RedTagPrintSale.com Has Some Franchise Print Networks in a Tizzy
I was recently contacted by a senior executive in one of the well-
By Cary Sherburne
Published: May 27, 2010
I was recently contacted by a senior executive in one of the well-known print franchises, who brought a new online printing service to my attention. Called Red Tag Print Sale, the site is a B2C online printing service operated by 4Over, an online printing service to the trade that has positioned itself as supporting the trade only. The concern is that this venture into the B2C world takes 4Over out of the trade printing business and puts the company in the position of disintermediating printer relationships with customers and actually competing with its own customers. I spoke with Varaz Gharakhanian, Director of Marketing for 4Over, to hear their side of the story.
While Gharakhanian is quick to point out that the online print business has been around for 10 to 15 years, he believes what Red Tag Print Sale represents is a revolutionary idea that can bring business back into 4Over’s network of print resellers.
Here’s how it works:
- The service is available only to certain 4Over customers who qualify based on a customer loyalty evaluation that stratifies the customer base into five groups based on the length of the relationship with 4Over, frequency, volume and other factors: Associate, Premier, Premier Executive, Admiral and President. Only the top three classifications qualify.
- A qualifying printer can join the network at no cost for the first three months, with a subsequent $300 monthly membership fee. Gharakhanian indicates these funds will be allocated to continuing development of the site and marketing, at least matched by 4Over, with 4Over most likely adding more than the accumulated membership fees to the pot.
- When an order is received, 4Over determines the closest member based on the zip code of the order.
- 4Over produces and ships the order at wholesale, collects payment and pays participating print service providers retail profits monthly. 4Over also provides all contact information to the print service provide who can then follow up personally with the end customer.
- Members are given a special, customizable code they can use to promote the program in the course of their advertising efforts, whether it is local TV, local sports team programs, or any other advertising/marketing initiative they care to use. This code offers a 10% discount to the end buyer, and guarantees that job profits go to that specific printer, regardless of where the order originates.
Gharakhanian asserts that in no way is this intended to take customers away from existing 4Over clients, but says that it actually benefits print service providers, who have been losing business to online services, giving them an opportunity to recoup profits and establish new relationships or revive customers who have defected. (A Google search on business cards turned up 94 million hits, with VistaPrint at the top …).
Resellers are brokers, print service providers, and graphic designers who sell directly to end users.
Objections to this model from within the printing industry, particularly franchise organizations who do a significant amount of business with 4Over, revolve around the perception that Red Tag Print Sale is nothing more than VistaPrint and is a breach of confidence between 4Over and its customers, in fact, perhaps causing a loss of customers rather than an increase in business. One person I spoke with asked, “what happens if there is a Sir Speedy, an Allegra and an AlphaGraphics in the same zip code? How do they choose who gets the business?” Another said, “This is just a way for 4Over to have its cake and eat it, too.”
I understand there are discussions ongoing among these parties and with 4Over. Many of the objectors also successfully worked to reverse Adobe's decision to remove the "Print to Kinko's" button from Acrobat, and to get HP to change direction on MarketSplash.
One thing is clear: 4Over needs to spiff up its marketing message to more accurately portray the service. This may not prevent a coalition from taking market action, as happened in the Adobe and HP situations, but at least they would have all of the right information on which to base their decisions.
This will be an interesting process to watch, and we will be following it closely.
Following publication of this post, 4Over requested two corrections, which should be noted by our readers:
“I would like to point out two things. First 4over does not operate the site, Red Tag is separate. Secondly, Red Tag determines which 4over reseller gets the customer based on zip code, not 4over.”