Selecting an online printing partner is a critical choice. You want to match your business perfectly with a company that can deliver quality, cost-effectiveness and speed when delivering your printing project. A printing partner you can trust will help you grow your business and satisfy your customers.
A printing partnership is a business choice that requires you to ask the right kind of questions to find the perfect fit. Ideally, online printing would be a fire-and-forget process where you simply drop off your files without having to worry about a thing. In reality, this is hardly the case; but in a great partnership with an online printer, both parties work closely together to achieve a smooth, speedy process with great-looking print results at affordable costs.
In the following, we have summarized the questions you should ask when deciding on an online printing partner and the criteria you need to consider to make the right choice.
Start By Identifying Your Own Needs
Before you even begin looking at what online printers offer, survey your own printing needs. What are your printing projects all about? Are you realizing marketing and mailing campaigns, do you need stationery and print products for your own business, or do you fulfill print orders for your customers?
Separate your business into recurring print jobs and one-off items, and identify the volume you require. See where your focus is: price, quality, quantity, or speed? Your ideal printing partner can fulfill all of these with ease, but it helps to prioritize.
Anticipate the level of communication you will have regarding choice of print products, paper, colors and design. Will you always be certain which print product to order, or do you require assistance about the choices available? Who will supply your print data, your in-house designer or your customer?
Many print jobs can be realized with minimal or no contact at all other than order and shipping confirmation, but for some projects it will be necessary to talk them through in advance with your printer and get valuable input on timeline, available options, colors or shipping to be on the safe side. When you have arrived at a clear picture of your demands for an online printing partner, you can move on to finding one that would perform best according to your needs.
What Online Printing Partners Offer
On the one hand, it used to be that customers associated online printing with an anonymous service that offers only standard choices. On the other hand, a sample print, physical proof, paper samples and person to explain color matching, imposition or further processing are things where local printers seem to have an advantage compared to online printing services. However, a clear-cut distinction is no longer the case.
Online printers tend to work in a highly optimized and efficient process that enables them to offer competitive prices with high quality and fast turnaround, but that doesn’t mean you have to compromise on customer services or extras. Online upload and proofing tools facilitate the file delivery, but you can still have your printing data checked by an expert and contact customer care with your questions. In addition, online printers offer sample catalogs to help you with the right choice of paper and product, color swatches and file templates to ease the design process for you. The following criteria that will help you determine which online printing partner is right for you.
In a majority of cases, your choice boils down to finding the best quality at the most affordable, lowest price. Keep in mind that when you’re comparing offers, you cannot look at the price alone: a company with a slightly higher price for a product might include additional extras which increase the value of the print product, such as premium paper, checking your printing data, further processing, free shipping, premium packaging etc. Very often it also pays off to compare not only a single quantity, but a set of quantities. One printer might have a special offer for 500 business cards, but a competitor might offer a premium product for a slightly higher quantity and only slightly higher price. Comparison shopping helps, but it might be difficult to compare options due to paper choice and minimum quantities.
Fast Turnaround and Delivery
Always inquire upfront about turnaround and delivery times to save you headaches later. You should always factor in unexpected delays, and it’s not uncommon that you have to apply pressure on your printer to achieve delivery in time. So consider the available options for fast turnaround when choosing your printing partner. Do they offer delivery in 24 hours or 48 hours? What is the turnaround on standard jobs, and which premium options are available? How do the fees compare to the competition? Make sure to check data delivery times as well. For example, for next-day shipping, a printer might require you to hand over the data before noon.
Printing Technology and Equipment
The type of technology and equipment in use at your printing partner will influence factors such as quality, speed, accuracy as well as versatility and range of available print products and further processing. The good thing is that printing companies are usually straightforward in telling you which cutting edge technology and equipment they use. Where you have to make a decision is if you want to work with a printer that can be your one-stop-shop for a wide range of printing solutions, or if you want to work with someone highly specialized and order different products from different suppliers. It all depends on the volume and array of your printing needs. Are you ordering a lot of posters, business cards, brochures? Are your large format needs front and center, because you require banners for events or advertising? Different types of print jobs lend themselves to certain technology as well: printing posters in bulk is a traditional offset printing job, but a small fine art run is better suited for digital printing (see also our blog post about digital vs offset printing).
Some customers value extra features offered by online printing partners. A few examples here include a free check of your printing data by a professional, binding options, special finishing such as UV coating, die-cutting, neutral packaging and direct delivery to your customer (drop-shipping), special offers for long-time customers, or an affiliate or bonus program.
A printing company with years of experience will most likely let you rest assured that your print jobs are in good hands. Check how long a potential partner has been in business, what other clients they already have and which industries they mostly work with. Do they offer FAQs on their website for common customer questions? Can you download print file templates to make the design process easier for you? If you can find out how much a printer understands your industry and your needs, it will save you a lot of time later and can be the base for a solid business relationship.
Reputation and Reviews
Learn about customer satisfaction of a printing company. Ask around in your industry, search online and read customer reviews to find out if a printer comes recommended by others. Are the reviews online genuine, or do they seem fake or bought? A satisfaction rate of 97-99 percent can be more realistic than 100 percent, if all of the positive reviews have actually been paid for. Is your future printing partner active online, do they have a blog where they share their expertise, do they show their authority on LinkedIn or other platforms? These things can be worth checking to find out how reputable a printing company is.
Communication and Customer Care
Again, in an ideal world, you won’t need to communicate much with your printing partner, and things will go smoothly. But it’s worth paying attention to how they communicate before you settle on a print provider. Make sure the mode of communication suits your needs best (by email, for example). What are the hours of their customer service? Do they actively assist you during the order process already, for example via a live chat or extensive on-site information? Can they explain complex printing matters in plain English so anyone can understand the issue, not just a designer or print technician? Are their requirements and print job specifications clearly listed to avoid misunderstandings, or do you have to dig for this kind of information on their website? In printing, many issues can be avoided beforehand by communicating clearly and double-checking if the information has registered properly with the other party.
Let Chilliprinting help you!
At Chilliprinting, we have a proven track record of delivering high quality print products to clients from various industries at affordable and highly competitive prices. Thanks to our expertise and experience, we have optimized the workflow on our cutting-edge printing technology to offer fast turnaround and delivery times and an easy-to-use online ordering process. We’re experts in offset printing and offer additional services when it comes to preparing or checking your print files. You will also find a comprehensive library of templates and data sheets on our website to assist you in creating your print files. Our strict quality guidelines guarantee optimal results and make Chilliprinting the preferred printing partner for many clients across different industries. But don’t just take our word for it: Order our free samples pack to see and feel our great printing quality, or get a quote for print products right here!