One of the easiest ways to contain costs in marketing communications is to print your collaterals yourself. With today’s desktop printers, you can get quality results without breaking the bank.
Years ago I worked at TAIS, Toshiba America’s computer division. I remember doing press checks at 3:00 a.m., taking a loop to a test print and checking to see that the color of the laptop on the paper matched the color of the real thing exactly. It drove our printers crazy, and we paid through the nose.
Many companies do not need such perfection. Often, even the logo does not have to be the exact PMS color that would be gotten via offset printing. If it’s pretty close, most customers will never know the difference. And “pretty close” can be gotten these days from a good desktop printer. The cost delta between a professional press run and a desktop run can be exponential, especially on small runs.
For those of you who may not be experts when it comes to printing, the cost for a professional print run lies in the set-up of the press, not the number of copies printed. The cost for 500 pieces and 5,000 is not significantly different. And so for years companies with small budgets had to think twice about the literature they printed, weighing cost against value and shelf life. Those with larger budgets tended to run more copies than they needed because, psychologically, it was the only way to justify the expenditure. Hard on all those trees, you know?
Today, a good desktop printer that can handle 11″ x 17″ paper and has a duplexer (for double-sided copying) can often meet the needs of those wanting to do short runs; small, just-in-time runs; or small, on-demand runs. It not only saves money, but it allows for a great deal more flexibility. This latter perk can be particularly valuable in companies where decision-makers tend to change their minds often. I can’t tell you how many times salespeople I’ve worked with have changed their list of key selling points on an older product as a new product was added in order to modify the position of the older product in the market space.
When choosing a printer, look for these features:
- Overall reliability (choose a work horse over a sexy machine with all the bells and whistles)
- Duplexer reliability (this tends to be the Achilles’ heal of printers)
- Color matching capabilities (Can you get the color of your logo to print on this machine?)
- Individual ink cartridges for each color (as opposed to a black cartridge and a color cartridge)
The other trick is to choose a good paper. I prefer the following:
- Cold white over warm white (warm white looks dingy next to cold white; think of your collaterals among a pile of others)
- Semi-gloss over a gloss (reduces the likelihood of smearing) or matte (out of style; reduces quality)
- 28-32# paper (heavier paper curls less and is one of those psychological aspects of a printed piece; heavier paper implies greater quality)
You can buy paper from a warehouse. In the Los Angeles/Orange County area, I use Kelly Paper. You can buy a ream at a time (and can often pick up samples to play with first; cost is $.25 apiece, although once I became a regular customer, they seldom charged me). They have “text weight” stock, cover stock, colored stock, and colored card stock. They have a plethora of envelopes, some of which match their papers. They will also cut paper to size for a fee (I like to make my press invitations square). For more information, go to www.kellypaper.com.
Another way to keep printing costs down is to design, or have designed, a piece that does not bleed. Bleeding means a graphic element runs off the edge of the page. If you create an 8-1/2″ x 11″ sell sheet with a bleed, that piece will have to be run on paper that is larger than 8-1/2″ x 11″ – and then it will have to be trimmed. This is true whether you print it yourself or have it printed professionally. That means more time and more material, and that equals greater cost.
FYI, if you do need to trim something, make sure it’s a good, clean cut. Ragged edges or cuts that are not straight tell your client that you do not believe in quality. Again, it’s a psychological thing. I use a craft cutter instead of a regular paper cutter because I can change out the blade on the former at very little cost but I can’t have the blade of a regular paper cutter sharpened, and blades go dull so quickly. The drawback, of course, is that with a craft cutter you can cut only one piece of paper at a time. If your run is too large for that to be feasible, go to a place like FedEx Kinkos and have them trim your run. They charge by the slice, not the number of pieces. The cost of a 4-sided trim is around $10, at least in my neck of the woods.
In these days when professional printing costs are sky high, consider this alternative. Tout it as being ecologically responsible. And spend your money elsewhere.