Why do people exchange business cards? The first purpose of course, is to promote their business (subtley) to others. But then, there are awkward silences you need to fill while travelling in the elevator, on a subway, or while trying to fight the sociopath monster within you. Business cards take you beyond the formal smile exchange program. They work as an icebreaker and are no less than a blessing in disguise. They give an identity to your professional world while reflecting what you do.
If you are into the business of selling business cards, you need to serve the plethora of purposes mentioned above. Unfortunately, having a small print shop within your vicinities, sitting in the worn-out chair ordering your employees to print 200 copies of a certain business card doesn't work anymore. For expanding your business and making its presence felt, you must move online. Or let's say, have a digital shop integrated with a business card design software that enables your customers to create their own business cards.
We never meant to overwhelm you with the above descriptions. We understand how difficult it is to step into the realm of digital printing world and succeed with it. And that's why we have carved a picture-perfect, step-by-step guide for having a visiting card business and running it successfully. If you're ready, let's delve into it:
Knowing Your Industry
i. Conduct Research to the Fullest
Before you establish a web-to-print store, it is important to know the ins and outs of the business card printing industry and how it works. If you read the story of customized print giant Vistaprint, you must have known how it grew from being a basic website providing customized business cards to a full-fledged web-to-print store that is into selling an array of customized products including t-shirts, mugs, signs, posters and more. So, as the first step, you will have to gain all the knowledge pertaining to your industry. Here's what you can do:
- Try to know how the established card printing industries work. Build a rapport with someone working at a card printing company, ask questions, and try to get information about the industry.
- If you can work for a company like this, even better; as you can learn things at an experiential level.
- Conduct some research on installing printing plates as well as the inking the presses. You will also get to learn a lot about paper sizing and machinery.
- It is important to know about the history and the current trends of the card printing industry. For example, cards of certain colors might work on certain festivals/occasions. But, would it make sense to invest into them only during those times of the year.
ii. Take an Industry Tour
Field visits were quite common even while we were students. Well, if you want to start off with a card printing business, visiting the card printing facility is of utmost importance. You can converse with the employees and know about the products and services they offer in detail.
- Gather information about the inventory they have in store including the card materials.
- Try to know the amount of inventory available on shelves and what kind of industries they serve to with the quantity they have. It will provide you with a knowhow about the kind of financial potential you need to be able to drive your business better.
- Get information about the price of the cards they sell and how much do they charge from customers. In case you can undercut the price they quote, you can have a competitive advantage over them.
iii. Join ICMA (International Card Manufacturers Association)
This is one of the most crucial steps. ICMA, also known as International Card Manufacturers Association is a global card association for card personalizers and manufacturers. Its mission has been to promote the transaction card industry along with the value of its services and products, by offering a platform to share knowledge pertaining to the industry.
ICMA provides education for business card companies and enables companies to collaborate and share innovative ideas amongst themselves. It actively operates in places including, but not limited to Europe, MEA, Asia and America. Several industry giants and card suppliers are a part of this association. If you want to keep the printing and manufacturing related glitches at bay, it would be advisable for you to be a part of this association.
iv. Be Different
The traditional and the conventional methods of printing cards are a passé. It is important to remember that we are a part of the world driven by Internet of Things. And hence, it is important to stand out from amongst your competitors. Churn over the most innovative ideas and offer your customers with features and functionalities that your customers can't.
You can look for a superior quality business card design software that helps your customers to create their own business card from the scratch. This gives them the much-needed freedom and excellent level of personalization. Ensure that your tool is platform independent and compatible with all kinds of files and formats. The best way to win amongst your competitors is figure out where they lack and offer a solution to that.
Setting Up An E-Store
i. Get the Printing Equipment
Like we mentioned in the paragraph above, the technology has advanced and hence, having generic printers won't suffice. It is important to find out which printing system would suit you the best. Also, if you do not want to confine your business to visiting cards, you can think about investing into a superior quality web-to-print equipment.
If you want to start on a small basis, inkjet printer might help. However, if you have a huge customer base and you want to print more than a thousand cards every month, you would have to invest into a high-end industrial printer. Also, you might need a cutting machine that offers you with different shaped cards. If the number of orders is less, having a hand operated machine would suffice. Not otherwise.
ii. Invest into Product Designing Software
These days, it is quite common for E-retailers willing to have a successful venture to embrace the power of product designing software. A software, that not only has a powerful backend but also offers excellent frontend facilities. And that is not all! Its working should be no less than a human designer; a step by step guidance to the one who is designing.
