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Two Savvy Print Buyers Talk Shop

caption id=”attachment_3373″ align=”alignright” width=”120″ caption=”Mariah Hunt”][/caption]

In the past several months I’ve written quite a bit about printers’ equipment lists and why they’re important to print buyers. The feedback I got convinced me to offer a session devoted to this topic at our recent PBI BOSTON conference.

Both speakers have tons of experience. Mariah Hunt, Senior Production Manager at Digitas, has over 20 years in the business – and awards that speak to her excellence. Mariah is also a board member of NEDMA and the VP in charge of this year’s annual conference. (I’ll be there; will you?)

Jason Benagh

Jason Benagh is Manager of Client Services for DG3 Managed Services and works on site at Vertex Pharmaceuticals. He, too, has more than 20 years in the biz, having started out on the vendor side before jumping over to buyer positions.

They advised print buyers to take three key steps when reviewing an equipment list:

  1. Verify that the vendor has the capabilities they say they have.
  2. Ensure they are the owners of the equipment.
  3. Make sure
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    that the equipment list is up to date.

Jason demonstrated the ridiculousness of an “everything but the kitchen sink” kind of list. He’d printed off a real list from a printer’s site (kept anonymous) and unfurled it for the crowd. He’d taped the list together end to end (8 ½ x 11” sheets), and there were half a dozen pages once the printout hit the floor. Yes, way too much information on a web site.

Mariah said that at Digitas, she often has printers come into the agency to do their presentations for her team. She immediately flips to the back of the booklets they’ve prepared and occasionally

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has to ask, “Where’s the list?” It’s a red flag if a printer doesn’t include The List.

What do print buyers look for?

The speakers also talked about what information they seek when checking out potential new print vendors:

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  • Reliability
  • Volume/capacity
  • Specialty capabilities

How should buyers gauge reliability? Jason said he’ll “pull a Dun & Bradstreet®” (credit report) on a potential printer. He also recommends that buyers visit the plant “and make sure it’s not too quiet.” Digitas doesn’t pull D&B reports on printers but insists that printers have a Disaster Recovery Plan.

Other words of advice related to volume and capacity.

If a printer’s sitting on one press only and you need that press, you should make sure the printer has a backup plan if the press goes down. This brought up the value of equipment redundancy; that is, a printer having more than one press of the same kind.

Jason said that a good equipment list includes a short explanation per category or an equipment list that explains what the pieces do.

Good news for printers: Mariah looks for new vendors all the time, and the first thing she asks is: “Do you have a list?” She also asks printers, “What’s your perfect job (sweet spot)?”

You should always visit the plant, the speakers advised. And if you can’t literally get there, use video services like WebEx® to take a tour. “Do not sit in the customer lounge,” they added. Instead, “hang out with the pressmen. Get a sense of the pressman running your job. Is he nervous or not?” Mariah mentioned finding out “How many sheets have they run before I got here? It could be huge; I’m paying for them.” Jason noted he likes it when a sales rep knows a pressman’s name without looking at nametag in the pressroom. It shows that a relationship exists.

How much do buyers rely on the equipment list?

“We rely heavily on the list for new vendors.” (Are you listening, printers?) They also said they pay special attention to equipment changing hands during acquisitions and buyouts. Mariah noted that an acquisition doesn’t mean the equipment necessarily moves with the acquisition. (The new owner buys the client list but not always the equipment.)

Outsourcing precipitates more questions. Our speakers recommended buyers ask printers questions such as who’s doing the work, how close is the relationship, and who has control over/responsibility for the quality.

Jason said he once had a sales rep come in, admitting, “I’ve never sold printing before.” He told him to “keep moving.” “You need [a sales rep who’s] the mover and the shaker,” added Mariah. Buyers shouldn’t feel bad if they need to change print reps, she said. (I agree. Sometimes the fit’s just not right.)

Bottom line? Ask questions.

  1. Ask a printer for his or her capabilities, client names, and samples.
  2. Set expectations with sales reps.
  3. Always ask questions.

It was a good session by two experienced professionals. It went by much too fast. I love listening to buyers inform other buyers.

Jason had a gem of a quote. I believe he was speaking for all print production professionals when he said:

“We don’t covet the information we have – we love to share with new people.”

© 2012 Margie Dana. All rights reserved. You’re free to forward this email. However, no part of this column may be reprinted without permission from the author

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