How to (Really) Choose a New Print Vendor: The Print Estimate

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:

  1. 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
  2. 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:

  1. 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.

  2. Establish transparency

    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.

  3. 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

How to (Really) Choose a New Print Vendor: The Print Sample

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:

  1. 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?
  2. 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

How to (Really) Choose a New Print Vendor: Reports & Invoices

We’re pleased to bring you this third installment of our four-part blog series discussing why it’s so important to dig deeper than the standard print services RFP, and what questions you should ask to minimize the risk when making a change to your print and fulfillment vendor.

In this article, we’ll make a compelling case for why you should discuss reports and invoices early in the selection process.

When you’re searching for a new print and fulfillment services provider, you’re probably looking at the reputation of the organization, whether its capabilities match your needs, and if costs are in line with your expectations. Reporting and invoicing have nothing to do with print production, and therefore may be the furthest thing from your mind early in the RFP process.

If you have a need to print and ship training and course materials several times throughout the year, if your printed training library consists of multiple titles, and/or if you need to warehouse materials for ongoing orders, you will want to request sample reports and invoices from prospective vendors as part of your selection process.

Why Request Sample Reports and Invoices from Print Vendors?

This is one of the areas that can cause a significant amount of extra, unplanned work for your team and your internal stakeholders. If you don’t discuss details like what types of reports you can expect, and how data is outlined on invoices, you won’t know it’s a problem until after the fact.

There are likely several stakeholders within your organization who need access to print and fulfillment data. That data not only informs decisions that impact programs and resources, but it also needs to be served up in a way that supports your existing processes so all departments—from operations to accounting—can do their jobs more efficiently.

To establish a successful relationship with a new vendor for your printed training and course materials, it’s important to think beyond their print and fulfillment capabilities. Request information and samples that help you understand every phase of the process, including reporting and invoicing. Use this conversation as an opportunity to establish clear expectations, avoid back-end surprises, and ensure they will provide data in a way that makes your job easier.

What else should you ask of your prospective new print vendor?

Continue to Part 4: The Value of Ideas

How to (Really) Choose a New Print Vendor: The Team

Throughout this four-part blog series, we have provided recommendations on how to evaluate and select a new print and fulfillment services provider using questions that go beyond the standard cost and capabilities criteria.

In Part 1 we discussed the importance of digging deeper into the detail behind the estimate provided.

In Part 2 we recommended a better way to assess true print quality.

And in Part 3 we made the case for requesting sample reports and invoices as part of the initial evaluation process.

All three of these steps are designed to encourage two-way dialogue, which is an extremely important component of any new relationship. They also help establish the nature of the relationship you should expect. Are they going to passively take your orders, or proactively provide ideas to help enhance your training materials, improve processes, and manage costs?

Our final recommendation is to make sure you know not only what to expect from the relationship with your print and fulfillment vendor, but with whom.

We are continually surprised by the number of RFPs we receive that ask few if any questions about the specific team that will provide ongoing service and support. Your team is a critical component to the success of the relationship. As part of your selection process, you should have full visibility into questions such as:

  • Who do you direct questions to?
  • Do you have a dedicated contact, or are you put in a support queue?
  • If you do have a dedicated contact or contact(s), what, specifically is their role?
  • How should you communicate with them?
  • How will they communicate with you?
  • How often?
  • About what?
  • What should you expect of them?

Ideally, you will have the benefit of working with one primary point of contact for the duration of your relationship with a print and fulfillment provider. This will help streamline communication and provide congruency across each print run.

Your contact should be the person that handles all your day-to-day needs, including:

  • Answering print and shipping questions
  • Handling urgent orders
  • Tracking shipments
  • Managing international customs
  • Delivering meaningful reports

Having a consistent resource who has an opportunity to really know and understand your organization—how it operates, how decisions are made, business objectives, challenges, and preferences—also means they are in a position to add value to the relationship beyond just taking your orders. They will be able to offer ideas and suggestions that help you simplify processes, save costs, and make your job easier.

