Ever heard the saying, “All thumbs are fingers, but not all fingers are thumbs.” A tad confusing but upon contemplation, easy to understand. The statement simply implies that distinction is possible within a pool of similar objects. In the case of commercial printers, how many of them truly transcend the term vendor to partner? Sure, all commercial printers will probably get the job done and ship something to you but are they thinking of your goals or theirs? Do they work with your timeline or give you one? Do they offer alternative production methods to meet your budget or do they force a solution that fits their equipment? A commercial print partner earns their reputation by focusing on you, not themselves. I think it’s safe to say that while all commercial print partners are vendors, not all vendors are commercial print partners.
Now, it may sound like I am putting a corny spin on the traditional “good printer versus bad printer” but the truth is that commercial print is complicated. There are literally thousands of ways to print something depending on paper type, quantity, finish, artwork, binding, scoring, etc. Even if you have exact specs, it’s virtually impossible for an individual print vendor to execute all of these methods. Moreover, due to long production queues, deadlines and quality can suffer. These traits can lead to attempts to change your specs in order to accommodate the printer’s capabilities and timeframe – not what you want to hear. What you want to hear is, Yes! Yes, to your specs and Yes to your deadline. And, in the event you do not have exact specs, you would like some guidance on possible production methods, methods that are not dependent on the equipment on the floor but dependent on your goals and vision.
So when evaluating existing or new commercial printers, aim for a partner not a vendor. Aim for “customer comes first” not “customer comes second”. At the end of the day, a printer is producing something and putting it into your hands and subsequently into the hands of your intended audience. A print partner wants to be thrilled and excited that your piece is exactly what you hoped for and will achieve your goals and a good ROI. That level of concern and understanding is the difference between vendor and partner. When it comes to your pool of vendors, how many truly distinguish themselves from the rest?