With the advent of the internet it’s given marketing professionals the ability to reach out to potential customers on a real time basis. But what about the tried and true method of using print? The printing of brochures, catalogs, cd covers, movie posters and more is still considered a viable medium to use. One advantage of print media is its extended “shelf life” with the consumer. Your message stays visible as long as your piece is held on to. As a marketing professional assigned the responsibility of purchasing print services for your company, it’s important for you to have some understanding of the printing industry and some practical steps to take when buying printing services.
If you are considering using print for your next marketing project and if you’ve not had the opportunity to work with a printing company, or even if you’ve had some experience buying print, the following steps can assist you in achieving maximum results with your project while keeping your costs within budget.
Send out requests for price quotes.
After spending many hours designing your project, you are now ready to send out formal requests for price quotes to local area printers. My experience has shown that working with a local printer is more desirable than long distance as it gives you the opportunity to visit their place of business and to do a “press check” as appropriate. But I am getting ahead of myself. When sending out requests for estimates it’s best to send out your requests to several printers in order to compare pricing. A word of caution here, don’t let price be the driving force behind the printer you choose. It may be cheaper but what will your project look like when completed?
Discuss your project with the printing company you’ve chosen.
After you’ve made your preliminary decision on which printer to use, find out what account representative has been assigned to you and request a meeting in your office. This meeting will give you the opportunity to determine if you can establish a working relationship with them; find out how much they know about the printing industry and determine if they are going to make suggestions about your project or just be an order taker. It’s nice to have a representative that’s knowledgeable and will make suggestions on how to accomplish your project without breaking the bank.
Visit the local printer’s place of business.
I have found that this is a crucial step in the final determination to do business with the printer you’ve selected. If your schedule permits, request a visit to their facility to see their operation in action. This will give you an opportunity to see what kind of printing presses they use, how many they have, who’s working the presses, and is the area clean around the press. You can also determine if they are using two color, four color or state- of-the-art six color presses. When dealing with a printer you will work in cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK) colors not red, green and blue (RGB) used on the web. If you have a six color job composed of CMYK and two spot colors then it’s highly preferable to have your job done on a six color press. Why? You can’t build spot colors from CMYK without sacrificing the quality and accuracy of the spot colors you are trying to achieve.
Review samples of their previous clients projects.
After visiting the printer’s place of business and meeting with your prospective account representative there’s one final thing you can do before commencing business. Ask to see a variety of samples of different types of print jobs they’ve done for other clients. Request to see any job that involved die cuts; any job that involved folding a piece; and any job with multiple colors so as to observe their ability to be accurate in their color rendering and registration.
Learn the glossary of terms used in printing.
Being able to speak the language of printing is important as it will mean you and your representative will be speaking the same language when discussing your project and it’s completion. Certainly you’re not expected to know as much as they do. However, when communicating your specs to the printer or discussing alternatives to print production, knowing the language can help minimize errors and the biggest headache of all, doing a print re-run which leads into the last two items of note.
Prepare your artwork in accordance with the printer’s “pre-press” instructions.
This is another important step to take which can minimize delays in producing your project. By following their pre-press instructions you will have prepared your work in such a way as to facilitate an easy transition to printing your piece. Items such as bleeds, traps, registration, folds and perforations are all normally spelled out in the printer’s pre-press instructions. Following these simple instructions will eliminate any potential headaches later on.
Proof, proof and proof again your project.
This is the final step in getting your piece/project printed and absolutely the most important of all the items covered here. Many marketing professionals and others have been called in on the carpet because after the piece had been printed and distributed to thousands, a mistake was discovered. In some cases the mistake is small enough that it doesn’t affect the piece. But the nightmare comes when a decimal is in the wrong place drastically affecting the price of an item. After your piece hits the “streets” it’s too late to call it back. So, proof, proof and proof again before sending your piece to the printer. They will look things over but it is your final responsibility to insure everything is accurate.
The steps in buying print presented here are based on over 20 years experience as a marketing professional responsible for buying print services. Over the course of time I’ve learned through experience what to do and not do when getting a project printed. Hopefully, you will find these steps beneficial in getting your future marketing projects printed on time and within budget.