Are you thinking about changing print vendors for your training manuals, booklets, course books, or other educational materials? We’d love to start a discussion with you.

A New Approach to Print-on-Demand: What Every Training Org Should Know

Coming out of the pandemic, more training organizations are looking at print-on-demand solutions to manage the financial risk of printing course materials at a time when enrollment is less predictable. But print-on-demand does have a major downside—namely, increased cost.

In response, organizations like Omnipress have developed a new print-on-demand model known as micro-inventory, which combines a low-risk print model with a better cost-per-piece.

Pandemic-induced challenges have increased the need to print course materials on-demand

Data gathered in our 2021 Training Trends Report highlights several of the challenges that training professionals are facing as a result of changes in program performance and delivery in 2020, including:

• Budget shortfalls, as a majority of organizations, reported a decrease in training revenue in 2020
• Less predictable enrollment, as more in-person courses will remain virtual moving forward

Meanwhile, more than half of organizations still plan to provide printed training materials to both in-person and virtual course participants.

Less predictable print runs combined with a need to more tightly manage costs and overhead has caused more organizations to consider using a print-on-demand model, either in addition to or instead of the traditional print and fulfillment model.

A traditional print and fulfillment model works best with well-established, flagship courses where demand is both large and predictable enough to print and warehouse a higher quantity of training materials that can be ordered and shipped quickly throughout the year.

But when a new course is introduced, or the delivery model of that course changes, enrollment is more difficult to forecast, so longer print runs become riskier.

The benefits of printing training course materials on-demand

Printing educational materials on-demand allows an organization to order a smaller quantity of course books or training manuals on an as-needed basis, which provides several benefits:

Improves cash flow

Smaller print runs mean reduced up-front costs, which equates to potentially improved cash flow for the organization.

Reduces overhead

A print-on-demand model often minimizes or reduces the need to inventory materials in a warehouse and the related fees.

Minimizes waste

By reducing the print run quantity, you can more easily make content updates while minimizing the financial risk of tossing books already on the shelf due to the need to make content changes.

Supports a positive customer experience

Because books are printed as they are ordered, the risk of running out of stock is significantly reduced, which means you can feel confident your materials will be delivered to learners on time.

The downside to print-on-demand

While printing materials on-demand offers more flexibility and decreased risk, it does come with a higher price tag. The same 500 course books will cost substantially less if you print them all at once, versus printing them in ten separate runs of 50.

Micro-inventory: All the benefits of print-on-demand, at a better cost

Recognizing that organizations need a better way to achieve both an optimal print run quantity with a better price-per-piece, print providers like Omnipress have established a new print-on-demand model known as “micro-inventory.”

Omnipress Director of Market Development, Dan Loomis, explains how micro-inventory works.

“Using data provided by the customer, we estimate the timing and quantity of each shipment. But rather than printing specifically for each shipment, we run a slightly larger quantity based on a more mid-term forecast of demand.”

In this scenario, Omnipress assumes the risk on behalf of the organization, making sure they don’t over or under-print.

Adds Loomis, “Another very lucrative benefit is that we don’t invoice our customers until the books actually ship. So, if the customer needs ten books at a time, and we end up printing 100 course books at once because we have estimated that to be the total demand in the mid-term, the customer is only invoiced for ten at a time as they ship.”

By using a micro-inventory model organizations receive a better cost-per-piece than true print-on-demand can offer, while mitigating the financial risk of maintaining a large inventory of materials.

When should you consider using a micro-inventory model to print course materials?

Micro-inventory is an optimal solution when the volume and timing of course demand are difficult to predict, such as when a new course is being introduced or is transitioning from being delivered in-person to online. If the content changes frequently or will be changing but the timeline for those changes is in flux, micro-inventory also becomes an optimal solution.

As Loomis points out, “Micro-inventory isn’t an all-or-nothing solution.” Many organizations offer multiple educational programs, each with unique levels of demand. “We look at all of the materials in your training library and determine the best print and fulfillment model for each specific title.”

