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Pushing the Envelope Beyond Ordinary

Print, Mail & Envelopes in the New Century

Posted by Jerry Velona on Sep 16, 2016 3:20:45 PM

Ask most anyone these days in the print, mail or envelope industry about the current state and future of mail and you’ll generally get an answer that’s hopeful but cautious.  The great digital disruption of the last 25 years or so has caused an irrevocable change in printed communication.  Those of us who’ve seen these changes as they’ve occurred are naturally wary about what is to come.  It hasn't always been pretty!

nervous_person.jpg

On the one hand mergers and acquisitions continue apace with smaller, less capitalized companies unable to profit in the new landscape and selling out (if they’re lucky) to larger firms more able to diversify and adapt to changing market conditions. Obviously, creative destruction is part of every sector of the economy and generally indicates overall health in the market. But it does seem that there’s more of it going on in our industries of late and it’s been accelerated by the ubiquity of smart phones among other things. Not a week goes by when we don’t receive some notice of an equipment auction. Used envelope and printing equipment has never been less expensive and more available. That’s a tangible sign of over-capacity due to a still-shrinking market.

However on the other hand direct mail is certainly coming back with a vengeance.  After a relatively brief flirtation with relying exclusively on digital-based marketing, fund-raising companies as well as colleges and other large institutions are coming back to mail solicitations because they achieve better results even with the added costs of printing, envelopes and postage.  And at Elite Envelope, we have seen a significant increase in new customers comprised of small start-ups ranging from print brokers, consultants, marketing agencies, and craftspeople making a high value product that needs to be mailed in a printed bubble envelope or promoted with a full-color package including a window envelope and reply envelope.

We speak to customers every week who are changing their business around; getting into providing new services and products to customers in order to capture more of their business. And far from being the bane of our existence, technology is enabling us to work smarter with more information at our fingertips and marketing software and website apps which allow a one-person marketing “department” to reach thousands (or millions) of potential customers with a few clicks.

It might sound contradictory for companies in the print communication business to use website and e mail to such an extent to promote their wares but it’s really not.  It’s all part of the grand, shaking-out and reorganizing that’s going on not just in our industries but in just about every business across the entire economy.  And what we’re finding is that print and mail is settling in to have its place in the mix of ways people communicate, sell and solicit.   It’s up to us to increase the value of what we provide and hopefully our share of the market.

Topics: elite envelope, declining mail volume, envelopes and printing, envelope industry, printed bubble mailers

Four Color Process Envelope Printing - which method is right for you?

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jun 9, 2015 1:29:00 PM

fancy envelope picture

Envelopes used to be an afterthought when it came to a printed package. A lot more time, attention and expense would typically be spent on the contents rather than the package which enclosed them. That is no longer the case and here's my theory as to why:

One of the pervasive aspects of our increasingly affluent society is that people's tastes and expectations change; generally in a more expensive direction. Just to take a couple of examples (there are many others):

My parents drank Maxwell House ground coffee that they bought in a large, pressurized can at the supermarket probably for the same price (or less!) than a single latte drink at Starbucks costs today. Maxwell House was good enough for them and millions of others.

Anyone try to give away their old cathode-ray TV lately? Last year I had the Salvation Army refuse to take mine because "everyone wants flat screen TVs these days".  They also wouldn't take my used but good condition sleeper couch with down cushions because of a small, faded portion on the back from the sun.  Apparently, even poverty isn't what it was 50 years ago.

Those are just two examples but the point is, for most of us, pedestrian isn't good enough anymore. One of the prime drivers of this is technology which, for example, makes flat screen TVs less expensive today than my 19" Sony Trinitron cost 15 years ago. Our standard of living has gone up largely because the cost of what used to be premium items has decreased. We're less willing to settle for...

simple black printing on envelopes for example!  You can buy a fairly inexpensive color desk top printer and print your own envelopes in pretty colors.  You can also go to Staples or other walk in digital printers, hand them your flash drive and walk out with some fancy color printed envelopes.

But what about if you're a small business owner or a print buyer?  What are your options for more than just a few hundred four color process envelopes? 

There are four possible ways to do this:

  • Offset
  • Lithographic
  • Flexographic
  • Digital

 

  • Offset - The most common offset press made for envelopes and used by most envelope converters, envelope manufacturers and envelope printers is the Jet press made by the Halm Corporation. The four-color jet press is a great option for a quantity of 5,000 and up where the printing is light to medium coverage with no bleeds.  For instance - if you have a small four color logo that you place with your return address, the four color Jet is generally the best way to go for price and good quality.

