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Sabine Lenz

Making the Grade

By Sabine Lenz

About Sabine

Sabine Lenz is the founder of, the first online paper database and community specifically designed for paper specifiers.

Growing up in Germany, Sabine started her design career in Frankfurt, before moving to Australia and then the United States. She has worked on design projects ranging from corporate identities to major road shows and product launches. From start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, her list of clients included Oracle, Sun Microsystems, Deutsche Bank, IBM and KPMG.

Seeing designers struggle worldwide to stay current with new papers and paper trends inspired Sabine to create PaperSpecs, an independent and comprehensive Web-based paper database and weekly e-newsletter. She is also a speaker on paper issues and the paper industry. Some refer to her lovingly as the "paper queen" who combines her passion for this wonderful substrate called paper with a hands-on approach to sharing her knowledge. 


If You Think Only Local, You Might as Well Go Home

“John is out of the office for a few days.” Okay, so my local print rep took some well-deserved time problem. “Good for him!” I answered good-naturedly. “I wanted to talk to him about a quote for some business cards.”

I waited. And waited. I was expecting the receptionist to jump in and pass me on to another salesperson at their end, but...nada, zilch, nothing, quiet. True story. I’m not making this up.

I was dumbstruck when I hung up the phone. Here I was trying to keep my business local, only to be treated like...well, not to be treated at all.

Even though we were looking at a pretty short turnaround time, I decided to go out of state for my print project—with great results might I add. I never met my new printer. Everything was done via phone, e-mail and PDF. The service was impeccable, and my questions answered immediately. My cards were delivered on time, and I was kept in the loop every step of the printing-way.

If you think only local, you might as well go home.
While this may seem like advice for my fellow designers and print buyers, it’s not. (They think outside their regional areas already.) This is aimed at you, my local printer friends.

It’s easy to get stuck in the “everyone-goes-for-the-cheapest-price” mindset. Internet printers are especially notorious for beating you at the pricing game.

“I understand when my clients order online to save cost,” explains Diane from one of my LinkedIn groups. “Most online printers gang-run like items to save money, so it's more quantity versus quality.”

And this is where you can shine. Online printers process run-of-the-mill items well. But there is little to no personal attention given to an individual project—no creative paper suggestions, no prepress pointers, no inspiring samples, no print process advice.

“If you establish a good relationship with a local printer that can take care of all/most of your communication needs, they can save you time, money and headaches in the long run,” writes Diane. On this, we definitely agree.

Location, location, location

What holds true in real estate might be to your advantage too. In many cases, the printing cost alone is not the deciding factor. There might be strategic reasons beyond price to print out of the local area.

If the agency that produces the artwork is located on the East Coast, but the client is on the West Coast…printing local might actually be West Coast. Or if the final product has to be shipped to 10 locations, where is local now? Agency location? Client location? Central location or delivery location?

A project manager friend of mine confirms my “wherever-local-might-be” point of view.

Working on a large political campaign, she used one pre-media vendor for her artwork. The piece was then printed by several printers around the country at the same time to be finished and mailed on the same date.

“You give up some economy of scale for paper if you are buying your paper from your printer,” agrees Thomas, another LinkedIn group peer. “But if you buy your paper from the paper company, you still get the economy of scale with one paper purchase delivered from their regional distribution [centers] to your regional print vendors.”

Finding a good fit between client need and printer capability is more important than geographic location.
So if you’re a print provider that only prints and sells locally, think again about the potential growth that projects from outside your geographic area might bring to your business. I know the printer that did my business cards might be getting other work from me, not to mention my glowing recommendation on a job very well done!

(Oh, and when your sales reps take a vacation—no matter how short—make sure the receptionist knows where to send customer calls and inquiries!)

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