Keys to Profitable Partnering with Trade Printers

Trade printers exist to help local printers with projects that in some way or another are beyond their capabilities. These companies have grown increasingly responsive, and often can provide next day service when it’s crucially needed.

But if you’re like many print service providers, you have questions. When should you consider outsourcing a job? How can you find a trade partner fitting your needs? And how important are certifications when choosing a partner?

To find the right trade printer partner, you must ask candidates the right questions. The first inquiry should be whether the trade printer is capable of printing a job you aren’t able to print in-house, which can open up new revenue streams. So says Josh Ades, marketing manager, with Zoo Printing, which launched in 2001 and has a goal of being able to ship in one or two days to just about anywhere using UPS Standard. “They should also ask about quality, to ensure you will get the quality your customers expect,” he says.

At Salt Lake City’s ASAP Printing Corporation, business development manager Jeff Guevara says many people think printing is a commodity, but it’s really not. Founded in 1994 and exclusive to the trade since 1997, ASAP was one of the first printers to be online, and specializes in four-color work.

ASAP’s, Guevara says, “should look for someone who’s a full dedicated partner, with the eventual outcome in mind, someone they can call with a full customer service component. ASAP specializes in offering more services than the standard online printer and more paper options. We don’t have bracketed pricing; you can order any quantity you want with a 250 minimum. And we offer custom project quotes in two hours or less, which no one else does.”

It’s essential that the trade printer considered isn’t spread too thin, is stable, and is in business for the long haul. It should also be trade only and respect the relationships of its customers with their clients. Printing is cyclical, and some parts of the year are busier than others. During slow times, some trade printers have been known to raid their own clients’ client lists, Guevara says.


When to Outsource

Ades believes printers should consider outsourcing jobs anytime they can’t do a project effectively, due to time limitations, expense, or size of the job.

Guevara urges looking outside if the project doesn’t fit your own equipment, is too large in inch size or quantity, or involves too many pages. “If they need specialized coatings, these can’t be applied digitally, but only in a traditional manner,” he says. “If they need it this afternoon, their options are limited. They need to do it internally. They would outsource when they have the time or when they’re at capacity. The good thing about outsourcing is it’s like a faucet. When it’s on, it’s on, when off, it’s off. You only pay for what you need.”

So how much time is needed to outsource a job? Typically, at least a day is needed, Guevara says. That time frame has shrunk considerably in the online era, he points out. Book a job with ASAP Printing Corporation today by 3:00 p.m., and it can be shipped by the end of the business day tomorrow. “Or if you are local, you can pick it up,” he adds. “That’s how fast it can be.”

At Zoo Printing, Ades feels estimating the time needed “is a tough one. It all depends on what their turnaround is in-house,” he says. “But a lot of stuff can be done next day or in two or three days. In our case, well over half of our product line can be done next day or in two or three days.”

While the criteria for outsourcing print jobs to trade printers are fairly cut and dried, there are really no hard-and-fast formulas or guidelines to ensure printers price brokered work profitably. There is no substitute for knowing your own local market, as well as your clientele and their budgets. “That will help you tailor your products to meet their needs,” Guevara says.

“There are a lot of choices available in terms of job complexity or degree of difficulty. You can tailor the job so you don’t oversell them and still maintain a good profit. You can choose dif-ferent papers, less expensive papers, and the specifications of the job to fit resources better.”

For his part, Ades says the key to profitable pricing is to find a trade printer partner that either lists pricing on its site or can provide instant quotes, so you can adjust your pricing job-by-job to make sure your markup is consistent.

Some feel it is key for a trade printer to have internationally recognized certifications, such as G7 for color management or ISO for quality control. Count both Ades and Guevara among them, though with stipulations. Noting that his company is a G7 Master Printer, a certification only a limited number of printers have, Guevara says certification can be important depending on your business and that of your client. “Certification can also be overrated,” he adds.

Describing certifications as “fairly important,” Ades says quality and consistency are important attributes. But, he adds, in some cases what is desired is the most affordable price, which necessitates giving up some other goals. “There are some trade printers that specialize in this,” he says. “They are unreliable, but always the cheapest. That’s not Zoo Printing, for the record.”


Trends to Watch

Looking ahead, Guevara feels trade printing will become more polarized. Many customers will want to go directly to the Internet to obtain printing services. “They will go to a VistaPrint or something similar,” he says, noting some form of value-add will be needed for others to retain the customer loyalty necessary to remain viable. “It’s our job as printers to be craftsmen, and if we don’t continue that everyone will be happy to go to lower quality local printers, and that will change the face of printing,” he observes.

“Bring added value, customer service, expertise, experience, anything that will help the customer attain higher saturation levels or higher revenues when he spends the print dollar.”

Ades envisions that trade printing, like all printing, will consolidate. The result will be fewer but larger companies. “That will mean brokers will be able to have companies that are even more reliable and more trustworthy, because the best of the best are coming together,” he says. “But that also means the smaller print shops will divest equipment and become solely brokers.”