Want the Best Folders for Your Clients? Start With These Tips and Ideas
Vladimir Gendelman, founder and CEO of Company Folders, Pontiac, Michigan, spent much of last year looking at data from more than 6,000 folder orders. The Company Folders team wanted a detailed look at what exactly their customers were buying — what imprint methods they were after, what stock they wanted, what kind of design elements they wanted to include.
This would be the part where we say, “What they found will shock you to your very core.” But, in all honesty, it won’t, because it didn’t shock Gendelman that much. The things he and his colleagues had noticed over the years, but didn’t have the data to back up, pretty much rang true, and they found that most customers are still after the same products they’ve been buying for years.
“The most surprising finding as we have analyzed order data over the years is that it usually confirms what we thought we’d find based on our team’s anecdotal impressions,” Gendelman said. “So, although we don’t get a lot of surprises, the specifics are still very interesting. For example, we had a pretty good idea that most of the folders ordered were two-pocket folders, but we didn’t know it was 82%.”
When people think of basic folders, they typically imagine a two-pocket folder. There are other design elements you can incorporate into that, but this is pretty much the standard folder design. Why? Because it works exactly how a folder should.
“Our standard 9x12", two-pocket folder that is printed digitally continues to be our most popular,” said Kelsey Konrad, marketing and IT manager for Independent Printing and Packaging, De Pere, Wisconsin. “Distributors like the fact [that] we can produce as few as 25, and the print quality of digital continues to improve, and in many cases, is superior to offset. Distributors who are working with clients who are hosting small conferences, or companies testing a new product promotion, are ideal customers for these.”
That’s good to keep in mind when you’re selling folders, but there’s plenty more you should know to help deliver the best product for your clients. Join us for a look at the folders product category.
Look and Feel
Aside from the design of the folder itself, distributors need to take decoration into account to really accomplish the branding experience their clients are after. Gendelman has noticed that, like the trusty two-pocket folder, a lot of customers opt for four-color printing for its cost-effectiveness and versatility.
“But, lately, the number of customers doing more involved projects is growing, and we’re seeing many more designs that combine foil stamping, embossing and spot UV to get a unique look with that engaging tactile experience,” he said. “PMS colors provide the most accuracy for branding elements such as logos, so they also remain consistently popular.”
For features, he said that distributors can talk about value-added choices like spine attachments, step inserts, stitched-in brochures and lamination.
The design process is your opportunity to do more than just slap a logo on the front of the folder and call it a day. For example, it can be full-color decoration on both sides of the folder. Or it can be repeating shapes to create a patterned design that complements the brand imagery.
“Of course, the options for customization are virtually unlimited,” Gendelman said. “When you start combining graphic elements with all the possible coating and imprint options we offer, not to mention custom diecuts, we can create anything a customer can imagine. It really depends on the budget.”
And, of course, there are ways to be environmentally-conscious when you’re choosing your decoration methods.
“Everyone is aware of how lamination can drastically elevate the perceived value and durability of any printed piece,” Konrad said. “But, do they know all of the strides that have been taken in recent years to make lamination a more sustainable and eco-friendly process? There are now fully compostable laminate options, and most municipalities are able to separate the laminate from paper materials, so pieces that might not have been recyclable in the past are now.”
We’ve talked about the look, but what about the feel? For a paper item like a folder or brochure, the tactile experience is just as important as the look. Something official should feel official. When an end-user receives it, they should think about how it feels good.
“Soft-touch lamination continues to be the hottest finish in presentation products,” said Mardra Sikora, CEO of Pocket Folders Fast, Omaha, Nebraska. “Brands looking to make an impression also combine soft touch with the dimensional UV effects patterns for the best contrast and maximum impact.”
Konrad pinpointed exactly what makes a soft feel aqueous coating folder so appealing to people, too. “End-users like the melt-in-your-hand sensation on both pocket folders and brochures,” she said.
Delivering the Goods
Now comes the part where real creativity comes into play. Design and decoration require an artistic mind, but paper shortages and other pandemic-related problems have made sourcing and delivering mighty challenging for anyone selling printed products.
“Because of the supply chain issues, print is at a critical juncture,” Sikora said. “Once a company moves away from a printed project, the likelihood of them coming back is limited. As an example, look at the way printed menus have, and continue to, disappear. The point is this: If you’re struggling to match a previously printed presentation folder due to supply issues, pursue this as an opportunity to change and improve the design, branding and functionality. If distributors throw up their hands and suggest to ‘sit out’ until paper restocks, the likelihood of the customer returning is slim.”
This is where distributors can educate their customers on different finishing options, or add poly foil and dimensional UV instead of uncoated sheets, she added.
“This puts your client both on the front edge of trends and shows your versatility to face supply challenges, and fills the need of the end-user,” Sikora said.
Thankfully, stocking issues are pretty universal these days, so customers are more forgiving than they might have been in the past. But distributors still need to do their best to find workarounds. “There is no doubt our buying teams have had to get creative when securing paper,” Konrad said. “Having to exhaust all possible options can add a little time to the quoting and ordering process.”
Because of that, Konrad said that the demand really lies in whatever people can get their hands on. “The material demand this year has really been whatever is available,” she said. “The paper supply chain has been a challenge.”
So, the best advice Gendelman can offer is, despite challenges, a distributor’s job right now is to provide a solution as close to the customer’s original ask as possible, and educate them on all of the features they can add to their product to fully accomplish their goals.
“We recommend that distributors learn all the bells and whistles that can be added to a folder, because they increase the order value and, therefore, the distributor’s profit,” he said.