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What to look for in a print provider

The role of print in information distribution and marketing has diminished quite a bit in the last couple of decades. But print is still relevant and fit for many purposes and with businesses moving towards on demand and just in time production of printed items, partnerships that secure supply are more important than ever.

So how do you select a print provider?

Below are some pointers that can help with these choices:

Are they investing in technology?

Despite the fact that print has been around for a while, there are still constant improvements of equipment and further automation of processes through systems. Recently released offset (traditional) presses by Heidelberger Druckmaschinen bring up to 30% productivity improvements, as well as better output quality. Print companies with old equipment are simply not able to compete.

Are they seeing the bigger picture?

A print provider needs to remember their overall offering for their clients. If they only work job by job they can forget that any good relationship includes compromises and some give and take. This includes pricing: Producing books of one at affordable prices is hardly ever profitable, but if they are able to offset the pricing with larger jobs, they can offer a good overall package.

Do they know and understand alternative channels?

There are some things that are better not done in print. Forms are one category that has mostly migrated to digital, and the benefits are numerous and clear. Nobody wants to decipher hand writing or clean databases that are the result on illegibly filled in paper forms. Your print provider needs to realise that: no point promoting a print item that cannot compete with digital distribution.

Have they got an open mind to innovation?

Yep. Got that. I have an IPhone 7. But seriously, it can be hard to understand and learn new things. Whether it’s social channels, qr codes or augmented reality, they are not the evil competition or fads that will disappear, they are platforms and technologies that can work very well in conjunction with print.

Do they provide excellent customer service?

Customer focus is key, but not every provider’s culture promotes service. Fast responses, good knowledge, proactive suggestions, comprehensive reporting are all necessary ingredients. “We don’t do that here” is not a reply you like to hear when asking for help.

Are they taking time to understand your business?

If they don’t take the time to understand how you operate, they cannot provide effective solutions.

Do they do what they say they do?

A shiny website with bright pictures is easily published, but are you dealing with a real manufacturer or a middle person, who relays your information to a panel of suppliers and takes a cut? Using an intermediate can lead to issues, especially when you really don’t need them: when something is required urgently, or when something went wrong and an issue needs to be rectified quickly and avoided in future. Go for a visit and see their facilities. This will give you a feel for the company you are dealing with, are they a backyard operation or a professional organisation?

SOS Print + Media Group 2017