Archive for August, 2010

“Can You Do Better?” – Pricing & Payment Options

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Can You Do Better?

Often, when we give a price or an estimate people ask, “Can you do better?” It’s a common question and in today’s economy, an understandable one.

Like everyone in business, our pricing is determined by our costs, the market and the need to make a profit. Indeed, our product and service line is set by our customers’ needs and our ability to make a profit.

We can’t base our prices on a competitors’ prices- no one could, long term. Big box stores can afford to lower prices beyond what a small business could stand. That’s why they thrive. And we certainly won’t set pricing by the countless “deals” available on the internet. To be sure, there are great niche businesses on the web, that give fast and/or cheap service but there are also countless risky, anonymous and questionable sites out there. The old saying is true online and off- you get what you pay for.

So, when someone asks, “Can you do better?” we tell them, “We give better service, and better quality, but there is always someone out there who can give a lower price.” Our goal is and has always been to offer great service at a fair price.

We absolutely understand that there are situations when a consumer has to shop by price, but our ultimate goal is to sell by value.

Payment Options

We accept payment in many different ways. By allowing for different payment options, we hope we make it easier for our customers to use our services.

Cash & Check- We can accept payments at order or at delivery. (For some sign and print jobs, however, we require half on order.) Cash and check are the quickest, easiest way to pay.

Credit & Debit Cards– You can also pay with your credit or debit card. Our credit and debit card transactions are processed using PayPal’s virtual terminal. Learn about PayPal’s security features here.

Online– We can accept payment to our PayPal account online for Sparta Store orders as well as invoiced jobs. You do not have to have a PayPal account to pay via PayPal.

Pay Over Time– For websites, we allow for payment of the authoring fee over the course of your first year online, added to the hosting fee. It’s less of a burden on our customers and allows us to have recurring income each month.

Pay In Advance– We can charge hosting fees for 3, 6, or 12 months at a time, or at another monthly interval you would prefer.

Talk to us about what we can do to make our pricing clearer or your payments easier.

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75 Top Tips to Build Your Business

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

In honor of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s 75th Anniversary coming up on September 11, we’re sharing 75 tips to promote your business. Also, at The Sparta Store, all prints are priced at 75%, in store and online.

75 tips make a big list – so, here we go…

  1. Update and print new business cards.
  2. Have an easy-to-navigate, user-friendly website.
  3. Sponsor programming on Alleghany Community Television.
  4. Use keywords on your site to raise your visibility online.
  5. Advertise in publications your customers read.
  6. Get a professional, vector graphic of your company logo. Nothing looks worse than fuzzy graphics.
  7. Keep a uniform look across all marketing materials.
  8. Post banners with your logo and contact information.
  9. Market with postcards through direct-mail.
  10. Draw coloring pages (include your contact info and web address). Let web visitors print them out.
  11. Have good-looking signage inside and out.
  12. Use professional letterhead and stationery.
  13. Sponsor a ticketed event at the Silver Dollar Music Park. Ask them to use a rubber stamp of your logo to allow readmission.
  14. Link to complementary websites and have them link back.
  15. Take advantage of local pages on google, yahoo, and bing.
  16. Publish attractive rack cards and position them around your area at racks like the Alleghany Inn.
  17. Keep your site up-to-date. Change home page information regularly.
  18. Email newsletters to your clients and potential customers.
  19. Run month-long promotions on specific products.
  20. Send printed newsletters to clients without email.
  21. Give demonstrations at group meetings, events and festivals.
  22. Send introductory letters and include your business card.
  23. Start a rumor about yourself. Folks will come in just to see if it’s true.
  24. Use customer testimonials in your marketing materials and online.
  25. Put your company name and contact info on your car.
  26. Be involved with local celebrations.
  27. Give free consultations and work to get an order before the meeting ends.
  28. Network with others in your industry.
  29. Attend meetings of professionals in the community. Don’t be afraid to join a board if asked.
  30. Publicize what makes you stand apart from the competition.
  31. List your business at yelp, merchant circle, and other area-oriented websites.
  32. Give talks to local clubs. Sparta Women’s Club, Newcomers and Friends of the Library are sometimes looking for speakers.
  33. Print bookmarks with your contact info and distribute them at colleges and libraries.
  34. Write articles related to your industry. Submit them to regional publications.
  35. Allow for alternative forms of payment including credit cards, PayPal or Google Checkout.
  36. Give samples to prospective clients.
  37. Ask your vendors to recommend you.
  38. Supply informational brochures to potential clients.
  39. Get listed in industry directories both online and in print.
  40. Post flyers for events you sponsor or are involved in.
  41. Hold give-aways and promotions like the Possum Queen Contest.
  42. Contribute to online messageboards with links to your site in your signature. Your expert opinion will add to their site and help you in the process. More people read these types of pages than you might think.
  43. Promote events you support. Don’t just tape up a flyer in the window, add a thumbnail image and a link to your website.
  44. Advertise in the local high school yearbooks. Ashe, Alleghany and Grayson each could be a great way to contact potential customers.
  45. Put up a billboard.  A good time to have your logo in a vector format. It can be enlarged without losing resolution (sharpness).
  46. Get listed in online and printed area directories.
  47. Take advantage of free advertising opportunities.
  48. Include your web address and contact info on every piece of printed material.
  49. Become a Sponsor in events like the Mountain Heritage Festival.
  50. Ask visitors to bookmark your site.
  51. Go on local and regional talk shows. Contact Clark Hunter, host of Mountain Topics, at the Blue Ridge Business Development Center.
  52. Boost sales with reduced pricing for repeat customers.
  53. Provide support for your products.
  54. Leave business cards with tips, in books and magazines that focus on your industry.
  55. Market jointly with another company and share the cost of the promotion.
  56. Send out a yearly Christmas Thank-You gift to loyal customers.
  57. Link to your site in your email signature.
  58. Contact opening businesses. Give away your promotional items with theirs.
  59. Sponsor clubs’ projects. Alleghany 4-H is currently looking for show ring section sponsors.
  60. Start a blog. Add interesting graphics and useful information and they will come.
  61. Advertise on Hillbilly Wes‘ overalls. Any publicity is good publicity.
  62. Give your products as gifts. Show off your quality to friends and family.
  63. Co-sponsor a concert, promotion, or other event with other local businesses.
  64. Donate to charities.
  65. Set up displays at community fundraisers.
  66. Give out free bookmarks, magnets, or buttons.
  67. Contribute to community fundraisers.
  68. Be easy to contact. Give your customer several ways to contact you including phone, cell, email,  facebook, twitter, etc.
  69. Encourage employees to volunteer at the Rotary Club of Alleghany County or Sparta Lions Club.
  70. Send out press releases when your business or employees do something newsworthy.
  71. Sponsor a feature in the Alleghany News.
  72. Add your products and information to a community Welcome Wagon gift basket.
  73. Mark your products Made in USA or Made in the Blue Ridge Mountains by… like John Brady at Blue Ridge Woodcrafters does.
  74. Sponsor a band at the Blue Ridge Craft Fair.
  75. Come up with a list of 75 tips and publish it on your blog.
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Roy’s Folks to Feature ISI’s Folks!

