Honesty is always the best policy for both ends, advised Mike McCoy, BCT MidSouth’s regional director of sales and marketing. “BCT MidSouth is 100 percent upfront about products, services, and information,” he said. “We ask the same of our customers.”
BCT MidSouth is part of BCT, Inc. (formerly Business Cards Tomorrow), which has 45 locations throughout North America providing thermography and full- color, wholesale stationery printing. BCT features a full slate of services, from designing to press proofs, to blind drop shipping. In addition to spot and color printing, it also offers a variety of finishing and specialty products, such as UV coatings, round cornering, scoring, folding, numbering, and hole punching.
A good relationship between the commercial and trade printer depends on open communication, complete clarification, and understanding of the end customer’s expectations. Commercial printers need to be clear, before taking on any project, that they understand what their customer expects, suggested Ross Avedissian, CEO of ColorFX Printing and Packaging. “Then share every detail with the trade printer, no matter how small, that your client shares with you. This ensures that your printer knows what your client is looking for.”
Be Forthcoming with Specs
“Lately, many printers are trying to cut corners, not telling us if there is a specific kind of coating, for example,” he added. “They don’t want to share all the details, because if they share less, it may be cheaper. But this is not what the client asked for. Tell me exactly what the client asks for, so I know I am providing exactly what the client wants.”
Coming up on its 20-year anniversary, ColorFX, is a family-owned business located in Sun Valley, CA. A Printing Industry Association 2013 Premier Print Award winner, its range of products offered include traditional commercial print products to on-demand digital to labels and custom product packaging.
“Our first responsibility is to ask our customers—the commercial printer—what their customer wants,” said Avedissian. “But they have to share everything with us. If they do this, they will have longer relationships with their clients. If your client is buying a catalog from you, and that product, which is every day in the end customer’s hand has a good result, then that is good for everyone.”
Specific information with a particular order, such as stock, quantity, inks, design, and any especially processes, are required for the job. The more information that is given initially during order placement will allow for quicker processing. It also eliminates confusion and errors on the processes of the order, BCT’s McCoy agreed.
To find a company you can trust, ask your friendly competitors for leads to great suppliers, said Steven Osterloh, marketing VP at Ennis. “Establish credit and establish a relationship. The better the supplier knows you, the more they will work to support your client (account protection, special pricing, delivery schedules). Contracts come into play on large ‘program’ work and when there is feeling that a ‘non-compete’ agreement will make the commercial printer feel more comfortable about sharing their customer. We sign non-competes all the time, but since most suppliers you would be outsourcing to are trade-only, they aren’t targeting the same customer base. Most orders only require a purchase order and are handled on a job-by-job basis.”
Ennis wholesale manufactures printed business products, including traditional forms, checks, labels, tags, presentation folders, and envelopes. It also sells under numerous trade-only brands, such as Admore, Block Graphics, Folder Express, National Imprint, Printegra, and Wisco.
Ease of Use and Service
Trade printers look to make it easy for their printer customers. For example, when setting up an account with BCT MidSouth, customers fill out one short form of information with addresses, points of contact, and payment data. Then they attach their state reseller tax ID number, and the account is set up.
“Our operation is designed for efficiency. We know that once an order gets to our office, it needs to leave as quickly as possible,” explained McCoy. “Therefore, we run a staggering shift between the departments to ensure there is a constant flow of work, with no orders being dropped between the cracks.“
Although Ennis supports numerous technology solutions, including its own EOSTouchpoint, most orders come in through phone, fax, or email. At most trade-only printers, their sales force is their customer service team. Most do not have a large outside sales staff because they must keep their SG&A (selling, general, and administrative expenses) as low as possible to remain competitive in a reseller market,” said Osterloh.
However, added Avedissian, customer service is a critical component of ensuring a successful end. “Look to see what kind of customer service you receive,” he said. “ So many printers use the Internet, find a website, and order their product. They don’t have phone support; they don’t receive any level of customer service.”
At ColorFX, CSRs are expected to ask the right questions from the buyer, ensuring that everything is clear. Ad agencies, print brokers, smaller print shops— all make money from reselling its services, said Avedissian.
“A lot of print buyers look at cost first, but it’s the quality that should go first,” he explained. “The reality is if you get the best price, but the job isn’t done correctly, or didn’t meet your customer’s expectation, or wasn’t delivered on-time, then you have done nothing for your client, and you won’t get repeat orders from them. If you make 10 percent less, what’s the difference; if you do it 10 times [you] make a 100 percent more.”
There are many things that trade printers do that are the same, but often it comes down to customer service. “BCT MidSouth has worked tirelessly to ensure our customer service team is top notch and can fix any problem and answer any question presented to them,” said McCoy. “This way there is no need to be transferred around our office. They are a one-stop shop for information and answers.“
Trade printers are a tool and an asset for the commercial printer. “Don’t walk away from a print order just because you can’t print that item,” encouraged Osterloh. “There are plenty of trade-only printers covering all possible printed products. Make the connection with the customer, get an estimate for the items they need, and make money. I’ve heard of commercial printers sourcing orders through distributors or other printers because they don’t know who to call. Find a trade-only partner and ask for their help. Use them to network and find additional suppliers. Don’t turn down or turn away an order for printed products just because you can’t produce it in house.“
Added McCoy, “Anything that we can produce, the printer can sell. This allows the printer to have a constantly growing product offering without the need to continue purchasing new and different equipment. Their trade printer is keeping up with these things for you and can make your life much easier. All you have to do is ask.”