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WHAT TO DO WITH A PICTURE FRAME?

June 30th, 2011

By Steve Condé

There are lots of things you can do with any of the sublimatible picture frames but let’s focus on just one today. I want to focus on the MDF (medium density fiberboard) frames (UNISUB U1019 & U5659). They are 5/8” thick so they are sturdy and give the perception of permanence so they make a great gift item or keepsake for all kinds of events such as births, graduations, and special dances such as prom, Baptisms, Confirmations, Anniversaries and Weddings.

There are a number of ready-made designs available for these occasions in the Design 4 U series. If you don’t have the various CDs, call your Condé representative for pricing and additional information or you can design your own. I’ve sold a bunch of these frames that hold a 4″x6” or 5″x7” photos. The overall size of the frames are 8″x10”. That gives about an inch on two sides and an inch and a half on the other two sides for design elements.

How about a frame with all kinds of boy or girl stuff for a new baby with a place for name, birth date, weight, length, etc.? Easy to make and the design is in Designs 4 U. What about a design for a child’s Baptism or Confirmation? The designs are in Designs 4 U. School dance or Prom? Make the background one of their school colors, add a mascot and the names of the students and you have a stock frame design you can use over and over again.

The cost for one of these frames is about $10. Add ink and paper and the cost goes up to maybe $12. The time it takes to actually make the frame is between one and two minutes. The time to design the frame may take 20 minutes the first time but only 5 minutes to change the information once the initial design is available.

Retail price? It will depend on your market of course, but I see an easy $35.95 and if it is for a Prom where two people are going to be in the picture, you can sell them in a pair for a discount – perhaps $35.95 for one and $59.95 for a pair. That’s 300% ($23.95) profit for the first one plus an extra $12 profit for the second with little to no additional work. What? You think your market will bear a higher price than mine? Then, go for it. Charge what the market will bear. (See my Blog on “Selling the Price” and “Make Money”).

Because computer design time is usually the most costly part of any sublimation project, anytime you can use a design multiple times or sell multiple products with the same design, the more money you will make. The time it takes to make two identical picture frames rather than just one is less than five minutes. If your press is big enough, you can make them both at once and it won’t take any extra time! That’s how you really blow your profit margin sky-high.


HUNDREDS OF LAYOUTS AND DESIGN IDEAS – FREE!

June 29th, 2011

By Steve Condé

Have you found the best kept secret on the Conde website yet? You have to know where to look but there are hundreds, eventually thousands, of job designs submitted by Condé customers for you to see, imitate and duplicate. Some are interesting, some OK, and some are really unique. If you are like me and don’t have a creative bone in your body, seeing what others are doing is a huge help!

You see, I have a problem: I’m not a Graphic Artist. I’m not any kind of artist. I’m a mechanic. I can usually reproduce something once I see it, but if you wait for me to come up with a decent original design, you may have a l-o-n-g wait.

I tell people I’m like Milton Berle (anyone remember Uncle Miltie?), I will “steal” anyone’s idea but don’t have any of my own. And pretty much, that’s true. I am always looking for design ideas I can “borrow” and incorporate into my own products. The “Gallery” on the Condé site is a perfect place to do just that.

To locate the site, you should go to www.dyetrans.com and click on “Client Image Galleries” under “Condé Exclusive” on the left hand side of the screen. You can also find the images on Facebook.

Now that you know where the site is, be a pal and upload some of your designs and help me out – please? I need all the help I can get! Seriously, take the time to share some of your favorite designs so we can grow this valuable resource. Those who have already contributed can then be rewarded for their willingness to share their designs by seeing yours (and mine, such as they are!).

To sweeten the pot, Condé will enter each entry into a weekly contest and award the winner a $25 credit so you can’t lose. Check out the images for your own use, upload an image or two for someone else to benefit from and you might win a $25 credit to boot! Pretty cool, huh?

Other sources for ideas you can “borrow” might include mail order catalogs like “Personal Creation.com” or trade magazines like Engraver’s Journal are also a great place to see designs you can reproduce to your own needs.

And, I must mention the unisubgraphics.com website, which carries, for free, all their templates and sample art you can use for any of their products. All completely FREE, your Condé account manager can get you the passcode.

Do you have a catalog or other source you use for design ideas? Please share it with the rest of us.