 

  • Lithographic - By this I mean high-quality sheet-fed printing from a large, sophisticated press made by companies like Heidelberg and Kamori which you'll find at large, commercial printing companies. Envelope converters like Elite Envelope will take printed sheets from these companies, almost always printed in full color, and cut, fold and glue them into envelopes. The reasons an envelope is printed this way boil down to three: coverage, quality and stock.  If the envelope has full coverage, front and back, this is one of your two options (flexo is the other, more on that shortly). If the envelope uses coated stock, then it generally needs to be printed this way. And sheetfed offset is generally the gold-standard for print quality in the industry. So if your envelope has to look better than anyone else's, this is probably the way for you to go.

 

  • Flexographic - Also known as "flexo" uses hard-plastic photo polymer plates versus the metal plates used in offset printing. It is done in-line (as the envelope is being manufactured) and features quick drying ink. Flexo used to be pretty much exclusively for "down and dirty" print jobs;  black or one color with simple copy. It's main advantage is cost; especially on very large quantities (typically 100,000 and up).  The quality of flexo printing has improved dramatically over the past several decades and there is now so-called "enhanced flexo" equipment which prints four color process in full coverage with outstanding results. However the quality is still not quite up to the level of lithography.

 

  • Lastly as I already mentioned, there's digital printing.  This is done mostly with toner versus ink. The quality is generally very good especially as the technology improves. Unlike the other three methods, there's virtually no-set up time required for digital printers. You pretty much just click and go. For that reason, digital is great for small runs of up to around 2,500.  However digital printers are very slow in comparison to offset or flexo presses so after that number, you're better off going offset.  Another drawback with digital printers is because of the intense heat needed to set the toner, regular poly window patch material melts.  So special and more expensive material must be used if you're printing a window envelope.  Plus, while the quality is good, it has a different look than offset printing. So, if the components are printed offset, they won't match the envelope which can be a problem in some packages. However, one great advantage to digital printing is that it can easily print variable data which has become essential in the world of direct marketing. And if you need a larger quantity of digitally printed envelopes, there are some very-sophisticated digital web presses that can print on sheets or rolls for converting later.

 

If you have a question on how to print a particular envelope to best meet your needs, send me an e mail or give me a call. I'll be happy to help you sort things out.

 

 

Topics: envelopes and printing, envelope printing, envelope manufacturer, envelope converting, four color envelope printing

Envelopes and Print – Boldly into 2015

Posted by Jerry Velona on Dec 24, 2014 9:24:00 AM

Happy New Year from Elite Envelope

 

I just checked my calendar and noticed that 2014 is almost over – so you can see I’m right on the ball this morning. Despite the fact that I have all the latest digital toys; including a spanking new IPhone 6 which I love, I still maintain a printed calendar in my portfolio. I print out a month-at-a-glance sheet from Outlook and write in appointments.  I like being able to see where I was and where I’m going all in one spot. Obviously those of us who grew up in the mid to latter part of the 20th century have a certain affinity for the printed page. That’s most likely from whence this strange obsession comes.

 So since it’s almost the end of another year I thought it would be a good time to recap our year and the year in general for our beloved printing and envelope industries.

 Elite Envelope and Graphics, Inc; the company I co-own along with my intrepid partner Dave Theriault, had a very good year. Like most printing and envelope companies, the last recession hit us hard. My theory is that the slow decline in overall print volume was accelerated by the economic downturn. So we were forced to overcome the general slowdown in business plus the cyclical and historic trend in our specific industry.  We’ve regained and increased our volume gradually over the past six years and now find ourselves in a good position for continued growth.

 I’ve never been one to use macro-economic conditions as an excuse. Aside from being something over which we have no control, “the economy” cannot really be regarded in any unifying sense for every firm.  Even during the deepest recessions, certain states will outperform others. Some companies grow even during the worst economic times. 3M and the Tyson chicken companies grew steadily through the 1930’s in the midst of the Great Depression. Blaming the economy is often a convenient excuse. I’m not suggesting that overall economic conditions nationwide or worldwide have no effect. But they are not necessarily the cause for every individual company or industry’s problems.

