VistaPrint Changes the Game. Again

By Noel Ward, Executive Editor

June 20, 2007 -- Every print provider should be taking notes on how VistaPrint does business. They are in constant touch with customers. They always have special offers and attractive deals.  They go out of their way to make good on mistakes or problems. The customer interface on their website is easy and fun to use. They deliver what they promise when they promise it and make buying basic printed materials a straightforward, painless process. And now they are going to leverage some of that expertise to help their customers grow their businesses.

I talked last week with Trynka Shineman, Senior Vice President of North American Marketing at VistaPrint to get a feel for the new marketing and creative services offerings the company is rolling out. These were announced to the world yesterday and have the potential to alter the way small businesses market their goods and services while sharply differentiating VistaPrint from typical print providers--both online and bricks and mortar. It also raises the bar for all  print providers who cater to the needs of small businesses.

"This helps us move from being a small business printer to being a one-stop marketing solution for all types of small businesses," says Shineman. "SOHO businesses are incredibly pressed for time and these services will make it easy for them to create marketing campaigns and use professionally designed materials."

Print and Mail

Mailing Services is VistaPrint’s one-stop design and mailing solution.  VistaPrint customers are already ordering postcards for use in marketing campaigns. They can pick from a selection of pre-designed cards on the VistaPrint website or upload their own designs which are then printed and shipped back to the customer. But that just supplies the postcard. The customer must still address all the cards and get them into the mail, and lacking the volume needed to qualify for postal discounts, it is difficult for a small business to save money on postage. Using Mailing Services, customers can upload a list or purchase direct mail lists and have VistaPrint mail their postcards--at much lower costs than they could on their own. The lists VistaPrint sells come from AccuData, cover a wide range of categories and are checked against the National Change of Address registry to help ensure deliverability.

Once the postcards have been designed and printed and the mailing list finalized, VistaPrint addresses the cards and arranges for them to be mailed. Cards can be designed, printed, and mailed to anywhere in the U.S. in just four business days, says Shineman.

Pricing is more than competitive. For example, customers can design, print and mail 50 postcards via standard (bulk) mail for just $74 (including postage). By comparison, your friendly local post office requires a minimum of 300 pieces for bulk rates. VistaPrint gets the low rates by co-mingling mail to specific Zip Codes. Given the thin budgets common to most small businesses, the ability to mail a limited number of cards at a low cost offers a significant advantage over ordering cards and manually addressing, stamping and mailing them. At the moment only basic name and address personalization is available, but Shineman says further levels of personalization are being evaluated. Given VistaPrint's approach to the market so far, I fully expect a future iteration of its Mailing Services to include more compelling levels of personalization.

VistaPrint is not the first online printer to offer print-and-mail services, so on one hand they are simply expanding their service offerings. But combined with it's relentless marketing VistaPrint has the street cred to go a step further and show customers how to market their own businesses. And that's what the company's new Creative Services offerings are meant to do.

Creative Services

The owners of most small businesses, especially new ones, know they need marketing collateral materials but probably haven't a clue about creating them. Enter VistaPrint Creative Services. This is a design and copywriting offering that enables a customer to hire VistaPrint to design and write customized marketing materials.  Customers initiate the process by speaking with a VistaPrint Creative Services agent who walks the customer through the process and asks questions about the person's business to gather information for the design process.  Next, a VistaPrint creative team prepares the design and copy concept for customer review.  After a couple of iterations the project is complete and products--postcards, brochures and the like-- can be ordered over the phone or via the web. The materials then remain on VistaPrint's servers for future re-ordering.

Creative Services supports design and copywriting of  brochures, standard postcards, oversized postcards and flyers. Prices start at just $29.99 for professional copywriting and design on postcards.  The turnaround time for the finished design is four business days from the time the customer makes the first call. Once the design is complete, products can be received in as little as three business days. As part of that initial price includes at least a portion of the first print order.

"Working with a local graphic designer the cost for basic collateral materials could easily be in the hundreds or even thousands of dollars," notes Shineman, "so this really changes the value proposition for professionally designed materials."

"Marketing and creative support services are among the top requests we get from our customers," says Shineman. "The value proposition we are offering makes these services very accessible to the small office/home office market. It's also a great foundation for VistaPrint as we help these companies market their business."

After all, small businesses often grow, and sometimes even become big businesses, and VistaPrint clearly sees opportunity in helping them get started.

But what makes Creative Services a natural extension of VistaPrint's existing operation? According to Shineman, it's the company's own experience. The company is, after all, a relentless self-promoter.

"We're a direct marketing company," she says. "Our copywriters and designers know and understand how direct marketing works and can leverage that expertise and the best practices from our campaigns to promote our customers' businesses."

With these new services, VistaPrint is once again changing the landscape in the SOHO printing market. As they gain traction, these new offerings are certain to create some heartburn for numerous smaller print shops with similar offerings.  It also raises the potential for commoditization of creative services, which could be bad news for designers who rely on small businesses. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, the kind of companies that use the services, the kinds of marketing materials that result, and how it all impacts VistaPrint's customer base. And that of small print providers.

The one thing we can be assured of is that it guarantees an increase in the marketing activities of one of the most aggressively marketed print providers on the planet.


Please offer your feedback to Noel. He can be reached at [email protected].

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Noel Ward is a consultant, speaker and writer focusing on digital printing strategies and content development for print and electronic media. He conducts technology audits, market research, and competitive analyses to build strategies companies use to optimize their document creation, production and distribution processes.

One of the best-known writers in the industry, Noel creates and produces white papers, case studies, speeches, presentations, marketing materials, and electronic newsletters for several industry-leading companies. He is editor and publisher of the electronic newsletter Digital Asset Directions, Executive Editor of, Director of RealTime Trade Show Coverage for, and Editor of The LeadINg Edge, the newsletter of the Imaging Network Group.

A believer in using technology to gain efficiencies and competitive advantages, Noel's business motto is "If you're not the lead sled dog, the view doesn't change."