MADE IN THE USA, PART TWO

June 28th, 2011

By Steve Conde

A while back, I wrote a blog about all the sublimation products that are made entirely in the good old USA. I know from experience that people like and want to buy American made products. They understand the importance of supporting OUR economy.

It’s difficult however to really know what is and what isn’t made in the USA. It’s been years since I have seen one of those little flag stickers indicating a product was American made. Interestingly, the sticker probably came from China. Most American flags are! I’m sure you are aware that the American car brands are mostly made in Canada or Mexico while many Japanese cars are made in America. It’s just hard to know what is made where.

Did you know that some organizations will not buy ANYTHING not made in the USA? They have a terrible time finding the promotional or gift products they need. Their members are always looking for sources that can provide a variety of American made products.

Condé has done something really great by indicating which products are American made on their website. Take advantage of it. Unfortunately, not all products can be American made either because we just don’t have the mills or plants to make the stuff, or because the cost of labor is so much higher, you could never afford to buy the products, let alone sell them for a profit.

When a customer comes in, talk it up: “These products are American made”. Put up little signs or stickers indicating which items are “Made in the USA” or even a large sign that says, “We Buy & Sell American Whenever Possible!”


CLIPBOARDS, THE FORGOTTEN WINNER!

June 27th, 2011

By Steve Conde

With cellphones that think they are computers and iPads that nearly are, the lowly old clipboard has gotten left behind. There was a day when anyone who was anyone, carried a clipboard full of papers. You could always identify the coach or team mom, project supervisor or sports official because they had a clipboard. They were a common sight in schools and colleges and any self-respecting office manager had at least three or four hanging on the wall behind their desk.

We don’t see as many now days but don’t sell them short; they are still out there – by the billions! People still prefer a clipboard over the fancy electronic devices 10 to 1 (90% of all statistics are made up on the spot and I confess, I made that up to prove my point). It’s true though, there are tons of things an iPhone or iPad just isn’t suitable for that a simple clipboard is perfect for.

Have trouble seeing your iPad or iPhone (or whatever) in the bright sunlight? No problem with a clipboard. Afraid of getting your Blackberry wet at the pool? No big deal for a clipboard? What about SCUBA divers? Can you see them taking an iPad down 100’? I doubt it but a clipboard hangs on nearly every diver’s belt (granted, the traditional hardboard type won’t work, you can make one from FRP that divers will kill for).

What makes the UNISUB Sublimated clipboards stand out from all the others on the market is the fact you can sublimate photographs, graphs, charts, etc., and then write on them with a variety of markers and then remove the marks completely with whatever solvent that type of marker requires. For instance, Dry-Erase and Vis-à-vis remove with water. They work best for temporary marking such as on a sports field. A Sharpie requires alcohol but this makes a much more durable mark that will withstand rain or water and is ideal for use around a swimming pool, by a fire department, etc. Other permanent markers can also be used but you should test them before recommending them since some will work much better than others. As for SCUBA divers, a grease pencil is ideal for these folks. It works great under water and can be rubbed off as needed under water. On dry land, a little rubbing alcohol will easily remove the crayon marks.

So where are some of the markets you should consider for clipboards? What should you charge for them and what should you put on them? Here are some ideas:

FOOTBALL, BASEBALL, BASKETBALL, SOCCER, FIELD HOCKEY: Great coaches gifts. Team picture on front side with a picture of the “field” on the back where the coach can draw diagrams or show players what they should do. Consider a list on the front where the coach can keep track of who has played and who hasn’t, etc.

HOCKEY: Clipboards are a common sight at Ice Hockey rinks. You will want to offer these folks the legal size clipboard since they always use legal sized papers to score games.

ICE SKATING, ROLLER SKATING, SKATE BOARDING: Many, many rinks have skating competitions and use clipboards for scoring. They love to show off the logo of their Association on the back.

SWIMMING COMPETITION: Set up the back of the board so a judge, timer or coach can track a swim heat without fussing with paper or use the clipboard to hold scoring papers. Either way, the ability to jot down quick notes on the clipboard is both novel and very desirable.

