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.