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Tony Denning of Blank Media Printing: “Don’t compete with your competitors solely on price: compete on service and quality”

Don’t compete with your competitors solely on price: compete on service and quality.It’s like the old adage — people will always remember how you made them feel. Trying to undercut competitors down to the cent might provide a marginal return, but the best returns are loyal customers who trust you enough to keep coming back. Sometimes it’s […]

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Don’t compete with your competitors solely on price: compete on service and quality.
It’s like the old adage — people will always remember how you made them feel. Trying to undercut competitors down to the cent might provide a marginal return, but the best returns are loyal customers who trust you enough to keep coming back. Sometimes it’s the small things — like staying on the phone a bit longer, or throwing in a free sample or two — that really make a difference.

Listen to your customers.
If they have a hard time ordering on your website, or if they’d like to add a new option when they order, listen to them! Implementing some customer suggestions has improved our ordering process and increased overall sales. You’ll never know unless you test. It’s well worth it to personalize the customer experience.


As part of my series about the “How To Take Your Company From Good To Great”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tony Denning. He has been in the audio and video manufacturing business since the late 70’s where vinyl and audio cassettes ruled the music industry. Working with the great manufacturing companies such as Sony, WEA, Polygram, and Phillips made it possible for Tony to build BlankMediaPrinting.com into a fully online and automated marketplace where all businesses and creatives can store and share their data easily on custom printed products.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstoryand how you got started?

Back in 2009, I realized there were no companies that you could order custom printed discs online. They only way to order would be either to visit or call the companies. Having access to a six color printer I decided to build a site where people could order 24/7.

This was just a basic site initially and when the first order for 1,000 CD’s came in from WA (we are located in Florida) we realized from that first order we were on to something. Our first month units sold was over 20,000 units — it literally cost us nothing in marketing.

Today we ship in excess of 250,000 discs per month, plus all the accessories that accompany such as custom printed packaging and standard packaging.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

I think, on reflection, we have been extremely lucky. We have had some setbacks but nothing I would ever complain about as these are considered everyday learning moments.

One case in hand would be when we entered the custom beer cap printing arena: we were buying 100,000 caps at a time, printing, and shipping… but then we received another shipment of raw materials and the supplier changed the formulation! It was a complete disaster as our printing ink could not stick to the surface at all. This one change in formulation on the supply side meant we had to shut down this new part of our store entirely. We were thankfully able to get a refund from the vendor.

We’re ambitious and we understand that new endeavors are inherently risky. We’ve never considered ‘giving up’ — it’s just not in our nature.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or takeawaysyou learned from that?

Looking back at how our first site looked compared to today is funny — especially when it was just a proof-of-concept, wondering whether or not people even want to order custom products online like this. We didn’t start with all the bells and whistles on our site back then — we were just curious, and we decided to test the idea. The lesson was — testing pays off. Always test, test, test and then you refine, refine, refine. But first you have to test.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Without a doubt it’s our customer service and turnaround times. Our aim is to ship products to customers within 1 business day of receiving the order or client artwork. Repeat orders are almost entirely shipped same day. We hear from customers all the time that they’re blown away at how fast they get their orders, even internationally. We’re proud when we read the reviews, for sure!

We have also improved the company over the years by automating the specialty printing production using unique machinery, so that we can focus primarily on connecting with customers and the creative aspects of the printing process, ensuring excellent customer service and a product that has never touched human hands. One machine can print up to 4,000 discs per hour! This has been a useful thing during a pandemic where physical contact comes with risk, and where the team can work from home more easily because our communications are predominately via phone or online, and not in a storefront.

Video of our printing process here: https://www.blankmediaprinting.com/Disc-Printing-Video

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not burn out”?

Stop focusing on your pricing! Focus on customer service and quality. Customers want to be treated as if they are the only ones you care about. Truthfully, they are! It pays to do things right.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My Dad was the one that first steered me towards the audio industry — first supporting me for earning a degree in Audio Engineering, and then by suggesting we start a business back in the 70’s to support the brand new industry of computer games. Back then, video games were first supplied on audio cassettes. We ended up turning a spare bedroom back in the UK into a duplication room and we used cassette duplicators, which I modified to achieve the best results for data cassettes. Those were the days!

Ok thank you for all that. Now lets shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is How to take your company from good to great”. Lets start with defining our terms. How would you define a good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a great” company, what does that look like?

A ‘Good’ company is the one that provides what the customer wants. A ‘Great’ company goes above and beyond what the customer believes they want and educates the customer on their best possible solutions.

In technology companies with complex product options this is especially crucial as clients aren’t always versed in the complexities of the industry.

Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Know your products — every aspect of your products. This applies to ALL employees.
    If we didn’t know the technical intricacies of our product and industry, we would not have grown at all. We provide continual education so that team members are able to answer complex concerns.
  2. Quality Control.
    It takes only a few minutes to review product quality before packaging it, rather than sending out a product that doesn’t meet expectations and ruining your reputation. You have to respect a customer’s trust. Quality control is the last chance you have to make sure you’ve done everything right.
  3. Everyone in the organization should know how things work from top to bottom 
    Teach employees how to operate every machine, how to go through every process. This has become especially clear in these difficult times. The company must still function, even if only one person can be there.
  4. Don’t compete with your competitors solely on price: compete on service and quality.
    It’s like the old adage — people will always remember how you made them feel. Trying to undercut competitors down to the cent might provide a marginal return, but the best returns are loyal customers who trust you enough to keep coming back. Sometimes it’s the small things — like staying on the phone a bit longer, or throwing in a free sample or two — that really make a difference.
  5. Listen to your customers.
    If they have a hard time ordering on your website, or if they’d like to add a new option when they order, listen to them! Implementing some customer suggestions has improved our ordering process and increased overall sales. You’ll never know unless you test. It’s well worth it to personalize the customer experience.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?

