Staying competitive digitally…Damn it!

It's three on a Friday afternoon and your favorite suit comes up to you with an urgent request: 'Timelines and budgets are needed for a project by Monday - here are the layouts.' This happens constantly in this business. Time is...

It’s three on a Friday afternoon and your favorite suit comes up to you with an urgent request: ‘Timelines and budgets are needed for a project by Monday – here are the layouts.’ This happens constantly in this business. Time is tight. It always has been, it always will be.

I know a few people in this business would like to add more hours to a day if they could. Thank heavens for technology – It’s going to save my bacon. Technology is going to help me communicate relevant information to the necessary parties and get the project moving in the right direction – fast! Ten years ago I thought things were moving fast, but I’m sure we ain’t seen nothing yet.

Production and printing is something that a lot of people don’t understand. Just push a button and it’s finished. There are many decisions that have to be made before anyone gets near that button. I find myself constantly educating and, for that matter, being educated – as the pace, technology and equipment never stand still.

Putting ink on paper will always take the same amount of time. It is the set-up – the creation and approvals of the pieces – that is so time-consuming. We are constantly faced with the challenge of how to do it faster.

One of the improvements in the process and benefits of technology that I have come to greatly appreciate is the emailing of creative in PDF format to clients for approval. The days of illegible faxes and delayed couriers are gone.

At tattoo, we have streamlined our process by eliminating unnecessary paperwork and meetings. All players are invited to brainstorming sessions, new business presentations, creative presentations and so on. I believe it shows the client exactly who is working on their business and, if questions are asked, the specialist is there to deal with the situation directly; hence, time is used more efficiently.

Briefs are written once, approved by the client and e-mailed to all parties involved. Digital tissues are also created for the concept stage and PDF’d to the client for their viewing.

This helps us get the idea in the works faster. Involvement at the briefing stage is valuable as more often than not components, formats, language, quantities and timing are discussed – even before a creative idea has been finalized. You want to give the client the best product at the best price using time as efficiently as possible – that’s the bottom line.

Providing the latest printing techniques and solutions up front to creative teams enables them to design to the format. This saves valuable time in the development stage and can help get the project to the studio faster.

Vendors also have to work at the same speed – fast. A lot of printers are selling printing solutions, not just ink on paper. Providing more services under one roof and keeping more control of every aspect of the job is one way of keeping competitive. The online tracking of jobs through the Internet, for example, is now becoming more commonplace. Anytime, night or day, you can check the status of your job.

Offering clients better ways to speak to their customers is something we are always challenged with: standing out in the mailbox, getting that package opened, getting that response. It is now possible to draw more information from the client’s database, and design a mailing that is relevant to consumers regionally, or even down to the postal walk.

Data can be used in conjunction with a four-colour variable imaging process to select products and images that pertain to particular buying habits or patterns of the individual consumer. Blank paper is fed through the colour laser and, by way of data selection, various components, coupons, statements and catalogues can be customized to the individual, to purchase goods in their community or respond to specific offers.

With new technologies entering the market every day, we can now offer our clients better solutions on how to talk directly to their customers.

Lori Mayer is production director at Toronto-based tattoo direct + digital, which offers complete direct and digital marketing agency services. For comments, Lori can be reached at or at (416) 628-6810.