You're looking at some absolutely gorgeous sales and marketing collateral laid out in Adobe InDesign. You've sweated over the copy so that every single word is right. You've sourced stunning photography of your products and your team has laid everything out in a way that makes every element pop. All that's left is to send these pieces to the printer. What could go wrong?
Unfortunately, at this stage, many projects fall apart. It's one thing to develop eye-catching and innovative materials online. But it's up to your printer to ensure that the printed pieces match your design and vision. When you have the printed pieces in hand, are they exactly what you envisioned? Or is the paper quality, colors, resolution, or other elements not what you expected?
Marketing departments often work with print service providers for years without reviewing whether the business relationship continues to make sense. Does this sound familiar? Perhaps you don't have the time to find a new provider — a process which may be time-consuming at your company. Maybe you and your long-time provider have forged a friendship, which you fear jeopardizing if you go another direction. Or perhaps, you've leaned heavily on a longstanding provider to handle your needs because you're not that familiar with the print production process. Over time though, you've learned enough to realize you need more than they can provide.
As with any vendor, it's essential to reevaluate your business relationship with your print services provider annually, keeping these factors in mind.
Cost is the go-to metric when it comes to vendor relationships. Take a look at your current printing costs and compare them to what you've paid in years past. Are you paying substantially more now, and if so, why? Is your provider's pricing in line with market standards? Consider obtaining quotes from local competitors to see if you're paying a fair price. Also, look online to ascertain whether your ink, paper, and labor costs are aligned with market pricing. Finally, take a look at shipping costs — an area where you may be paying more than you should. Is the distance between your office and where you need your materials delivered substantial? You may need to find a provider closer to home or one with multiple facilities.
Of course, cost should not be the only consideration. Evaluate the work you've received. Do your printed pieces reflect the colors of your brand and design correctly? Are test proofs dissimilar from the final product? Is every piece of the same high-quality as the first? And do your pieces fade quickly?
Also, understand what type of equipment your current provider is using an offset press, digital printer, or a combination of the two. Offset printing can provide consistent, high-quality pieces at volume but can be complicated to set up and involve a costly proofing process. Digital printing can work well for small quantities and high-resolution pieces but can be more expensive for larger runs. If they are using one or the other, you may see variations in cost, quality, or both. Ideally, your provider would use both offset and digital printing, as advances in print plate technology and workflows have significantly reduced offset production setup times.
You also want a print services provider who is up-to-date on these and other new commercial printing advancements. If you have a critical print piece you need soon, does your account manager act in a consultative fashion by discussing not only your specifications but also your marketing goals you aim to achieve with the pieces you're having them print? And when they understand your goals, do they return to you with several options that help you meet those goals and are aligned with your quantity, quality, and timing requirements?
Is your account manager constantly running back and forth to production to answer all of your questions, or can they answer most, if not all of them, while you're on the phone? Do you even have a dedicated account manager or do you generally deal with a rotating group of staff? And if you do have a dedicated account manager, are they proactive about meeting your needs in between jobs? Do they come to you with ideas about how to improve your marketing program?
If you don't have a dedicated account manager or if your account manager is lacking in these areas, you may want to start looking elsewhere. However, having a creative and attentive account manager who works with you as a partner to not only help you achieve the print quality you need but also help you improve your overall marketing goals, is likely well worth the time and money you may need to switch providers.
As you reevaluate your relationship with your current provider, also assess past service. Does your provider meet your deadlines for standard print jobs? What about rush jobs (which, despite your best efforts, happen occasionally)? Ask yourself whether there is a seamless process for communicating edits that must be made during the proofing process. Can your printer accommodate last-minute revisions in-house with graphic designers on staff? Do they have a quality control person or department that can catch errors they've made, and what may appear to be errors you've made?
If, to-date, you've not had any issue with printing errors, you may not know your provider's policy regarding them. You should, especially if your pre-production editing process is not seamless. If, for example, you communicated last-minute changes to the provider by phone, the provider misunderstood what you said, and the resulting job has errors in it, do you have to swallow the cost of the error in full, in part, or at all? Further, how quickly can you get a corrected version in your hands? If you've been unhappy with how your current vendor has botched past jobs, it may be time to look for a new print services provider.
If you are beginning to consider a new provider, you'll want to look at their pricing, quality, experience, and service. Another critical consideration is reputation. Does their reputation match their brand promise? Do they have a reputation for delivering high-quality material on-time with few, if any, hiccups? Considering the essential role marketing and sales collateral plays in your organization's success, you're putting your own reputation into your provider's hands when you give them work. Ask for testimonials and references, then do your due diligence. Make sure your next piece is in the hands of a provider who can really deliver.
Phase 3 Marketing and Communications specializes in providing first-class printed material tailored specifically to your needs at an affordable price. With locations in Atlanta, Charlotte, Nashville, Dallas-Ft. Worth and the New York metropolitan area, our team is ready and available to handle your printing needs today. If you're looking for a reputable print services provider, contact us at Phase 3 today!