The advantage of partnering with local printers

In the hectic daily struggle to keep a small print shop profitable, many may fall into the trap of cut-throat pricing – quickly seeing what competitors in your area are charging and shaving a few percentage points off their prices. This race to the bottom helps no one and makes margins wafer thin.

Example: I have a friend who runs the Toronto International Bicycle Show. His printing needs each year involve everything from show passes, floor plans and perforated exhibitor badges etc., to full-colour brochures. Last month he had to use four different printers for these relatively simple projects. One local franchise printer raised prices a few percentage points, so he got a quote from another franchisee closer to where he lived. It was double (yes, double!) An offset printer who does his full-colour brochure was very competitive, but couldn’t compete on the one-colour and B&W pieces. Another printer that handled his B&W items and envelopes didn’t have perforating equipment, so the exhibitor badges went to yet another printer. At the end of the day, my friend saved about $2,000.

Here’s my point:  the most successful local printers I know never work in silos. They visit local competitors, introduce themselves and suggest working together. What are your strengths and theirs? What equipment do you/they have, and where does your efficiency and expertise lie? Are there jobs that you’d rather not handle for whatever reason? If I owned a print shop and specialized in full-colour brochures, for example, I’d make sure that I knew every other print shop in my area that could do one-colour and B&W items more efficiently. Then I’d recommend them to the client. With one move, I’d keep the client happy, foster loyalty, and encourage my competitors to recommend my shop for higher-end projects.

Now this may seem like a fairly obvious business strategy. But be honest: how often have you rushed a job through so you could earn a few extra dollars, while possibly sacrificing more lucrative future work? Sometimes you just can’t take on all requests cost-efficiently. Don’t be afraid to recommend local competitors. Find your niche, know your local printers’ niches and work together. Then everyone wins!

Until next time, always remember that we’re here to help.


Tony Curcio is the editor of Graphic Arts Magazine.