So where do we in the envelope converting and printing businesses go from here?  I believe that barring any unforeseen catastrophe, 2015 will be a good year for us in general. The digital/information economy; the prime driver of lower mail and print volumes, is obviously here to stay and that is a good thing. The efficiencies and opportunities created by computer software, smart phones, etc. have been profoundly positive to say the least.  

But after a generation where computer usage has become ubiquitous both in business and with individuals, I think the trends that affect envelopes and print are part of the fabric of the economy and not likely to change as radically in the next twenty years.  Just to take one example: banks who provide printed statements.  Based on my dealings with some bank data processing companies, I’ve seen little drop-off in volume on statement mailings over the past several years. I’m guessing that very few college students who open checking accounts are opting for a printed statement. However, there are still many folks in the fifty and over range who prefer getting the statement in the mail. And given current demographic trends and the steady increase in life expectancy, it’s reasonable to project that those statements will continue to be in the mail for many years to come.

Another salutary trend I’ve noticed for paper and print is the “prodigal mailers” – those who were temporarily enamored with e mail marketing but who soon realized that printed direct mail provides a better return on investment even with the higher upfront costs. Several mailers I deal with have told me that 2014 was their best year in a long time; anecdotal evidence for sure, but good news nonetheless.

More marketers seem to be realizing that e mail has its uses, but as the information economy matures and everyone’s inbox is crammed with messages, a printed piece can serve as change-of-pace thereby making it more likely to get a tiny chunk of whatever attention might be available from the potential customer.

As I’ve pointed out previously, first class mail volume actually increased a bit in the last year where numbers are available. That hadn’t happened in a while. Of course that fact has to be understood in the context of an overall 20% decline in the past 10 years or so. 

The takeaway is that we’re in an industry that is adjusting to lower overall volumes than in the past but still serving a large customer base for products that will continue to be needed well into the future. Some of the short term pain and upheaval remains – plant closings, paper mills being shut down, companies doing more with less staff. But most of it has already happened which gives those of us who remain the opportunity to remain viable for many years to come. That’s a positive message for the end of 2014.   Happy New Year!

Topics: elite envelope, e mail and direct mail, envelopes, envelopes and printing

Bubble Envelopes: Smarter and Better

Posted by Jerry Velona on Oct 17, 2013 12:46:00 PM

I was going to write about the Post Office raising rates again and paper plants being decommissioned leading to higher paper prices throughout the market. Neither of those things is particularly good for printers and envelope companies although the postal service needs to do something to stem the tide of red ink and there is clearly over-capacity in the paper market which needs to be corrected.

But, hey, the Red Sox are two games away from being in the World Series (hopefully!) plus it’s fall in New England; a beautiful time of year, so we’ll dispense with the gloom and doom for now and instead focus on something positive; a better bubble envelope.  How’s that for a convenient segueway?

Conventional wisdom repeatedly tells us that the digital age spells bad news for paper, envelopes and direct mail. Lots has been written on this topic, including a number of posts in this space,  and I’ve continuously made the point that embracing and exploiting this same technology will make us more competitive and enable us to grow despite the convenience of e mails.

beam me up star trek

 

One of the bright spots for us is the continuing growth in E Commerce. Until Amazon and others figure out a way to use Star Trek technology (“beam up that T shirt to the end-user Scotty”) your purchased goods will need to be shipped in boxes or envelopes. Bubble lined envelopes have become more popular as a result. They are very capable for shipping a variety of materials and also very light which helps on the postage side.

At Elite Envelope, we’ve been working with our customers on bubble-lined envelopes for quite some time and have come up with a product that many find superior to what is typically available. We call it the “Smart Bubble” and here are the advantages:

  • The bubble lining inside the envelope is removable. This allows the recipient to re-use or recycle it. This provides options and convenience for the customer as well as minimizing waste in general.  I don’t know about you but I find bubble products very handy when I’m looking to ship a present or item that needs protection. They are nice to have around for a variety of purposes.

 

  • The removable bubble sleeve fits snugly inside the envelope. Once the envelope is sealed, it works exactly the same as one that is glued in.

 

  • One of the downsides of typical bubble envelopes is the strict limitation on how it can be printed and at what quantity. The reason for that is most companies who make these will glue the bubble liner to the inside of the envelope.  You then need a special press that can print on bubble envelopes; usually on a crash print/letterpress machine which doesn’t provide great quality or design options.  Because our envelopes feature the removable liner, we can print up to four colors on just about any type of envelope you require and in small quantities.

