Archive for the ‘diplomactic solutions’ Category

19 Excellent Reasons Why Print Brokers are a Godsend

Friday, May 7th, 2010

Print Brokers and search engines

I keep a close watch on the words and phrases that readers use in search engines to find this blog.  Questions about print brokers lead the pack. I guess I should have figured this out on my own because when I’m asked what I do for a living, and I say I’m a print broker, most respond by asking, “What is a print broker?” They wouldn’t do that if I said I was, for example, a stock broker, or even, as I saw on a television commercial recently, a shrimp broker. There’s something about the conjunction of print and broker that creates confusion, and often curiosity.

Why are print brokers attracted to the business?

I don’t know why others become print brokers, but I did because I wanted to provide better service for my customers. I reasoned that as chained print sales rep I was strictly locked into the capabilities, pricing, and business philosophies of the printer employing me. My customers, however, often needed either print production we couldn’t provide, or a redesign of their job to make it fit our capabilities. Either way I found myself in an awkward situation. What should I do, send them away or frankensteinize their project?

(Don’t bother looking up the word frankensteinize, it isn’t dictionaryized because I just created it, and neither is dictionaryized for the same reason.)

What services do print brokers provide?

In my experience a print broker typically performs these duties:

  • Consults with customers regarding parameters of the print order. Reviews and discusses any job particulars that will affect the outcome.
  • Suggests ways to decrease cost and/or improve quality depending on the requirements of the project.
  • Provides samples like paper dummies, paper swatch books, foil stamps, or any other visuals the customer requires to make informed decisions about the print order.
  • Aids the customer in determining and clarifying the specifications so that printers will bid apples-to-apples and identify production problems before they ruin the project.
  • Pre-qualifies printers or other providers to determine which is the best match for the job.
  • Submits bid specifications to qualified printers.
  • Consults with printers as needed to answer questions or address production concerns. This is particularly critical when the job is complex.
  • Gathers competitive bids.
  • Scrutinizes the submitted written bids to make certain the directions were followed, and nothing added or neglected.
  • Submits bid with specifications to customer. This gives the customer an opportunity to double-check the specifications at the same time as they receive pricing. The objective is to make sure all parties are in full agreement about the scope of the job.
  • Facilitates the transfer of files, or other art to the printer.
  • Works with both printer and customer regarding terms of payment and makes sure all conditions are met.
  • Arranges and facilitates all necessary proofing steps.
  • Attends press checks. Helps the customer understand the printing process and translates printerese into business normal.
  • Arranges for delivery of the product to the required destination.
  • Oversees and coordinates all parts of the job, this is especially critical if the project consists of multiple pieces.
  • Invoices the customer for the work.
  • Pays the printer. The customer writes one check and the broker takes care of the rest.
  • Most important–deals with problems that may surface during or after the job is delivered. The broker acts is a shield between the customer and the printer in the event of a disagreement.

What is the most valuable service print brokers provide?

The bottom line is that both customers and printers need brokers. Brokers provide the most valuable service of all, we facilitate smooth communication between customer and printer, and that in itself, prevents a whole raft of problems that could occur. Printing, as I always say, is not an exact science. The process, from creative idea to finished product involves so many steps and demands that every one of them be done right. It is a miracle anything turns out as planned, but despite the odds 95% come out great. It’s the 5% that keep us in the graphic arts industry awake at night.


 

Savvy Printers Play Nice with Print Brokers — part 2

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

If I owned a print shop — which I don’t — but if I did, and I wanted to attract brokers to sell for me, I would do these things:

  1. Make sure the brokers are fully informed of your capabilities and preferences. By preferences I mean that two printers have identical equipment, but one prefers short runs and the other prefers longer runs. Normally pricing will reveal this to a good broker, but wouldn’t it be quicker if the printer identified their sweet spot right up front?
  2. Provide brokers with sales materials, especially if you have a special new piece of equipment or an exciting announcement. Think about this: it is difficult for a broker to take the business elsewhere if they are using your promotional materials to secure a project.
  3. Try to avoid competing with the broker unless they are after one of your established accounts. If one of your sales reps has a desire to go to battle over a broker’s customer, hold them back. Open discussion may solve the conflict. Be courteous and discuss it with all involved parties.
  4. Be sure to honor the broker’s trade secrets. There are some brokers who like to keep their sources hidden–I’m not one of them. I opt for efficiency. If my customer has an urgent question, or needs to STOP the press I want them to be able to do that. Yes, over the last twenty odd years I’ve had to scrap relationships with printers who didn’t honor the gentleman’s or written agreements we made, and yes, I’ve had customers seek a better price by going behind my back, but the truth is that it has happened very rarely. And in the end, customers and printers who engage in this unethical behavior can’t  be relied upon anyway. It’s good riddance to bad rubbish.
  5. Attempt to cultivate them as part of your sales team. Why not? They bring business just like your commissioned reps do. The more involved they are in your company and on good terms with your staff, especially your sales staff the smoother things will go. If they are treated like Darth Vader instead of Luke Skywalker when they come through the door, you lose. They’ll take their business elsewhere.
  • Invite them to attend sales meetings from time-to-time, especially ones where there is a special guest or new information to be presented.
  • If you have a sales contest, find a way to include brokers too.
  • Reward profitable brokers with surprise tickets to favorite sporting events, dinners at local restaurants, or weekend trips to nearby resorts. By the way, it is very easy for printers to trade for these spiffs and the out-of-pocket expenses are greatly reduced.
  • If you send your sales reps to a seminar or rally consider sending brokers too.
  • Make sure brokers are invited to other company functions.
  • If a broker is having trouble landing an account that would fit your particular niche, work together just like you would with your own sales rep to secure the business. This way you both benefit.