Having a purpose with your company helps you find meaning and joy in the community outside the daily grind. It gives you a path to make an impact in peoples’ lives.BlankMediaPrinting.com has aligned itself to support Give Kids The World, part of the Make-A-Wish foundation, which provides free family vacations to children with life-threatening illnesses. These trips make it possible for families going through the inconceivable to spend precious time with their child in a happy and fun environment.

When I went to their central Florida village many years ago, I helped them with their media center, where families collect all the photos and videos from the week stay: when you stay at Give Kids The World, you don’t have to worry about stopping the day to capture photos or videos. The media center provides a photographer to accompany you to whichever theme park you attend so that you can just enjoy the moment. They gave me a guided tour of their village and since then we have donated approximately 80,000 discs and multiple duplication machines so that they can share the videos and photos with the families. It means so much to us that we help save these memories for so many families.

We believe in Give Kids The World and all that they offer to families. While Give Kids The World is temporarily closed due to COVID, we are still saving donations for them for when they’re ready to reopen. This is our purpose — to help our community. From charities and animal rescues to local garage bands, we aim to help wherever possible.

What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?

Research your competitors — Always know what they are doing and offering. Research why your growth has stalled. Maybe the market has become over saturated because others saw your growth, you need to stay one step ahead — always. Diversify to other areas that your business could serve. Be willing to try, test, and adapt.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

We use whatever resources are available to us and get creative. We don’t let anything stop us — we prototype all of our ideas in house and then if the idea is solid we follow through.

We have versatile printing machines which can be used to print on various objects, so we eventually expanded outside of printing on just discs or paper. We also bought our own 3D printer for internal use, which got us started on creating our on holding molds: we developed, all in-house, our own holding jigs using rare earth magnets and the 3D printer. This made it possible for us to try selling new products, like beer bottle caps. Once the concept was realized, we built the product pages on our website, automated the artwork templating and handling, and then launched.

We used the resources we had in-house to expand and diversify the business — and we saw continuous growth for it. We are currently working on other new prototypes. We never shy away from a challenge — instead we research it, test it, prototype it!

In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?

Never take your employees for granted — they are the rock to your business. Without your loyal employees you really don’t have anything. They are your greatest asset. They create lasting relationships with customers and are part of your community. Really, they’re family, and the significance of family speaks for itself.

As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?

Listen to your customers — they’re the ones who have already converted! Ask on occasion if there was any difficulty in the process that you can smooth out for the future. Business owners tend to get tunnel vision with our sites and we end up missing the small things, like a button not working — but how many customers needed that button to work?

You can hire friends, family, or internet users to go through your site’s ordering process and share what is confusing or difficult for them. In order to improve conversion rates, you have to make it incredibly easy to convert.

Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?

Having compassion and good listening skills is the bedrock of trust-building. From that, you can better understand your customers and make their ordering experience easier and hands-off. They want to depend on you, but their trust can be broken if you are unreliable and unavailable.

Keep your social media updated, test your website and communication services, follow up on an order status if something is taking extra time, and throw in a few free samples on occasion to show your appreciation. These small considerations do not go unnoticed.

Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?

We provide our customers constant updates on the progress of their order. As soon as they upload artwork, they get an email confirmation, as soon as their order goes into production, they are notified, and as soon as the order ships, they are provided tracking information.

Most companies will only provide a status update once an order is shipped, but that’s not considerate when many shipments are delayed due to COVID. Because we provide constant automated updates, the customer knows that their order is being looked after. Often we’ll get an email back with a ‘Wow, that was quick!’ — this is our assurance that we are doing a good job and doing it right.

What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.

Your responsibilities to a community are just as important online as they are offline. In that sense, not much has changed in the digital age. Be open to feedback and making changes, and be compassionate. Social media is the one area where you can share your company values with a wider audience, so take advantage of that. Post about your work in the community as often as you promote your products, and allow your reputation to grow by simply showing that you follow through on your values.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

Wanting to scale a business too fast is reckless. A new business is like a bottle of wine, it needs time to breathe and mature. If you rush, the wine will be too bitter or sour to enjoy — just like a rushed business. We don’t expect to see profits from a new product we launch immediately because we understand it takes time for it to settle on the web, for people find it, for it to mature long enough for people to appreciate it and buy more. A 2015 wine tastes better — and sells better — than a 2020 wine — it’s had those extra 5 years to mature.

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Not all people can afford a photographer to capture their baby’s first moments, an adoption celebration, or a happy day spent outside in nature. Even more cannot afford to buy prints and spend time to make a photo album, relying instead on social media to retain their photos for years to come.

We tend to rely on our phones, cloud storage, and social media to store our photos, but often these services are unreliable: subject to being consolidated, bought out, or shut down. Optical media (discs) have a long lifespan — they can live for many decades — making them a reliable backup method for family photos. Additionally, they’re available at all times to access — no internet connection or login credentials necessary, no rummaging through a social media timeline for that one missing photo. People need permanent, offline backup services like discs and photo albums, and our company would like to make that process easy and affordable for all families.

We would love to work with photographers and local organizations to help preserve these wholesome moments, so that years later a family can always look back on their favorite memories — even if it was once a bittersweet time in their life.

How can our readers further follow you online?

https://www.blankmediaprinting.com/
https://facebook.com/blankmediaprinting
https://www.instagram.com/blankmediaprint/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!


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