All of this can be done at a competitive cost and generally within a 2-3 week lead time or sooner depending on what you're looking for. So please contact us for a quote or samples.

Smart Bubble envelopes live up to their name!

Topics: direct mail, elite envelope, envelopes and printing, printing and envelopes, bubble envelopes

National’s Demise and the State of the Envelope

Posted by Jerry Velona on Sep 10, 2013 12:10:00 PM

As anyone who works in the envelope and printing industry is aware, National Envelope has recently been acquired by Cenveo and will face liquidation of some sort. As of this writing, it’s still unclear how much of National’s capacity will remain. Cenveo already maintains approximately 20 envelope plants throughout the US and the overall amount of first class mail has been in decline for the past decade so it says here that most of National’s plants will be closed and sold off in order to solidify Cenveo’s leadership position in the market.

National Envelope was one of those great American success stories. Started by William Unger, a Holocaust survivor who arrived in America on a ship for displaced persons after the war, the company  grew to become the largest privately held envelope manufacturer in the United States. National was known as a quality shop with a very solid market position primarily as a wholesaler. At a time when American manufacturing was shifting away from low-tech products in textiles, shoes and other consumables, envelope manufacturing provided solid jobs for thousands with good wages and benefits.

National filed for bankruptcy over three years ago and was acquired by a California-based private equity company called The Gores Group. At that time, Cenveo was making a bid for the company but it seemed that the Ungar family couldn’t stand the thought of surrendering the company to their fiercest competitor so they saw the Gores offer as the better choice.  It was always curious why a private equity company would consider a company like National a candidate for a turnaround and sale for a profit. The company was over $500 million in debt in a declining industry.The fact of overcapacity in the envelope market was as clear then as it is now. But while Gores closed a few of National’s plants and sold off a bunch of its equipment (at bargain-basement prices) it seemed to keep the same low-margin pricing structure that one could argue was one of the prime causes of National’s decline and eventual demise.

Gores tried to impose draconian production controls on some of the plants. This resulted in some adverse publicity and ultimately did nothing to solve the problem. As anyone who runs a factory is aware, treating your employees well makes for a happier and more productive environment. I also had some fun with Gore’s somewhat lame attempts at spinning the purchase of National and wrapping the package in meaningless MBA jargon.

The news about the second Chapter 11 filing by National Envelope and its impending liquidation earlier in the summer was played by most of the press as the end of an era and symbolic of the decline of the envelope and mailing industry.

Those of us in the industry know that's a convenient media angle but ultimately a superficial take on the story. National's problems were mostly self-inflicted. There's certainly been a decline in first class mail in the past decade but there are still billions of envelopes being mailed and the direct mail industry has seen growth during the same period.

It’s truly a shame that thousands of people will likely lose their jobs as a result of the National bankruptcy. If there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s that the model of the large, high-overhead envelope operation selling its product at commodity prices is mostly over.

We believe the future of our industry lies with the smaller, regional companies that provide value and great service to their customers. While first class mail volumes are declining due to the inexorable expansion of the digital economy, direct mail has remained a viable way for companies to promote their products. The percentage of direct mail as a total of the overall postal volume has increased and continues to do so. Marketers are re-discovering direct mail as a solid (literally) alternative to digital information overload.

The envelope companies who keep their costs at a reasonable level with little leverage, stay lexible and responsive to customer demands, use technology to its maximum advantage, constantly add value to their product offerings and aggressively market and sell will stay viable well into the twenty first century. Print and mail isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

In the meantime, RIP National Envelope and may its many fine employees find productive work either in the envelope industry or elsewhere.

 

Topics: direct mail, declining mail volume, envelope industry, envelopes and printing, printing and envelopes, national envelope

Envelope and Web Printing Picture Day

Posted by Jerry Velona on Aug 19, 2013 11:12:00 AM

The last time we had pictures taken of the plant, staff and equipment was almost four years ago. That didn’t seem possible but, as we all know, in the world of print schedules and crazy customer deadlines and demands, time passes quickly.

In the interim period Elite Envelope joined forces with Web Corp making us the only company in the region which manufactures and prints envelopes as well as produces four-color cold-web printing under the same roof.  We needed new photos to show the range of our capabilities so we scheduled a shoot with Jonas Kahn, a very creative Boston-area photographer who had taken many of our previous pictures.

