I wanted to do a slightly different approach for this post – a “mixed bag” of some print topics, that really have very little to do with each other, but might be beneficial to know about. So, here goes!
I received a call from my sister-in-law, asking me about print brokers, and what were they. Since most of my print life (actually, all of it) has been in the commercial environment, and not the trade print shop, I’ve not worked with too many brokers. Print brokers are either individuals or very small firms that buy and sell print for clients. They often work out of their homes, or out of a sub-leased office, and keep their overhead low. They prefer to work with trade printers, since trade printers tend to have no sales staff. No sales staff means no commissions, so trade printers are usually 10-15% less than commercial printers. This allows the broker to mark up his or her pricing so that they are competitive with a commercial shop. In addition, brokers will often order the paper themselves, which saves them the markup charged by the printer. Finally, the print broker will ask the trade printer for flat sheets only, so that they can send the job to a bindery house themselves, and again, save themselves the markup done by the printer. Now, of course, the broker will mark up the paper and the bindery themselves, and still come in under some commercial printers. Most brokers are honest and tell their clients the business model that they follow, so clients are accustomed to going to different print shops for press checks. Some print buyers prefer brokers, because they know the overhead is low, and they can take advantage of that and basically have the broker cut back on the markups, getting the job for quite a low price. The disadvantage is that, unless the broker has a preferential relationship with a trade printer, they cannot always guarantee the best in lead times or quality.
I had an interesting discussion today on LinkedIn with Jill DiNicolantonio, an authority on paper – specifically house sheets. And I will confess that even after 30-plus years, I learned something new. Many printers will have a house sheet, or a specific brand of paper that the get good pricing on, is able to run on both litho and digital devices, and is readily available from multiple paper companies. For example, some companies run Topkote as their house sheet, while others might run Endurance. One thing I discovered today is that some papers, particularly the #2 and #3 sheets, come from overseas mills, and MAY be different on the West Coast than they are in the rest of the country. Yet that paper might be named the same. But there is a chance that they may come from different overseas mills. Now, being exclusively on the West Coast, I have never known paper (other than Wisconsin or New England paper mills) to come from other parts of the USA and be the same name. Jill’s point was that it has to do with the port of entry and the paper re-sellers. If you’d like to read the discussion, you can click here. The gist of the discussion was that it was important to find out what a print services provider’s “house” stock is, and then always ask for it by brand name. You should also as your printer for swatch books, and keep them handy. Printers often change out the house stocks, due to getting better pricing on other brands, or what they had has been discontinued. A good example of this is Jefferson, which has been discontinued, and was many print shops’ house stock for decades.
THE PERSONAL TOUCH
I wrote in a past (and quite popular) blog post about hand-written thank you cards and notes. And I am MORE convinced than ever that this is a fantastic yet overlooked way to reach out to both clients and prospective clients. The key is hand-writing the note. Yes, some of you may have handwriting that not even a doctor could decipher, and it might be worth it to have someone help you on this. Some of you might be more proficient on a keyboard and can craft letters or emails. But in the past few weeks I’ve had comments about my note cards, and how they were remembered. In today’s vast electronic universe, to receive something hand-written is quite unique, and so, it stands out. Give it a try.
THE FUTURE IS YOUNG
As I have become more social media involved with other printers and print-related folk from around the world, I have discovered a truth: the Millennial generation is the future, and they want print! Despite all the rhetoric that “print is dead”, many of these younger people who have grown up in a digital and electronic age WANT the tactile feel of print. They are constantly connected and inundated with electronic messages and media, and find that the personal nature of print, the touchable and tangible nature of print, are something that they perceive has higher value. Granted, you cannot do print alone. You must have it as part of the entire brand message, mixed with digital media, to enhance and build brand awareness. And yes, the days of the gargantuan Sears Catalog are gone. But savvy marketers are aware of this paradigm shift, and are building their brand awareness around print and digital media in a way that mutually support each other.
Thank you for letting me ramble today. I would like to invite my readers to suggest other topics that they’d like me to write about, or cover in future posts.