do, now that talks between Unite and BPIF have broken down again? Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your view) the impact of presses being switched off in protest just won’t have the massive impact of passengers stranded, honeymoons ruined, holidays and business trips cancelled. Printers have simply lost their power and need to accept the harsh commercial realities of life. Better to forego a payrise but still have a job, in my view.

Web to Print – who needs it?

Posted by: Letterworks on: 16th March 2010

After a web to print demo today here at Letterworks, I’m beginning to wonder just who is the real beneficiary of this expensive software.

The principles are great – you load your clients files, they can amend them on the screen, place their order online and bingo, we have a job. Anything that brings in work has got to be good, hasn’t it? But the fact is that clients expect the printer to make the software investment, spend a good deal of time loading and preparing their files, all in the vague hope that said client hasn’t scarpered to a cheaper printer down the road in the meantime (who probably hasn’t spent a penny on software in years!) So should we make that investment? The dilemma continues….

Marketing on Steroids, Delivery on Valium

Posted by: Letterworks on: 16th March 2010

Despite a huge downturn in the print industry one company that has clearly got its act together is the print giant Vistaprint. Recently published financial data shows that sales, profits and the balance sheet bottom line has increased substantially.

What does a print SME like Letterworks learn from the business model of a huge multinational like Vistaprint? I think the answer is in the marketing tactics.

Vistaprints marketing has upsell and cross-sell at every turn. Marketing on steroids I reckon! However the headline FREE items leave much to be desired (21 days delivery for 250 business cards for £3.77 delivery charge). So it’s marketing on steroids but delivery on valium.

Vistaprint truly knows the psychology of buying online and that really shows. Once you’ve made contact, they won’t let you go, so expect constant pestering, oops I meant to say ‘offers that may be of interest to you’.

Whatever you make of Vistaprints modus operandi, their reported 57000 orders per day is gargantuan in any language and I for one will be sneaking some of their ideas into my marketing masterplan (the non-patented ones of course!)

Renew that domain name before someone else does

Posted by: Letterworks on: 9th March 2010

Letterworks was first online back in the late 90s and naturally we hoped to get the .com as well as the .co.uk domain. Unfortunately, letterworks.com was already taken by an embroidery producing company in the US, so I put that to the back of my mind and decided that if they should ever relinquish the name I’d want to buy it.

So, some years and several renewals later it was a surprise to get an email from Network Solutions llc asking if we would like to buy the letterworks.com domain for $6000. A little investigation later, it seems that our American namesake hadn’t renewed and the name was snaffled by this domain dealer who promptly set about selling to the highest bidder. (We politely declined their offer).

Some of the cynics amongst you may want to know more about the methods used by Network Solutions and read about the controversies that surround this company. If so this is documented by Wikipedia here and/or you can read more about the practice of domain name front running, again courtesy of Wikipedia.

After reading the above articles I for one will never ignore a domain renewal notice again and I urge you to do the same. If you don’t buy or renew promptly, somebody else will!

No Oscar this year…

Posted by: Letterworks on: 8th March 2010

It was with no surprise at all that the Oscars have been awarded and Letterworks little ‘How To’ film didn’t get a mention!

After our first attempt at filming a pop up stand being constructed http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xi8R6YRrXVE we decided not to put ourselves in front of the critics! Much to learn, I know…don’t think our lead female, Leigh Bracher will be troubling Sandra Bullock nor will Austen Milbank (cameraman/director) be a threat to Kathryn Bigelow. But if there was ever a “Realistic Pop Up Stand Construction” award we’d be right up there!

CSR valued at 10% of Price

Posted by: Letterworks on: 8th March 2010

It was with mixed feelings that we got the scores of a recent (unsuccessful) opportunity to tender to a county council.

The good news was that Letterworks scored highest (out of 30 companies) in the Corporate Social Responsibility marks. We were also in the top quartile for marks awarded for Health and Safety, financials, organisation, environmental and quality control factors.

