Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

I am sure you are aware Venture Banners advertise a double page spread in most of the leading print trade magazines. We have long standing relationships with these magazines and advertise month in, month out, all year round.

In fact very occasionally one of the editors phones me for a 250 word comment on whatever subject is the point of discussion that month. I’ve usually got an opinion, so it’s no problem for me to whip up something half readable.

And I must admit, I read most of the trade magazines cover to cover, I am fascinated by some of the articles and insights. Though every now and again, whilst leafing through the pages, I see an advert that looks very similar to ours, but is never as good. It’s offering products very similar to ours and would you believe it… prices very similar to ours. Someone is trying to muscle in on our business!

At this point you might expect me to get annoyed or worry about a potential loss of revenue, but instead I roll my eyes and continue my search for the advert featuring the girl with the ‘wrapped’ bottom.

The reason I am so philosophical about these copycat adverts is that I can pretty much guarantee that they won’t appear in next month’s issue, or if they do, they’ll do the company in question more harm than good. You see, we are pretty unique in the wide format print market. We don’t have ridiculously high minimum order costs or a price calculation system so complicated you’ll need your Captain Midnight Decoder Ring to understand it.

We are true trade-supplier. We are setup to work in the background to make you look fantastic. This philosophy and company culture gives us the edge in terms of the consistency of our levels of service to the trade. Our equipment is arguably the best in the world and our prices are set so that you can make a tidy margin on them. We handle huge volumes of trade work so that all our customers benefit from the economies of scale and on top of that, our levels of service and turnaround are consistently superb. And if ever they are not, phone me, I want to know about it.

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Banners with Pole Pockets

Pole pockets on banners are something that can cause a bit of confusion. This is compounded by the fact that some companies do things differently when producing banners with pole pockets.

Macy's Lamp Post Banners

Macy’s lamp post banners with wind-slits

What is a Pole Pocket?

A pole pocket is, as you would imagine, a pocket to slide a pole through. These can be on any side of the banner but is most commonly on the top and bottom so that it can be suspended between two horizontal poles.

A typical use for banners with pole pockets would be for lamp post banners or banners used on scaffolding.

Ordering Banners with Pole Pockets

The most common problem with pole pockets arises when ordering. Some people think that the pole pocket is going to be ‘added on’ to the size of the banner. However, this is not the case as the pole pockets needs to be included with the finished size of the banner – this makes things easier from the customer’s point of view if a banner is to bridge two poles.

Banner with pole pockets measurements

Measurements on a banner with pole pockets

As you can see by this example the final size of the banner includes the pole pockets. The pole pockets are inclusive of the banner’s size and not an addition to.

One thing that you have to bear in mind is that there may be minor fluctuations in the dimensions of the banner. This is due to the pole pocket being able to ‘squash’ its shape from circle to oval and even flat – this isn’t usually a problem on 99% of banners but if you think this may cause an issue please do speak to us.

Pole pocket diameter

The diameter of a pole

 

 

The size of a Pole Pocket

We will calculate the size of a pole pocket, required for each banner, all we require from you when ordering is the diameter of the pole going into the pocket. From this measurement we can then calculate the size of the pole pocket required.

How a pole pocket should look

How a pole pocket should look

The pole pocket should always have a bit of ‘wiggle’ (the very technical term we like to use), so that the pole can move freely within the pocket. This not only allows for easy fitting, but more importantly it distributes the stresses of the banner more evenly across the pocket and does not focus them on the join, increasing the life span of your banner.

How Pole Pockets Affect Artwork

Because of the un-flat nature of pole pockets it is best not to include any important information on the artwork where a pole pocket will be. Flat colour and imagery are fine, but you should steer clear of using any logos or text that you want readable in this area.

Another element to take into conisderation is the ‘weld line’. This is the transparent line that welds the banner to itself to produce the pocket. Although the weld line is transparent it does have a different appearance to the rest of the banner and if text crosses into this area it can hinder legibility.

The width of the weld line is typically 30mm in thickness.

Below are some example pole pocket sizes (based on the diameter of the pole) and how much clearance you need to give the text on your artwork. Please remember that plain colour and background imagery are fine within the clearance area.

Artwork clearance for pole pockets

Artwork clearance for pole pockets

These values work no matter which edge of the banner the pole pocket is situated.

The Summary

When ordering banners with pole pockets remember the following:

  • Provide us with the diameter of the pole going into the pocket
  • Give your artwork enough clearance
  • This applies whether it is a single or double-sided banner

This is only meant as a guide to help you when ordering banners with pole pockets and we are always at the end of a phone should you have any issues, on 0845 604 1030.

