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How To Choose a Printer

Did you know Cushing has been a Chicagoland print services provider for over 80 years (84 to be exact!)?  Of course, the landscape has changed over the last century and there are numerous printers in the marketplace you can choose from:

  • Print Shops are on just about every corner
  • Virtual Storefronts
  • Large Format Devices in the home (and office)

Both locally and nationally, business owners don’t have to look far.

While there are many benefits to having a number to pick from, it can make your head spin.

On a regular basis, our account managers receive calls from companies looking for a new printing services company. We asked around to the folks in our production department, a couple of our account representatives and did some general polling to try and put ourselves in YOUR shoes.

We came up with some questions you may want to ask and things to look for when hiring a printer.

Convenience: Can you Visit their Brick & Mortar Storefront?
This may not be important to everyone.  Prior to working at Cushing, I ordered quite a bit of collateral in a marketing role.  The fact that I could visit the printing vendor we worked with to personally review printed proofs always put my mind at ease.

You are essentially putting your brand in their hands. It can be useful to meet staff, see the operation and balance your quality needs with their timeliness on rush jobs as well as proofs.

What’s Their Specific Niche?
With so many printers available, most should be able to communicate their specific industry strengths and jobs where they have a competitive edge. Many broker portions of their work and you are entitled to this information.

How Long Has the Printer Been in Business?
OK, so we are blowing our own horn here since Cushing has been around a while, but with the changes the industry has experienced, it may be important to you to find a firm that has stood the test of time.  The takeaway here is the longer they have been around the more expertise they have (and can look at your project from every angle.)

Will General Consulting be Provided? For example, if you Choose Expensive Material to Print On, are Cost-effective Alternatives Being Suggested (when possible)?
For example, you won’t need to print on gator board to promote a one-day event.  Foam board is an alternative that will save you money. Hopefully the vendor you choose seeks to be more of a printing consultant as opposed to just an order taker.

Is the Vendor Upfront About Outsourcing Projects that won’t be handled Onsite? And will they let you Know who they are Outsourcing to?
There can be mark-ups when projects are outsourced and you should be kept in the loop.  Customers may not have an issue with this aspect since they know the project is in good hands and willing to pay a small premium to have the project fulfilled with one shop (even if the moving parts are coming together from different resources.)

Find out if they have a trusted list of vendors used for these projects.

Digital or Offset?
Digital printing is used for shorter run projects.  Offset is for larger volume. Find out if their specialty aligns with the finished product you require.

How does Quality Control Stack up and is There a Proofing Process in Place?
The production floor can be a busy place.  However, if a staff member finds an issue (i.e. misspelling or a color is printing incorrectly from your print-ready file) they should point this out as opposed to just sending the project to print. Find out if they have written procedures for pre-flight jobs that keep projects on track.

Are they Collecting Your Project Specifics for Quoting or Providing the Cheapest Rate to Win Your Business?
There can be a lot of criteria involved from paper options to spec sizes.  More importantly, sometimes knowing the specific use for the printed material will help open up options for saving money. The vendor should take the time to find out your needs before churning out a dollar amount.

Can they Accommodate Rush Turnaround?
Sometimes you need items in a pinch. Find out if they can do this and if there are fees associated. And be sure you aren’t being promised the quick turnaround in an effort to just ‘win’ your business.

Is it Challenging to Reach a Live Representative when you Call?
While the world is online, sometimes you need to speak with a representative.  Your needs may require a phone call  which email correspondence cannot address.

How are Mis-haps Handled?
Nobody’s perfect and things happen. While there are countless project scenarios that could be listed here, you want to find a printing vendor who will do what they can to make things right (regardless of who made the mistake) and resolve your issue.

History of Client Success They Can Share?
It’s their business, they should have samples of completed work. Ask for client testimonials.

One Final Thought: Managing Your Expectations
This should be one area, from quoting to invoicing, that you should be allowed to measure on a personal level.

Regardless of whether or not you decide Cushing is the right fit for you, we hope you find these questions and tips helpful.

Do you have general questions or want to share your own tips? Add them to the comments box below.

Jon Davis

Jon Davis is Cushing’s Marketing Manager. From blogging to online communications, Jon writes about client developments, environmental branding, and much more. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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