In the introduction of this blog article series, we discussed the fact that when it comes to vetting potential new vendors to print, warehouse, and ship your training and educational materials, the typical RFP process doesn’t always paint a clear picture of what it’s going to be like to with a new vendor.
Beyond capabilities and cost, RFPs limit the opportunity for a two-way dialogue on the “soft” details of the vendor relationship, like expectations on roles, processes, workflows, and communication. These are the details that can end up creating more work for you and your team if they aren’t addressed early in the process.
The first, and perhaps most important place to dig deeper with a potential new print and fulfillment vendor is to request the detail behind the print estimate they provide.
The Standard Print Estimate Process
The process to secure an estimate for print and print fulfillment services typically goes like this:
You provide all specifications of your printed materials, including:
- Single or annual print run quantity
- Page count
- Paper type and weight
- Finished size
- Finishing and binding
- Proofing requirements
- Shipping/mailing requirements
Each vendor being considered uses this information to provide a total roll-up of costs that also may include:
- Price breaks for different quantities
- Per-piece cost
- Estimated shipping costs based on a sample destination
If you are looking for costs on a one-time print project only, this process is usually sufficient. But if your training course or publications library consists of multiple titles, each with different specifications, different levels of demand, and are in different phases of their lifecycle, you’re going to want to dig deeper than the top-line number.
Questions Your Print Vendor Should Be Asking
Data your print vendor should request from you before creating an estimate includes:
- How many titles do you have?
- How many are your top sellers?
- What is the annual sales volume of your top sellers?
- How frequently does your content change? What drives these changes?
- What are your current print quantities/frequencies, and why?
A More Insightful Way to Provide a Print Estimate
When they provide a quote, ask them for the detail behind the estimate to understand how they arrived at those numbers. A potential print vendor should be able to show you how they calculated:
- Average print cost per title and/or per course
- Average number of items in a package
- Average box weight
- Average orders a month
- Average cost of shipping
- Total cost per class or course and the annual cost per class or course
Requesting this level of detail achieves three important objectives:
Know they understand your needs
Before you sign on with a new print and fulfillment provider, you want to be sure they truly understand how materials are fulfilled for each course, and how well they know your needs, processes, and workflows. Any print vendor can put ink to paper. But can they work with you in a way that solves problems and adds value? If all they have provided is a top-line estimate without getting to know the ins and outs of your print and fulfillment process, you’ll never know for sure until you start working with them.
The more detail a vendor provides on their estimate, the less likely you are to miss any hidden or unexpected expenses, like warehouse location upcharges, so you can prevent any surprises to the budget.
Challenge the status quo with new ideas
If your vendor has gone through the detailed exercise of calculating not just the cost per quantity but the overall cost per title or cost per course, they will have significantly more visibility into how your training programs run. With this information, they can help to find new ways to save money or create efficiencies. For example, they could use your data to determine the best mix of print run methods for each title in your training library that reduce costs, maximize cash flow, and minimize spoilage.
A truly optimal print solution is about more than securing the lowest price-per-piece. It’s making sure your print and fulfillment services provider understands your true print volume needs based on how each title is used and where it is in its lifecycle. Using this information, a print services partner won’t provide just a quote; they’ll look for ways to help you better manage your costs.
What else should you ask of your prospective new print vendor?
Continue to Part 2: The Print Sample