Posted by: AG | May 8, 2011

Print Production Problems

Once you’ve worked out the marketing strategy carefully, the design of your mailing package is tops, your copy was written by a pro, and your mailing list is on its way. Now all that’s left to do is call your printer and have him pick up the job. Right?


If you think so, you could be throwing away money – lots of it – without realizing it.


The reasons are simple: no company that uses direct mail for its marketing should  assume that any one printer will always be the right printer for the job. Remaining flexible enough to work with different printers should become a habit. With print production, staying vigilant, rather than totally trusting, is more useful.


It’s hard to overstate the value of your printed product to a direct mail campaign. For most projects, the cost of printing alone can absorb from 25 to 75 percent of your budget. The higher quality you want, the greater the percentage. If you find this difficult to believe, pull out your expense breakdown for your last mailing and compare the costs of printing with the total. You may be in for a surprise.


Along with cost, the quality of your end product—your finished package—is critical to the success of your campaign. No amount of excellence in the stages of the job prior to printing (i.e. design, copywriting, illustration, photography, etc.) will fully compensate for mediocre printing. For instance, the paper may be of poor quality; colors images might be out of register and affect clarity;  folds and final trims might be crooked or inaccurate; and any of these could detract from the final piece.


Yet despite these basic facts, it appears that few direct marketers devote the time or energy needed to take full control over the printing end of their project. And that’s equivalent to an architect not caring about visiting the building site during construction or understanding what’s happening if they do. As a consequence, they pay too high a price and still do not achieve all that they hoped for.


Before suggesting some remedies for the problem let’s look at a few of the causes:


Addiction. The direct mailer might be satisfied with his present printer, so there’s no apparent reason to change. Or, they’ve used a particular printer for years, so it is easiest to continue the relationship. Or, possibly the direct mail firm uses a production manager (ad manager, graphic designer, etc.) who may be too new, too busy, or unconcerned about the final cost to consider changing printers.


Sales pressure. It’s natural to assume that the greater the sales effort by the printer, the better the printer’s output will be. After all, don’t the best salespeople work for the finest printers? If you think so, you could again be making a costly generalization. The rule here is that the best salespeople work for printers who offer the best pay. But the problem is that it’s not the printer who is really paying its sales force their generous commissions—it’s you, the customer!


Ignorance. Since no printer knows everything in the world about the art of printing, it’s doubtful that the direct mailer can either. But far too few direct mail executives know enough about the printing processes to have much control, even though there’s plenty to understand.


Once you’ve found the right printer (in itself quite a task,) you should have a working knowledge of all the key stages of printing. You need to be aware of papers, ink colors, trim sizes, bindery functions, color separations, art mechanicals, and stripping—just for starters. Before the job is finished, there may be many dozens of decisions that have to be made. And each choice will affect the final cost and quality.


These three reasons—addiction to a printer, sales pressure, and ignorance—prevent direct mail managers from taking full command over their printing. What can be done?  I’ll cover some ideas for that next time.



  1. Nice to run into another print production pro out here in the blogosphere! Thanks! -Nani

  2. […] headaches. It can also save you a ton of money! According to large-volume print production expert Allen Glazer, 25-75% of a design project’s budget should be set aside for printing costs. If you don’t […]

  3. […] to large-volume print production expert Allen Glazer, 25-75% of a design project’s budget should be set aside for printing costs. If you don’t […]

  4. […] to large-volume print production expert Allen Glazer, 25-75% of a design project’s budget should be set aside for printing costs. If you don’t […]

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