It used to be pretty easy to find commercial printers – compared to today, that is. Their company names identified them as printers. Maybe they had a form of the word “lithographer” or even “graphics” in their name, but one way or the other, you knew who you were dealing with.
Today you have to be a sleuth when looking for printers.
Many companies have changed their names, surgically removing any hint of “print,” “litho” or “graphics.” These same companies have painted over their web site, so to speak, with content that confuses. They are “direct marketing” firms, or “supply chain management” specialists. Many are “creative strategists.” I’m getting a headache.
I don’t know about you, but so many times when I visit a web site I have to sit and parse the content for what seems like ages to determine what I’m looking at. Is it a creative agency (design)? An ad agency? A printer? A broker? A direct marketer? All of the above – or none?
There are also companies who service the trade; that is, they manufacture print and related materials for other printers, not for end users like you or me. Again, it’s not always obvious who’s a trade printer.
There are print brokers, too. Tens of thousands of them! Print brokers represent print manufacturers. They are not employed by printers, but they are experts in helping you source your print and related projects with the most appropriate provider. Does this matter to you? It may or may not, but you should be aware of the difference. I’ve written extensively on how corporate buyers feel about brokers; I’ll leave my opinion on this for another day. (I will say this: don’t be close-minded! Examine all of your options, whether it’s with a print provider or print broker. Decide for yourself.)
Over the past 10 years or so, we’ve seen the growth of online (ecommerce) printers. What a great alternative! We buy so many products online, doesn’t it follow that print can be one of them? You may not buy all of your materials this way, but I’ll bet there are product lines that are truly well suited to an ecommerce printer.
And then there are the big box stores, particularly those that sell office supplies. They have in-store print and copy centers. Whenever I’m in one of these stores, these centers are hopping. Clearly, they serve a big audience.
Let’s not forget the brick-and-mortar printing companies throughout the country – and beyond. From a high of about 58,000 US printing establishments to the current estimate of about 32,000, there are commercial printers for your every need. They’re all different.
Your work as a print buying professional is cut out for you. That’s part of what makes the business so exciting. Being aware of your various printing options is important if you source print or design for print or even if you’re a marketer who uses print in your campaigns.
Make a point of understanding all of your sourcing options. I hope this Tip helps. Some will suit you/your company better, no doubt. It was easier when you didn’t have so many options – but was it better? You decide. Perhaps we should simply say, vive la difference!
© 2012 Margie Dana. All rights reserved. You’re free to forward this email. However, no part of this column may be reprinted without permission from the author.