We were hoping for a nice, sunny day so we could get some new shots of the outside of our building (new paint job!) as well as a group photo of the entire staff (now almost 30 people).  However, as anyone who’s from around here knows, it’s hard to pin down a sunny day a month in advance. The rain and clouds forced us to confine the pictures to the inside which still got us most of what we needed.

One of the nice things about taking equipment pictures is it allows you to actually focus (yes, I know…) on the things you’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on as a business owner. As I alluded to earlier, the age of high-speed communication and instant gratification gives us approximately zero time to reflect and consider and, perhaps admire the things we’ve achieved and purchased with the fruits of our persistent and frenetic effort.

web printing photo

Jonas enjoys taking pictures of the web presses and envelope converting machines from odd angles which show the various functions in ways that you probably wouldn’t notice.  Our eight color web prints 4/4 and has a turn bar in the middle. As the stock is flying through the machine with perfectly calibrated and measured process inks being applied, the press automatically flips the paper around so that the back portion can be printed at the same time. This is all done at a speed that’s only a blur when viewed with the naked eye in real time but when you stop time with a photograph, you can appreciate the technical wizardry and complexity of the machinery.

The envelope converting equipment runs at slower speeds than the webs but seeing the various stations in action close-up causes one to think. The printing world has embraced the digital age and the quality and options and procedures there have changed alot: no more film and stripping; direct to plate, etc. However, there are not too many different ways to cut, fold and glue a piece of paper into an envelope and the fact that our business thrives by doing things in the time-honored fashion gives a sense of the timelessness of the process and a connection in our industry to folks who were doing thesame thing 50 years ago or more.

Now maybe none of this is that big of a deal, but I happen to think it is. It’s part of our nature to take things for granted and the result is we become blasé about the many technological marvels that are part of our daily lives. Maybe the fact that I’m not that technically oriented causes me to think this way. But I think it’s more important than ever for us to pause occasionally and take a few minutes to appreciate we’ve done and are, hopefully, continuing to do.

Taking pictures not only helps us to communicate our accomplishments to the public; but also to ourselves.  And yes, we will get a sunny day eventuallyfor the outdoor shots!

Topics: envelope manufacturing, elite envelope, envelope converting, envelopes and printing, cold web printing, web printing

Envelope Printing – Choosing the Best Method

Posted by Jerry Velona on Sep 17, 2012 12:37:00 PM

Printed Envelopes

In last week’s blog post, I listed the various ways envelopes can be printed: offset, flexo, flat sheet litho and digital.  Those are listed in descending order from the most popular methods through the least popular, at least in my experience.

But the question remains: how does one choose the best method for printing an envelope?  You could just send a quote to your favorite envelope company or printer and ask them to provide a price. That may get you what you need but it also might get you a price on whatever works best for that particular company and not necessarily what is the best and most economical way for that particular job.

No, it’s always best for a buyer to be knowledgeable on his own in order to get the best quality and price. That applies to anything you purchase really.

In my previous post I mentioned the three factors to be considered when deciding how to print your envelope: quantity, quality and print coverage.  In thinking about this, I tried to come up with a simple formula for your use.  Unfortunately, it’s not quite that easy because multiple factors need to be considered for just about any envelope print job.  So here’s my best shot on the basics for you to consider using those three criteria:

1. Coverage:  If the envelope prints with full coverage front and back or full coverage on one side with bleeds all around, the three print options you have would be enhanced flexo, flat sheet litho or flat sheet digital with converting after the fact.  (Most envelopes that print with this type of coverage tend to be 4 color process. If the piece prints in spot colors, then digital would not be an option unless the artwork could be converted to CMYK.)  The enhanced flexo process is done inline on a web machine. Diagonal seam envelopes cannot be done this way because of the web process.

If the envelope has light to medium ink coverage, then Jet offset (printing on a pre-made envelope) is the best option for quantities up to around 250,000. At higher quantities, regular flexo might be a more cost-effective option depending on the quality of the printing required.  Half tones, fine screens and fine lines and close registration generally require offset printing.  However, something like a simple BRE or line copy could be printed flexo with good results.

2. Quantity:  Small quantities up to around 2,000 are where digital printing on a pre-made envelope can be cost-effective. However, as I mentioned, most digital presses can only print process colors. So anything with spot colors needs to be printed in one of the remaining three processes. Strictly from a price standpoint, offset would be the least expensive on quantities up to 250,000. However, the best option would also have to consider the amount of coverage and the quality required.

