The UK spends £14bn on print each year and there are 10,500 printing companies at your disposal. From digital to sheet-fed or web offset printing, the range of kit and capabilities is vast. Many printers do not own the full range of kit in-house and may outsource your job to another company, potentially without your knowledge.
A print management company owns no printing presses and will be completely open about its decision-making process in selecting the best printer for your job, taking direct responsibility for the quality and timeliness of the finished product. The advantage to you is that your entire job can be handled via a single contact.
As part of the planning process, it is vital to think about print at the design stage. In briefing the design team, you need to be clear about your expectations of the finished item and how this meets the needs of your target audience.
Is it a disposable means of highlighting a time-limited offer? Or will it be something that customers keep and refer to repeatedly? Understanding how your print item will be used, and how it will be distributed, influences its format, size, weight and the type of the stock on which it is printed.
You need to know from the start whether you will require your item to fold into an envelope or point-of-sale dispenser. A designer should be able to advise on formats to ensure that your strategic objectives are being met.
In the same way, you should expect a designer to advise on the implications of finishing including different types of binding and whether your item would benefit from being perfect bound or saddle-stitched. Some designers might recommend lay flat binding which enables the item to be fully-opened for easy browsing without cracking the spine.
A good design team will be able to advise you on how finishing effects such as UV varnish can create impact and boost the stand-out of your brand. UV varnish cannot be applied to uncoated stock, so always ask the studio to advise on paper choices. Your project may benefit from lamination, using gloss for striking impact, or matt for a tactile high-quality effect.
In addition, you could choose metallic inks (including gold and silver) and the design team will make sure you are aware of the impact this will make on the overall printing cost. Foil blocking can also create stunning effects but has similar implications for cost. Foiling and embossing can be requested on areas that are too intricate, causing detail to be lost.
Print managers can advise on all aspects of print and production and may be able to look at the way you operate from a fresh perspective. Having a dedicated account manager is a definite bonus because, in time, your contact will get to know your business and be able to offer a strategic overview of all your requirements.
For example, it always pays to consider whether you could print multiple items on identical stock at the same time, even if they are not all required for the same deadline. Types of paper say as much about your brand as what is printed on them and inconsistencies can affect perceptions.
Your project’s page count should be divisible by four (e.g. 32, 48, 64 etc.) to facilitate binding. And page counts that are divisible by 16 assure the most cost-effective use of paper. It is always worth adding a full-bleed image or two into the pagination if necessary, to create extra pages that balance the total.
Environmental credentials count in print whether it is the source of your paper supplies or the materials used to produce your promotional merchandise. It may help your brand credentials to use a supplier that has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), demonstrating that you take environmental issues seriously and enhancing your Corporate Social Responsibility.
Of course, print is not limited to paper. Technology allows printing to be applied almost anything from vehicles to pencils. With the current focus on the use of plastics, you may need advice on recyclable or sustainable materials including for promotional items and clothing, from cotton to bamboo, and from metal to wood.
Choosing appropriate promotional items and sourcing them at the best unit price is a challenging and time-consuming exercise. With hundreds of companies offering a bewildering array of discounts on bulk orders, you could benefit from the end-to-end service of a print manager who can source the right items for your brand.
But a good print manager is not simply focusing on price. They can act as an effective partner within your organisation, directing you towards efficient processes that save time, enabling you to reach the market more quickly, and to help you to ensure that you keep your promises to customers. This could extend from marketing campaigns and merchandise to the production of business-critical documents. A dedicated account manager will always be able to highlight options for continuous improvement. Furthermore, they will be standing by, always ready to respond if you need a quick response or a solution to a crisis.