FIRE & EMS DEPARTMENTS & IN AMBULANCES: Firemen struggle constantly with orders, safety issues, who is in a burning structure, how many victims there are and their names, conditions, and a host of other things are vital. There is no time to search through notes when lives are on the line. These erasable clipboards work great with a Sharpie or grease pencil in even the wettest environments. Ever try to write something in a little space on a chart in an ambulance moving at 60mph? It’s a trip you won’t forget. Use a clipboard to take quick notes and fill in the little boxes on the chart later.

TEAM MOMS: Who is bringing snacks next game, who showed up to play, and a thousand other things are needed to make a team run smoothly. Paper is fine but marking right on the clipboard is even better. These make great gifts for the Team Moms at the end of the season too!

HEATING/AIR CONDITIONING: Any type of job where numbers need to be written down either for comparison later or part numbers that need to be ordered. Workmen are often hot and sweaty, paper gets wet and hard to read, wiring diagrams and troubleshooting charts blow all over the place. The solution is obvious.

MAINTENANCE SUPERVISORS: What jobs need to be done? Who should do them? When is that part of the building going to be vacant? A million and one things to remember and they usually end up on a scrap of paper that, more often than not, gets lost. Clipboard, anyone?

JANITORS: Like a Supervisor, there is a lot to remember and it is constantly changing. Room 101 needs to have tables while 102 needs chairs and a sound system. Room 105 needs to be cleaned and the floors waxed. You get the idea?

HOSPITALS & MEDICAL CENTERS (ESPECIALLY THE ER): In a Trauma Room, things go fast. Orders are given, assessments are made, drugs administered. Nurses must remember all this and chart it later. With an erasable clipboard, it is easy to remember what happened and in what sequence with just a scribble on the back of a clipboard. Personal effects, heart strips and other documents can be clipped to the front of the clipboard so there is no guessing later on.

OK, enough already. I think I have made my point. There are lots and lots of places where these clipboards can be used. All we have to do is look around us. If you have a unique application for clipboards, I want to know about it!

PRICING: How do you price these things? Well, you can set your own price because it is your business and you know what the market will bear and what the economy is like but here are some suggestions for you to consider: DO NOT underprice your products!

COST: SMALL 6X9”: $5
REGULAR 9X12”: $6-6.50
LEGAL 9X15”: $6.50-7.25
PAPER & INK PER SIDE: $2-3 Depending on printer being used
TIME & LABOR: Actual pressing time: 1-1½ Min per side. Overall Project: Est: 20 Min.
PERCEIVED VALUE: $20-35 Range, depending on application. For example: If you use stock images, the value is lower than if you do a custom design for a specific application such as a Fire Department or EMT.
SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE STRUCTURE:
ONE Side only, stock images or ready to print images from customer: $21.95
TWO Sides, stock images or ready to print images from customer: $26.95
ONE Side only, custom design: $29.95 or higher depending on design time
TWO Sides, custom design: $34.95 or higher depending on design time
Multiple products with no design changes: Up to 40% discounts on additional clipboards

ALTERNATE PRODUCT: Don’t forget a Memo Board is also available. These are essentially the same product as the clipboard except for sizes and there is no clipping device. Recommend a $4-5 reduction in price for these.


THE “WOW” EFFECT

June 24th, 2011

By Steve Conde

A local hospital (customer) of mine recently held a meeting of all its upper management. The sole purpose of the meeting was to find was to “WOW!” their customers (patients).

“WOW!” is currently the buzz word of the business community.

My wife and I were in Massillion, Ohio for the funeral of a friend. It was recommended that we stay at the local Hampton Inn. OK, why not? How bad could it be? It was located on the back of a block in the old downtown section and was not the easiest thing to get into but we finally stumbled in and from the moment we hit the Lobby, we were “WOWED” with kindness and helpfulness. The room was fine; clean and spacious, like most Hampton Inns but the people continued to “WOW” us with every contact. The warm greeting, the helpful directions to eateries and of course, discounts. If the staff really enjoyed their jobs as much as it seemed, they would have worked there for free. We will be back in the Massillion/Canton area at some point and although there are plenty of hotels, we will be at the Hampton Inn.

Remember that hospital that wanted to learn how to “WOW” their guests? The meeting started with one ground rule: “No one was to say anything negative”. It was a short meeting because the path from where you are to being a company that “WOWs” their clients requires you hear and deal with the negatives – all of them. Don’t defend them, don’t make excuses for them, fix them, heal them, cure them, over compensate for them. Most of us don’t want to hear the negatives about our companies, and especially our own personalities, either. We love the accolades but we hate the criticisms. And that’s normal but it will never create an environment where “WOW” can take root.