Some companies, like Elite Envelope, feature very competitive Jet offset pricing at quantities well into the millions. For this reason, the offset/flexo decision can also depend on the company you are dealing with.

3. Quality:  I’ve mostly covered the quality considerations that need to be taken into account except to say that even if an envelope can be printed flexo, you will get superior quality by printing it offset. So if you can make the pricing work, you’re better off going that route simply for best print results. 

Of the four printing options for envelopes, the best quality would be flat sheet litho for the simple reason that those presses are larger and built to produce high-quality fine printing on pieces where the expectations exceed what is commonly required for an envelope.  However, that is generally going to be the most expensive way to go so that must be taken into account as well.

Lastly, one of the comments from last week’s blog concerned bleeds on envelopes. Bleeds can be printed on Jet offset presses in certain cases. The best results are where the coverage is light or involves a screen that bleeds. However, we have printed many envelopes with fairly dense coverage on the jet that happen to bleed. There can be some occasional ink build-up on the edge which needs to be monitored but overall a good pressman can make it work quite well. 

I hope I’ve clarified some of the envelope printing decisions you might need to make. If you’re still unsure, just send me a pdf of your artwork and I’ll be happy to provide a suggestion of your best way to go.

 

Topics: elite envelope, envelope offset printing, jet printing, how envelopes are printed, flexographic envelope printing, envelope printing options, elite envelope, envelope printing, envelopes and printing, printing and envelopes, printed envelopes

What’s the Best Way to Print a 4 Color Envelope?

Posted by Jerry Velona on Sep 10, 2012 10:43:00 AM

Envelopes can be printed in four different ways: Offset, Flexographic, Litho and Digital.

The majority of envelopes are printed on an offset press; the most popular of which are the “Jet” presses made by the Halm Corporation.  Those are the presses used by most envelope companies and some printers. The Jet press is a sturdy workhorse that feeds envelopes up to 12 x 15 ½ in size and prints at speeds up to 30,000 per hour in some cases.  Most Jet presses print up to two colors and can perfect (print on both sides) in the same number of colors. However, there is a 4 color Jet which prints process or spot colors on envelopes with excellent quality.

Elite Envelope Jet Press

Probably the second most common way envelopes are printed is flexographically. (I say probably because I have no hard data on this. If anyone out there has evidence to the contrary, I’d be very interested).  Flexographic or as it’s commonly referred to, flexo printing is generally done in-line as the envelope is manufactured. Unlike offset printing which uses a metal printing plate, flexo printing uses a hard plastic, photo-polymer plate.  Flexo printing technology has come a long way in the past 20 to 30 years. It used to be done with soft rubber plates and used only for the most basic printing like, say a business reply envelope.  However, these days so-called enhanced flexo machines routinely print full coverage 4 color process envelopes with great results.

The next most popular way to print envelopes is on flat sheet litho presses.   This requires a two step process of first printing on the sheets and then converting the sheets into envelopes.  As an envelope converter, Elite Envelope regularly advises customers on when this might be necessary. It is a more expensive proposition than simply printing an already converted envelope on a Jet press but yields the best quality printing because of the size and capabilities of the equipment.

Lastly envelopes are sometimes printed in small quantities on digital copiers or presses. These machines can only print in process colors so they are not workable for a simple one or two color job. Also, the economics only make them a good choice if the quantities required are small. Generally anything over 2,500 doesn’t make sense to do digitally at least as far as envelopes are concerned. Not all digital presses can easily accommodate envelopes. Some of the newer models include this feature and work quite well.

So back to the question: What IS the best way to print a 4 color envelope?  Well, the simple answer is it’s based on three main factors: quantity, quality and coverage or a combination of the three. I’ll break this all down for you in next week’s post.  In the meantime, your comments are always most welcome!

Topics: four color envelope printing, envelope offset printing, flexographic envelope printing, flexo printing, envelope printing options, elite envelope, envelope converting, envelope printing, envelopes and printing

What an Envelope Says

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jul 23, 2012 12:20:00 PM

MarshallMcLuhan

In 1964 when Marshall McLuhan wrote the famous phrase, “The medium is the message”, he was suggesting that the carrier of the message could actually convey a message of its own.  He was mostly writing about television and how that technology was changing the culture by bringing more people into a common area in which to view and digest information.

McLuhan would have a field-day writing about the Internet which has taken this concept and run wild.  By some estimates, over three-quarters of American households own computers. If you add mobile computing devices, I’m sure that figure is much higher. Today, just about everyone is wired and accessing digital content of some type.

