How eight simple questions can prevent you choosing the wrong print supplier

Imagine that you’d promised someone a really special meal.  Maybe it’s an anniversary.  Or a special celebration.

Imagine if you didn’t deliver that meal.

It’s easily done.  Perhaps you wrote a shopping list of all the ingredients.  But perhaps you missed one vital ingredient off.  And now you’re in the kitchen and you’re supposed to be serving the meal soon.  But you’ve just realised that this one missing ingredient will prevent you from creating the dish that you wanted.

Print buyers need a shopping list too

How eight simple questions can prevent you choosing the wrong print supplier

Asking the right questions can raise a warning sign as to whether you are choosing the right print supplier

They need a list of questions to ask every potential new print supplier.  Because print buyers need to be sure that their print suppliers will deliver.  They can’t risk not delivering a job.

Especially when a quick question could have prevented this problem.

Buyers who use the right questions have more control over the projects they produce

This is because they know the capabilities of their print suppliers.  They can be sure that their suppliers are not going to create unforeseen problems.  And as there are few problems, they can put handle more projects.  And achieve more for themselves and their companies.  The lack of problems also means that they create stronger partnerships with their print suppliers.

Buyers who don’t use the right questions cannot create the same partnerships

They are forever frustrated at print suppliers who don’t perform as hoped.  They have no control over their print buying.  Their print jobs are full of problems.  And these problems take a lot of time to sort out.  So the buyers achieve less.

But they could have achieved so much more if they had asked eight simple questions.  This would have only taken twenty minutes or so when they had first met the supplier.

Here are the questions:

1.       Are you financially stable?

This is a vitally important question.  Many print suppliers are struggling with current trading conditions.  But you want a print partner for the long term.  A good print supplier will share their management accounts with you so that you have up to date information.

2.       What quality control systems do you use?

The last thing you want is a job that doesn’t look right.  So you need to understand how your printer will manage your job.  And how they will ensure that there are no mistakes.  Any good printer will have a written quality control procedure.

3.       Do you have a colour management system?

Many quality control systems do not cover colour in depth.  But you want your colour to reproduce as you planned.  You need a printer that has a full colour control system.  And that tests this system regularly.

4.       What is your on-time delivery record?

Late jobs are not acceptable.  So ask the printer if they deliver on time.  Don’t just accept a figure that they give you.  Ask how they can prove it.

5.       What level of account handling can I expect?

If you tell a print supplier the level of service you require, they will promise it to you.  So ask them what they offer as standard.  This way you understand how they are used to working.

6.       Do you have an environmental policy?

Printers that care about the environment will have a written environmental policy.  And anyone at the company should be able to tell you about it.  Remember, FSC or PEFC accreditation does not make a printer environmentally friendly.  These only prove that they have good paper management.  A printer must come up with more to prove that they are environmentally friendly.

7.       What data security systems do you use?

If you are supplying a printer with data, you need to be sure that they have good backup systems.  And the backup system needs to be away from the factory.  If your data is sensitive, you need to be sure that their servers are secure.  And that relevant staff have signed a confidentiality agreement.

8.       Do you have a disaster recovery plan?

What happens if your printer has a power cut?  Or a fire?  Or a flood?  Do they expect you to sort everything out and find alternative arrangements?  Or can they show how they will get your job produced whatever happens?

A printer should be able to answer these eight questions satisfactorily.  Then you can be confident that you are looking at a professional and reliable supplier.

But these aren’t the only questions you should ask

You should also ask about the culture of a print supplier.  Have a look at this article: Three questions you should ask your print supplier (they’re not what you think!)

If a printer can answer these three questions satisfactorily as well, you have probably found a supplier that you want to deal with.  But many buyers choose not to ask all these questions.  They don’t see a problem with changing print supplier.

Moving print suppliers is easy:  aren’t these questions overkill?

It is often assumed that there are no problems in changing supplier.  There are lots of print suppliers who are desperate for work at the moment.  So if something goes wrong it is easy to find someone to take the job over.

Or is it?

Here’s how choosing the wrong supplier caused problems for one print buyer

Simon never worried about asking new print suppliers many questions.  He just went for the cheapest price.  One day he found a new supplier.  One that was really, really cheap.

The first job was late.  And the quality wasn’t up to much.  Simon’s marketing department weren’t impressed.  But the printer reprinted the job.  And Simon reminded the marketing department that the price was really, really low.  So everyone decided to live with it.

But next time, the printer ceased trading the day before they were due to deliver a big job.  And this job was the sales literature for an exhibition.  The company was forced to exhibit without any brochures.  The cost to their sales was hard to measure.  But the return on the exhibition was far below what they had budgeted.

Simon’s printer had cost the company a lot of money.  And this could have been prevented with a few questions.

Make sure you ask the right questions to your print supplier

Here are three steps to get you started:

  1. Make a list of these questions.  Send the list to every potential new print supplier.
  2. Ask the potential print suppliers to write answers to these questions.
  3. Make sure that you ask for proof with every answer.

Remember – don’t leave anything off your list

If you miss one vital question, then you risk a big problem with your next print job.  And that’s going to eat into your time.

Time you could have spent doing something better.  Like making sure you bought ALL the ingredients to cook someone a nice meal.
P.S.  If you have found this piece useful and would like to receive more information like this, you should sign up for the Print & Procurement newsletter.  Click here to make sure you receive articles like this regularly, and to receive the free e-book “10 common print buying errors and what to do about them”.

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