No Off-the-Cuff Specifications
Yesterday I wrote about what a self-publishing book author needs to know to get an accurate printing bid. It got me to thinking that I should show you how to keep yourself organized and get apple-to-apples bids. There’s no shame in having a list or a check-off form of some sort. The one you see here I’ve used for twenty-five years or so. Even today when seeking a bid I write down the specs and either email or fax it to the printers. That way I know that they are all bidding on the same thing.
When I was younger and just learning the printing sales game, I was told that I should never bid the job exactly as specified. I don’t believe in that approach. True, veering away from the specs might set you apart, but if you aren’t upfront about it, you’ll lose all credibility. The better way is to bid the job exactly as specified, but offer suggestions and alternatives that will cut the cost. This way you are doing the customer a genuine service and not just trying to get the order by any means necessary.
Buyer beware: be thorough when you get the bids back. Make sure to compare their specs with the ones you gave them. There can be misunderstandings, or transpositions, or any number of communication errors that you’ll want to clear up before accepting the price on something that seems out-of-whack.
Most of these miscommunications are innocent, but there are those who will try and take advantage by substituting a a paper, or something else, without calling attention to the substitution. For example, when the Winter Olympics was here in Utah, I was hired by an advertising agency to get some postcards printed. The post office had recently changed their requirements for minimum paper thicknesses to 9 point. When I showed up at the press check, the printer had substituted a thinner 7 point sheet that used to be the mailable standard, but not anymore. I’m sure that they thought they could convince me to take the substitution since the job was due the next day. No way, I insisted that they had to honor the original specifications and since it was after regular business hours, the manager for the local paper merchant had to be called at home. He went back to the office, opened the warehouse, and allowed the printer to pickup the right paper. We made the deadline, and the post office didn’t reject or add back end costs to the mailing. A win for me and my customer, but not so much for the printer.
Here’s a warning to printers, don’t try to pull the wool over the eyes of a customer who knows the difference. It won’t work. And it will cost you more than just the financial difference.