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  • AMi Direct

AMiable Solution #387: Pitfalls of Online Printers

We might be a little biased, but we think working with traditional printers beats working with online printers any day.

For years, I knew VistaPrint as a business card printer. More significantly, I knew the company printed business cards for free when the buyer agreed to let VistaPrint print its name and logo on the back of the card.

The move, we admit, was brilliant. Buyers love free stuff, and VistaPrint got plenty of new business and brand awareness out of this strategy. And while such “online” printing companies like VistaPrint do offer some benefits (instant, pre-determined pricing, for example), we think that traditional printers—the ones with lobbies you can meet customer service reps in and sales folks who visit you in your office to see how you are and discuss ways to improve your marketing and your spending—just can’t be beat.

Yes, we’re biased, but with reason.

Local, brick-and-mortar printers provide you with three key benefits that those online guys don’t:

· Flexibility in materials or process.

With online printers, you’re at the mercy of their stock—and their designs. Their offerings tend to center on a set, pre-defined collection of common stock and formats. Personalized sizes, folds, or die-cuts aren’t an option.

Local printers, however, tend to have a wider range of quality, quantity, and size options. You have the freedom to create the eye-catching, competitor-defeating flyers, postcards, and other marketing collateral that set your company apart.

Plus, with a local printer, you can get samples of paper quickly. With an online printer, you’re left to design and mail a campaign on stock description alone.

· Personal contact.

Automation has its advantages. We get it. Sometimes it’s nice to skip the conversation and just place your order.

But when it comes to your marketing, you want to know that someone, somewhere in that print shop has your back. Someone can answer your questions before you place your order. Someone will keep tabs on the progress of your job and will notify you of issues or delays. Someone will call after your job is done to see how it went and what they can do to help you in the future. Which can lead to…

· Long-term relationships.

We agree with that 1980’s television show: it is nice when someone knows your name and knows your “usual.” Having a real, live person who knows your business, your brand, and your style is profoundly helpful when it comes to recommending stock or formats, maintaining quality output, and taking pride in the work done. There’s a comfort in building a relationship with a vendor. And that can only be done with live salespeople, not forms and links.

Will you ever have a job that you’ll want to zip off to a remote printer? Probably.

Are online printers the answer to consistently good prices, excellent printing, and reliable customer service for your important marketing pieces? We think not.

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