When it comes to evaluating the value a commercial printer, there are several things one must consider. Additionally, there are countless opinions about design and color that make some judgments about a printed piece highly subjective and unbiased.
To get past the biases and preferences that some individuals have when observing a printed piece, it’s essential to look more holistically at the work of a commercial printer, including all the services and amenities they provide as part of the process of ordering with them.
The Unattainable Triangle of Print
To represent the various qualities of products and services that are most important to their commercial success, marketers and advertisers have developed a triangular model (sometimes represented as a triple Venn diagram) that is referred to as the “Unattainable Triangle.” This name comes from the fact that is virtually impossible for a product to beat all its competition in all three categories.
The three sides (or three circles) typically represent speed, quality and price. In most cases, a product can only outperform competition in two of the qualities visible in the unattainable triangle. Because of this, the triangle is useful for highlighting the trade-off associated with making changes to a product or service’s quality, priority or price.
For example, the following statements can be made when evaluating any product or service:
- It is high quality and was produced quickly but it costs a lot.
- It is cheap and was produced quickly, but it’s not the highest quality.
- It is high quality and cheap, but it wasn’t a high priority for the seller so it took longer.
Applying the principles of the unattainable triangle to ordering wholesale or bulk print, the “ideal” commercial printer would be someone who produces high quality print with very short turnaround times at unbelievably low prices.
Naturally, this means most printers out there would match one of the following profiles:
- Cheap and quick, but has problems with quality issues like color matching and print consistency
- Cheap and high quality, but has multiweek turnarounds since they de-prioritize cheap work
- Quick and high quality, but their prices are through the roof compared to competition
Finding the perfect commercial printer is surprisingly difficult, and it can take months of trial and error with other online printers before you find a good one.
So what can really be done to prevent yourself from having to make expensive errors ordering print online, both in terms of money and time?
Signs of a high-quality bulk or wholesale catalog printer
1. A satisfaction guarantee.
Having a satisfaction guarantee means that your commercial printer is confident in the quality of their work and service. Plus, satisfaction guarantees protect you as the print buyer.
If you receive your print and you’re not happy with the quality in a way that significantly reduces your ability to use the printed pieces, printers with a satisfaction guarantee will work with you until you get the print results you were looking for.
While satisfaction guarantees to protect customers in many situations, they do still have their limitations.
For example, it would be unrealistic to expect your printer to do a complete reprint without returning the original shipment of flawed printed pieces you received. And in cases where the original files were flawed and the printer didn’t catch the error before printing them, it would be unrealistic to expect that your printer pay for not double-checking all a customer’s work.
Due to the high volume most print shops with satisfaction guarantees have to deal with, there are some limitations to the guarantee of satisfaction when it comes to issues not caused by the printer. In such cases, most really good online printers will go out of their way or do their best to provide the satisfaction they guarantee to the customer, whether in the form of credit to your next project or reprints.
2. Integrated Automation
High quality printers will often have some sort of automation in play to help reduce their costs in a way that translates directly to the customer’s savings. Examples of automation include variable data printing, which is basically printing so that each piece has a different bit of information on it corresponding to a unique name or bit of data in a pre-determined list.
What this kind of technology does is it reduces the amount of time and energy needed from human hands to produce your final printed product. Typically, the lower the amount of time and the fewer employees needed to print your project, the better your savings by going with that printer.
Other examples of automation include automatic proof preparation, which will appear to the customer as print-ready PDF proofs sent within hours of their original file uploads. Since a software can check your file for DPI and color space (make sure you use CMYK, not RGB) and then generate warnings if it detects there may be minor things wrong with your file, it saves an employee a ton of time, and it allows jobs to move through the system quicker after the customer has approved the final proof.
Since catalogs are long printed pieces, there are a number of issues that can come up across the pages, so when determining a great online printer using the outlined criteria, it’s important to make sure the files you’re printing are absolutely perfect or near perfection, so they can speed on through automation and be finished with production as soon as possible.
3. Options with Turnaround Time
Since speeding a project up involves a total reprioritization of a normal print shop workflow, there is some additional cost associated with shortening your project’s turnaround time. The very capability to do something like this is the sign of a highly professional and large scale printer. If they only offer a short selection of weirdly irregular turnaround times, they might not be as capable of handling your bulk catalog mail project.
Ultimately the key to most customers is to save as much money as possible and get their catalogs in as short a time frame as possible. Being able to get amazing print quality is an aspect of ordering print that is often overlooked.
Finding a printer that balances the three “unattainable” qualities in a way that is both stable and consistent is never going to be an easy task, but hopefully armed with the information and pointers above, you’ll be able to quickly and accurately spot high quality commercial printers.
If you’d like to give Conquest Graphics a shot with your bulk or wholesale catalog printing project, we’d be happy to get started with you. We’re an online printer with tons of custom-made print automation that we’ve invested heavily in improving to match the modern demands in print.
Your old school printer with new school technology
We often describe ourselves as an old school printer with new school technology. What this means is that we provide the same level of customer service and demonstrate the same level of investment in our customers’ successes as many old-fashioned local printers used to with theirs.
Should anything need to be changed or added to your orders with us, we’re more than happy to accommodate any requests you may have. We’re also not a printer that’s afraid to admit when a customer’s request isn’t within our wheelhouse. In cases such as those, we have a great network of national-level print-related services that we can use to help refer you to a great, high-quality service that will be able to help you with what you’re looking for.
In addition to the basic automations any successful print shop nowadays needs to be able to stay afloat, Conquest Graphics is innovating the future of print to make automated solutions to accommodate for our customers ever-expanding needs.
Our quick and easy product configurator allows you to order your catalog fully online without even having to check with customer service or get on the phone. This helps our customers save valuable time by enabling them to order print on the go, almost exactly like how they’d order something from Amazon.com or another online marketplace.
For more advanced orders that require details not outlined in our online configurator, you’re always more than welcome to give us a call or send us an email.