One of the biggest challenges that e-retailers having a web-to-print shop face is – platform compatibility. So, let's say of you have Magento or WooCommerce based store, you would need a business card design software that works with your platform smoothly and doesn't affect the working of your website. Brush Your Ideas web to print product design software has been a useful addition to the kitties of several business card owners who want to add personalization to their e-store.
iii. Work on Your Inventory
With the business of personalization, you never know what works when. At one moment you might be running a small web-to-print e-store. But at the next, a social media post from someone who has created their card from your e-store might go viral. Result? Your e-store is overflowing with orders. The only way to address this would be to work well on your inventory.
Ensure that you have enough stock to cope with everyday orders as well as unexpected rushed orders. The more variety that you can offer with paper types, the better it is. By offering your customers with the kind of card they're looking for, you would be able to bring a huge smile on their face.
iv. A Website That Entices
What does your business card web-to-print look like? Is it conversational? Do you want to give it a professional look or a creative one? Mull over these questions before hiring a company to design and develop your website. Now, no matter what design you go with, you must ensure that it is aesthetically pleasing for your customers and has an easy to use interface.
Try displaying the best cards designed by your customers on the first page or give a classic look that shows the picture of your printing or cutting machines. This will make your website look quite attractive. Last but not the least, if you keep the nature of today's professionals in mind, your website must be mobile responsive.
Working on the Business Plan
i. Conduct Market Research
Before you jot down your business plan or create strategies, it is important for you to analyze the business card printing market. What kind of professionals work in your area? What would be the risks of serving to a particular group of professionals? By doing so, you would be able to minimize the risks.
Take some of the steps given below as a part of your market research activity.
- Find out about the growth, potential and the trends pertaining to the card printing industry. Try to know how the other printing companies in your area work
- Mull over the kind of customers you want to target and find out if their needs are being met with by your competitors.
- Figure out the weak spots and vulnerabilities of your customers so that you can create your USP and attain your targeted customer base.
These steps will ensure that you follow the right path and serve in the best possible way.
ii. Work Out the Finances
When you're about to start a business, investments are inevitable. However, for any business to run successfully, it is important that your profits outweigh the investments you have made. So, you need to make sure that you have an account of insurance, taxes, labor costs, overheads, benefits and more.
After considering your expenses, you can reach out to different organizations and ask them to support you or get a loan. Consider going for grants and loans a Microloan or a general business loan. Pitch your business to venture capitalists and if they like your idea, they are likely to fund your business. And last but not the least, you can ask for crowdfunding after pitching innovative ideas to your customers.
iii. Create Your Business Plan
How do you plan on running your business from day one and keep achieving success over the years? If you have fantasized about it, great! But that is not enough. You need to have a complete roadmap right from how you are going to start until you achieve targets and what would you do thereafter.
If you are not sure as to whether or not you have created the right business plan, you can discuss your thoughts with a marketing professional or a digital marketing company and they will provide you with a strategy to launch your business and handle it in the best way possible. Note these strategies down and ensure that you follow them and you are sure to be successful.
iv. Write Apt Content Descriptions
Any website should be representative of what it does and the kind of audience it serves to. And that is reflected through the content of the website. If the content is not precise, concise and doesn't have the right call for action buttons, it is sure to affect the overall sales of the company.
Also, the best way to capture your audience would be to display your business connections, the partners you have worked with, the companies you have served and more. This way, your customers would be able to rely on your brand and trust it in a longer run.
v. Register your business
Do you want to go for a partnership, a proprietorship or an LLC? Before you register your business, having this clarity is must. Proprietorship and partnerships are cost-effective as more than one person takes care of the financial aspects. If you choose LLC, the taxes have to be paid at individual rates and not business rates.
Also, before you start with your business, ensure that you have all the permissions you need. In case of business cards, you need to deal with a lot of stationery; for which you would have oversized vehicles visiting your premises. This asks for you to get federal permit.
vi. Choose the Right Location
Even if the presence of your business is on the web, you would need to have a place where your print operations take place. Decide whether you want to have the same place to execute the entire print production cycle or not. Also, if possible, have your presence in the area where you can get noticed. That way, you can attract audience that is curious to know about your business.
One of the biggest mistakes that business card manufacturers make is that they do not consider the future after some years of establishing their business. In case the number of customers go up or you add new machinery or inventory, you would need a bigger space. Get in touch with engineers and interior designers to understand the difference between commercial and residential properties and try to find out whether or not the expansion is possible.
vii. Advertise Well
Once you have everything in place including the printing materials, machinery and the business card design software, it's time to let people know that your business exist. Social Media of course, is a powerful way to make your digital presence felt. However, do not underestimate the power of word of mouth.
Get in touch with the businesses in your area and build a rapport with their representatives. Once they know more about your business and the ways in which you work, you are sure to get better orders.
We hope that the above guide was helpful enough for you to start with your Visiting Card Printing Business. However, before you start in a full-fledged manner, remember that you need to get over the mundane ways to run a print business. So, do what it takes, be unique and stand out from your competitors. You are sure to win. All the best!