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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Custom Printing: Why We Buy from a Particular Vendor

I heard some affirming words from a custom printing client a few days ago (even though I didn’t get the work). I had suggested that she consider the prices of a printer in the Southwest who had just bid on a small saddle-stitched booklet. His price for printing the 5.5” x 8.5” 12-page booklet was a bit high, but his combined printing and mailshop prices were very attractive.

My client said she was happy with her mailshop. She wanted to have whatever printer was chosen to produce the print booklets ship the finished job to her mailshop because her client was satisfied with their work. They had a long-standing professional relationship.

This is actually gratifying to hear in an economic climate in which price is often the determining factor in a sale. The new commercial printing vendor could have ostensibly saved my client some money, but there were more important reasons for her to stay put.

What You Can Learn From This Print Brokering Scenario

    1. First of all, don’t be afraid to consider printers outside your geographical area. This may open up a number of possibilities in your print buying work. Granted, you probably cannot attend a press inspection several states away, but with advances in commercial printing, this is usually not a problem. In addition, many areas of the country seem to have a wealth of high-quality, reasonably priced printers. For books, I often look in the Midwest. I have also found Texas and Florida to have competitively priced commercial printing suppliers. For those of you on the East Coast, the Shenandoah Valley may also be a good place to look. Or you may have your own pockets of great printers here and there around the USA.


    1. If your printer is out of state, consider having him not only print but also mail the job. Think about it: If you’re on the East Coast, and your printer is in Texas, you can either have him ship you the final job for mailing, or you can have him mail the job himself. In the case of Texas, you actually have a centralized point of origin for mailing to the entire country, so your project may get to subscribers much faster if mailed directly from the printer. (And you won’t have to pay extra to have the job shipped to you first.)


    1. Conversely, if your printer always prints and mails your job, don’t be afraid to split the job up and have one vendor do the offset or digital printing and another vendor do the mailshop work. This includes assembling the job, adding wafer seals, maintaining and cleaning the address list (CASS certifying, verifying and updating addresses, and de-duping or removing duplicates from the address database), completing the postal forms, and mailing the job. Sometimes a specialty vendor such as a dedicated mailshop can do a better, faster, and cheaper job.


  1. Price is not the only determining factor. Would you buy something you didn’t want quite as much just because it was slightly less expensive than an alternative? Of course not. Is it unfair to the vendors from whom you have solicited bids to choose a printer who didn’t offer the lowest bid? Of course not. Buying any service depends on much more than price. My client had a long-standing relationship with her client’s mailshop. Stated differently, she had developed a sense of mutual trust with this mailshop. She knew that if she awarded the mailshop portion of a print job to this vendor, the vendor would “get it right,” or fix any problems that cropped up. The quality and dependability of a product or service within the commercial printing arena is easily as important as, if not far more important than, the price.

How to Make the Buying Decision

Ultimately, a buying decision in the custom printing field, or any other field, is a leap of faith. Pricing is just the first step. It’s always wise to go a few steps further:

    1. Get samples of the vendor’s work. If it’s a mailshop, ask about the complexity of the jobs the vendor regularly handles (the number of elements in the envelopes, whether the jobs involve the multiple matching of addresses, etc.). Also request samples of prior jobs.


    1. Ask for references, and follow up with them. Ask references about their past experience with the vendor. What does the vendor do if problems arise? Does he work to quickly and accurately make the situation right?


    1. If you can afford to do so, take a tour of the offset or digital printer, mailshop, bindery, or any other custom-printing-related vendor. Not only will you see the operation in action, but you’ll be able to sense the commitment and attitude of the workers in the plant. And this “tone” or “feel” of the place will go a long way in telling you whether it’s right to buy your custom-printing-related services there.


  1. Always trust your gut reaction. If something seems wrong, walk away and buy elsewhere.

2 Responses to “Custom Printing: Why We Buy from a Particular Vendor”

  1. You’re so cool! I don’t suppose I’ve truly read through anything like that before.
    So good to find another person with some originql thoughts on this subject matter.
    Seriously… thank you for starting this up. This site is something that is needed on the web, someone with a bit of originality!


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