What Print Buyers Want -- Honesty and Expertise
SOMETIMES THE littlest things can mean a lot. Like carefully reading the job order and getting the specs right the first time around. Or, finding innovative ways to turn a problem into an opportunity. Or, providing an honest professional opinion rather than simply trying to close the deal. Conversely, sometimes the smallest detail—overlooked—can also cost a job.
Jennifer Dyslin is a print buyer for Englewood, CO-based Starz Entertainment LLC (as in the Starz and Encore premium channels). As a veteran print buyer and senior manager of print production at Starz, Dyslin reveals what she expects from print providers, the biggest peeves she has with them and how going the extra mile can be the key to getting—and keeping—her business. Dyslin and another buyer purchase direct mail, brochures, high-end packaging, press kits and point-of-sale materials to the tune of about $3 million a year.
What do you look for when considering a new print provider?
First: Can the company offer something new and different than my current vendors? Equipment lists and capabilities may be similar, but what are you doing that makes you stand out from the rest?
Second: If I’m seeking a new vendor, it’s because I have a project that requires something an existing vendor cannot provide.
Third: I want a “partner” relationship with my vendor. I want someone who can make me look good because my choice in a vendor directly reflects on me. I will come to a vendor with specifications, but I’m always open to alternatives and better ways of accomplishing the goal of the project. We need to be on the same page at every stage of the process.
What are the top three things you expect from a print provider?
No. 1 is “Read my purchase order!” I do not like getting a phone call asking what paper we chose or what the ship address is, when I have detailed that on the PO. I don’t mind questions for clarification, but if you are skipping over the details of my PO, what else are you missing or assuming?
Be very buttoned up when I have given you an opportunity to bid a job. This is the first chance.
Availability is also important. I need to know that I can reach my sales rep and/or CSR via phone and e-mail, and that I will get a quick response.
I’ll add another: Low risk and high benefit in working with them.
What determines whether a print provider gets your business?
I ask them to provide equipment and capabilities lists, and to provide samples that not only represent their equipment and capabilities, but that also show unique solutions. It’s revealing to hear how a printer helped a client work through a challenge and arrive at a successful finished product. Samples say a lot about the printer. They should be the best of the best.
What’s the importance of a print provider going the extra mile?
I had a sales rep who used to call and say, “We have an opportunity…” This always meant that there was a problem, but the way in which he approached it was to provide me with solutions, when he explained the problem.
Another vendor made a mistake on a project, which we realized on a Friday at 4 p.m. My sales rep jumped to find out what happened and call me back with a solution. He had a sense of urgency, was never defensive, fully admitted the mistake, and offered up a solution that would be fast and acceptable—and at their cost. He even spent his Saturday morning at the plant going back over everything to make sure he figured out exactly where the mistake happened. It is very valuable for me to understand where and how these things occur.
What are some things that turn you off about a print provider?
Telling me you can save me money before you know what or how I’m buying print. This implies that I’m not already doing everything I can to get the best product at the best price. Stalking is another! I know how to reach you if I have a project for you. Calling every 15 minutes doesn’t make me more interested in working with you.
Sales reps who move from company to company and try to convince me that the new one is a great place. They lose credibility. I’ve had sales reps not use their last names so I think it’s someone new.
Begging for more work or treating a “simple” job as if it is not a big enough one. It may be a simple flyer, but to my company, it is 1,000 potential new customers. Once a vendor proves they can do simple jobs flawlessly, then I’m more willing to do something more complicated.
What are causes of “disconnect” between buyer and provider?
1. Assumptions: Guessing what I want without asking. 2. Promising that they can do something when they can’t. 3. The way they handle problems or mistakes that arise.
I want a printer that is going to be harder on itself than I’m going to be. While I have high expectations, I am also reasonable and fair. I’d rather you tell me you could have done better than for me to have to point that out to you. PI