By Nancy Mann Jackson
Your printing vendor does more than execute tasks. In a lot of ways, they are helping to bring your company's face to the marketplace. If your vendor drops the ball, that may negatively impact your brand. However, printing vendors often have massive differences in pricing, quality and service, which can make the selection process tricky.
It helps to have a set of common factors to use in judging your options. When you're assessing various vendors, find out the answers to these four questions:
What Is Their Premedia and Proofing Process?
You can tell a lot about a printing vendor by how they talk about their premedia and proofing process. ("Premedia" broadly speaking, refers to the work that goes into creating a piece before it is printed.) Ask your contact to describe how the team checks all the files and preps them for printing, and what their proofing process is like — can you see your proofs easily online? Can you preview your job before you send it?
A good vendor will have a precise path for executing each print job, and will be able to explain your role in the process, too.
What Is Their Level of Expertise?
Look into how long they've been in business and their percentage of on-time jobs. What is their reputation among your peers and in online reviews? Whenever possible, speak to different companies that have used this vendor before and ask pointed questions about their experience. How long have these companies used the vendor, and for what jobs? Make sure the vendor's major strengths align with your brand's goals.
What Is the Breadth of their Product Offering?
It's a good idea to consolidate as many services as possible under a single vendor to ensure consistency in all your company's print projects. Think of all the departments in your company that print materials — whether it's signs, decals, brochures, presentations or other items. Can this vendor handle all those needs?
Even if you initially have a relatively narrow set of print requirements, your needs may change or become more complex. Would this vendor be able to help you with other jobs? Look for a full listing of all their capabilities and see how it maps to your company's potential print needs in the future.
Do They Emphasize Service?
Your print vendor should be eager to work with you, answering questions about technical jargon and taking time to educate you on your options. Do they give you a single point of contact you can reach directly, and is that person readily available to help? Even if that's not typical for the company you're considering, all your contacts at the company should demonstrate a level of knowledge and professionalism. Rushed, indifferent responses are a red flag, even if everything else at the vendor looks promising.
Your printing vendor can be an invaluable partner in helping promote and grow your business, and ideally that relationship will last a long time. Gather information and compare it against the prices they propose for their work, and your decision should get much easier.