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Printing Options

Computers, laptops, tablets and all manner of digital technology has changed how many people read and view information. But for truly important materials, people still prefer to print to paper.


Ways to Publish

Hardcopy paper allows for deeper reading and comprehension, note taking and mark-up, and has a greater sense of permanency. While electronic documents are great for ironing out details over a major contract, the officially signed, executed and witnessed documents are still always in hardcopy paper.

The digital age has increased the flow and speed of information, but people like to feel and hold their commitments on paper for truly important content. Printing is therefore a necessary but often an afterthought when equipping or refreshing small business IT requirements.

The following are the most common types of printers and their typical uses in business:

Page Printers

Named page printers because they print one whole page at a time. Lasers are the most common and popular type of page printer, offering a wide range of features and capability. Lasers are typically more expensive to buy than their main competitor, the inkjet. However, running cost is normally cheaper per page, making them overall more cost effective for larger volume printing requirements.

Inkjet printers

Also considered page printers, though in reality most use a moving print head with micro nozzles to precisely spray droplets of ink on to the paper. The primary advantage of inkjets is the attractive purchase price, though this comes back in the ongoing cost of replacement ink cartridges.

The capillary action of wet ink on paper may cause bleed or fuzziness around what should be perfectly formed and sharp letters. Inkjet makers try to limit capillary action by formulating faster drying inks, though the flipside can be clogged nozzles requiring “cleaning cycles.” This consists of flushing out dried ink with bursts of fresh ink, which could empty cartridges quicker than usual.

Impact Printers

The oldest type of printer that fires a series of narrow diameter pins through an inked ribbon, leaving marks on the paper. Whilst not common anymore in the majority of businesses, the impact printer remains relevant even today for multi-part carbonless forms. It may, for example, be used at a machinery hire shop where the printed page is separated and colour coded leaves are given to the customer, the workshop and the accounts department.

Thermal Printers

Less common nowadays for everyday letters, posters, and price lists, but almost universally used for inexpensive cash register dockets and point of sale receipts. Thermal has found a place in specialised transactional printers, but rarely appears in the general office.

Most thermal printers use a chemically coated paper where special dyes become opaque when heated. These dyes are not long term stable, hence thermal dockets, invoices and receipts do fade over time or can become unreadable if exposed to long periods of heat or direct sunlight. If you need to keep such records for the typical business period of five to seven years, then it is better for the document to be scanned or photocopied for more permanent storage.


Paper Considerations

A4 is very common and relatively inexpensive, but the larger A3 format also allows the small business operator to become a small print shop and create larger posters, signs, notices, folded booklets, etc.

Monochrome is cheaper per page, but colour draws attention, helps make your ideas jump off the page and catch the attention of the reader. Avoid the common mistake of overusing colour, as sometimes less is more.

Standard paper in Australia is 80gsm, meaning the paper weighs 80 grams per square metre. A lighter gsm means a thinner more delicate paper like what you may use for a formal or classical invitation pinned to a heavier backing card. A heavier gsm means a thicker, stiffer paper used for a counter top menu card.

Photo paper is another specialised type of paper usually with a micro-clay infused surface for a low gloss finish. Not all printers have a wide enough range of paper handling mechanical rollers and path to accept all paper stocks, so ensure you choose carefully to suit all anticipated business needs.


Making the Most of Printing

Small businesses have most of the same printing requirements as big business but without the luxury of being able to afford a different printer for every job. Careful planning and selection of an appropriate printer helps the small business be more creative, organised, self-sufficient and ultimately improve communication to key stakeholders.

  • Advertisements

  • Letters

  • Compliments and complaints

  • Staff notices, updates and payroll reports

  • Brochures, catalogues and price lists

  • Work instructions, policies and procedures

  • Stock notes and order books

  • Cashbook and accounting reports

  • Bank statements, cash deposits

  • Certificates, awards and special mentions


Importance of Templates

Big businesses have dedicated marketing departments, advertising consultants, feedback forums and spend money to develop a certain brand look and feel intended to communicate a sense of corporate personality and value to customers, staff and shareholders.

Small businesses may not have the same depth of resources, but they have the choice to build or ignore their own brand identity. This often starts with how the business owner sees and feels about the identity.

The simplest starting point is how the business dresses itself and what it sends out on paper as little “mini brand ambassadors.” This extends to the external signage on the business premises, the customer foyer, staff attire, personal grooming and behaviour. Together, it contributes to the customer’s perception of the business and the subconscious sense of “does this look and feel right for me?”

The key to establishing long term behaviour is frequent, repetitive and gentle nudging in the right direction. In print, this same approach can be applied to using templates. By developing a set of professional looking templates, and adopting a level of business language tailored to your target customer audience, every piece of printed material gently builds upon and reminds the customer of your business profile, message and value proposition.