Offset • Web • Large Format
Digital • Direct mail • Magazines or Catalogues
Signage • Point of Sale
Tradeshow / Event collateral
Printer or Print Management, how should you choose?
The problem for printing companies all around the world is that they are all considered dispensable, they are commodities to be bought and sold at the lowest possible cost, they are loaves of bread on the same shelf with all the other loaves of bread which is a shame because every printing company has a different offering, they all have different strengths and attributes.
Traditional suppliers have sadly failed to communicate their strengths and offerings to their audience. Why should Joe Bloggs choose one company over another? What makes them different? This is a wholesale failure across the entire printing industry but why?
The reasons are complex but essentially companies have failed to understand who their target audience is, this makes it incredibly difficult to market a product if you cannot clearly identify who you are supposed to be selling to, in the end it is like being lost at sea in a rowing boat, you have a megaphone to yell through but can anyone hear you?
But I digress, Printer or Print Management, how should you choose?
The answer, surprisingly, has little to do with your product[s], whether your product is a Newsletter, Brochure, labels, signs or whatever, the answer comes down to your your knowledge of the printing industry and how you decide to time manage your available resources.
The printing industry is the largest industry in the world and unbeknown to most people it is one of the most complex, every supplier, whether that be printing, signage, direct mail or promotions, they are all wholly different, they all have different size presses, there are those who specialise in the A3 market, those who specialise in the A2, A1 markets, B3, B2, B1 markets, there are those who have 1 colour, 2 colour, 4 colour, 5 colour, 6 colour, 8 colour, 10 colour and even 12 colour presses, every single print supplier has different size presses each of which are suited only to certain projects. There is no one supplier the world over who can cost effectively produce everything.
To understand the printing industry is to understand who is best suited to manage your needs, for example, does your newsletter require a company with a B2, 5 colour press, A1 10 colour or an A3 press? Does your catalogue require a company running UV inks or do you need a company with die cutting in-house? Does your direct mail project require a company who can mail match in-line? Can your labels be printed by your local supplier or do they require a specialist label manufacturer? Are there multiple components to your marketing? If so, do you know who is best suited to each one of those products or do you give everything to one company and essentially close your eyes and hope for the best?
If you do know the industry and understand who is best suited to your products then you are in a very strong position to approach suppliers you know have the right press systems or processes matched to each of your products, you will be able to secure competitive pricing and if you have matched correctly then the quality will be perfect and the lead-times excellent too.
If you do not have that understanding of the printing industry you have two choices-
- Randomly invite suppliers to quote for your work or-
- Employ a Print Management company to represent your needs.
If you opt for the former you may be fortunate to find a printing company who is a perfect fit, but it is also a lottery because at the end of the day if your knowledge of the printing trade is basic or poor all you can base your decision upon is cost or personality, that Sales Rep seems nice so I will go with them, they were cheap so let’s give them a try!. Clients often make supplier choices completely blind, they have never visited their premises, they have never met the staff, apart from what the Sales Rep tells them they basically know nothing about the company they are about to entrust with their work. They may have heard of the company but that does not mean they are the right choice for you or your products. Anyone can but cheap but buyer beware, the pitfalls are many and great and you are likely to end up working with suppliers who may not be the best match to your needs and if you have multiple parts to your marketing collateral you are likely to be stuck with suppliers who, whilst lovely and friendly as they are, are mis-matched to most products, they are therefore expensive and projects take longer because they do not have either the equipment or the skill sets to manage your work efficiently and…… unbeknown to you they may be out-sourcing your work all together!!
Having spent many years in the industry I constantly witness endless examples of blind loyalty, clients sticking like glue to certain suppliers even though it is blindingly obvious those suppliers are completely the wrong fit. It is a little like taking your car to be serviced at the hairdressers, crazy.
For instance, there is a major retail outlet I know who run monthly / seasonal marketing campaigns consisting of Window decals, Corflutes, shelf wobblers, Posters and sticker sheets, they also produce an annual catalogue, they are solely using a printing company who specialise only in short run magazines, this company out-source everything because they have no wide-format or signage facilities themselves and the catalogue requires a web press and is therefore also unsuitable for their press systems.
How can I tell the client they are using completely the wrong supplier?
I know of another client who produce a range of product catalogues, everything from 48 pages to 640 pages, the company they employ to produce this work are a small local printing company who operate one A3 Press which is only really suitable to stationery, A4 or A5 flyers and the odd postcards, hence they outsource everything to other, more suitable printers adding their 35% mark up, these are scenarios I see all the time and you just think are these clients really so ignorant? Do they like throwing money away?
The clients often don’t want to consider moving because they like the people they are dealing with, they are comfortable but this cosy relationship could be costing your company thousands of dollars even hundreds of thousands more than it should.
Once final example, back in the day when I was working for a printing company we used to print 1.5 million postcards every three months, the client was placing these orders with a mailing company who used to outsource to ourselves, the mailing company of course do not do any printing themselves so they used to pass the work onto us, I knew darned well we were not really competitive with such a large order but we happily took it on and so the client was probably paying two or even three times what they should have been, absolutely crazy!
So how could a Print Management agency help you?
Essentially, it is simple, they cherry pick, matching the right suppliers to the right products. They project manage, they do all the leg work and take away all the responsibility which can potentially save thousands of dollars each year and more importantly free up vital resources.
Clients can often spend hours each week trawling suppliers not sure who is the best fit for certain jobs, clients need to ask themselves if that really is the best use of their time and resources? And do they actually know what they are doing?
A good print management agency should know the industry, they should have an exceptional technical knowledge of not only traditional offset printing but digital print, screen print, web printing, flexo, signage, wide format, direct mail and so on, they should know exactly who to approach to secure the very best pricing for each job.
A Print Management agency can centralise the buying, they should be able to demonstrate cost savings by aligning vendor arrangements and relieve marketing and procurement of the day to day hassle of dealing with suppliers.
Ask your representive about their processes and experience because again, it is so important you are working with the right people, companies who only have your best interests at heart, who go the extra mile and who care.
At the end of the day you need to know you are making smart choices for your business, knowledge is power, understand your strengths, your time management resources and do challenge the norm and if you do all of that you shouldn’t go too far wrong.
Founder & CEO
ACS Print Group