An Easy Buy Now / Donate Button: Securely Accept Credit Card Orders on your Website

Small businesses face so many challenges in moving their sales and marketing efforts into the digital age. Watching the big dogs incorporate the latest techonology and software into their online sites, distribution networks, marketing or production can be as inspiring as it is intimidating. You want to take advantage of the latest advances, but how do you find the time and money to learn which is right for you? For a small business with limited capital and time to explore these options, it is great to find a simple, low cost solution to a problem. PayPal has a great one: a way to accept credit card payments on your website with no setup charge and no hidden fees. You can truly be up and running with a fully functional “BUY NOW” or “DONATE” button in fifteen minutes.

Easy creation of pay now buttons

This blog has no connection to PayPal – we simply want to pass along a great idea for the small business owner. We know that to create a large e-commerce website for your business is expensive. Until you are ready to invest in that sort of structure and have the time and manpower to administrate it, PayPal has created a secure and easy to install way to turn your basic website into an ecommerce portal right now. It’s called Website Payments Standard. You of course need a PayPal account into which payments from credit card customers will be deposited. PayPal gives you a choice of buttons that allow customers to select products from a drop down menu and pay by credit card. They do not need to have a PayPal account themselves. PayPal assesses a fee (see fee schedule by clicking here) and the payment is credited to your account. It really could not be simpler. You create the button you want, copy and paste the code to your website, and you are ready to go. New to html coding? No problem – they have a short demo video on the website to help. Demo Video for creating Buy Now or Donate Buttons

If you want a more advanced system of payment, Website Payments Pro is available for a monthly $30 fee. It allows credit applications, monthly payments and other advanced features that will probably require the assitance of a web developer to fully integrate into your site. It is a step up from managing your own content fully. If you are new to managing your own website, read about DotNetNuke as a content management system. In fifteen minutes your web page just became an online storefront.


ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.

Creative Gift Ideas: Why Promotional Products Work

Branded Merchandise and Promotinal Products work

Don’t bypass promotional products – they are a powerful, affordable marketing tool. In addition to the high-tech reach of web marketing and social media, actually putting a physical gift into someone’s hands that they can use will keep your brand recognized and relevant in their mind. When you are considering investing a portion of your marketing budget into branded merchandise or promotional products, think about these characteristics that make them so effective:

Brand, brand, brand: promotional products generate brand awareness and exposure. You can choose an object that relates to your enterprise itself or to a specific message you want your business to convey. For instance, if you are an auto repair business, you could distribute vehicle cup holders, sunglasses, visor clips, or other such items useful to a driver. But, if your emphasis is on helping clients solve problems, choose a calculator; if you want to highlight your timeliness – a dashboard clock or calendar.

People Like Gifts: unlike a flyer, banner ad on a website or text message, branded merchandise has a physical presence and value. Promotional items are not thrown away, but often regarded as a gift. Their value and usefulness will keep them on your customers desk, in their purse, on their keychain… and that keeps your brand refreshed in their mind each time they see it. When you become part of a person’s daily life in that small way, you are more connected to them than a competitor. In a more literal way, give the item itself value as a coupon. For instance, a restaurant could brand drink coasters with a coupon on the back for a free appetizer at next visit. The coaster stays with them, reminding them of your brand with each glance or use.

Low Cost: when you order promotional products, you receive a price per piece that is far lower than the usual retail cost, and the selection is vast. Some items are very inexpensive, and others are much more high end. Test the waters with a low cost item, or reward valuable customers with a keepsake item for the holidays… all branded with your logo, contact information and message. When the product is something that will be used in public – such as an umbrella, sports equipment or iPad case– you get even more value for your marketing dollar as your logo is seen by others on a product they would also use.

Creative relevance: with such a diverse selection of products to choose from, you have a great oppportunity to get creative. Work out a tagline that makes sense with the product and work it into your larger marketing campaign. A quick example: if you run a insurance business, you could give away branded rain ponchos or small umbrellas with the tagline “We’ve got you covered.” If you want to emphasize the your company’s environmental commitment, think about seed packets, herb garden starter kits, or products made from recyclable materials. You get the idea… get creative.