It’s easy to become blind to the negatives in our companies, to make excuses for what we can’t do but the truth is, they are just excuses. What CAN you do to “WOW” your customers?

“WOW” isn’t delivering product on time or doing an exceptional job, those are expected of you. “WOW” is what you do that goes beyond the expected – beyond the average – beyond exceptional. “WOW” is what sets you apart from everyone else. It is what builds loyalty in a first time customer. It isn’t talk, or signs on the wall saying how exceptional you are or how many awards you have won. It is the staff that goes the extra mile with every customer, every time and then goes a little further. It isn’t about price, although that can be part of it, it is about kindness and service and efficiency. It’s about human to human contact and caring and an earnest desire to accommodate and making the effort to actually do it. It isn’t about money, it IS about people relating on a level far deeper than that of a buyer and seller. It is what sets a business and/or business person apart from everyone else.

Your customers may not be able to identify what makes you different but if you listen, you may hear them say things like, “Wow! Every time I go in there, they are just so nice and helpful”. It’s when people begin to think of you as a friend, not just someone they buy something from. They look forward to seeing you and you them. It is what makes being in business fun, yet very few businesses ever come close to WOWing anyone.

Here’s a few simple things to get you started: Place a candy bowl on your counter with individually wrapped mints or hard candy, keep an huge umbrella next to the door so when a sudden storm comes up, you can walk your customer to their car, wear appropriate business attire, attend to good personal grooming habits, and never talk bad about your competition or anyone else.

Condé wants to WOW you. Tell us how. When something is perfect, tell us. We want to hear the negatives because that is the only way we can turn them into positives. And how about you? Does your company WOW your customers? Not only does Condé want to WOW you, we want to help you WOW your customers because “When you succeed, we succeed!”.


BACK UP YOUR STUFF!

June 23rd, 2011

By Steve Conde

You’ve heard it a million times and so have I – back up your computer files!

I watched in horror Sunday night as tornados ripped through the Midwest and especially Joplin, MI. Those poor people lost everything! Then the practical side of me came up. What would I do if I had to experience such devastating loss? Could I get through it? If I survived physically, would I survive financially? Could my business be brought back?

Then the real practicality in me came out: What about financial records? If all my tax records were lost, how understanding would the IRS be? What kind of nightmare would it be to settle up with the State and Federal tax boys and Social Security?

Tragedy can strike at any moment. We all know that. Tornados, hurricanes, lightning, floods, fire, earthquakes, vandalism, computer crashes, robbery, etc.

Now, I back up my computer files probably the same way you do. I make a CD from time to time and take it home with me or stick it in a $100 fire safe (that should do a great job). So, when I came Monday morning after seeing the devastation of Joplin, I make backing up files my first priority. I had to have a better way to back up ALL my files on all six computers – not occasionally, but daily.

There are lots of ways this can be done. I could make a CD and take it home every night but I live so close to my shop that if one building were involved in an earthquake or tornado, chances are, both would be. I had to find something better than that – besides, I get busy and in a hurry and I would forget to do it anyway.

Now, I haven’t worked out all the kinks yet but my solution is to use an off-site backup service online. This service stores all the information on all my computers (they have to be internet accessible) every night after I go home. Even if something terrible would happen, I could regain all my design files, bookkeeping records, emails and everything else at any time to any computer I had access to. All I need is a password.

As for the cost? Well, depending on which service you choose, it can cost anywhere from $59 a year and up. The service I am considering will cost less than $100 a year. A waste of money? Yea, probably. Unless of course, something goes wrong and a storm takes out a hard drive or a vandal breaks in and tear up Jack, or Heaven forbid, I experience something like those poor folks in Joplin. Maybe it isn’t such a waste of money after all.


USING FONTS

June 23rd, 2011

By Steve Conde

I just bought 4,000 new fonts! 4,000 added to the almost 3,000 I already had – that’s 7,000 fonts on your computer! Now, that’s Heaven!

I remember well when I was lucky to have more than 3 or 4 fonts and each font cost several hundred dollars. I dreamed of the day I might own just a dozen or so and now, I have 7,000 of them! What’s more, the quality of the fonts is so much better. They can be mixed and manipulated and given dimension and color and drop shadows….