The bad news is that all of those marks are eclipsed by the score for pricing. All of the other factors put together is less than the number of points awarded for pricing. 25 points awarded for CSR and 250 for prices.

Therefore for a company like us, all of the good work we do that can be proven historically is wiped out by the hypothetical pricing mark awarded. (It is clearly stated that the prices required are not binding and are illustrative only.)

My gripe is that companies can and do submit ridiculously low prices knowing that there will not be any redress when they don’t honour them.

Of course I know that competitive pricing is essential and we wouldn’t still be in business if we didn’t have a realistic cost structure, but are these authorities really valuing hypothetical prices ten times more than CSR. The answer unfortunately is yes.

Happy Birthday Photoshop!

Posted by: Letterworks on: 3rd March 2010

Earlier this year Photoshop celebrated its 20th anniversary. In 1990, this groundbreaking program was launched onto the graphics communications world and I for one didn’t particularly want to buy into it…

Picture the scene, us and our competitors were safe in our lovely world, where traditional type foundries like Linotype and Monotype ruled the photocomposition world. Letterworks had by that time invested over £60,000 on the Linotype font library. This, for us, was all based on the closely guarded language CORA which Linotype had pioneered and was to all intents and purposes the dogs kahunas of the typesetting world. Everything we produced was sacrosanct to our trade, couldn’t have just anyone producing typography and artwork. We still had a unionised industry and even had to give our union membership number when submitting artwork to newspapers and magazine publishers, to prove you’d earned the right. So, what was this new system called Postscript hoping to achieve? We already had our own software and language thank you.

Well, Photoshop forced itself upon us, like it or not and for a time the graphics world did suffer from a dumbing down effect. Anyone could buy the software and a Mac (everyone in the graphics world preferred Macs back then) and call themselves a graphic designer.

Now, twenty years on I know that Photoshop has proven its pedigree, is an amazing software which is accessible to all and I genuinely believe that the graphics industry is better for it. I just needed some time to accept and realise it though.

So many happy returns Photoshop!

TFM&A v Publishing Expo

Posted by: Letterworks on: 27th February 2010

Is it me, or are the organisers of major shows just not communicating?

I like to think of Letterworks as being a forward thinking company who likes to keep abreast of new technology in this ever changing environment. It was a tough call therefore to decide between the two trade exhibitions being held on virtually the same days in different locations, both representing key areas in my company’s development. I can’t take out two days, so it was only one to choose. This industry is tough enough as it is, so please organisers, don’t make it even more difficult for the exhibitors and attendees than it already is!

As it goes, TFM&A (Technology for Marketing & Advertising) won the toss and I did find the day encouragingly busy, even frenetic. Good to see the numbers are back to this level after visiting shows recently that are worryingly quiet. Plenty of innovative products and services to inspire me and frighten the FD!

As a producer of display graphics, I can’t help but notice the varying quality of the show stand displays and print collateral. Of course the major players have everything you’d expect but one of the smaller exhibitors had gone to no trouble at all. Three or four laser printed colour copies pinned on the wall of their stand plus a plain white unprinted folder with one A4 colour laser copied sheet pretending to be a leaflet. If that particular marketing software company cannot invest in their own company image and collateral then why would I invest in them? A false economy if ever I saw one!

Did I make the right choice for the day?…I’ll probably never know, but it was a worthwhile, informative day at TFM&A.

Print Heart Valentines Day

Posted by: Letterworks on: 27th February 2010

There are some times when the real thing just has to be chosen! Do you wish your loved one a Happy Valentine by SMS or email? I’m sure there are plenty that do, but can you really improve on a real tactile card with real handwritten kisses? I don’t think so. Print and personalised print in particular appeals to the romantic in us. You can hold it, feel it and cherish it. When was the last time you put an email on the mantelpiece?

I see that the nations biggest personalised greeting card printer, something about a pig on the moon, had to suspend Valentine orders, due to unprecedented demand. If only we at Letterworks had that kind of problem! But it’s encouraging to know that the demand is still there for the real deal.

Roll on Mothers’ Day!