However, unlike television in the 1960’s which featured a small number of programming options and news filters, the worldwide web has millions of sites and information sources from which to choose.  The number of options, while helpful in many instances, can be overwhelming. When a device, in this case the human brain, becomes overwhelmed it usually shuts down.  Add to this the large number of e mail and text messages that are received and sent in a given day and you have a prescription for information overload. 

Basic economics teaches us that when a commodity becomes plentiful, the price and hence the value diminishes unless the demand continues to outpace the supply. If we view information as the commodity, I believe what we are seeing in large sectors of American society is the cheapening of communication.  There’s so much of it that the individual messages are getting lost or simply disregarded.

So what does all this have to do with envelopes?  Well as digital communication becomes ubiquitous and less valuable it follows that written communication, the kind that comes inside envelopes in your non-virtual mailbox looks better by comparison. It hasn’t been very long since there were regular outcries from individuals and groups about being inundated with “junk mail”.  Interesting that you don’t hear much about that anymore!  Most of the crying is done about spam and spammers (justifiably in my opinion –it can be highly annoying as anyone who’s been plagued in this way will attest).

I’ve written about how sending hand-written notes to people in a business context can really get their attention these days.  Personalized direct mail can serve as a reasonable surrogate to that approach. When the content is relevant and interesting along with high-quality printing and clever design there will be a reasonable curiosity that will cause many folks to open and take a gander.  

And yes, I meant “open” as in take it out of the envelope. Sure I’m biased but I think that postcards or other non-envelope flats don’t carry the same air of anticipation. You really don’t know what’s inside the envelope till you open it and there’s something in all of us that likes a surprise.  Just taking the extra time, care and expense to put something in an envelope says something positive about your mailing which the recipient will intuitively understand; another example of the McLuhan insight where the medium becomes part of the message. 

Mail on!

Topics: direct mail, write a letter, envelopes and printing, printed envelopes, envelopes

Printing and Envelope Sales – It’s a Numbers Game

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jun 18, 2012 11:17:00 AM

In a couple of weeks I will enter my 25th year in printing and envelope sales. In 1988, I was a purchasing manager and marketing coordinator for a group of forward-thinking savings banks in eastern Massachusetts.   Spending as much time talking to sales reps as I did, I thought I could succeed in that field.  And with a young family to support, I understood sales would give me the opportunity to significantly increase my income and perhaps provide a more flexible schedule for my musical pursuits.

After meeting with the owner of one of my main envelope vendors, he said he’d match my salary for a while and give me a shot.  By the end of my second full year on the road, I was earning my salary in commission and it grew from there. I found that I did enjoy the sales life. My boss, the owner, had his requirements but for the most part left me alone.  Being a somewhat strong-willed and determined person who prefers to do things his own way (a description for most people who work in sales), that worked well for me and I justified his trust by bringing in much new business.

Now as an owner of my own envelope company (along with my partner) my responsibilities are more diverse but I still handle the sales and marketing part of the business and consider myself a sales guy at heart.  I’ve seen the envelope and printing industries enter a period of relative decline especially since the financial collapse in 2008. These tough times require a tenacious focus on the fundamentals.

The most fundamental of fundamentals in my opinion is, quite simply, the more calls and contacts you make, the more likely your chances of success.  With customer print volumes shrinking in general, there’s only so much a rep can do to exploit the full potential of existing accounts.  The sure way to increase the business portfolio is to generate new customers.  And the best way to help that process along is to make as many contacts as possible with regular follow-ups.

fishing as sales metaphor

Choose your favorite metaphor:  drop more hooks in the water; plant more seeds in the garden; roll the dice as many times as possible. However you describe it, it’s a numbers game. The more calls and contacts made, the better the odds are for one or more of them to result in a sale.

I’ve attended many sales seminars and conducted a few.  Most of them involve learning certain closing techniques which can work if properly applied. But assuming everything being equal as far as talent, ability and quality of leads is concerned, the rep who makes the most calls and follows up most carefully will win.  It’s pretty much that simple.

Topics: printing sales, envelope sales, elite envelope, envelopes and printing, printing and envelopes

Yet Another Blog Post

From Jerry Velona - co-owner,

Elite Envelope & Graphics, Inc.

Jerry offers pertinent, often useful information on envelope converting and printing, web printing, direct mail, the post office, songs that have to do with mail and letters, digital overload and much more!

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