Check out the diversity of items you can incorporate into your marketing plan: frisbees to hot sauce, yo yo’s to surgery scrubs. The variety is really eye-opening. Do yourself a favor and browse the promotional products catalog – you’ll get inspired with products that can get your business noticed and remembered.

ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.

15 Years of Rapid Change for the World of Print

Today ImageSmith surprised me with a little celebration for my 15th anniversary with the company and a very generous gift of a brand new iPad. Our discussion at the gathering centered around the changes in our business over the past 15 years and the vast differences technology has created in that relatively brief span of time. Back in 1997, hardly anyone at work had a mobile phone; few used the internet or even had a home computer.

Oddly enough, I had been reading online this very morning about the new issue of Newsweek that highlights the return of the show “Mad Men” with a retro 60s issue and an amazing recreation of retro print advertising from that era. The rate of change in this industry from then to now has exponentially increased. Print quickly adapted to new computer technology in the ’80s, drastically altering the way graphics are created, business is done and ultimately the very heart of what the printing industry is today. From my own experience here at ImageSmith, I could see the major ways technology has created this rapid change:


In the 90s, the art department was completely a Mac platform (Mac certainly led the way with graphics software and innovation) and the only other computers were PCs used for the front office and accounting. Files were transferred on floppy disks or zip disks. Proofs were faxed or hand delivered. The idea of communication or doing business via the internet seemed fanciful.

TODAY: communication inside and beyond the company is via the internet. Computers network through a wifi connection and a central server. Orders are placed online, files transferred, deliveries scheduled and tracked… to do otherwise would seem painfully slow and unprofitable.


The change in graphics software is always rapid and amazing. In 1997, we were using Adobe PageMaker for our layout (it had only recently been acquired by Adobe from Aldus). PhotoShop and Illustrator were used for photo and graphics manipulation, but only minimally integrated with the actual desktop layout duties of PageMaker. Many clients created their jobs in QuarkXpress, Microsoft Word, Corel Draw – and the confusing task of the art department was to try to handle and image these files cross platform from PC to Mac without disastrous font conflicts and software glitches. The idea of a “portable document format” or pdf was on the horizon.

TODAY: Adobe Creative Suite provides virtually flawless integration of PhotoShop, Illustrator, Acrobat and InDesign. A totally pdf workflow moves client jobs seamlessly from desktop to press or web. Print design can be cross-purposed to web pages, mobile apps, e-books, etc.


Many jobs were still created physically on paper and then photographed. “Paste-up” was the means of gluing into position different page elements. It all seems very primitive now. The process of making plates for offset printing also relied on photography. Negatives were imaged, stripped into position, manually color separated, and burned onto plates.

TODAY: Computer-to-plate and computer-to-press techonology completely removes the photographic element in printing. Digital layouts are rasterized and imaged onto plates for the press in exact position. Increasingly, digital presses are replacing the offset process to meet the growing demand for short run, full color print.


In 1997, a typical print job would fit easily onto a standard 3.5 inch, 1.44MB floppy disk. Artwork and client jobs were archived onto floppies. These were replaced by SyQuests – able to hold 44 or 88 MB or data, and then Zip Disks from iOmega with the amazing capacity to hold 100 MB. In the late 90s, most all computers, PC and Mac, came with a built-in floppy and Zip drive. Over the years, the Zip yielded to the CD and then the DVD for removable storage options.

TODAY: File sizes for some print jobs today dwarf the capacity of all of these removable data storage devices. High capacity servers and cloud-based storage solutions manage files and the process of archiving data.

With all of these changes has come a core redefinition of what small and mid-sized print operations are about. Printers have expanded to become multi-media specialists, marketing consultants and e-commerce solution providers to meet the equally drastic changing needs of their clients. Integrated marketing techniques combine the realms of print with mobile, email, wide format printing, signage, printwear, branded merchandise and social media. Looking ahead to the landscape of the NEXT fifteen years is exciting and daunting. Mobile and cloud-based technology will continue to drive the marketing into the world of augmented reality, 3-D printing, conductive ink and other as-yet unknown innovations.


ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.

March Madness – Wear Your NCAA Picks with Direct To Garment Small Order Custom Tshirts

MARCH MADNESS: for college basketball fans this is the best time of the year. The brackets are full – here’s a link to the full Championship set-up; every team is charged with hope and enthusiasm.  Fans, as of noon today, have filled out their tournament picks either betting for cash or just for bragging rights. Last year, our own Michael Smith picked UNC, Duke, Florida State, and Michigan State for the Final Four, hoping to see UNC beat Michigan to take the title. This year, the interest seems to be on Gonzaga, with the other top seeds being Kansas, Louisville and Indiana.

Wear your NCAA bracket picks on a DTG printed tshirt

But you can check out all of Michael’s picks right on his tshirt. He screen captured his brackets, like you can from this link, and printed a DTG, one-of-a-kind shirt just for this year’s tournament. The beauty of DTG, or Direct to Garment, tshirt printing is that it makes low quantities of shirts like this easy and affordable to produce. No screens, no minimum requirements – even producing one and two shirts is practical.

When you order screen printed tshirts, each color is applied to the shirt through a seperate screen and you pay a set price for each. For example, if you print a shirt front and back with a design that uses red and black, you pay a set-up fee for four screens. The cost involved requires that either you buy a minimum number of shirts to offset that initial screen cost, or you pay a VERY high price for one tshirt! With a DTG printed shirt, the price is the same per garment. When you only want a few shirts (say less than a dozen or less than the quantity where the price matches what you would be paying for screen printing) or if you want even just one unique shirt – like Michael’s NCAA picks – DTG is the way to go.

ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.

Now THAT is Integrated Marketing – Taco Bell Shows How its Done

Taco Bell uses QR codes, AR and social media for huge product launch

We have all heard the discussion about what the true value of social media and marketing via Facebook, Twitter, etc. is for small and medium sized businesses. Everyone wants to know the ROI – we want hard and fast data proving this much money in, this much money out. But the reality that is gradually being revealed is a brave new tech world where the old business school models don’t always hold up in the face of “viral” product buzz. For both B-to-B or B-to-C models, the emerging evidence indicates that building a social network of customers, clients, acquaintances or like-minded individuals both locally and internationally holds an undeniably great marketing potential for any enterprise. This instant connectivity has never been possible before, and it’s value is rich.

The question for marketers becomes how to leverage this newfound social network into everything from product buzz to hard and fast profits. Take a look at how Taco Bell is making this work. They have 167,000 Twitter followers and over 8 million Facebook fans – a definitely solid base to begin a project like this with. The product being launched: Doritos Locos Tacos, which also provides sponsorship for a series of concerts called “Feed the Beat.” Packaging on the taco has a QR code to link those who scan it to exclusive video of these music concerts. An AR (augmented reality) code on other packaging lets consumers connect via a Taco Bell mobile app to view live Tweets and Facebook comments.

Now the brilliant draw in all this, even more than the online music and connectivity, is that TacoBell will be displayhing selected tweets using the #DoritosLocosTacos hashtag on digital billboards in Times Square in New York City and Sunset Boulevard in LA. The payoff for fans is to see their name up in lights (so to speak) in such iconic locations. The payoff for TacoBell and Doritos? Well you can see that clearly.

The Whole Enchilada…. er, Taco

Print, web, social media, signage, mobile marketing, product packaging… a truly integrated campaign uses all available media, and leverages that content through the connectivity of a solid social network. The best advice here for any small business appears to be develop your social network online, and then get creative about using that base to get your message out.

The development of a social network on outlets such as Twitter and Facebook is itself an asset. Many have questioned the profitability of spending the time and manpower to cultivate such a network. Enterprises like this Taco Bell campaign are blazing the trail to show how such connection can be leveraged into a big – and increasingly essential – marketing win.

ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.

A Bloody Little Lesson about the Power of Promotional Products

I had a lesson this morning in the way promotional products have an impact above and beyond other traditional pieces of marketing. We’ve all had a paper cut. If you ever worked in the print industry, you’ve had a lot of them – and are aware of the degrees of severity these cuts can have: from the “one sheet slice” that occurs when opening a letter or shuffling papers on the desk, to the pain and hemmoraging caused by sliding your hand down the length of a stack of 100# gloss cover at just the right angle while trying to hurriedly load a digital press.