As you’re evaluating the best way to print and deliver printed training materials to both in-person and virtual learners at a time when some of your programs may be experiencing a transition period, consider using micro-inventory as part of your overall print and fulfillment strategy, and as a more cost-effective alternative to the true print-on-demand model.

6 Reasons You Should Print Training Manuals on Demand

When you prepare to print training manuals for your association’s continuing education courses, do you struggle with choosing the number of initial copies to print? All the historical data in the world can’t ensure that you won’t waste time, money, or paper on books that no one will use. Choosing to print training manuals on demand, however, can solve these problems.

When you print training manuals on demand, you can rest assured that amount of that waste will be kept to a minimum. Here are six reasons to choose print-on-demand for your organization’s continuing education materials:

Update content easily

How long does content in your industry remain current? Some organizations can effectively use large print runs because the content in their training materials doesn’t change much year-to-year. For other organizations, particularly those in highly-regulated industries and in STEM, content is updated more frequently, meaning the potential for material waste increases.

Lower overhead costs

Start-up costs for large print runs can be prohibitive or, at the very least, frightfully expensive for some organizations. Print-on-demand requires a smaller initial investment, keeping overhead low. Having less of your budget tied up in printed materials also leaves you free to spend capital on other projects to improve your continuing education programs.

Reduce guesswork

Inventory management becomes easier when you keep a smaller number of books on the shelf. Print-on-demand solutions often create a micro-inventory that feeds orders as they come in, and more books are printed as needed. You’ll know exactly how many books you have in-stock, removing the guesswork from the process.

Minimize waste

When you keep a micro-inventory instead of a large quantity of books on the shelf, you reduce the risk of having to toss out hundreds of materials when content is updated or a class is canceled. And, even better, your organization is only charged for the number of books that were sold from your micro-inventory, saving you extra money.

Eliminate back-orders

Learners can get frustrated when they are unable to order materials they need for a class because you ordered too small of a print run initially. Using a print-on-demand model eliminates this scenario entirely, saving you from the trouble of dealing with back-ordered books.

Improve turnaround time

Even when dealing with the most experienced print vendors, large print runs require a certain amount of lead-time to complete. Print-on-demand requires less set up and fewer resources, making turnaround much faster.

No two organizations are the same—your reasons to print training manuals on demand may differ greatly from another organization’s. What is clear, however, is that print-on-demand works well for many organizations offering continuing education courses, and it might by the right choice for you, as well.

Now Available: The 2018 State of the Conference Industry Report

 

We are excited to share the 2018 State of the Conference Industry Report!

For the fourth year in a row, Omnipress has tracked the evolution of conference content and the role it plays at an association’s annual event. This year’s Conference Industry Report indicates that while educational content remains a significant source of value that associations provide, association professionals are facing new challenges as they strive to meet attendees’ changing expectations.

To understand how associations are currently using their conference content, we conducted an online survey of 143 association professionals, many of whom are directly responsible for conference planning.

Download the report to learn:

  • How are associations using content to engage members and increase conference attendance?
  • How are associations deciding which formats to offer at their events?
  • Which types of content are associations currently providing at their conference?
  • Are there common challenges that all associations face delivering their conference content?

Takeaway #1: The annual conference remains a central part of the association’s member growth strategy.

With most associations reporting flat membership growth in 2017, the ability to engage and retain existing members is critical. The annual conference provides a unique opportunity to demonstrate the association’s value, and increasing attendance continues to be the number one priority for associations.

Respondents provided some specific areas of focus to increase attendance at their 2018 events:

  • Encourage peer to peer engagement
  • Increase conference quality
  • Update technologies to increase engagement
  • Create more networking opportunities

The opportunity for member engagement extends beyond attending the conference. Associations can provide options for members to participate in other meaningful ways by including an open call for their event. Soliciting presentations from within the association allows the organization to recognize the contributions that members are making in their industry and advance their careers.

Read the full report to learn how other associations use content to engage attendees before, during and after their events.

Why Associations Should Layer Their Members’ Continuing Education

 

Watch Dan Loomis and Janel Savich talk about “Learning In Layers,” a concept introduced in a recent issue of TD Magazine. In this video, Dan and Janel discuss how the concept of “layering” provides a useful framework for associations to find a balance in their online, in-person, and print training resources.

