Posts Tagged ‘Swatch Books’

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.


 

If You Ask, Paper Info. Comes, & Comes, & Comes . . .

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

When I first began selling sheet-fed printing in the early 1980’s, my company Progressive Printing, printed an announcement flier for me. Before then I didn’t have much experience with paper other than commodity sheets used on web-offset presses. Think of magazines, catalogs, and newspapers. In the sheet-fed business a whole new world of paper opened up. I was so ignorant of paper that I didn’t understand that the paper my announcement was printed on was an expensive sheet. I didn’t know it until the office manager looked at it and said, “Wow, they must really like you because this is Cranes Crest.”

“Huh,” I said, “What is Cranes Crest?”

It turns out that Cranes Crest is made from 100% cotton fibers and is most often used on upper end letterheads and such.

Nothing more was said about my flier paper, but I realized that I had a whole lot to learn. Luckily for me a paper specifier from Zellerbach Paper Company conducted a mini-seminar in our offices. He covered paper fundamentals. His name was Mark Lander and even though he is no longer in the business I can still recall almost word-for-word some of what he taught us that day. Some of the lessons I’ve adapted and use as 60 second sermons when a customer needs to understand one aspect of paper or another.

I learned about paper because I felt I had to learn to do my job. Most people, including graphic designers find paper stocks they like and pretty much stick with them. There is nothing wrong with that approach. After all we can only hold so much information in our heads at one time. Because I took mastering of paper seriously, I found that my customers trusted my opinions and sought my advice.

If you are one who would like to know more about paper and don’t know where to go to get educated, let me give you some ideas.

  • Check the yellow pages, or call a printer to find out who your local  local paper merchant’s are.
  • Ask the paper merchant if they hold educational classes and attend if you can.
  • Be sure to get swatch books and begin building a library of paper options. If you are a frequent user of printing papers they may be willing to furnish you with a whole paper cabinet, at no charge. Ask.
  • Find out how they treat new paper introductions. Do they hold paper parties or bring mill reps around to the various buyers. Ask if you can get on the invitation list.
  • Research paper on the Internet, some specialty papers may not be carried by your local sources.
  • Many of the paper mills have websites that allow you to sign on to their news-feeds. Sign up, this will keep you ahead of the pack.

One service provided by most paper merchants that I’ve found to be particularly helpful is their willingness to create paper dummies. If you have a project with multiple pages there may be weight issues to consider. Your choice of paper could cost or save you a ton of money in postage expense. I’ve often had dummies made and taken them to the business services department of the post office to have it weighed so we would know for sure if we would pay a higher or lesser price. Often postage on a direct mail campaign will cost more than the printing and design of the pieces.

In a future blog I’ll get into paper weights and finishes, so hold on more is coming.

The Easy Way To Reach Bill Ruesch
He's available to help you with any of your printing, or publishing needs. Please contact him if you need a book, marketing materials, or anything else printed. His thirty-five years of experience, and thousands of happy customers is your guarantee of satisfaction.

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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.