Friday, August 6th, 2010

Recently, Roy Ackland and David Weatherly from Roy’s Folks at WGHP FOX8 in the Piedmont-Triad honored us with a visit. We had sent out a press release on our book Family Photos- Eli Hamilton Halsey and Lillian Blanche Smith and they were looking for a day trip to escape the hot weather, so they came to Sparta.

Kingsport Press Logo

Kingsport Press

We were able to talk about the book, and our history in the printing industry. My dad told about his career in printing- in Roanoke, Bristol and in the photographic department at Kingsport Press. He eventually went to work for Opti-Copy, Inc. in Kansas City, traveling all over the world installing equipment and working with dealers. I went to work with Opti after school and traveled extensively in installation and service of the step-and-repeat cameras we built.

Opti-Copy, Inc. in Lenexa, Kansas in the eighties.

Opti-Copy, Inc. in Lenexa, Kansas in the eighties.

When the Japanese company, Polychrome, bought the company, Dad and I  moved to Greensboro where he co-founded Imaging Specialists, Inc. with partner, Gerry Foss. ISI was a prepress trade shop supplying printers with one piece, plate-ready film. We produced film for books, publications, ads, and labels and worked with offset, roto-gravure, flexo and even silk screeners.

Since we had contacts at printing companies across the country, we were well positioned for farm-out and overflow work. My brother, Alan, (also an ex Opti-Copy employee) and I redesigned the drive systems on our cameras and successfully marketed that idea and imposition software to other Opti owners. Eventually, we were able to buy out Mr. Foss’ half of the business and the company was truly then a “Mom & Pop” organization. My mother, Eloise, had been working with us since we started in Greensboro and my wife, Sharon, had joined us in 1994.

Ron Halsey with one-piece, plate-ready, final film, Imaging Specialists' main output for years.

Desktop publishing and the digital revolution finally killed our part of the prepress work flow and Dad decided to retire in 2000. We knew we had to reinvent ourselves, so Sharon and I also moved the business to the mountains in 2003.

Our experience in graphics and printing has helped us in the digital age. We run Adobe Creative Suite on Mac and PC platforms. We have expanded into the internet and now build and host websites. Our daughter, Claire, has joined us, now, and handles the web work.

We think our prepress experience coupled with on-demand printing makes a perfect fit. We offer services that include page layout and design, photo optimization, illustration, and e-commerce and marketing websites.

These turn-key book assembly services we perform are much like the days when we would accept a stack of pages (literally, a basket-case) correct and assemble them into what the printer needed to produce a book. And with on-demand, self-publishing is very reasonable. Contact us if you have an idea or a book that you want to discuss.

And check out our story on television, next week. Thanks Roy and David. I can’t think of a better way to wrap up Dad’s birthday present.

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