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9/8/2009
12:01 PM
Fredric Paul
Fredric Paul
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Mid-Market Heroes: SMBs Say Color Really Does Make A Difference

Printer companies are always talking about how color printing can make a difference to small and midsize companies -- making marketing materials more effective and .... Frankly, the arguements always sounded like little more than semi-desperate attempts to sell more toner.

Printer companies are always talking about how color printing can make a difference to small and midsize companies -- making marketing materials more effective and .... Frankly, the arguements always sounded like little more than semi-desperate attempts to sell more toner.But Xerox said they could produce real businesses who would vouch for the fact that color printing has actually made a difference for them. This I had to see, so I took them up on the offer.

Catering To Customers First, I talked to Kim Faber at The Catering Company, which just upgraded to a Xerox Phaser 8500 solid-ink color printer. Faber, event coordinator and assistant general manager, said the Grand Rapids, Michigan, company wasn't looking for that specific model of printer, but just wanted an upgrade from black and white and got a great promotional price.

Color has changed the way the full-service caterer with some 70 employees does business. "We can send pictures" in promotional literature, Faber says, and add color logos. Most importantly, she adds, "we can feature the specific food product or dsiplay we're offering, and show that's what you're actually getting."

In tough economic times, Faber says, customers are focusing on what matters, "and the look is what makes the event." Color makes it easier to communicate that look.

"I can tie it to the sales of specific decor -- custom table linens -- and differnt qualities of food" that would not have been ordered without the color pictures. She guesses that color can lead to a 10% - 15% increase of the bottom line for particular high-end events -- "sometimes even 25%!"

"Just the impact alone has grown the business," Faber says. "It's paid for itself absolutely. Many times over."

Don't Miss: Things I Didn't Know About Printing

Bowled Over By The Impact You might have fooled by the loud shirts, but according to Curt Appleby at The Felix Erickson Company (FEstrikezone.com), the bowling-equipment business isn't very colorful. "A lot of the brochures in this business look like they come off a black and white printer," Appleby says. To stand out, Felix Erickson went color back in 2000, but recently upgraded to a Xerox Phaser 8860 in order to cut consumable costs and gain scanner and fax capablities.

The lower costs have pushed the bowling equipment supplier to put color everywhere. "Even our letterhead has color in it now," Appleby says, "because it's so cheap... just a couple of cents per page. It'd be silly not to do it in color."

Unlike Faber at The Catering Company, Appleby says it's a little difficult to judge the impact on revenue -- "we don't get feedback" on whether the color picture led to a particular purchase, he explains. "But we do get good responses from people who see how it's supposed to look when they get it." And that's a big difference compared to the black and white lists most competitors send to their bowling alley customers.

For Appleby, color comes down to a cost of doing business. "I think if we weren't doing it, I think we'd be losing more than we gain."

OK, so maybe color printing does have a busines payback. It's not likely to dramatically change the structure of your business, but at least a couple SMBs believe it's making an impact on their bottom lines.

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