By Andrew Field
Like many aspects of running a business, a little education and homework on printing options can go a long way towards saving you a heap of time and money. All the elements and decisions that go into printing a quality piece can get fairly complex, from creating the right layout, choosing the right type of paper and finishing to choosing the right printer to get the results you want at a price you can afford.
Fortunately, printing doesn’t have to be painful, time consuming or budget-busting if you follow these four key steps to guide you through the decision-making process. You will win big.
1. Determine WHICH type of printer is right for your needs.
Offset commercial printers are the traditional choice for producing high-quality, professional looking full-color materials for modest to medium quantities (about 250 to 100,000). Since the main cost in offset printing is the preparation and setup expense, you can maximize your printing dollar by printing more per order. Generally, the higher quantity you order, the lower the cost per piece.
If you are looking to print in larger quantity, consider a Web Press service. Web printing is used for economically printing large runs of catalogs, magazines and newspapers. The paper is passed through continuously on a roll rather than feeding individual sheets of paper, as on offset presses. You’ll save money.
Digital printing is appropriate for running smaller quantities or if you need to customize each piece. The quality is often better than using your own office inkjet or laser printer, but not as professional looking as offset printing—color can be less vibrant.
If you want to print customized presentation packets for clients or hand out 100 flyers in your local neighborhood, digital printing through a quick print/copy shop is a great way to go.
2. Decide WHAT to print and how to prepare it.
In addition to budgetary needs, there are a few things to consider when deciding both what you want to print and how you will create the layout.
Amount and type of information youwant to convey
How the piece will be distributed and handled
The customers you’re targeting
The image you want to present
Your experience working with layout software
Print Format: Have a short message or offer and want to grab attention quickly? Postcards are a common choice for direct mail, while rack cards, door hangers and flyers are good options for displaying around town. Brochures, newsletters and catalogs give you more room to work with, whether you distribute them through the mail, on your store counter or at a trade show. Analyze your options.
Paper and Coating: Thicker paper holds up better for handling and feels more substantial. Business cards and postcards printed on a quality, glossy card stock go far towards projecting your image as a serious, successful business. Uncoated paper is a good choice if you want your cards to match your stationery or if you or your recipients will be writing on them. Clear coatings are recommended to protect your piece from scuffs and fingerprints and to provide a rich, high-end feel when you’re targeting more upscale customers.
Design Options: You don’t need expensive designer software these days to put together and print an effective layout. If you’re comfortable on a computer, programs such as Microsoft Publisher are readily available and have easy to use templates, which you can customize with your logo and photos, or you can create a simple flyer in standard business applications such as Microsoft Word or Powerpoint. You can purchase and download stock images online to add flair to your piece. If you need a more high-end design or have a make-or-break presentation, hiring a graphic designer may be the best solution. It could pay off.
3. Know WHERE you can go to find printers.
Most cities have all three types of printers as close as your local phone book. There are also online sources, which may better fit your needs and can often save time and money. Consider looking online if you appreciate the convenience of instantly pricing, configuring and ordering from your desktop, you are comfortable working with your printer over the phone and don’t mind having your product shipped to you from another locale.
4. Research to decide WHOM to choose as your printer.
As with any business vendor, do your due diligence and find out what you can expect from your printer and what lies behind that slick website or attractively low prices. After all, you are putting more on the line than some of your hard-earned dollars; at stake is your business’s image as well as the success of your marketing campaign.
Ask the following questions:
Can they deliver on the product?
Upfront pricing – what you see or the quote is what you get, no hidden or added costs
Turnaround options that meet your needs and fit your budget
Guaranteed on-time delivery
Quality product (ask for samples!!)
How easy is it to do business with them? Can you work together?
Simple ordering process
Live person answers the phone, you can quickly access a knowledgeable person
E-mails and off-hour voicemails are answered promptly
Helpful info on website
Accepts any type of layout file
What type of service can you expect?
Helpful salesperson who can consult with you on the best solutions for your individual needs
Knowledgeable technical staff to assist you on preparing your file for printing, who work directly with your project to ensure that colors will print as you expect and the design will look good on paper
Responsive and helpful customer service on making changes to your order, handling payment and shipping issues and resolving complaints.
Most importantly, find a printer who goes out of their way to build a relationship with you and knows that your success is the key to their success. In many ways, a good printer is like a favorite mechanic; you wouldn’t trust your car to anyone else, even if you could find a better deal. Your business and your peace of mind are worth it. •