Branded Merchandise comes in handy in an emergency

First thing this morning I inflicted the bleeder seen above. Not huge, but painful (why do paper cuts hurt as bad as they do? Read up on that here.)  – and as I’m right-handed, it pretty much makes everything you do impossible until you stop the bleeding. A few cuts like this and you learn to show respect when handling paper. A good supply of bandages is always smart to keep close by in a print shop, but today I was out of the ones I keep at my desk. Then I remembered ImageSmith has a handy bandage dispenser as a promotional product: imprinted with our logo and contact information, and even containing zebra-striped adhesive bandages to promote our marketing tagline “Earning our stripes… every day.” A supply is displayed up front to give to customers.

Finding this bandage dispenser at the right moment was a clear lesson to me in the impact that branded merchandise can have. Most folks will hang onto this item as they know its handy to keep a few bandages nearby for an emergency. Your logo and message are refreshed in the person’s mind each time they notice it at their workstation. At the moment of need… when you really do need a bandage to stop the bleeding… the message of the product is a powerful one.

What message is this product implying when it functions in this way?

  • “I’m helpful.”
  • “I’m close at hand when you have a serious need.”
  • “I was thinking ahead, knowing you might need me some day.”
  • “I stay one step ahead, and can help you.”

Pretty powerful messages, right?

Think about how branded merchandise could be used for your company to put your logo and message directly into the hands of your public. Make it a gift that they will want to use, find helpful and keep handy. The longevity of these items outstrips other promotional media by far, as people have a need for the items beyond their marketing message. The variety of products available is HUGE. Enter a search term here and take a look at what you can order.

ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.

Spring Forward with Branded Merchandise

Promotional products branded with your logo and message

The swag bags given away at the Oscars this year were valued at over $62,000 each. That investment would never be made by these masters of marketing if there was not a solid return on such an investment. These folks understand the power of promotional products! Giving away branded merchandise that is relevant to your business, desired by your customer base and branded with your mark, colors and message is a proven way to increase customer loyalty, attract attention and get noticed.

Branded merchandise keeps your company name right in the hands of your customers for far longer than other media – a steady reminder of your quality and generosity. The variety of products you can choose to brand is HUGE… select something appropriate for the season, for your current promotions, or based on your customer’s interests. In spring and summer, products that appeal to the athlete or outdoor lover work great: drinkware, lanyards, sunglasses, caribiner clips with bottles of sunblock or skin lotion. Finding a product that is relevant to your business and desired by your customer base should be easy… in fact the hard decision will be narrowing down which item you want to invest in to promote your business. These promotional products branded with your color, look, and logo will go far in helping you create brand loyalty and recognition in a way other media cannot match.

To browse through a huge selection of promotional products that are available for branding, go online at online store. You may also want to read our other blog articles for information and ideas on branding, promotions and integrated marketing. Remember, the more useful and desired the item is, the longer it will stay in the hands of your potential customer. A banner ad on a website is seen for a few seconds – they can hang onto that handy flash drive or water bottle bearing your logo and compliments for months to come.

ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.

Zebra Van Hits the Road in Western North Carolina

The ImageSmith Zebra Van wrapped in Removable Vinyl

Our newly wrapped Zebra delivery van hit the road this week. Look for it all over Asheville, Hendersonville and Western North Carolina. Marty, our zebra mascot, is watching from the back door.

Marketing Your Company with Vinyl Wraps

If you’d like tips on the incredible things you can create with vinyl vehicle wraps, check out our blog post. You can also wrap boats, motorcycles, equipment, trailers… pretty much anything you want to turn into a mobile billboard. The wraps hold vibrant colors, are all weather proof, and removable without damaging the finish of your property.

Look for Marty on the road! Earning our stripes… every day.

The Imagesmith van wrapped in removalbe vinyl

Vinyl vehicle wraps from ImageSmith
Vinyl wrapped ImageSmith zebra van


ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.