Tony Denning started Blank Media Printing in 2009 because he saw a gap in the market. No one was offering custom printed discs on the internet. Back then, the only way you can get these custom printed discs was calling the companies, or visiting them yourself. Armed with just a six-color printer, Tony went to work and built a site offering custom printed discs 24/7. When he received the first 1,000 orders from Washington, he realized that he was on to something. In the first month, the company sold 20,000 units, without spending a cent on marketing.
Today, Tony Denning has led Blank Media Printing to be one of the country’s “largest custom disc printing and duplication facilities,” and now they have expanded their offerings beyond printed discs. The company uses cutting-edge UV Digital Printing technology, instead of inkjet printing machines, to get you the products that you want at the highest quality possible. Their techniques and technology have allowed the company to put out products at print resolutions no competitor could match, even with similar technology.
Tony Denning’s work at Blank Media Printing has stayed consistently high-quality through the years. Currently, the company boasts a constant high customer review rating on ResellerRatings.com, with a near-perfect score of 10/10. The company has also received zero BBB complaints, and they have also achieved a rating of A+.
Jerome Knyszewski: 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 ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Tony Denning: 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.
Jerome Knyszewski: 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?
Tony Denning: 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.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
Tony Denning: 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.
Jerome Knyszewski: 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Jerome Knyszewski: 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?
Tony Denning: 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.
Jerome Knyszewski: 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?
Tony Denning: 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.
Jerome Knyszewski: 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?
Tony Denning: 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.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Tony Denning: You can find me here:
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!