Three questions you should ask your print supplier (they’re not what you think!)

I love it when people start talking to me.  That’s when I really get to know them.

Before I met my wife, I went out on a few dates.  And I wanted to get to know the women I was dating.  I wanted to learn all about them.  I wanted to get them to tell me all about themselves.

Choosing a printer is a bit like dating

You want to learn all about the printer.  You want the printer to tell you all about themselves.

Three questions you should ask your printer (they’re not what you think!)

Get your printer to talk to you, just as if you were dating

The trouble is that many questions that buyers ask are focussed on basic information about the printer.  They aren’t designed to get the printer to open up to you.  They aren’t designed to get the printer to tell you what doing business with them is really like.

Asking about machinery and quality and delivery doesn’t tell enough about the culture of a printer.  It’s a difficult area to encourage a supplier to talk about.

So here are three questions that get printers to talk about themselves

Buyers who ask these questions from their printers can expect to create better partnerships.  This is because they will know more about the printer.  And this knowledge means that they will be more in control of the relationship.  And achieve more from it.

Buyers who don’t use these questions won’t achieve as much from their printers.  They are more likely to be wondering what went wrong.  This is because they won’t have the right information to control the relationship.  And ultimately, the relationship will not be a strong partnership.  Both sides risk being frustrated with each other.

So here are the three questions that avoid these frustrations:

Question 1:  What makes you different?

This is a great question to immediately separate the printers with something different to say from everybody else.  98% of printers will reply along the lines of price, service and quality.

Of course all these issues are important.  But these days, printers are expected to offer competitive pricing.  And good service.  And good quality.  So there has to be a great reason for them to mention these issues.  And I would want to see a specific example of why they mention any of these three issues.

A few printers will avoid these issues altogether.  They will come up with something that genuinely does make them different.  In one example a printer told me about unusual mail packs that they had developed.

Your printer may come up with something that really is different (and of use to your business).  Then it’s time to move onto question 2.

Question 2:  How do you add value to your clients?

This question is designed to make the printer show exactly what they can achieve for you.  This is their chance to show that they can be more than just a manufacturer.

Ideally a printer should be able to provide with a great case study.  But you may need to tell them you want a case study.  The case study needs to prove that they can do one of the following things:

–         Reduce buying costs, by helping the client to become more efficient
–         Reduce print costs through more effective specification, more efficient production or reducing costs such as post
–         Increase the client’s results from print.  This can be done by using different finishes, improving quality, introducing personalisation or multi-channel opportunities or by suggesting more appropriate products.

A good supplier will understand that this is not a question about price.  This may even be a question which shows why a buyer should pay more.

The printer with the mail packs was able to show me the value of them.  They showed me how they reduced postal costs.  And they showed me how they increased responses from client mailings.  At that point I wasn’t looking for the cheapest print price.  I saw that I had a potential partner that could reduce a client’s costs and increase returns from their mailings.  That was worth a lot to me.

If the supplier can come up with some good case studies you have one more question to ask them.

Question 3:  Why did you approach me?

Many printers approach everyone they can.  But they give little thought as to why they are doing it.  That can be bad news for clients.

Do you want to be just another standard client?  Or would you sooner be part of a market sector that a supplier is focussing on.  Wouldn’t that make you feel more valued?

You want to be the client of a printer that has specialist market knowledge of your sector.  Or where you fit a client profile that the printer is actively looking for?  Then you can be sure that you have the opportunity for a good relationship.  One where the printer will want to continue to develop a partnership with you.

The printer with the mailpacks was targeting companies with a very similar profile to my client.  I was confident that they would want to continue working with my client.  And I was confident that they would try and come up with more great ideas for them.

These three questions had made the printer work to prove their worth.

But these questions won’t tell you the basics about printers

Don’t forget to ask a series of other questions as well.  You need a checklist of questions that you need to cover.  We’ll talk more about this in my next piece.

So the three questions should not be asked on their own.  If a printer answers the three questions well, then you need to have your follow-up checklist.  But using the checklist without these three questions doesn’t give you the complete picture.  You need the three questions as well.

Here are three action points to help you put these questions into practice

  1. Write the three questions down
  2. Make sure that you ask them to every new printer who approaches you
  3. Score their answers.  And make sure you write down a reason for your score

You’ll find that these questions will reveal an awful lot more about a supplier.

You never know, they could lead to the start of a beautiful relationship

Or they could be the signs that you should be courting someone else.
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 newsletterClick 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”.

10 Responses to Three questions you should ask your print supplier (they’re not what you think!)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Free Buying Advice
Download the E book

Download "Ten Common Print Buying Errors and What To Do About Them" (worth £25/$41) absolutely free, and receive regular practical articles on print buying.

Client Testimonial

I have worked with Matthew for just over a year now and he has delivered a number of highly successful training events for the IPIA during that time. He is very organised and produces seminars which are full of

Read the testimonial from Andrew Pearce
Client Testimonial

Matthew provided an excellent “Print Processes” training session for myself and some of my colleagues.  The feature that I liked most about the training, was that the day itself was very interactive – which not only

Read the testimonial from Rhoda Day
Client Testimonial

If you think you are on top of your print buying you might be in for a surprise! We asked Print & Procurement to undertake a print audit. Matthew said ‘’If we do not find savings sufficient to earn back our fee

Read the testimonial from Rod Fletcher
Client Testimonial

Matthew is a consultant who is totally committed to his clients and to delivering on his promises.  He has an excellent understanding of both the challenges of the print channel and the opportunities it presents. As a

Read the full testimonial from Jacky Morgan
Client Testimonial

Apart from being a thoroughly decent chap Matthew is scrupulously professional, ruthlessly efficient and always delivers excellent results.
I genuinely have no hesitation whatever in recommending Matthew. He

Read the full testimonial from Simon Lewis
Client Testimonial

In an industry renowned for its pressure, Matthew Parker delivers a very gentle but insightful intelligence about the ways of print. Somewhere between art and science there is a place that defines the balance of what

Read the full testimonial from Andy Dowen
Recent Posts

Four ways automated print pricing can make a buyer’s life easier (and how to choose the right system)

Do you struggle to find enough hours in the day? Whether you’re a full-time purchaser or managing a more general administration role, the pressure on your [more]

Why beating printing companies down on price is not the best way to reduce costs

For me, few things are better than standing on the summit of a mountain The route up a mountain is hard.  There’s a lot of work [more]

Three reasons why print buyers should challenge supplier choice

My daughter was about to burst into tears I had asked her what flavor of ice cream she would like. She gave me the same answer [more]

Why print buyers who stick to cost-cutting are failing to do their job

Wouldn't a garden look bare without anything in the flowerbeds? My wife is a keen gardener. One of her most regular jobs is the weeding. It's [more]

Three specification questions that can reduce the cost of printed items by over 30%

The print industry is dying There are huge amounts of overcapacity. Printing companies are tendering suicidal prices. So all a print buyer has to do is to [more]

Three questions print buyers must use to challenge process and prevent 30-address syndrome

Can you imagine writing the same address over 30 times? Wouldn’t it be a complete waste of your time? Aren't there are so many better things [more]