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November 19, 2009
3 Min Read
Buying print services over the Web isn't new, but design-software maker Quark is trying to up the ante with templates that pull together everything from brochures to business cards with a common theme. Oh, and free shipping, too.Quark Promote joins HP's MarketSplash, among others, in offering online tools for design-challenged small businesses to create professional looking marketing and promotional materials.
Terry Welty, Quark's senior vice president of marketing, says the new service differs from competitors in several key ways.
First, Quark Promote isn't browser based. Instead, users must download a free 10.2 MB Windows application. Though the process took several minutes on an XP laptop and a fast connection -- and it required a reboot!
As a desktop application, Welty says, Quark Promote can offer a "richer design experience' including access to a wider array of fonts than browser-based apps. And it's available offline. Indeed, the app looks great, but it's still got some user-interface quirks, such as difficulties in precisely placing text. More to the point, requiring a download -- especially one that entails a reboot, which Quark doesn't warn users about -- will constitute a signficant barrier for many small businesses.
Once downloaded, the app also lets you work with multiple templates and text boxes. Best of all, once you select and tweak the template you want, you can "syndicate" your choices it across all the various materials, including brochures, business cards, postcards, letterhead, coupons, and flyers. A library of hundreds of free stock photos is included, and Quark is looking to strike deals with stock photo companies to make more shots available.
Another difference is that instead of empty text boxes, Quark Promote helps businesses get started by supplying finished marketing copy that can be used as is or modified to fit a particular company's needs. The service organizes its templates by industry, launching with 15 choices ranging from accounting to veterinary. Not surprisingly, the copy created for specific markets is far more useful than that that written for general use.
This QuarkPromote template shows some of the available choices.
You can print a test copy -- with a watermark -- on your local printer, but you need to contact Quark Promote to order the actual print job. Shipping is free, but Quark has also struck deals with large printing chains like Allegra Network, AlphaGraphics, PIP Printing, Signal Graphics, and Sir Speedy to let small businesses have the materials printed at a local print shop for the same price. At launch, Welty expects to have some 30 printers signed up, rising to 125 by the end of the year and growing 1,500 by the end of 2010. (In my testing, though, I couldn't find any in New York, Chicago, Boston, or Los Angeles.)
But what if you can't find a template that fits your business? As the maker of InDesign, Quark has a large community of professional graphic designers, and next month the company plans to add a geographical directory of designers that small businesses can contact to create addtional custom materials. Interested designers can sign up at www.ilovedesign.com.
You might wonder if Quark Promote poses a threat to those designers, but Welty said otherwise. "We want to drive access to them," he explained. "They're our customers too."
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