The bottom line is that print brokers are really and truly a part of any smart printer’s sales force. The good news is that they don’t receive salary, or commission. You don’t have to match their Social Security, or 401 K. You can keep money that you would have spent on a sales rep’s health insurance, expense reimbursement, company car, and overhead. If you have enough money to provide these benefits to your employees just consider what providing brokers with a nice benefit that is a faction of the cost of employee could do? They are possibly the best investment you can make for sales growth.

If you treat print brokers right, make them feel like they are a part of your team, let them know that they are appreciated you’ll discover an increase in trust. Many of the reasons cited by printers for their unhappy experiences with brokers were created by the printer’s disrespect. Respect the respectable brokers (yes, some brokers should be flushed — but not most — especially those who have been around awhile) treat them as part of your team and you’ll find that many of the problems printers have with brokers will disappear. Think about it. How can a broker be your enemy when bringing you business? You are only enemies when you aren’t fair with one another. Be fair.

Savvy Printers Play Nice with Print Brokers, part 1

Monday, February 15th, 2010

In the last two blogs Top 5 Reasons Print Brokers P.O. Printers, and Printers, does Print Broker “Prejudice” Harm You? I’ve given reasons why Printers should consider or re-consider adding print brokers to their sales mix. The biggest reason, of course, is that print brokers have customers that are already printing somewhere and by attracting one print broker you could increase your sales by maybe millions. As for me, and I’m not the heaviest hitter out there, I swing around a million dollar a year bat — sometimes more, sometimes less, but always in the ballpark. A printer who convinces me that my business belongs with them has increased business by not just one, but by a couple of dozen new customers, worth maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars in new business.

And  you can do this without creating enemies in your local fraternity of printers. What happens when you send your sales reps out to grab business wherever they can? I’ll tell you; sooner or later you’ll take a prized customer away from a kindly competitor who doesn’t deserve this type of treatment. Maybe they helped you out in the past, or gave you good advice, or belong to the same clubs as you. When you create bad feelings among your peers it takes awhile to patch them up.

It's nothing personal -- just business.

Oh sure, you can say, “It’s nothing personal. It’s just business.” But isn’t that the same lame excuse the Mafia makes in the movies when they kill someone? Damaging a livelihood is personal. You can’t duck it no matter how you try. It’s nothing personal — BANG! — I shot you in the back, but it’s not personal. No, of course it isn’t, wink, wink.

If you decide that attracting brokers could be a good thing, here are some bits of advice:

  • Make sure all of your agreements are in writing. Don’t assume that because you have done things in a certain way in the past that the broker will know or understand what your expectations are.
  • A print broker is not your unpaid employee. They are independent business people who’s primary concern is their customer. If the broker is smart they will help their customer understand the printer’s point of view in the event of a disagreement, but when the chips are down the print broker stands with the customer, they have to, it’s their job.
  • A broker is also not your customer. They function more like an Independent Insurance Agent. The real deal, when all is said and done, is between the printer and the customer. You can squawk about that, but in every sense of what is morally and ethically right it is the person who possesses the product who is ultimately responsible for paying the bill. A broker is no more responsible for a customer debt than your commissioned sales reps are.
  • Get agreements with the print broker and their customer giving you the right to collect the debt in the event of default. You may want to insist that the customer provide a credit application and other information for your files. You should conduct a credit investigation on every customer just like you do with your own. Make sure the broker’s customer is credit worthy before offering credit — duh. Then set your terms.
  • If giving any credit sticks in your craw make every broker job COD. That is the easiest way to handle the issue, but it also means you will attract less broker business. Their customers have the same needs as your regular group. If they need terms and you aren’t willing to give them what can they do?
  • Print Brokers, the good ones that is, probably have a wealth of experience behind them. They aren’t naive. They usually have years of printing experience under their belts before becoming a broker. They are just as committed as you,  to getting the customer what they need, when they need it, and at a competitive price. When you disrespect the value added a broker brings and treat them in a condescending matter you ruin what could have been a good partnership. Get them on your side and they generally will move heaven and earth to help you when things go wrong.  At the very least they bring expertise that it will take your wet-behind-the-ears newbie years to learn. Weigh it out — newbie, pro. Who would you rather work with?
  • Don’t begrudge print broker’s earnings. Yes, some brokers earn a lot of money. Most of us do okay, but none of us are in the Fortune 500. It can be a good business, just like printing is a good business. More printers retire well-to-do than brokers ever do. Not every printer does well, and not every broker succeeds. No one becomes a printing broker to get rich.
  • Don’t moan that brokers beat down the price so you don’t make any money. NONSENSE. A broker can’t make you accept a job that is a money looser. What did they do, hold a gun to your head? Ultimately if you let anyone dictate your sell prices you are a damn fool, and in my experience anyone with enough business acumen to run a printing company is no fool.


 

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© Bill Ruesch, Talking Through My Hat, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Bill Ruesch, Talking Through My Hat with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.