Social Media Marketing

Add Drama and Depth with Custom White Balance

Have you ever struggled to take a classy (yet natural) family picture?
Or photographed an incredible wilderness scene, only to be sorely disappointed by flat results? If the world has so much wonder, why is capturing that majesty so tricky?
Many photos are simply too dark or too light, with awkward shadows, blinding background rays, or glaring reflections (think Grandma’s glasses!). The color can seem artificial or just washed out. But photos with proper lighting come alive, creating a drama and depth that resonates with viewers on a heart-stirring level.
Whether you adjust your camera on the front end or edit the photo later, here are some tricks to getting the photo balance just right!

Adjusting Your Digital Camera Settings

Different sources of light have varying color hues, so a picture taken with a normal white balance under artificial lighting conditions transmits low heat to the camera’s sensor, resulting in dull yellow or orange shades in the photo.
Though human eyes can automatically adjust lights and color temperatures to “sense” the right color, a camera needs to be adjusted to different lights for accurate color reproduction. By adjusting the white balance setting of your digital camera before you start shooting, you can produce the most accurate colors in your image.
Most upscale digital cameras include presets like these:
Tungsten: Best for indoor shoots under a little light bulb.
Fluorescent: Grabs brighter, warmer shots while compensating for cool fluorescent tones.
Cloudy: Warms up a subject and its surroundings when natural light is limited.
Shade: Useful for warming up the surroundings that have a cooler, bluer tone.
You can also adjust your camera manually by setting a white object as the reference point.
To manually set the white balance in your image, take a photo of something white in the same location (and under the same light) you intend to shoot. Then go to your camera’s shooting menu, choose white balance settings, and select the image you just photographed by pressing the “set” or “Ok” button. This will enable you to customize a white balance setting for your next round of photos, resulting in more neutral, natural shades and less post-production editing.

Mastering Post-Production Tints and Temps

Suppose you get the perfect photo, but the colors aren’t quite right.
Adobe Lightroom can help!
Adobe Lightroom is an inexpensive post-processing program used by designers worldwide. In the past, developing exquisite images required excellent photos, nuanced darkroom abilities, and expensive equipment. In contrast, Lightroom allows even beginners to normalize light tones they weren’t able to land in-camera.
When you’re ready to edit the balance in a photo, here are three methods:
Option 1: In Adobe Lightroom, adjust white balance with the eyedropper tool or use the preset menu that best describes the lighting conditions you shot in.
Option 2: Using the white balance drop-down list, manually drag the “temp” and “tint” sliders in the WB panel to adjust how warm or cool your image is.
Option 3: Select the “White Balance Selector” tool in the White Balance Panel (or for a shortcut, press “W” and scan across your image to locate an area that has a neutral grey color to serve as a reference point). Once you click this grey or neutral area, the appropriate white balance settings will be applied to the entire image.
If you don’t like the result, simply use the reset button to remove all adjustments.

In the Eye of the Beholder

Sound tricky?
Don’t sweat it. There is really no “perfect” white balance because the best contrast is what looks pleasing to YOUR eye. In the end, learning and experimenting is half the fun! Reach out to us if you’d like to learn more about adding the perfect white balance to your next piece.

The Power to Help in Times of Need

I went through a fast food chain drive-through today to pick up sandwiches. As I made it through the line, the car in front of me pulled out and drove off. I was next in line and asked the cashier if everything was okay. She said the driver didn’t have enough money for the food. I asked, “why didn’t you just give it to her, or let her come back with the money?” She said that she was not a manager and didn’t have the authority to do that. I pointed out that the the manager was standing twenty feet away, so why hadn’t she just asked? Her response: “have a good day, sir.”  End of conversation.

By contrast, the employees at Stafford Printing are empowered to help you. They don’t need to ask me, as the owner, whether we can extend terms – 90 days same as cash, for example – for the privilege of serving you. If you need print, a sign, a poster, or even a floor graphic, please let us help you. We are willing to help by donating, settling up later, or simply bartering a meal for a “We’re Open” banner!

We’re thankful that Stafford Printing has been designated an essential business by both the governor of the state and the United States Postal Service. But more importantly, our customers have deemed us essential by continuing to send us work. We thank you, and look forward to the day when we can talk about the virus in the past tense.

Not All Business Cards Are Created Equal

Does your business provide business cards to its employees? Stupid question, you say. So how do you order them? A lot of companies email them to the printer or an online service, after which proofs go back and forth, there could be several rounds of approval, and then finally the cards go to print . . . it’s a process than can take a week or two instead of a couple of days.

Or maybe you order online, get pdf proof approval on the fly . . . but when the cards arrive you find them a bit disappointing. Only then do you read the fine print about how the color is “pleasing” and that uncoated paper is not an option.

Let’s answer a couple of questions. First, why do so many online print companies not offer uncoated paper? The reason is simple: their digital press doesn’t print well on uncoated stock, because baking toner on uncoated paper doesn’t work. Stafford Printing, on the other hand, uses the HP Indigo digital press, which means that uncoated paper prints beautifully because we use liquid ink rather than toner.