So how many should be used? Interestingly, the experts tell us “never to use more than two fonts from different families”. But what does that mean?

Well, it means pretty much what you think it does. If you have 7,000 fonts on your computer, pick two – just two. One will be used as a focus, headline or highlight font while the other is used for basic text. Now, you can use more than one font out of each family. A family is like Times Roman which includes Normal, Bold, Italic, Condensed and Expanded. Some families might have a dozen “family members” while other fonts have only one. Of course, you can create italic or bold using CorelDRAW. Even then, be slow to mix too many fonts even from the same family.

Another interesting fact is that even with 7,000 fonts I can use on the fly, I normally never use more than six in a given month! Using too many fonts within the same job screams “amateur”. The purpose of fonts is to express meaning. Use too many and the meaning gets lost.

So, why have so many fonts if you never use them? I didn’t say I never use them, occasionally, I do and when I need them, they are invaluable. For example, someone comes in with a logo and wants me to reproduce it but they don’t have a good slick or the ability to download it to me (they usually do these days but not always). By having lots of fonts, I can usually find the font used in the logo and recreate it in a heartbeat rather than having to fight having to draw it or scan it and then clean up the scanned image.
But there is another time I use them. When someone comes in wanting me to design something for them and I think they might be shopping around, I go into my 7,000 fonts and use some font no one has ever heard of before. That makes it very hard for someone else to reproduce my work.

Finally, there is one other advantage to having 7,000 fonts. I can brag that I have 7,000 fonts. How many do you have? Yea, I thought I would have more than you.

Seriously, remember to always store your fonts in a folder on your desktop and NOT in your Windows Font Folder. So many fonts will not only slow down your computer, they will probably put it in a nursing home. Use a font ID and transfer program such as Bitstream Font Navigator (comes free with CorelDRAW) to locate the font you need and move it into Windows. Then move it back when you are finished with it. Try not to have more than about 200 fonts in your Windows font folder at any given time and never more than 400. After all, who needs all those fonts?


DASH PLATES for Car Shows

June 23rd, 2011

By Steve Conde

One nice little market that is perfect for sublimation is the Car Shows/Motorcycle Shows that take place in nearly every US town and city every weekend during warm weather. Some of these are just little meets where people who have old cars, restored cars, trucks, motorcycles or hot rods, get together in the parking lot of a local eatery and let people stop by and check out at their cars. On the other end of the spectrum are the major car competitions where each car is on display and judged for a host of criteria.

To be sure, you can go after the trophy end of this hobby if your business is so inclined but you can also go after the “Dash Plate” part of this hobby.

A Dash Plate is a small piece of metal with the name and year of the show printed on it. These are often collected and displayed with the vehicle to impress the judges with how many shows the car has been in. They are commonly given to every participant just for bringing their vehicle to the show.

For many years, these car plates have been screen printed in one or two colors and occasionally even in four colors (that is very different from full color or four-color process which is more like what sublimation is). A few are engraved as well but not many.

This is perfect for sublimation. Even though all the plates are identical, we can offer things no one else can (or should). For instance, most screen printing shops will only do a quantity of 100. We don’t care, we can do any quantity although you should charge more for small quantities than you do for larger ones. Screen printers generally cannot do full color. They can do multiple colors but blending them is another deal altogether. We can give the customer full color. I don’t really know how many colors are in the gamut I use but I tell people I can print 275,000 colors. I doubt anyone will really take me to task on that but if they want to count them, I’ll show them how. This means we can actually print photographs. We don’t have to restrict ourselves to generic pictures of cars or motorcycles, etc., we can print a photo of last year’s Grand Prize Winner or of a custom design if they have one.

You’ll probably not get rich making Dash Plates but still, it’s a nice little piece of business. Especially after you gain the trust of a dozen or so car clubs. In my area of the country, the most I can get for a Dash Plate is about $1.50 in a quantity of 100. That’s $150 for 100 pieces of metal measuring the size of a business card. The bigger the size, the more it costs, etc. Broken down, this job will require the best part of four sheets of metal. With metal costing between $6 and $9 per sheet or quality metal (UNISUB, Dye-Sub, etc.), depending on what you use, this will mean I will least make a 400% profit on my material. Of course labor has to come out of that and my experience tells me it takes about an hour to make 100 dash plates from start to finish. If you count your labor to be worth $50 an hour, you still just about double your money which isn’t too bad.

