Top 6 Things to Look for When Choosing a Print Company

With more than 30,000 commercial printing companies in the US today, how can procurement managers decide which printing company to partner with?

Here’s some solid advice for evaluating potential partners – and it can all be done by visiting web sites, discussing prospective printers with colleagues, and making a call to your short list of contenders.

These are the top 6 areas you should focus on:
  1. CapabilitiesPrinters differ widely in their capabilities, and it’s not easy to tell companies apart just from their web sites. Some are small shops that cater to walk-in traffic. Some are trade printers. Some are print brokers or managers who don’t have their own manufacturing facilities.

Most commercial printers do both offset (conventional) and digital printing. But every company’s unique. Spend time on a printer’s web site and speak with an account representative to appreciate a company’s capabilities.

Start with the obvious: your needs. The types and quantities of materials, typical frequency and schedule, level of complexity and sophistication, and range of services you need all come into play here. A company who only needs stationery once a year would look for a very different printer than a company who needs 500,000 personalized and integrated direct mail campaigns every month.

Look for “Capabilities,” “Solutions,” or “What We Do” when you visit a printer’s web site. These sections should describe in plain English the full breadth of services available. If you have experience working with printers, check out the “Equipment List,” which will tell you if that printer has the hardware and software that can accommodate your projects.

Some printers cater to certain industries (pharmaceuticals, higher education, healthcare, financial services, nonprofit, etc.) and list them on their site. If your industry isn’t listed, however, don’t presume a printer would be a ‘bad fit.’

  1. Best-in-Class Quality Printing. Having certain equipment – or an impressive web site – is no guarantee of a printer’s quality. You need to judge for yourself.iStock_000054688024_XXXLarge

Ask to see samples. Although you can start by searching on a web site (look for “Gallery,” “Our Work,” or “Case Studies”), there’s nothing better than actual work. When you meet with a printer, ask him or her to bring samples that represent their capabilities.

If your industry has specific or stringent print requirements, ask to see samples of work a printer’s done for someone in your field. And find out if the company’s won any awards for their printing lately.

  1. Tenure. The print industry’s changed significantly in recent years. Many companies have been acquired by others or closed their doors. It’s important to find a printer who has been in business for a good amount of time. This speaks to their experience and financial stability.

Determine from their web site and through conversations how a printer’s evolving and keeping current with new technologies. A printer who invests in new equipment and technology is the type of partner you want: one who’s moving forward.

  1. Customer Service. Look for a print company that has a record of putting customers first – and ask how they do this. Verbiage on a web site may express a customer-centric philosophy, but you need to discuss this with prospective printers and other customers.

If you don’t know other customers, get a few references from the printer and ask them the following:

– How responsive is a printer’s service and sales reps?

– How quickly are your emails or voice messages returned?

– Is this company consultative in their approach?

– How does this printer resolve issues?

– How are you treated at press OKs?

– Does this printer provide customer education?

– Do you have any hesitation whatsoever in recommending this printer?

Find out if you’ll be assigned a customer service rep (CSR) and how long that person’s been in the industry and at the company. Ask what resources a printer has available for customers.

  1. Collaboration. Look for a print company that has a history of collaborating with customers, not one who’ll make all the decisions without regard to your needs. Every customer is unique. Regardless of your level of print sophistication, you want to work with a printer who’s sensitive to your needs and can work with your company’s workflow and procedures. Find a printer who listens more than lectures.
  1. Competitive Pricing. After you’ve done your due diligence in evaluating a print company and you’re satisfied that a printer could accommodate your requirements, ask the printer and a few others to show you pricing based on jobs you will be doing. If you vetted your potential printers properly, the prices you receive should be in the same ballpark. (If they’re not, it’s a red flag. It could mean that a printer doesn’t have the right equipment for your projects.) Make sure that you know what’s included in an estimate. Such bid packages should be very detailed.

Use these 6 guidelines when evaluating a potential print company. Don’t be afraid to ask printers a lot of questions and describe the range of products and services your company needs. Choose correctly, and you’ll have a creative partner who’ll work hard to make you successful.

It’s not like us to brag, but we have broad range of capabilities and many years of experience producing top-quality print. You can read more about that here.


Comments 6

  1. Justin Knox

    Thank you for the help. I am in the process of looking for a good printing service for a couple big projects coming up. I had not thought about prioritizing how long the business has been around, as you mentioned. How long would you expect a good print service to have been around?

    1. MonicaEsqueda

      No problem, Justin! We’re happy to help to you. I’d suggest a printer over 20+ years. There have been so many changes with the digital marketing trends. A printer that has managed to stay in business this far along is a great choice!

  2. Patricia Anderson

    Checking out a printing services samples really would be a great example of the quality of work they have. You can look at their color copies and their black and white and decide what you like. I need to print a few things for work but it needs to be high quality. I”ll drive around to some printing shops here and compare quality!

  3. Tara Jones

    I like the customer service questions you recommended, especially the question about customer education. I want to find a company to work with that will not only be respectful about how little I know about printing but will also be willing to educate me about their company’s processes and printing processes in general. I will definitely ask for references from every company I look at so I can find one that not only gives me a good product but is easy to work with as well! That is very important!

  4. Nathan Johnson

    I like your tips about picking a good commercial printing company. For me, it seems like doing good research online is a good place to start. However, I like your advise to actually go in and ask to see samples in person. You could also learn about how good their customer service is by going in person. Thanks for these ideas!

  5. Grace Turner

    I’ve always thought that you could tell if a company was good by its printer’s quality. I guess I was wrong. We really need a good sign printed but we don’t want it to be done poorly. Thank you for offering the advice to ask to see a printers samples. That seems like something they should display out in their store or online. This site is really helping me make sure I print a good sign for my company thank you so much!

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