The second question concerns the mysterious description of “pleasing” color. What exactly does that mean? It means your business card is batched and printed with about fifty other card orders, so your particular color won’t be matched exactly – it will only be close to what you expected. For one order the color might be a little darker than it should be, and the next order will be a little too light. At Stafford Printing, our process doesn’t require “ganging,” i.e. printing multiple different orders on a single sheet, because our digital technology exceeds what is the norm in the industry. We usually print your order by itself to guarantee color accuracy, a claim few in this industry make.

The best way to see the process is to schedule a plant tour, and we will print and cut your cards while you wait.

Consistent color and paper are important when it comes to branding, which means that the printer you order from is also important. Stafford Printing offers the convenience of a global online printer, but with the standards of quality that only a local service can provide. And today, more than ever, it’s comforting to know where your printed materials are coming from – from the paper to the local people who produced your job to the box in which the cards are packed.

So remember Stafford Printing for your online print ordering and business cards!

Does Everything Need to Be New in the New Year?

It’s amazing how quickly the holiday season is flying by. New Year’s Day will be here before we know it! With 2020 closing in, so is all the advice from experts, overflowing with recommendations for everything that you need to do and change to make your business more successful. They’ll tell you that you “should” overhaul your marketing strategy, that you “have to” start preparing for changes in search engine optimization, or that you “absolutely must” learn to navigate new developments in social media. The suggestions are endless, and they all follow a common theme: throw out everything you did in 2019 to make room for 2020.

Is it necessary to take such a drastic approach, though? Is running a successful business in 2020 really going to be that much different from 2019? Does it make any sense to wipe the slate clean and start from scratch?

The truth is, how much you need to change your business in the new year depends on how well things have been going for you up to this point. It’s certainly important to identify problem areas, and if your system for doing things is not helping you connect with and serve your clients in the best possible way, then of course that needs to be addressed. There is no one-size-fits-all solution; you simply have to look at what is working and what isn’t, and make your adjustments accordingly. Throwing everything out and starting over is rarely necessary, but occasionally certain aspects of your business will need a more major overhaul.

There’s one thing that definitely doesn’t change from year to year, though, and that’s the importance of keeping your clients at the center of your business strategy. The whole point of being in business is to provide services and products that make life easier for the people you’re serving. Without that as your number one priority, all the marketing advice in the world won’t matter.

In reality, when we’re back at work in January, how we bring value to our clients won’t change all that much. It will still be about relationships, service, innovation, and erasing friction so that interactions are as seamless as possible. Sure, there will be adjustments to the process along the way. There may be some new tools that come in handy, or a new type of software that helps streamline the work. But at the end of the day . . . your fingers will still have to do the walking, your mouth the talking, and your actions delivering on your promises!

Navigating the Changing Landscape of Print

Change is everywhere. From how we order groceries, to how we get around, to how we access information . . . our entire lives are saturated in change. I think of these as structural changes in our day-to-day living.

But there’s also the human aspect – changes in culture, or how we live our lives, or what is acceptable today that was taboo even ten years ago.

Shifts happen when new generations come along, due to different levels of life experience and the perpetual evolution of culture. At my age, I have a long history of experiences – both successes and failures – to draw from. A recent college graduate or student out of high school, however, would have a completely different perspective on what change is and what it means to people of their generation.

In the printing industry, there’s a lot of bellyaching about how things are changing. Printers complain that customers aren’t buying envelopes and letterheads anymore. People are printing business cards on a home printer, or ordering online for next to nothing. We even had a request come in the other day from a customer, saying that they didn’t care what the cards looked like as long as they were cheap!

My point is that no matter what business you’re in, you not only have to accept change, you also have to be prepared to embrace it. Whether it’s in the realm of employees, technology, demand for products, or customer expectations, if you want to survive you have to be able to adapt and evolve. Otherwise, you and your business will become a memory.

That said, adapting and evolving doesn’t necessarily mean throwing out all the old ways – it’s being smart enough to know what works best in any given context. We can fulfill orders the same day, because we have the technology that makes it possible. We tackle difficult jobs, because unlike an online printer, we don’t have narrow guardrails that every job has to stay within. Any order, no matter how small or specific, is appreciated.

There is no substitute for good old-fashioned human interaction, though. Although we have the ability for customers to order online, we also have a live person answering the phone. We like to talk to customers, get a feel for their needs and requirements, and have real conversations. Customers notice this, too. We got an email this week from a graphic artist who is a frequent customer. One of their clients insisted on using another printer for a particular job, and the printer did not even acknowledge that the art had been received. The job was delivered to the client without any communication at all with the graphic artist. The client, needless to say, was not impressed.

Too many businesses equate efficiency with simply getting things done quickly, but customers expect and deserve more than that.

Change is a good thing, and nothing to be afraid of . . . but you have to be smart about it. We aim to stay on the edge of technological changes in our industry, while retaining the traditional values of service that let customers know we care. It’s a balance that we strive for with every order that comes in.

