The Beauty and the Beast in Commercial Printing
Beneath the stunning graphics and vibrant colors is a demanding product requiring knowledge, service and great pricing.
What Is the most important step a distributor takes when becoming a successful commercial printing provider? Getting his or her foot in the print buyer's door.
This may sound like a simple process, but Christopher D. Wells, president and CEO of Worcester, Massachusetts-based LaVigne Inc., pointed out, "Most print buyers have lost staff and support and are strapped for time. It's very difficult for distributors to get any time with a prospect unless they have a referral from a trusted source or they can offer something unique."
By today's standards, unique, added value typically in-volves on-line ordering, tracking and usage reports, as well as print-on-demand, computer-to-plate to eliminate pre-press costs, versioning of materials for specific markets and targeting individual consumers through variable imaging.
Once through the door, however, Wells cautioned that the distributor must have a thorough grasp of the printing process to impress buyers. "Print remains one of the most complex manufacturing processes. Dealing with inconsistent variables such as paper, ink and light creates challenges that if not identified up-front, will cause major problems during production," said Wells. "An experienced print buyer will sniff out someone who doesn't understand the business in about 30 seconds."
Walking the Walk
So, how can distributors new to commercial printing deal with this catch-22? Bill Maguire, president of Peninsular Printing, Daytona Beach, Fla., recommended touring printing plants and talking to customer service and sales reps. "Distributors can't learn it all overnight, but in a relatively short period of time, they can gain enough knowledge to do a good job."
For distributor Brian Thornton, owner of Universal Checks and Forms in Orlando, Fla., getting started in commercial printing involved partnering with proven craftsmen to produce the project, as well as drawing on the mutual trust and respect existing between him and his customers.