Web-based design, flat rate book applications

a new online solution for marketing your company's services that combines pre-packaged design knowledge, opportunity for customization, and professional printing that enables users to create themed marketing materials of all sorts, ready for pickup at a participating local printer.

When marketing your company's services, sophistication and professionalism can help persuade recipients that your company has the expertise and capability to do their work. Once upon a time, creating professional-looking promotional materials required either a high degree of design knowledge or a significant outlay of money to hire someone to create them. In recent years, desktop publishing using templates and preformatted paper "sets" has become an option for some, but requires stockpiling supplies and does not necessarily look professionally printed. Here's a new online solution that combines pre-packaged design knowledge, opportunity for customization, and professional printing that enables users to create themed marketing materials of all sorts, ready for pickup at a participating local printer.

Quark Promote, www.quarkpromote.com, is a web-based design application aimed at people with no design experience that offers fully customizable templates for dozens of industries, including plumbing. The online software facilitates easy creating of 4-color, two-sided tri-fold brochures, flyers, business cards, appointment cards, coupons, postcards, door hangers, data sheets, letterhead, and letter envelopes ready for printing on high-quality paper at a local printer. Using the software is free. Users pay only for the paper stock with printing costs included in that price.

The templates, with aesthetically pleasing positioning of text and relevant stock graphics, were created by professional designers using Quark's leading design software Quark XPress 8. Users can edit the text, change color themes, and add or replace pictures and save the templates locally on their computers.

Fifteen distinct plumbing industry templates are available. Most of the templates feature catchy text and matching graphics. Some templates are more informal than others, and may make reference to contemporary culture or traditional business culture. You can pick the tone to suit the targeted market and use a different template for another market.

For example, one brochure template features an under-the-sink trap graphic in black and white above a bold black printed company name, with company contact details printed on a bright red background adjacent to the company name and logo, and friendly text that conveys the concept that your company takes the worry out of service 24/7. Broad color panels, swatch accents, and horizontal color-framed imagery carry the theme throughout the template set.

Another template, defaulted in various hues of blue, projects the image of an experienced company that can handle any job, big or small. Vertical color panels and illustrations of shower heads carry the theme. The brochure identifies Michael Jordan and Mozart as experts in their fields while your company is an expert in plumbing, and goes on to talk about taking pride in being the best "at what we do."

A third template features a silhouette faucet, pipe wrench and plunger in charcoal and aqua artfully arranged on a silver background, with company name prominent in yellow printing, "Pipes backed up? Toilets won't flush?" in green, and explanatory text noting that "Whatever you need we're ready 24/7/365” in black. Contact information stands out in red.

The business cards, coupons, flyers and rest of the template set utilize at least one graphical element from the brochure, keeping continuity.

You can edit text in any template to include your own choice of particulars. Once you are satisfied with the onscreen layout (text and graphics), you place the order, which typically is available for pickup at a local participating printer (including such chains as Sir Speedy, PIP, Insty-Prints and American Speedy Printing Centers) within three days or, for an added cost, can be mailed within three days to your place of business.

Printed flyers start at $44.99 for 50 and tri-fold brochures start at $59.99 for 50. Postcards and coupons start at $18.99 for 50 and business cards start at $11.99 for 50. Users have a choice of four text paper weights for tri-folds, fliers and data sheets, and four cover weight options for business cards, postcards, door hangers and appointment cards.

Internet Flat Rate, www.collierflatrate.com, is a web-based software solution that enables users to develop, store and manage customized flat rate pricing books for HVAC, electrical, appliance, irrigation and plumbing industries online. A monthly subscription based flat rate program saves all the data in a secure location under the company name in Collier Flat Rate's database. Users can select from either of two options: a contractor subscription whereby users choose from Collier Flat Rate's pre-defined repairs or create their own; or a professional subscription that includes the ability to export the Flat Rate book into an accounting package.

The solution enables users to manage six independent columns in each book and supports global adjustment of repairs and inventory.

Copies of the book can be printed at any time and information can be changed as desired with the username and password for the account.

Bill and Patti Feldman are freelance writers for magazines, trade associations, building product manufacturers and other companies on a broad range of topics. They can be reached at [email protected].