Expand Your Print Capabilities in 2021: 5 Tips for Finding Partner Printers
Right now, there are some amazing print capabilities on the production floors of fellow printers — capabilities you may simply never have on your own floor. But what if you could still sell those capabilities, augmenting your revenue as you bring new solutions to your customers?
That, in essence, is contract printing. In my last two articles, I gave strategic reasons for why contract printing makes sense and detailed several cutting-edge print services that exemplify the benefits of contract printing.
If you’re intrigued by the idea of contract printing — and I think you should be — I’m going to provide a mini how-to on how to start out. (I’ll also share my two cents below on the topic of having clients “stolen.”)
Wading Wisely Into the Contract Printing Waters
Compared to other business moves, contract printing is a relatively low-effort (and low-risk) venture. Since someone else has already done the heavy lifting, you won’t need to make huge investments of time or capital.
But I didn’t say it’s a no-effort venture. After all, at the end of the day you’re trying to generate satisfied customers (and a profit). And that means contract printing requires strategy.
The following tips can help increase your chances of forming win-win partnerships with other printers.
1. Investigate what could benefit your customers. Do you frequently have to say no to certain product requests? Are there market trends you feel you’re stuck watching from afar? More specifically, are there certain services you don’t provide that could really benefit your customer base?
By asking questions like these, you should be able to identify possible services you may want to offer your customers.
2. Research printers for potential matches. Once you’ve established target products and services, you now want to explore who offers them.
Reach out to connections who may be in the know. And, of course, do your internet research. In addition to looking for actual capabilities, try to find out if a given printer has a contract printing process in place.
If it’s their first rodeo, it will take more time to work out the details of a true partnership. Plus, they won’t have a track record of working with fellow printers.
3. Vet thoroughly. When you find some viable prospects, go deeper. Remember that this is about more than another printer doing you a favor. You want a partner who appreciates what’s at stake when you make a commitment to your own customers — and will bend over backwards to help you meet that commitment.
So, before you dive into a contract relationship with a potential partner, be sure to:
- Evaluate their portfolio on the specific services you’re interested in
- Read their case studies
- Reach out and talk directly to key players
- Discuss critical factors like price points and timelines (when the time is right)
- Request actual samples to examine
- Visit their facilities if that’s feasible
- Ask if you can contact a few of their customers
4. Be clear on one another’s expectations. Once you feel confident that you’ve found a printer to partner with, work out the details on how actual projects would be carried out.
I’m sure you’ve worked with various vendors. Use your common business sense and cover all the details that you feel are needed to establish a solid — and official — relationship. (See below for more on noncompete contracts.)
5. Expect sales and marketing support. If you’re going to be selling the services of another printer, you’ll want to be educated on how best to sell them. In fact, I don’t think it’s too much to expect that your printer partner provide specific sales and marketing support.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. We work with other printers who sell products from us like our self-enclosed mailers. When their salespeople are out in the field, we want them to promote those products effectively. That’s why we do things like:
- Take the time to demonstrate the various advantages of the product.
- Create high-quality samples to distribute (with their company name on them, not ours).
- Provide a leave-behind case study backed by data on the product’s effectiveness.
Clearing the Air on Having Customers 'Stolen'
As you’re reading this, maybe you just can’t help but think about the risk of having your customers poached if you use contract printing. Well, I’ll be honest with you: I used to be like that too.
But after being on both sides of contract printing for many years, I think it’s safe to say that printers generally take the high road. Respectable companies that offer contract printing know you just don’t steal customers. All of the benefits, for both parties, break down.
All that said, if you really are concerned about keeping customers from straying, you can request a noncompete agreement. At my company, we always offer that to our printer partners, though in nearly 30 years I think I’ve only done one.
Expand What You Can Do AND Who You Can Be
What kind of printer are you? Maybe 2021 could be the year you not only reimagine who you are — but you also take some action. And you can do that in small but significant ways.
That’s the great thing about contract printing: It frees you from limiting factors like your access to capital, your building space and equipment, and your staff’s current expertise.
The tips above can help get you started. Sure, it takes a little work up front to find a solid partner. But it can be so worth it. Ultimately, you’ll be able to bring more and be more to your customers. And who doesn’t want that?
Chris Yuhasz is president of POV Solution. Based just outside of Cleveland, Ohio, POV Solution is a community-focused printing company that helps businesses and nonprofits stand out in their offline communications efforts as well as integrate them with multichannel marketing strategies.
Chris Yuhasz founded POV Solution as a basement desktop publishing business 27 years ago in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. POV Solution provides printing services from Cleveland, Ohio, servicing clients coast-to-coast with commercial printing, graphic design and spot UV printing for finishing services.