How to Take Your Association’s Branding to the Next Level

 

You work hard to create courses that provide learners with the best education. Make sure your materials reinforce your association’s role as a trusted resource! Follow the 5 tips in this infographic to create training materials that help your learner and your association.

 

Infographic Association Branding

 

 

 

 

The Surprisingly Easy Way to Judge your Print Vendor

The Surprisingly Easy Way to Judge your Print VendorDo you want to work with a partner, or an “order taker”?

Seriously, it’s a question you should answer before talking with print vendors about your next project.

If your goal is to re-print the same training materials you’ve used for years, someone that can take your order and do the job may be all you need. But what if you have a new project to tackle? Or want to try incorporating some online material this time? Maybe your content could use a redesign? How do you work with an order taker when you are unsure of what to order?

If you find yourself looking to create a new—or updated—training manual, publication or workbook, you may benefit from partnering with a vendor that is as interested in what you want to achieve as what you want to print.

But how can you tell if the company you are working with is going to add value to your print project? It’s not difficult for a vendor to be accommodating during the bidding stage, but the test comes after you sign a contract.

A true collaborator is one that is asking questions and trying to find solutions that benefit your project, not just their bottom line. Here are three surprisingly easy ways to judge if the company you are speaking with is going to be effective in helping you reach your goal of creating better training materials.

Clue #1: The discussion starts with a question other than “So what do you want?”

The first clue that a vendor won’t be just an order taker is how they approach your project. If the person you are talking with only wants to hear about technical aspects and not your intended outcomes, you could be talking to an order taker. If, instead, you are asked questions like “What are you hoping to achieve?” or “What have users told you worked well?” you are speaking with someone who is interested in finding the best solution for your needs.

Clue #2: Recommendations are offered based on specific industry knowledge.

Another clue that you are working with an invested partner is that they actively make suggestions. A true professional has a grasp on considerations you may not be aware of. These can have a major impact on the success of your project. Industry best practices, new trends, and alternative materials can all play an important role in the success of your project.

Even a seemingly simple task like shipping can benefit by having the help of an expert. A seasoned fulfillment expert, for example, knows how upcoming holidays impact the shipping schedule. This is crucial if, for example, your materials need to be delivered for an in-person training course on a certain day.

Clue #3: Recommendations are the result of clear reasoning

Have you ever asked a question and gotten nothing but technical jargon in response? Not the most reassuring feeling, is it? Try to find someone that is able to help you understand the thought process behind their recommendations. It could be that they’ve worked on projects like yours in the past. Or, maybe their suggestion will better help you reach your desired outcomes. Regardless, look for a vendor that is clear and open about how they have arrived at any suggestions they make for your project.

 

Conclusion

A good partner is one that is willing to work with you to create a project that reaches your goals. Their professional expertise and knowledge of industry best practices can be an important factor in turning your project into a success.

But not all vendors are alike.

As you discuss your project with difference companies, keep an eye out for ones that try to understand the real goals of your project. It should be no surprise that they have as many questions for you as you do for them. This is the kind of information a true partner needs when giving effective suggestions with clear rationale.

Millennials and Print: The Surprising Views of the Digital Generation

Every day, your association is changing. As Baby Boomers leave the workforce, Millennials step in and play an increasingly large role in your organization.

How will the demands of this new generation change the way your association delivers educational content?

We asked 548 Millennials about the role print plays when it comes to professional and educational materials.

Be sure to view the infographic below before making any changes to the way you deliver educational content to these young professionals.

For a more detailed look at the results of the Millennials and Print survey, download our free whitepaper.

 

Millennials and Print infographic

Anatomy of a Training Manual [Infographic]

 

Your training manual is full of essential information. But are you taking advantage of everything you can to engage your learners?

From the formatting of pages to how they are bound, many factors impact the way students interact with your materials. Make sure your manual is following industry best practices!

Anatomy of a Training Manual [Infographic]

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