Small and medium sized businesses are faced with unique challenges that must be overcome in order for them to succeed, such as strict budgets and staff resource limitations.
To deal with these challenges, businesses must constantly evaluate how they execute their tasks and continually seek out the latest tools for their employees to leverage. This allows them to do their jobs as efficiently and affordably as possible, without sacrificing quality.
Such tools can come in different shapes and sizes, ranging from simply implementing a new process, to working with new partners to help with work, or incorporating new technologies allowing for additional work to be done in-house.
Colour printing is one such technology tool that continues to make inroads as one of the growing approaches for getting professional looking work done in-house and out the door quickly. With recent advancements in colour laser and inkjet printing offerings for the workplace, the benefits and value of using colour in the office are increasing. What once seemed like a "nice to have" or "just for special occasions," is now becoming a "must have" and a true business enabler, helping companies compete.
In fact, colour is actually scientifically proven to improve communication. A 2005 study by the Color Association of the US, commissioned by Hewlett-Packard, found that:
• A colour’s brightness and intensity are key factors in eliciting reactions and motivating employees or customers to act;
• While the essence of effective communication is simplicity, colour connects a viewer far more directly than words or numbers;
• Multi-coloured graphic design adds credibility to a business and the use of provocative colours within multi-coloured designs signal that a business understands the needs of today’s consumers and is flexible to their desires;
• Mixing and matching papers and textures in marketing collateral is an important consideration for maximum impact.
In addition to enhancing communication and comprehension, colour printing helps businesses take control and respond faster and more efficiently to customers. For example, since many documents produced by small businesses are customised, such as customer facing flyers, presentations or proposals, they have a short shelf life (meaning that they are only good for use with one particular customer or are valid for a specific period of time). This increases the need for businesses to have the ability to produce colour projects in-house on an as needed basis, with the exact quantity, at the right time. This approach also saves small businesses the hassle and expense of outsourcing their projects.
Furthermore, since small and medium businesses are playing in an extremely competitive landscape, and often against much larger companies with far more resources, legitimising oneself becomes imperative. Colour printing enables small businesses to produce professional and vibrant looking documents and materials in a timely manner, helping to create a professional identity for the company. The more professional the documents look, the more professional the company looks.
While colour printing in the office is becoming more of a necessity, it hasn’t always been feasible. Many businesses relied exclusively on monochrome printers due to the cost of colour printing. Thanks to continued innovation by printing leaders like Hewlett-Packard (HP), when you look at the combined supplies and hardware cost, total printing costs have continued to decrease over recent years, while printing quality and speed has improved. In addition, printer manufacturers now offer a wide variety of business inkjet and business laser printers that produce brilliant, long-lasting documents at increasingly affordable purchase prices. For example, small business can purchase a colour business inkjet printer for $199 in the US (or €349 in the UK) or a colour laser printer for €149 in the UK, both of which produce brilliant colour documents at low cost per page.
In fact, advancements in printing technology for the office are doing more than just bringing colour to everyday business documents. It is also enabling businesses to reduce – or skip – trips to the print shop for special printing needs. Businesses can now create professional-looking presentations, brochures, flyers, and marketing collateral in-house, whenever they needed – saving businesses time and money.
One factor enabling in-house publishing is that many of the great paper options once only available to print shops and graphic artist are now readily available to small business through retail. HP offers more than 100 different specialty and everyday business paper SKUs in EMEA (more than 70 in North America), in a variety of paper weights, textures and features. Many of these are designed specifically for high-impact special business printing, such as HP Colour Laser Presentation Paper (glossy) or HP Brochure and Flyer paper.
In addition, paper technology has significantly advanced in recent years. Many new papers are glossier, more durable and result in prints with a broader colour gamut than ever before. Some papers even enable faster dry times. For example, HP Everyday Papers with ColorLok technology creates bolder blacks and more uniform colour and enables inkjet prints to dry three times faster than ordinary paper so that they can be handled sooner without smearing – a quality typically attributed to laser printers.
Another factor making in-house publishing a more viable option for businesses is the increased print quality achieved by colour printers today. This is largely due to scientific advancements in ink and toners. For example, HP’s ColorSphere toners, provide higher gloss, a superior colour gamut, more consistent colour, and higher print quality than ever before. As a result, businesses are now coming closer than ever to achieving the image quality once only associated with inkjet printers. Ink technology has also advanced and business inkjet printers can now obtain more vivid true-to-life colours on their business printers or even create lab-quality photos.
Purchasing the right colour printer
When purchasing a colour printer, there are lots of choices. Many people believe that laser printers are always for businesses and inkjets are always for personal and home printing. This is no longer necessarily true.
Historically, laser printers were thought to be fast printing, workhorses that were great for the office, but did not did provide the colour and photo printing capabilities or affordability that general consumers demand. While inkjet printers are perceived to have great image quality and lower purchase prices, making them perfect for personal use.
However, purchase prices for both inkjet and laser printers have fallen, inkjets print faster and are better equipped to handle larger print jobs than before and laser printers have improved colour capabilities and can even do specialty printing, such as print photos that last for generations. All of this has resulted in a narrowing divide in the two printer types.
Therefore, office managers should consider both inkjet and laser printers and select the printer that will best meet their printing needs. Businesses should look at how much and how often a business prints, as well as what is being printed. Another factor is the printing footprint – in other words, the number of computers which will be networked to the printer. Printers today are also very reliable with high performance original inks and toners, however, laser printers, in general, are better suited for robust printing.
A great options for many small businesses are multi-functional printers. Multi-functional printers have become increasingly popular and enable business to consolidate their business needs, such as scanning, faxing and copying, all without compromising on print quality.
Some printers also offer additional features that help to make print management hassle-free. For example, HP’s Smart Printing Technology enables office managers to quickly and easily purchase and replace toner cartridges and other supplies through proactive alerts. Many printers also come with new technology that improves the ease of interacting with and using the printer, such as control panels and built-in connector slots to for easy set-up and networking.
Trouble free printing: the secret’s in the supplies
A very important, but sometimes overlooked, point that also plays a large role in small businesses’ colour printing capabilities is its selection of printer supplies, such as print cartridges and paper.
When designing printers, printer manufacturers engineer printers, paper and print cartridges together. As a result, print cartridges, paper and printers all work as one system. If one of the elements malfunctions or isn’t of the proper quality, the end result suffers.
Print cartridges, in particular, play an important role in your printing experience since a significant amount of imaging technology resides in the cartridge itself. Using remanufactured or third party supplies with one’s printer rather than one from the printer manufacturers may present a risk. If a truck driver uses unleaded gas in their semi truck, they are risking lowering performance or even damaging the vehicle. In much the same way, using the vendor’s original supplies helps to deliver high print quality, ensure that re-prints aren’t necessary, and avoid messy toner cartridge malfunctions, saving time and money, and increasing productivity.
A business decision
So, does all of this talk of colour mean that black and white printers are going the way of the black and white television? Not at all. Printer manufacturers continue to innovate monochrome printing technologies. However, it comes down to more choices for businesses today. Purchase prices and overall printing costs of colour printing have decreased, while technology has advanced, and, as a result, colour adoption is growing in the workplace. Businesses can now utilise colour to help communicate more effectively and help sell an idea, product or service in presentations, handouts, reports and proposals, while saving time and money by producing professional-quality collateral in-house.