By Stephanie Taylor Christensen
Creating print pieces for your school can be a big task for office staff. Between supporting student events, churning out promotional materials, and making sure you produce important communication items, it adds up to a significant amount of printing. Working with a dedicated print partner can make the process easier — and, in many cases, cheaper — than doing piecemeal print work with a variety of vendors. But finding the printing services can seem like a challenge.
When you go to search for the right print vendor, here are the three initial steps in the process:
Find Vendors With Experience in Education
Schools' needs differ from a lot of other organizations. Consolidate your business with an outlet that can handle all of those requests and understand what works best for schools like yours. When the printer has other academic customers, that printer has experience and knowledge to provide input on your projects and help improve them.
Ask around to your counterparts in other school systems to get recommendations, or you might look even closer to home — ask your current slate of suppliers if they can take on your printing needs. It's possible that some of your current vendors have the capabilities you're looking for.
Regardless of where you got your recommendation, ask vendors for samples of work they've done with other schools so you can confirm that they have a long track record.
Do Your Homework
The price and service levels that a print vendor will quote for your school are partially based on the volume of work you'll request throughout the year. Before you start your search, estimate the volume, scope and scale of your school's print needs for one calendar year.
It can be tough to assemble firm numbers on this, especially if you've always handled print projects on a case-by-case basis. It may help to ask teachers, administrators, the PTO and other organizational leaders to send you an estimate of their print projects from the previous year. That can help you get a rough estimate of your projects — it may include student and parent handbooks, yearbooks, academic materials, letterhead, banners and signage, certificates or diplomas, notebooks and folders, and even spirit wear. In turn, potential vendors can use those details to provide accurate price quotes and advise you on what types of services they do and do not offer.
Ask for Capabilities Examples
What is their turnaround time for an order of yearbooks? What about regular items such as sporting event tickets or alumni magazines? Make sure your print partner can work on your timelines.
After making sure your potential vendors can handle your typical print requests, ask for more information on the types of services they typically offer schools. You might learn about printing options you didn't know you had — for example, they may surprise you with the ability to print floor decals or wall murals.
When you work with a single vendor for printing services, you can simplify your processes, get better advice and service, and potentially cut down on costs. Putting in the legwork to find a vendor now can provide huge benefits for years to come.