In an era when laptops and Kindles are as ubiquitous as rainbow flags at Gay Pride, and using a pencil and paper seems as quaint as a quill pen and powdered wig, David Rowley, owner of the Crystal City MinuteMan Press still finds that there is a thriving market for the printed word.
''Print is still one of the top ways to market yourself,'' says Rowley, ''whether it's a direct-mail campaign, fliers, presentation folders, or posters and banners.'' His many customers, both gay and straight, agree. Over the past two years, Rowley has built a reputation as the ''go to'' provider among hundreds of offices in the Crystal City neighborhood when customers run out of office supplies or have a rush job.
(Photo by Rick Reinsch Digital Recollections)
Rowley says that an effective marketing campaign should combine both printed and electronic elements, rather than relying solely on one or the other. He markets his own company with printed materials including brochures, magnetized signs for the sides of his company vehicles, direct mail and printed advertising. At the same time, his Minuteman Press is also on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, in addition to email distribution and online advertisements.
Many of his colleagues in the industry agree. ''Print is a medium that is tactile, curated and lasting,'' said Eileen Kessler, founder and president of OmniStudio Inc. ''Because printing is becoming less of a commodity, it's noticed more, and special touches like embossing and die-cutting help you stand out from the crowd.''
Mike Larson of Spectrum Printing & Graphics added: ''Print pieces allow a person to experience so many things at once – touch, visual, emotional. While electronic marketing is very effective, there will always be a place for print.''
Rowley, an alumnus of the Carey Business School at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, considered various business models ranging from coffee shops to specialty stores before deciding to pursue what many consider a declining industry. The MinuteMan Press located in Arlington's Crystal City, which had been established in the 1970s and was one of the first MinuteMan franchises in the Washington area, was up for sale.
''The Crystal City MinuteMan had everything I was looking for in a business,'' Rowley said. ''It was profitable. It had an established customer base. And it had regular operating hours. I saw the potential to acquire an already booming business and build on it.''
Rowley's investment paid off handsomely. Once he had mastered the intricacies of the printer's trade, he expanded his company to offer almost anything a business might need in the way of printed marketing materials, from business cards to banners. Rowley began providing a selection of specialty promotional products with logos and company names imprinted directly onto items ranging from T-shirts to coffee mugs to iPhone cases. Due to increased demand for graphic design services, Rowley has two full-time designers to assist with everything from typesetting to logo creation and branding.
Recently, Rowley's business was certified by the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce as part of its Supplier Diversity Initiative (SDI). One of only 267 such businesses nationwide, the Crystal City Minuteman has been recognized as an LGBT Owned Business Enterprise by the chamber and is part of its exclusive LGBT-supplier database.
Although the Internet and email have replaced many printing jobs, he is finding that many customers are returning to the traditional printed newsletter. ''Many customers are returning to print newsletters, because they find that customers are not reading their emails. And to reach new customers or stay in front of existing ones, mail can often be the best way,'' he said.
The Chamber means Business. For more information, visit caglcc.org.
John F. Stanton, a CAGLCC member, is the president of SRP & Associates Inc., a strategic marketing and public relations firm in Northern Virginia.