A couple of notes: You will need a metal shear to cut your metal ($200-$1500) and I like to round the corners on mine which requires two additional machines: A corner rounder ($85-$300) and a miniature belt sander ($50-100) to sand off any burrs left by either the shear or corner rounder. If you don’t do this, the corner rounder will leave sharp edges that can cut fingers or scratch other dash plates.

I print a third or half sheet of metal at a time, depending on what printer I use. These go very fast since it only takes about 1 minute to press metal. Then I cut them apart and round the corners if needed. To sand off the burrs, I just touch the back side of the plate to the belt sander for just a second and the plate is ready. Like the baker’s dozen, I always throw in a few extras in case one gets scratched and so I never have to worry about a customer coming back saying I miss counted and only sent 99 plates.

Not into cutting and making your own? Well, Condé has the answer, with square or rounded cornered pre-cut dash plates. Either way you go, they are a great little addition to your product line.


UNISUB Peel off Films – Do the Colors Mean Anything?

June 21st, 2011

By Steve Conde

Here was an interesting question that came up a while ago, “Do the different color films used on UNISUB products mean anything?”

I knew the yellow film had a special meaning but I didn’t know about any of the others or I asked UNISUB for the inside scoop. Here is what I got. I found it interesting.

Clear film: All FRP products have clear film. Also hardboard products and ChromaLuxe easels and all gloss products.

Red film: These are reserved for the UNISUB and ChromaLuxe MDF products such as plaques with ogee edge profiles and ChromaLuxe chamfer edges. Also wall panels.

Yellow film: These products have extra UV protectant. The UNISUB people call this protectant the “Magic Stuff”. You will see yellow film on both FRP and metal license plates and other products commonly used outdoors.

Blue film: Blue is reserved for products with a matte, satin or low gloss finish.

So, there you go. I knew about the yellow but didn’t really know about the others, I thought they just liked different colors. It is kind of nice to know blue is for low gloss and of course yellow for longer life, even though more and more products are being released with no film on them at all. This is possible on some products because they are so scratch resistant and can be manufactured and cut without a film. Some products, like plaques, rely on the film in the manufacturing process and therefore, probably don’t shed their skin for some time. UNSIUB is committed to getting rid of the films whenever possible. And Condé is marking the products with “No film or peel coat” wherever it is true.


DISPLAY YOUR SAMPLES IN THEMES

June 20th, 2011

By Steve Conde

I learned a trick a long time ago that I will pass along to you. If you read this blog at all, you have heard me talk about samples – sample this and sample that. It may be monotonous but it’s true, you sell sublimated products by showing samples. When confronted by sublimation, most people display very little imagination so you have to help them out. After a little while, many of them will “get it” but at first, you have to show them as if they were all from Missouri.

One way to communicate that you can do almost anything with sublimation is to display your products in themes. For instance, sublimate a half dozen different products using the same design and display them together. Perhaps a Fire Department theme with a plaque, coffee cup, clipboard, mousepad and T-shirt, or a teacher’s section with a key chain, mousepad, coffee cup, clock and desk easel or a sports section with a sweatshirt, bag tag, flip-flops, car flag and trophy (Designs 4 U has nice designs for all these you can use).
Samples sell and since you can’t sublimate a sample of every possible combination of design and product, pick a few and display them together to help convey the possibilities. Remember to also communicate the strengths of sublimation: No minimum number, no set-up fee, no limit on colors, photographs welcome, individual personalization not only possible, but highly recommended.

Another way to display samples in groups without taking up much space is to use an electronic photo frame. As you make various products, take a quick photo with the camera in your cellphone. Once you have a collection of these, load them onto the photo frame and let it do the talking for you!

If you don’t have any pictures, check out the “Gallery” on the Condé web site or contact your Condé representative and ask for some stock pictures from their catalog to get you started.

If you travel to your customer’s location, always take some samples with you, preferably a collection of designs or products that relate to whatever that customer does.

SAMPLES! SAMPLES! SAMPLES! SAMPLES BY THEME! THEY SELL, SELL, SELL.