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It’s Been A While

How have you been keeping? We’ve taken our sweet time in getting this latest post up and for that we can only apologise, but we have good reason… honest.

Way back in March we announced that we had moved down the road from Chelmsford to Witham. Well, the main reason for this was to house the latest addition to our printer-family and to have it located closer to home (traditionally the majority of our print was handled further north).

This purchase and subsequent move has proven to be quite timely with us having our most productive year to date. Thanks to the team at CMYUK our new printer has hit the ground running and with only a few blips, has been invaluable to the business. Because of this we have had to change the way we process orders behind the scenes.

We develop all of our systems in-house which meant re-writing the admin system used to process our orders from the ground up. We finished the first stage and started trialling the new system in early December, and we’ve been debugging, fine-tuning and crying ourselves to sleep ever since.

This new system has come with added benefits to our customers, most notably the dispatch notifications and tracking now available on 90% of our orders.

This, combined with the VB Media websites we’ve developed, took up nearly all of last year, hence our slack approach to the blog.

Well, it’s a new year and we are still looking to expand our material and product range. We are looking into large-format paper/poster printing and the products that come with this. Exhibition displays and forecourt signage are other products due for release. These should be available to our trade customers soon, and although they will not be on the current retail site, they should still be available if required.

So, as we move into the new year you shall be hearing even more from us.

Fingers crossed for 2013.

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A New Home For Venture Banners

Venture Banners' New Location

Venture Banners' New Location

We’ve been in our Chelmsford office since November 2009, and in that time we’ve seen exponential business growth. Our team has got bigger, we’re dealing with more customers than ever before, and we’re printing more than we’ve ever printed. As a result, we’ve outgrown our current premises.

So we’re opening a new facility to house our sales, studio, and accounts departments, as well as a brand-new VUTEk printer. This will be the new home and cornerstone of Venture Banners.

We’ve enjoyed being in Chelmsford and would like to take this opportunity to thank our landlords and neighbouring businesses for putting up with us for as long as they have!

The When

We’re aiming to move over the course of the 6th–8th April, so it won’t be long at all.

There’s only a small amount of work we need to arrange before we move in, including a shiny new network installation and giving the production area both a lick of paint and some new lighting. Other than that, it’s ready to jump into.

Venture Banners' New Location

The Where

Our new address will be:

Unit 10
Waterside Business Park
Eastways
Witham
Essex
CM8 3YQ

Though we would’ve liked to stay in Chelmsford, and we couldn’t stray too far from it (for staff travel reasons), the options in Witham made most sense for us.

How It Will Benefit Us

Up til now, our sales, studio, and accounts departments have been located in a different location to our production teams. Now though, that will be changing. Having all departments under one roof from start-to-finish will bring some big advantages over our current setup:

  • Our sales, studio and production teams will be just metres away from each other, meaning better and quicker communication between all involved
  • The process from point of order, to studio, to printing, to packing, to despatching will be seamless
  • We won’t need to re-upload processed artwork for production—all files will be processed and served locally
  • We’ll have enough parking for everyone
  • We can be as noisy as we want!

Venture Banners' New Location

How It Will Benefit You

Having everything together will bring improvements for our customers too:

  • We hope to offer an express service for those in a hurry (a much requested service)
  • We’ll be able to offer more real-time updates on most orders, including courier consignment numbers
  • The new printer should give an improvement in print quality in most cases
  • Pick-ups will now be possible if you would like to save on delivery costs

When we’re all settled in, you’ll be more than welcome to visit and have a full tour. We’re hoping this should be by around mid-May, and we’ll let you know when we’re ready for visits. We’ll be able to show you how much large-format printing can help you and your business.

And in case you were wondering, we won’t be raising any of our prices. We’re sure this will be one of those happy “win-win” situations for all involved.

With the all-round improvements this will bring to our (already growing) business, we can’t wait to get started in the new building—onwards and upwards!

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Goodbye 2011, Hello 2012

Let me start by saying “Happy New Year everyone”.

Welcome to 2012, the year of the Olympics, UEFA European Championships and, if you believe the Mayan Long Count Calendar, the End of the World. Well, at Venture Banners we are going to have to continue under the assumption that the World is not going to end any time soon and look to what we can do in the large format print industry this year.

Last year saw us make some additions to our product range, including foamex and correx, flags and the Teardrop and Feather Flag stands (trade only).

