Evaluating and Choosing a Printing Vendor
The Benefits of Getting an Estimate
The printing industry has been going through decades of volatile growth, driven by booming technology and robust competition. When preparing to order printed materials – whether you are sourcing a local vendor or an online company – take the opportunity to compare cost, production quality and timely delivery. While a printing vendor may be highly competitive on business cards and rack brochures, they may not be as competitive when printing booklets or banners. Printing companies invest in different printing equipment (digital and offset), they are servicing varying overhead, and they are updating their technology on diverse time lines. Printing vendors come in all specialties and their capabilities rarely match up apples to apples.
• Many printing vendors position themselves as a one-stop shop for all your printing needs. It can be appealing for a business to order all of their office forms, marketing materials and signage from a single source. In order to remain competitive in an ever-changing market, their array of marketing and specialty products may be fulfilled through partnerships with sub-vendors.
What to Look for in a Printing Vendor
• Check out the printing vendor's website for capabilities, staff and how long they have been in business. Review their offset printing and digital printing equipment list to see if they are striving to remain current and competitive. Provide a description of your upcoming projects to your sales associate and ask for a packet of print samples to evaluate along with printing bids and estimated turnaround time.
• Ask for a tour of their facilities. Ask to meet the owner and production manager. Don’t miss an opportunity to attend an open house. Stop by regularly to review a proof, perform a critical press check or pick up a completed order.
• Inquire about the vendor's data handling, privacy and backup policies.
• Get to know your account representative as well as the support staff and production crew. A knowledgeable and motivated account representative will provide accurate quotes and timely project trouble shooting and delivery. Experienced production staff ensure product quality and consistency.
• Inquire about your printer's "house stocks." These are the paper stocks that they buy in bulk and always have available. If you choose a stock that your vendor purchases by the skid load rather than having to place a special order, the pricing will reflect it.
• If you decide to purchase print or web design services from a printing vendor, meet with their creative staff and request work samples to evaluate their skills and experience. Ask if the design work is performed onsite or subcontracted to a local professional or affiliate.
• If you are considering an online vendor, factor in the shipping costs and transit time. Shipping costs can be hefty for routine orders. Be aware that online printers often subcontract with a printer in your region that has press time open in their production schedule.
• If you need printed materials for a destination event such as a convention, consider contracting with the local provider of a reputable printing franchise to produce and deliver your programs, brochures and banners directly to the event venue.
The Benefits of Working with Local Vendors
• Local vendors are invested in your community. A local printing vendor, along with their staff, pay state and local business taxes while supporting local businesses and charitable organizations. Supporting local businesses helps to grow your community.
• A local business is more likely to open up production time for an occasional rush job. Their staff will be on board to work overtime if necessary because they value your continued business.
• A local vendor is more likely to provide discounts and in-kind donations to non-profit organizations.
• A local business is more likely to ensure that you are satisfied with the quality of the final project. They want to secure your repeat business and positive online reviews.
The Benefits of Working with an Independent Print Coordinator
• With more than 30 years of print coordination experience, I have acquired the practical knowledge to evaluate and work seamlessly with printing vendors. Procuring project estimates and evaluating economical production methods, while monitoring quality workmanship and timely delivery can make all the difference in your business investment.
• As a graphic designer, I have worked with a multitude of pre-press departments and can ensure that artwork files will be formatted to process direct-to-press. Printing vendors often price projects more competitively when working with an established history of quality assurance in print coordination and artwork preparation. No surprises and a smooth work flow provide value.