Printing has become so specialized that you need to find a commercial printer with the expertise in what you want to have printed.
Here are some tips you need to prepare your materials, get bids, select the right printer, and save money in the process.
What do you want to print?
That should determine what type of commercial printer you need…
If you have a simple, straightforward printing job, then:
Check prices to have it printed by an online printing company
These companies generally have much lower prices than local quick print and copy shops. They can turnaround printing within a day or two and will ship the materials to you. Some also handle direct mail processing and can label/mail for an additional fee. They can print jobs up to several thousand pieces.
If you have a really big printing job
Then you may want to hire a print broker and work with a printer overseas or at one of the largest U.S. printer plants, most likely in another state from where you’re located. You can find print brokers on the Direct Marketing Association DMA vendor search tool.
If you have a “mid-sized” printing job
You want to find a local commercial printer. Local because you won’t have to pay for shipping.
Use Google Search or the Direct Marketing Association’s vendor search tool to locate printers within a particular radius. The benefit of finding a printer near you is to avoid shipping costs and to make it easier to do a press check (that’s when the printer calls you when they have your printing job on the press and they want you to confirm it looks right as the first few printed pieces come off the press).
Know this: The online services and tools that say they’ll give you three printing quotes don’t let you select the three commercial printers you’ll be getting bids from. This seems like finding a doctor without setting any criteria about what’s important to you and just hearing back from who is available. Better to do some research and get some referrals to choose who you want bids from.
To save money on printing
Make sure whoever creates/designs your direct mail, brochure, flyer, catalog, etc. uses the software your printer will accept so that you will not need to pay for reformatting.
Consider having enough of the front of the postcard or brochure or folder printed that you can use them all year and then print the back side with the offer information as you need them on your office printer or with a local commercial printer.
Meet with a commercial printer early in the process (perhaps before hiring a graphic designer) so you can learn from them what is the most cost-effective way for them to print and finish direct mail. If you come to them with final artwork, they are more limited in offering cost-saving suggestions. Same goes for brochures, catalogs and posters.
Discuss and choose paper, ink and color with your printer early in the design stage. They’ll have great advice on how to print most cost effectively and can tell you the costs for different options.
Preparing the materials to be printed
You can do this yourself with graphic design software a printer will accept or pay a graphic designer or agency to handle this for you. A commercial printer may also have in-house graphic designers or people they can recommend who they work well with.
Advantages of using a graphic designer or agency are that they will have a vested interest in the piece looking good and they should be very familiar with evaluating printers and have a network for connections so the process to select and get bids will be faster.
Be aware that they may not be as price conscious as you are. And they may get a kick-back from a printer which will mark up the price you pay. Tell them you want at least three original bids on the printer’s stationery. And ask if any mark-up has been included.