This coming year we have even more developments ahead. These include:

  • Soft signage – The demand for single sided printed flag-esque material is increasing and is widely seen as the next ‘big thing’ in the industry. The benefits of soft signage are easy installation and reduced delivery costs. Indoor use only.
  • A fast turnaround service – We hope to implement an ‘I need it, like NOW!’ service in the coming months. We always get asked if we can turnaround a banner in the space of 12 hours, but because of our strict print-queue system this hasn’t been possible. However, with new machinery arriving this year we may now be able to offer this for a limited number of orders.
  • Consignment numbers for deliveries – We hope to be trialing this soon with some test orders, and then rolling out across 95% of the orders we fulfill. This will be provided in the form of a ‘Dispatched’ email notification.
  • Pop-Up display systems – One planned for later on in the year, but exhibition display systems are on the cards.
  • Brand refresh – A simple freshening up of the Venture brand.
  • New website – For the trade side of our business, giving increased functionality.
  • Website development service - We are developing a service which will give our customers (specifically print-trade) the opportunity to have a fully-controllable and professional, large-format print website. More to come on this in the very near future.

With these developments in mind (plus a few others we have up our sleeves), we are hoping that 2012 turns into the year we are planning for.

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Proof Reading for Splelling Mistakes

You saw what I did there, didn’t you? …Or did you? Just testing!

Having been fortunate enough to work with websites and online content, it has become very easy to correct my mistakes. With just a few clicks, a mistake can be remedied, leaving no trace it was ever there. Unfortunately, with printed material, things aren’t so forgiving.

Whoops

Whoops

Back when I was producing mainly print designs, I had my fair share of embarrassing moments when the delivery from the local printer turned up. It’s a horrible feeling. Especially when several thousand pounds have been spent on having your design printed, to then be posted to thousands of customers.

There are, however, some important tips to help prevent that kind of situation happening.

Check, Check, and Check Again

I can’t stress how important checking your work is.

Don’t rely solely on your software to do all your spell-checking for you. Yes, they can be useful aids, but they’re still nowhere near smart enough to understand the complexities of human language. You may well have spelled all the words in a design correctly according to the software, but don’t forget:

  • Some software may be limited to USA spellings, or you might not have changed your dictionary language
  • Some industry/business phrases, acronyms and words won’t ever appear in a real dictionary, so these will require manual checking
  • Not all spell-checkers check for correct capitalisation
  • Context: most spell-checkers can’t tell you if a word is (or isn’t) in the right place
  • Correct punctuation is again related to context, and can’t yet be fully understood by our everyday software

Spell-checkers are named what they are, because that’s exactly what they do: check spelling. But there’s so much more to language than simply spelling. Think of it like a car—you might have all the correct individual parts, but if they aren’t put together in the right way, you won’t be going anywhere.

Two Pairs of Eyes are Better Than One

If you’ve been creating the design yourself, you’re likely ‘too close’ to the project to be the only proof-reader involved. This can easily blind you to your own errors. You can repeatedly miss an error in your own work, whereas someone else will immediately see it.

It’s always, always best to have someone else proof-read your work. It’s good to have a colleague available to check your work before it gets committed to print and seen out in the real world. Even if you think you’re the most competent person with the English language in the world, don’t underestimate how important it is to have someone else’s eyes giving your work the ‘once over’.

A real word with the correct spelling. But completely the wrong word for the context!

A real word with the correct spelling. But completely the wrong word for the context!

Even if you don’t have someone on hand to proof-read your work, it can sometimes help to print your design on your office printer. For some reason, seeing it on physical media can help you spot errors in your own work.

Mistakes Incoming, 12 O’Clock!

Because of the sheer amount of designs we deal with on a daily basis, we do quite often spot spelling mistakes on artwork supplied to us. In these instances, if we notice the mistake early enough, we notify customers of the error before it gets passed through to our production team, and allow the customer to make the call on whether to re-supply the design or go ahead. If the mistake has already been printed, there’s little we can do to help, sadly.

This is again another reason to have spelling checked: mistakes can be costly, especially when dealing with large-format prints. If the text is large, the mistake can be glaringly obvious too!

Mistakes: Learn From Them, You Must

If you’re in a position where you regularly churn out design work or create content, mistakes will happen—it can’t be helped. But as I’ve said above, things can be done to reduce the chances of mistakes happening.

The best thing to do when they do happen is to learn where things went wrong. Was it a mistake in the content supplied to you? Was it not passed on to someone for proof-reading? It’s worth trying to find out where the mistake occurred, not to apportion blame, but to help avoid similar things happening in the future.

Unfortunately, the blame for mistakes will normally be laid at the feet of the last set of eyes that saw the work before it went to print. However, having worked in that process for over five years in my previous job, I do have much sympathy for the designers. At one point, we got so fed up of being blamed for every mistake, we ensured a proof-read by the department manager was required before anything could go to print. It was another step in the process (albeit a red-tape-esque one), but it was important for both our protection and the improvement to the quality of the work we sent out.

