Blog Series: How to (Really) Select a New Print Vendor
In This Series:
Welcome to Part 2 of this 4-part blog series, where we highlight some of the most overlooked questions organizations should ask a prospective new print vendor. The goal is to get beyond the basic criteria of cost and capabilities, and truly understand how well they will work with you on key details like processes and communication flow—details that create those small, nagging hiccups that can easily derail your day.
We started with the Series Introduction that discusses why the typical RFP process doesn’t always paint a clear picture of what it’s going to be like to work with a new vendor.
In Part 1 of the series, we address the importance of digging into the detail behind the estimate, and what calculations you should request from vendors.
In this second part, we’re going to make a bold suggestion for how to validate the print quality promised by a prospective print provider.
Don’t Take Print Quality for Granted – Get a Print Sample
Producing a high-quality product is something you would expect every printer currently in business to have down to a science. But that’s not always the case. Much of it depends on just how close to their “sweet spot” your project is. The further on the fringes, the greater chance of receiving inconsistent print and finishing quality.
Other factors that can affect print quality include:
- How well-established their quality control processes are to catch pre-production issues, match color, etc.
- The skill level of their staff, how well they communicate and set expectations to address potential issues
- What type of print and bindery equipment they have, and whether that equipment is better suited for single-page projects like postcards and pamphlets, or higher page count projects like books and manuals
At some point in your selection process, you may request printed samples from potential vendors that have similar specifications to your piece. And most vendors already have a library of samples they can readily send. The problem with this scenario is twofold:
- You don’t have the appropriate context behind the piece to really measure the quality. How does it compare to the proof? How does it compare to customer expectations? How well does the piece hold up with continued use over time?
- Prospective vendors are, by nature, only going to send you what they consider to be their highest-quality examples.
A Better Way to Measure Print Quality
Once you have narrowed down your pool of prospective print vendors, but before you have made a final selection, we highly recommend requesting a printed sample of your existing training manual, workbook, or another booklet from their presses so you can compare their print quality to what you’re currently producing—whether that’s from a different print provider or using internal resources.
Even more importantly, taking this additional step establishes a level of trust and transparency. It demonstrates their willingness to work with you and gives you the opportunity to see first-hand how well a project flows through their system, how well they communicate with you, and how well they understand both what you’re looking for and how the piece is going to be used.
If a print vendor is willing to have this level of dialogue with you about your materials, it puts them in a better position to offer improvement ideas that reduce costs, improve usability, and enhance your brand.
What else should you ask of your prospective new print vendor?
Continue to Part 3: Reports & Invoices