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Above and Beyond

A Look at Outsourcing Print and Install

By Melissa Donovan

Many print providers are not full-service businesses, they choose to outsource all of their print and install work. To offer a one-stop experience to customers, these companies find it in their best interest to manage an entire campaign by working with a network of trusted suppliers. Their customers in return appreciate the ease of communicating with one point of contact. By using this type of service, the customer only has to explain its vision once.


Other businesses may decide to outsource a portion of their print or install work. Outsourcing is often used as a stepping stone to eventually adding a service. Not including the service right away may be because of monetary considerations, a smaller staff unable to handle the added labor, or not having the right hardware in house. The decision to outsource may begin as temporary but end up becoming a more permanent option.


The Topic of Outsourcing

Today outsourcing is no more prevalent than it was ten years ago, according to Ritchie Daize, business development manager – automotive, Arlon Graphics, LLC. He says that many low-cost, medium- to high-level output devices satisfy the needs of most of today’s shops, unlike ten years ago when printers were more expensive and required pricey service contracts to keep them running. Hardware advancements makes outsourcing less common.


Daize also notes that outsourcing installation has decreased, partly due to the abundance of wrap certification classes held throughout the country by both media and hardware manufacturers. “These give average sign shops both exposure to application techniques and the confidence to try to apply the things they print,” he adds.


Certain situations deem outsourcing almost a necessity. Craig Campbell, graphic products market manager, ORAFOL Americas, encourages companies who do not currently own a digital printer but want to offer the service first outsource print needs. “Do it for at least a year to build business prior to investing in a printer. Don’t make the mistake of buying a printer, then trying to find the business for it,” he cautions.


Sometimes the decision to outsource may be for a one-off type of project. Daize recommends that if a job is so large that it interrupts a print service provider’s (PSP’s) workflow for more than three days, it should be outsourced—the printing or the install.


Campbell points out that in this scenario a wholesaler network is a great resource. These businesses can output just about any job. Familiar companies include Digital Print Solutions, Florida Graphic Supply, Inc., Fly Digital Print, Georgia Printco, Inc., Partner Printing, and Signs365.


It is important to outsource to trusted suppliers. These connections are ones that must withstand a lot of trial and tribulation. More importantly, these PSPs should be able to deliver exactly what the client asked for in the time allotted.


Outsourcing challenges to be aware of include working within the parameters of whichever RIP and design software is being used. Daize points out that graphics often need to be reworked when moving between multiple locations. Additionally, it is recommended that you ensure your outsource partner stocks the correct media brands.


One Who Outsources

Based Gilbert, AZ, Tag Media & Ink is a business marketing services and solutions provider. It offers brand management from design, Web, print, promotional material, and signage, to fulfillment. In business since 1994, the company has undergone several iterations along the way, but has always remained focused on delivering printing services, integrated marketing, and technology.


The marketing service provider constantly collaborates with its customers to evolve branding messages and dream up out-of-the-box ideas. A constant goal, according to Steve Bell, COO, Tag Media, is to earn the trust of the client. This is done in a number of ways, but perhaps one of the most important is by communicating with print partners on behalf of the customer.


“We create value by turning around work quickly and reducing cost, all while maintaining brand loyalty. Outsourcing allows us to do this. In return, we get that loyalty back from the customer, who sees us as a trusted resource,” explains Bell.


For example, Tag Media works with a large hot tub manufacturer, Maax Spas, managing the marketing and point of purchase at the corporate level all the way down to multiple product lines. A catalog is sent out to Maax’s dealer network that showcases marketing materials such as wall panels, vinyl banners, trade show booths, outdoor flags, tents, and even apparel.


When an order comes in, Tag Media routes that job to the most qualified printer. Printer and marketer work together to ensure that the product or products are shipped to the appropriate location(s) in the correct amount of time. These campaigns tend to be multifaceted.


Take another client, Primary Residential Mortgage, Inc., it required multiple pieces for a trade show booth—a round barrel table, captain chairs, table skirts, and backdrop panels.


Everything at the company is client driven, says Bell. “What the client wants or needs us to do, we do.” Digital print assists in making these wants and needs a reality. While Bell cites that in the beginning a vast majority of the company’s jobs were screenprinted, he sees anywhere from 80 to 90 percent of today’s work done digitally because of the varied color palette and print quality.


With endless marketing possibilities, Tag Media must outsource to multiple, talented and trusted vendor partners. Many of which are local, allowing the company to exert control over the process and give back to the community by supporting local business.


The marketing service provider recently worked with a school district in the area to promote healthy eating with the creation of chip board lunch boxes. Each was sized to fit a Gatorade or water bottle, fruit cup, and sandwich. The outside artwork varied in color, depending on the message it conveyed. In every scenario, the box included a link to a mobile application.


Tag Media’s staff worked closely with a local packaging supplier to create prototypes. Through testing they solved several challenges, such as the need for the boxes to be stackable and to fit all of the varied food products. After the client signed off, the packaging supplier also produced the final job, a run of three versions, with 2,000 boxes per version.


New projects such as the lunch boxes require some babysitting, according to Bell, but a lot of repeat clients come through Tag Media’s doors and the work—like the Maax jobs—is done so regularly that those print partners are familiar with the process. Bell says it really all boils down to communication. It is important to maintain customer service and quality relationships on both ends to ensure a smooth collaboration.


Stuck in the Middle

When deciding to outsource, it all depends on the PSP’s business model and what works best for them. “Do what your shop can handle on a daily basis but never turn down the opportunity to go after the big jobs—you will always have resources to do the work that are only a call away,” recommends Campbell.


Communication between the customer, marketing/print provider, and the vendor partner is essential to the entire process. The marketing provider—as the middle man holding it all together—works to identify and evaluate trusted partners who can act as extension of their company, complementing their work aesthetic and going above and beyond to bring a customer’s marketing vision to life. This dedication means that the customer rarely sees what goes on behind the scenes and almost always walks away satisfied.


Jun2014, Digital Output

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