Posted by: AG | June 10, 2009

Find the Best Printing Company

Of all your business relationships, the relationship with your printer is one of the most important. That’s assuming you already have one. And if you don’t? Well, then you should plan to devote some time locating a good one.


The value of finding the best printer for your needs cannot be overstated. Your printed piece must be of the highest quality. And you should receive the proper service and attention as well after your artwork files are delivered through to completion. 


You will also need to watch your costs at all times. In most cases, 25 to 75 percent of the  planned budget will be for the cost of printing. And while looking for a printer, you will discover that prices can vary greatly – often by as much as 30 percent or more.


Yet surprisingly little has been written about this subject. Most direct marketing journals rarely touch the topic. Few, if any, of the leading texts on graphic arts or marketing give more than casual mention to print production — almost as if it didn’t exist.


So where do you turn to find the right printer? To begin with, you should realize there is no secret formula – just a combination of experience, knowledge, and perseverance.


The search for a printer begins at home, namely, within your own company. Unless you’re new to the business, you’ve probably already worked with a few. So begin your list by including the following:


*printers that you are now using and have used previously, with special note to the satisfaction level and past problems;


*printers that have once contacted you directly. Many of the larger, more aggressive printing firms will invest a lot of time and energy to finding new business. If you’re an ad agency, graphic design firm, or publisher, for instance, they may have pulled your name out of the Yellow Pages. Alternatively, if you print only certain kinds of materials, such as catalogs, they could have come across a sample of your work.


*speaking with other business people in the industry can also help you find a printer. For instance, if you belong to any direct marketing associations, you’ve no doubt established a network of friends and business contacts. By making a few phone calls or asking around at your next meeting, you might be able to get some referrals. Obviously, competitors will be least willing to help in that regard.


if you already know of (non-competitive) companies that are printing a similar direct mail piece, but don’t know anyone in their company, you could call them directly.  Their production manager may be open to giving you some leads.  Many of them realize that it helps strengthen their own relationship with their printer when they refer a new customer.


*a more indirect way of getting names of printers would be through the leading trade associations for the printing industry. For example, Printing Industries of America (PIA) is the largest of those, with close to 10,000 members, yet only 20% of all printing companies belong to that association.


PIA has regional offices in many large cities. You can call for information and, depending on the policies of their office, they may be willing to give you names of printers that can handle the specific kind of work you need printed. They may also provide some other useful details, such as how many years the printer has been in operation, the number of employees they have, any complaints on file, or whether they are union or non-union.


Related to that, a number of printing trade magazines have had informative articles about successful printers located in different parts of the country. Look in Graphic Arts Monthly, American Printer, or Printing Impressions. And while you’re at the library, ask for any trade directories of printers. I know that both Lewis Publishing and Benn Publications had published “blue books” of printers on the East Coast.


* And yes, there is always the phone book and web searches. While simple to use, they’re the riskiest place to look for names since they often tell you little about the printer. Hopefully, you won’t judge a printer purely by the size of their display ad or web page — they paid for that with money, not with printing quality or reasonable prices.  But if you do resort to this easy source, you’ll protect yourself if you ask for three references of businesses that have used their services on similar projects.  If you’re printing posters, for instance, ask for names of other customers that they also produced posters for.  Then call those customers to check their satisfaction level.


Once you’ve compiled a decent list of printers to contact, along with some relevant data about each one, you may feel that the toughest part of the job is behind you. Guess again! Choosing the best printer from the list is actually the hardest and most important part. It’s a decision you will live with for a long time.


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