Trying to get a leg up on the competition is tough going for any small business, but when your business sells worldwide, it takes every angle you've got to successfully compete against larger, international companies.
Milestone Architectural Ornamentation, Inc., an Amarillo, Texas-based company with 25 employees, specializes in manufacturing lightweight, cast limestone architectural elements, reproductions of ancient Greek and Roman ornamentation, landscape structures and, more recently, a new cement technology that's lighter than steel and doesn't rust or corrode.
Although the company's foundation is firmly planted in the stone and cement construction industry, the business has much more to do with art, according to Melody Brenna, Milestone's CEO. "We're more of an art company in that we custom mold the materials for builders," she said.
"One of our clients wanted to import an actual Roman ruin and install it in the Watergate office building in Washington, D.C.," she said. "But the ruin weighed too much, so they hired us to recreate it using our unique, lightweight limestone technology."
Promoting a Vision
Brenna's business is all about visual impact, and conveying the vision to potential customers is what led her to rely on HP printers, ink and media. "In our business, everything is ultimately visual. We have to be able to portray to a client exactly what the end project will look like to peak their interest and win the business," she said in a recent statement.
Brenna started using HP printers for two reasons. They were handy (the Office Depot was located right next door), and they were the least expensive. "When we started out, we simply didn't have the budget to pay for an ad agency. We had to do our own printing in-house."
Low cost and convenience may have led Brenna to HP printers, but she stayed with them because she got the high quality results she needed. "We couldn't be more pleased with the results," she said. "When a prospective client sees our brochures, we look like a much bigger company. They don't see a small shop, they see us as world-class professionals."
By keeping the printing in-house, Brenna says they can better respond to individual clients, and that gives them a completive edge. Instead of printing thousands of generic brochures that eventually fall out of date, Milestone typically prints 10 to 20 customized brochures when pitching individual clients.
The pitch document incorporates company logos (in color), blueprints and the names of the principal clients involved. The company also builds and photographs stone models of the projects and includes prints with the proposal. "The whole package just blows people away, no foolin'," said Brenna.
|Building an Image By using HP printers, ink and paper to create visually stunning proposals, Milestone competes successfully against much larger companies.|
"The HP print quality is incredible and makes quite an impression," she said. "It helps us show that we can communicate the client's vision. Our proposals are the first ones clients picks up and the last ones they look at again."
Tools of the Trade
Currently Milestone uses a range of HP printers including:
- Four HP Photosmart 7960 printers
- One HP 450c printer
- Four HP Business Inkjet 1100 Series printers
Brenna says it's not just the printers, it's also the HP ink and paper that make a difference. "Believe me, we tried them all to save a buck," she said. "But the HP printers work best with their own ink and paper.
Little Big Company
Milestone's success comes from a great product, hard work and, as Brenna acknowledges, HP's print quality. As a small business, Milestone has gone up against much larger, more affluent companies and won.
In 2003, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) named Milestone Top Small Business in the State of Texas. In a published statement, SBA Director Bill Harrington said, "Through award-winning Internet and print marketing, and nationally recognized print advertising, Milestone is acknowledged across the United States as a leader of innovation, artistry and technology in the stone business today."
"Our work is visual and our projects are very personal, " said Brenna. "The printing we're able to produce lets us bring the projects to life in a way that resonates with clients. HP printers not only make it possible for us to compete with the big companies, they help us succeed."
Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com
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