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How to Choose the Best Printer for Your Direct Mail Campaign

These tips can help you choose the printer whose product and service will meet your needs.
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In his book The Direct Mail Solution , direct marketing expert and entrepreneur Craig Simpson provides easy-to-follow solutions for creating direct mail campaigns that work! In this edited excerpt, the author reveals the nine things you should be looking for when choosing a printer for your direct mail campaign.

Your mailing can be a success only if your vendors do their jobs correctly. It's critical to hire excellent vendors who do superior work.

But deciding who will print your sales material can be complex. Weigh all these areas before making a final choice:

Color work. Color adds an added dimension to most promotional pieces, but if it's not done right, it can cheapen the look of your piece. Make sure your printer can match the colors you want and does a nice, clean job.

Availability of stock. Is your printer able to provide a wide variety of quality papers in different weights, textures and colors? You'd be surprised at how the paper you use can affect the overall impression you present.

Proofs. It could be problem if your printer is unwilling to let you see proof copies before printing a full job. While you don't want to be making editorial changes from proofs, you want to make sure the piece looks good and has the right codes, that the pages are in the right order, there are no smudges on the plates, and so on.

Quality of finishing work (folding, cutting, collating, etc.). A job can be beautifully printed, but if it's cut at an angle, the corners aren't straight or the folding is sloppy, it can ruin the job.

Responsiveness. Things change quickly in business. You may have a last-minute brainstorm that requires a change in the piece you're printing. Or you may realize you put the wrong phone number on the piece. You want to know you can call and talk to a real person who will make the changes you want. This is no time to have to deal with a stream of voice-mail prompts or have to leave a message for someone you don't know and hope they get it and respond before the job goes to press. Contact your prospective vendor two or three times to see if he's available and if not, how quickly he'll get back to you.

His niche market. A printer who specializes in four-color printing that's high quality with low volume wouldn't be a good fit for a two-color job that requires hundreds of thousands of pieces. Sure, he probably could do the job, but he wouldn't be as efficient as a printer who specializes in high-volume work. It would be like taking your Ford truck to a Volkswagen mechanic. The VW mechanic could probably fix your truck, but he would not be as efficient as someone who fixes Ford trucks every day.

Pricing. Get a quote from three different vendors so you know that you're getting a reasonable price. If one price is much lower than the others, be careful and double-check everything to make sure the vendor isn't missing any important details. Ask lots of questions so you can be certain there are no hidden costs. Compare vendors in the same niche. If you want to print 5,000 postcards, don't compare quotes from a vendor who specializes in printing postcards with a printer specializing in printing magazines.

Attention to detail. When you ask for a quote, you have to give specifics about what is involved in the job. If the vendor misses or "forgets" to quote on one of the job's details, you may want to pass on using them. There are plenty of vendors to choose from. Make sure to use one that pays extra attention to detail.

Experience. If your vendor has been in his niche business for many years, he'll be more likely to catch any possible errors early on. He'll also provide insight into how to run your job more efficiently. It's worth paying a little more for an expert. He'll end up saving you money in the long run.

Finally, when considering whether to try a new printer, get samples of his work, and try to get samples of jobs similar to your own.