Oh, and if you found any mistakes in this post, they were of course deliberate! ;)

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Designing and Printing Our Stationery

Venture Banners Folder

While much of our business is run online or via email, some dealings require us to send paperwork in the post. And when you send printed material to customers, business partners and associates, it goes without saying that you need to make a good impression. However, when many of your customers are in the print trade themselves, like ours, that becomes even more important.

So when it came to designing our own stationery, we wanted to give that good impression.

Contrary to what many seem to believe, we don’t actually do lithographic or stationery printing ourselves. We specialise in large-format banner printing, so we’re happy to leave the smaller-format stuff to the experts. For our own stationery, we often use Douglas (formerly MyPrintLink). Several team members have used them for years, and in previous jobs, and we’ve been extremely impressed by their level of service, competitive prices, and print quality.

Venture Banners Letterhead

Venture Banners Letterhead

The vast majority of our printed customer communication is done on our letterhead. This is used for all of our invoices, credit statements, and letters, obviously. It’s printed on 120gsm bond paper, double-sided, with an orange background and over-sized logo on the reverse.

We also have a bespoke-cut folder, which is used for customer communication where that little bit of extra finesse and presentation is required. It’s printed on 350gsm silk card, and has spot UV finishing on the logos, both front and back. The folder keeps everything together, allows the placement of a business card in the lower-right corner on the inside, and quite frankly, looks awesome.

Venture Banners Business Card

Venture Banners Business Card

The Business Card

As we’re a mostly online-based business, we don’t tend to use our business cards as often as some traditional businesses might, but that’s no excuse for being slack on presentation, so we decided to give them a little something extra. First-off, we put in some faux hems and eyelets on the reverse—a signature of banner printing, also seen on our brand mark.

We also took the opportunity of them being printed on both sides to add a little bonus. We seem to like using an over-sized version of our logo where possible, so we split it between the front and the back. If you have one card, it appears as though the design simply wraps around the back, and that’s great. But if you have two cards, and put them together, the logo matches up! Admittedly, this probably won’t happen often, but we still love it!

This millimeter-precise type of design is a nightmare for printers, but to their credit, Douglas did an excellent job of ensuring spacings were equal and things matched up. The cards are printed on 350gsm silk card, with matte lamination all over, which looks and feels great.

Venture Banners Trade Business Card

Venture Banners Trade Business Card

We also have another business card specifically for Trade clients. This uses the same idea as the standard business card, with our Trade brand mark wrapped around the side.

Stationery, But Never Stationary

This stationery has been in use for a while now, and we’ve been toying with the idea of updating our brand and logo. We’ve got a couple of ideas, and we’ll post more on this soon.

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On Phoenix Companies

Fire

We find ourselves facing challenging economic conditions and they are not being made any easier by the rising number of companies going bust to avoid their debt and then starting up again the very next day with a different name and a clean bill of health.

Obviously there are companies that take the insolvency route because they’ve investigated all the available options and have chosen that particular way out of their current situation. At Venture Banners, we like to think we take the time build up a good rapport with our customers. We also like to think we offer a pretty unique service, so on the odd occasion when one of our trade customers does go pop, they will usually phone us and ask for our help, thus keeping the relationship intact. The end result is: the client gets to keep a valued supplier, while our financial exposure is minimised.

However,  I am more interested in talking about the absolute scum that start a company, build up debt and then go bust only start up the next day with a slightly different name ( you know who you are, Apple Print.info), leaving their suppliers licking their wounds with little chance of getting any money back—the so-called Phoenix companies.

Phoenix’… sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? A magical mythical bird of fire, though the reality of Phoenix companies is anything but. While researching the subject, I was shocked to hear a story from a very large printing company that had a long-standing customer who went bust owing them thirty thousand pounds, only to phone the very next week with a new company name expecting the same trading and credit terms! Astonishingly naive.

The ripple effect of a company going bust can often be huge, creating cash flow issues and on occasion making the perfectly legitimate supplying company late in paying its own debts and finding its own credit score being adversely affected.

When we were knocked for £1,300 earlier this year (see above) I contacted the nastiest debt recovery people I could find: Shotgun, Knuckleduster and Blade Ltd… or something like that. Not becuase of the money, but the fact that the b***dards who had built up this debt were practically laughing down the phone at me, but do you know what, they were protected by law, so Shotgun, Knuckleduster and Blade Ltd could do nothing to help.

I personally don’t know how these people who Phoenix can sleep at night, very comfortably with our money in the bank probably. If you are one of these people who do the Pheonix thing I have some words of advice; You can’t run bath water, let alone a company, do us all a favour and find yourself a job, you’re obviously not an Entrepreneur.

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