Two weeks ago I participated in #PrintChat – a weekly twitter discussion hosted by @QuadGraphics every Wed at 5pm ET.  The topic: Choosing a Print Partner. QuadGraphics began posting questions such as:

1. Selecting a Print provider can be confusing, what should buyers and marketers look for?

2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of working with a Printer that understands other channels?

3. What role do Customer Service and Relationships play when picking a provider?

All great questions – but what was interesting to me and what spurned this post, was that it was mainly Print Providers responding to them, and as a buyer, I was shocked at what they think we think!

In a general overview, based upon my 22-year career in Advertising & Marketing, here are my thoughts on the above. I cant say if it’s typical or atypical, but certainly it will offer some insight.

When you start working somewhere, they either have a vendor list and established relationships you are expected to work with, or they are expecting you to bring in resources. These resources are most likely people and companies you have worked with before and you know you can trust. All the cold calls, welcome to your new job emails, can I send you samples and requests to have lunch etc are most likely a waste of your time.  HOWEVER, if you have something new, or something cool, or are up on a new multichannel technology that can help ME – I am interested in meeting you.

If I call you, then I have already done my research and I need something specific. Help Me. I don’t need to hear about your other services or how you can do better on pricing than Vendor X, nor do I want to take a plant tour.  If you just help me with what I’ve asked for and every phone call doesn’t turn into a 20-minute pitch about something else, I might just come back for more work. Now the caveat again to this is if you can HELP ME by adding to or teaching me something that would work for the project I am calling you about, then you have attached a great value to your service and more likely than not I will be back for more work.

Despite the sentiment during PrintChat, I think Print Providers have an opportunity every day to establish themselves as thought leaders if they are up on, or ahead of the latest and greatest techniques and technologies.  There are plenty of buyers who cannot (or will not) ask their colleagues questions for fear of feeling stupid or antiquated, or they just don’t know what is out there and how to produce it.  Don’t sell. Just send the info, or call and invite me to a seminar you are holding at your office, or offer to come to mine and meet with the Production & Creative Depts to show us something we haven’t seen before, or a new way of doing it. Why wouldn’t I buy it from you after you took the time to establish yourself and your company as a knowledge resource?

Relationships matter. Answer your phone and your emails in a timely manner. Don’t pawn me off on a CSR after you made the “sale” that has been in the job for 2 weeks and cant answer my questions or offer any value from a printing standpoint. Deliver on your promises; keep me informed of any issues that arise and dont resolve them without any input from me. Yes, bring solutions, but if you fix my file and I don’t know there was an issue, my backup in the server is of no future use.  Don’t fish, or check in every two weeks to see if anything is brewing. If it were, I would have called you. At some point, it just gets annoying and please realize you aren’t the only company doing it.

Bottom line: Be there when I need you as I need you, communicate, produce great work with competitive pricing, deliver on time and on budget, and we will have a long and prosperous relationship!

Too tough?  What are your thoughts?

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Ps… To join in on a PrintChat – just follow the hashtag #printchat on Wednesday’s from 5-6pm ET.  The easiest way to follow the stream is from http://tweetchat.com/. Sign in with Twitter and enter printchat in the “hashtag to follow” field on top.  The screen will basically become a chat room and only those tweeting with #printchat will show up in it. If you have any questions on this let me know.

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