Tricks of the Trade Printers

Many print service providers have learned that, given the right situation, outsourcing work to trade printers makes a great deal of business sense. Tight deadlines, a desire to expand offerings, a need to handle seasonal bumps in demand or a yearning to spend more time building business rather than producing work can all lead to the use of a trusted outsource partner.

Trouble is, how do you find a partner you can trust? How do you locate an outsourcing resource who communicates well, produces quality work, meets demanding deadlines, provides one-stop convenience and does it all affordably?

Many PSPs have been left stymied by the hurdle of finding a dependable partner to provide outsourcing services. This month we seek guidance from experts who’ve mastered the tricks of the trade printing world.


Advantages of Outsourcing

When PSPs are focusing on their core competencies, it’s beneficial to have partners with competencies that lay outside their range. So says Ed Dignam, senior vice president of Salt Lake City’s ASAP Printing Corporation, a trade-only commercial printer to which other PSPs outsource projects, and whose philosophy is “amaze everyone,” according to Dignam.

“When you outsource, you immediately expand your product range and your sales volume, without the overhead typically associated with that goal,” Dignam says.

Another reason to outsource is that many printers’ time is best spent not in the production area, but making sales calls, developing relationships, marketing, and gaining new clients, Dignam says. Still another is the desire to better handle seasonal demands, such as the typical bump in business in the fourth quarter.

Critical deadlines can also provide a good rationale for outsourcing. Say a PSP is awarded a 50,000-booklet order that will require two weeks on its digital machine. Outsourcing to a firm capable of doing the job in half the time can be a wise business move. “We could do that in three to five days,” Dignam says.

Ali Westcott, senior director of marketing at, a Massachusetts e-commerce print provider well known for a fast turnaround guarantee and award-winning print quality, offers up three additional benefits of outsourcing to her company. The first is the chance to make up for lost time. “Our 48 Hour Turnaround Guarantee can get you out of tough spots when it comes to deadlines,” she says. “Many of our products and lower quantities have an even faster 24-hour turn.”

She adds has both sheet-fed and digital presses, with offset quantities typically starting at 500 pieces, as well as an in-house bindery, VDP, mailing services, and additional offerings.

Another advantage of 48Hour Print’s capability is an array of more than 40 products. “Partner with us and…we’ve got 40 core products, ranging from magnets, Post-It notes, and plastic gift cards to table tents, vinyl banners, calendars, and pocket folders,” Westcott reports.

A final upside is the convenience of online proofing, re-orders, blind shipping, and split shipping, “all with worry-free 24-7 convenience,” she notes.


Finding a Trustworthy Partner

Many PSPs have experienced a raft of problems in dealing with less-than-reputable trade printers. The issues have ranged from failure to meet deadlines to inferior quality to a simple inability to communicate clearly and honestly. All of which begs the question: How can PSPs find partners they can trust?

In the online world, there are no substitutes for relationships, Westcott advises. Unlike many online printing companies, has in-house sales and customer care representatives available by phone, email or chat. “Our inside sales guys even make house or office visits,” she points out.

For his part, Dignam says communication is key when seeking a trusted partner. “Do they answer the phone? Do you have ease of access to an account manager, or a customer service rep who will provide the answers you need?” he asks. “That’s number one, and the absolute most important consideration.”


Questions that should be asked include the following:

• What is the risk of exposing confidential data?

• Will there be hidden costs?

• If I want to buy a few flyers occasionally, will the provider

still focus on my needs?

• Will there be a guarantee of consistency and quality?

• Is the supplier certified with a G7 rating?

• Will shipping be arranged at a fair and reasonable price, and

from a location assuring expeditious delivery?

• Will the supplier ensure a project meets its criteria for


• If there’s any customization to the job, will the supplier

identify concerns upfront so I gain a successful project

on time?

• Will there be communication before, during and after the

project’s execution?


Pricing Policy

At one time, pricing was determined on the basis of a dollar sum, Dignam observes. “The variable was based on the dollar amount, and the value of that customer to you,” he notes. “If you have a customer who’s always a pain in the [behind], you might want to charge that guy more. But how do you deal with another customer who’s a terrific guy and provides you with a lot of work? You might want to offer a volume discount and charge him less.”

Dignam recommends not charging by the job, but by the overall cost of running the business. If, for instance, you know you have $10,000 in costs month after month, you must bring in $10,000 by the second or third week of the month, “and everything beyond that is pure profit,” he says.


Ad Specialty Resources

Many PSPs need to outsource to suppliers of business forms, holiday cards, and ad specialties. Here again, best practices can help guide them.

One best practice may be to seek a company that can service several needs at once, says Fred Collins, executive director of The DFS Group, a 31-year-old Groton, MA-based wholesale provider of short- to medium-run checks and forms. It is best known in the industry for its catalog of products and for its knowledgeable and affable call center representatives.

The company serves printers, distributors, brokers, and resellers looking for short runs and a high level of convenience, Collins says. “Our value is being one stop,” he adds. “If you have someone who deals with promo, they’re going to know right where to go for what manufacturer. What we have found is those who are promo product distributors find our value proposition great because it’s very straightforward to sell our catalog items.”

Demand for tax and other business forms has dropped with the digitization of many of the forms. But DFS Group still does robust sales in business forms because it serves small- to mid-sized companies, which by and large haven’t yet moved to digitized forms. “We do a lot of forms, like estimates and proposals, that are designed for contractors, services, and repair industries,” Collins says.

DFS Group sees itself as a company that provides products, services, and support that help PSPs and other clients grow their business relationships and build new ones. “Adding a wide breadth of products, and providing sales tools, helps them get everything they need from one supplier,” reports Collins, whose company in January will launch a brand new website for wholesale Web-to-print. “For instance, they can call us for labels, checks, and holiday cards, and not have to call three different suppliers.”