How to Prepare for a Strong Start to 2020

Who wants to think about the new year in September? It may seem a bit premature, but for business owners, the end of 2019 will be upon us before we know it. If you don’t start preparing soon, you’ll take your business into 2020 without a clear sense of direction for what you want to accomplish. The best time to start getting your ducks in a row is right now, but what are the most productive ways to set yourself up for strong growth as we finish one year and start a new one?

One last marketing push. There’s still time for 2019 to shine, so take advantage by pulling out all the stops. Email may be the easiest place to start, but don’t forget the power of printed promotions.

A holiday card that means something. So many businesses send out a generic, cheap-looking card that was clearly a last-minute afterthought. No one wants to receive that; it’ll go straight in the trash. If you start now, you have plenty of time to make a statement by creating a card that is interesting, personal, and well-designed. Don’t wait until the first week of December to start thinking about this!  Show your customers that you care about the little details.

An end-of-the-year customer survey. Were your customers happy with your business this year? Is there any service or product they wish you would start offering? Are they even familiar with all the services you currently provide? A year-end survey with carefully-constructed questions can provide you with both clarity and direction. Doing this may feel a lot like the dreaded performance review, but that’s a good thing – it’ll give you the information you need to start making adjustments to any plans you have for the next year.

A look ahead to the 2020 trade shows. Be honest: how long has it been since you freshened up your booth and marketing materials? At the very least, you probably need to have a few things reprinted, but while you’re at it, this is a good opportunity to look over everything you have and assess the need for editing and rewriting, updates to your designs, or even a complete rebranding.

With the holidays just around the corner, we’re heading into a great time of year full of parties and customer events. Don’t forget, though, that it’s also a time to reflect on what you’ve accomplished this year, and start making plans and taking action to get ready for 2020.

Is Your Process Driving Customers Away?

We opened Stafford Printing just over 32 years ago.  At that time, a black-on-white thermographic business card – meaning it had raised print – would take about three weeks to produce from start to finish. As the fax machine became commonplace, an order could be faxed to the manufacturer, and we would in turn receive a proof back in a few days, which we would then fax to the customer.

Everyone was happy with this back-and-forth process. Three weeks was considered a reasonable time frame from order to delivery. A rush order – where a frantic client might say that they needed the cards within a week – would be produced in-house for delivery just in the nick of time!

Of course, times and technology have changed over the years, and so have our expectations about ease of production and turnaround.  Some industries and companies have kept up with these developments; others have remained mired in the old, more labored ways of doing things.

I thought about this today as I filled out forms in the doctor’s office. Even though there have been no changes to my personal information, I was handed three sheets of paper, two of them printed front-to-back, and I was instructed to re-fill out the forms.  I couldn’t imagine why this was necessary, since they already have all my information. It was frustrating, and it made me want to hand over a copy of Shep Hyken’s Convenience Revolution.

In his book, Hyken writes about how to deliver a customer service experience that disrupts the competition and creates fierce loyalty. The secret sauce: reduce friction between you and the customer; be convenient. Answer the phone when a client calls instead of having them navigate a phone tree. Make the ordering process efficient and easy to understand. Communicate clearly regarding job completion and delivery.  In short, make things as easy and frictionless for your customer as possible. Don’t make them do unnecessary work.

I believe Stafford Printing is a good company. Our goal is to be great. Making it easier to do business with us is a goal we work toward every day. Thank you for being on the journey with us. We appreciate your business, support and loyalty.

Surveying Your Customer

Surveying Your Customer . . . or finding out if there is friction that is preventing the customer from doing more with your company!

There are a number of software programs available today that you can use to survey your customer. Stafford Printing has been engaged in such a program for a client for almost 10 years, which in itself is an indication of the success of the program. The astounding response rate of the survey, and the valuable data collected, gives our client’s customer service team so much information it takes months to digest and follow up with the respondents.

The survey only asks two questions designed to measure customer loyalty. One question is about the quality of their experience and the other about the likelihood they would refer the company. Because the questions are easy to answer – on a scale of one to ten – and the responses are on a postage paid postcard, it is incredibly easy to complete. Another important component is the comments section. So much valuable information is collected, and the company is able to use it to improve customer service and solicit new customers.

The second part of the headline – about friction – is often not considered when businesses look to enhance customer service. Are there friction points in your business? Are customers spending too much time on hold or standing in line? Are they having to be patient to do business with your company because your website is slow or not up to date, or doesn’t do what it should?

We are the midst of a transformation – think Amazon! To learn more about this, I suggest reading or listening to The Convenience Revolution, How to Deliver a Customer Service Experience that Disrupts the Competition and Creates Fierce Loyalty by Shep Hyken –

Companies typically choose a focus – customer service, operations, or sales, for example. I like to think Stafford Printing is customer focused. We aren’t perfect, just like computers, but we try hard to satisfy our clients and provide services that help them grow their businesses. We see this as our only reason to exist!