My agency focuses on three types of customers: engineers and other very high-tech customers, local agencies who need to sub or overflow work they do for their own clients, and what I call “shoestring” customers: the individuals, small businesses, and non-profits with big ideas and tiny budgets. (Here is a recording of an interview I did on Joanne McCall‘s BlogSpot Radio show about my approach to Shoestring Marketing.)
My shoestring clients need short-run print jobs, so I typically turn to online printing services to provide them with their brochures, postcards, posters, coffee mugs, booklets, and more. If you haven’t tried online printing services, it’s a good thing to explore (although I still say a good relationship with a local printer is important if you do any traditional press work). You create an account, choose from their available products, then upload your file. They send you a PDF proof for you to verify, then a week or so later the FedEx or UPS truck rolls up and hands you the finished product. Nice! But not all online print services are created equal.
There are MANY of these service around. When I Google “online print services” I get 1,360,000,000 results. Choose one that has a good user interface, has the range of products you need, and has pricing that you can live with. However, you need to also look for quality and customer service — something that may require some trial and error.
For a few years I took a shotgun approach and used a wide variety of online printing services for lots of different one-off projects. Think of it as an auditioning process. This narrowed things down for me to just two services: OvernightPrints, and CopyCraft.
Quality and Customer Service
In everything in life, you get what you pay for, and online printing services are no exception. Customer service became the final deal-breaker that caused me to choose just one of these services for all of my future online printing needs. Bear with me as I tell you two quality-issues stories.
Quality-Issue Story #1: Overnight Prints
Last year at a tradeshow that I organize every year for one of my shoestring customers, I received a box of brochures that I’d had printed by Overnight Prints. Opening the box right there in the tradeshow booth with my customer looking on, it was blatantly obvious that the brochures had been dropped on the ground in a not-too-clean place, then hastily picked back up and put into the box. They were all dusty. Many of them were bent and creased, some even had perfect shoe prints from having been stepped on. Of the 100 brochures I ordered, I had to throw away 20-30 of them. When I called customer service at Overnight Prints, they apologized (rather tersely, btw), but didn’t offer any explanation, discount, or incentive for me to continue to do business with them.
Quality-Issue Story #2: CopyCraft
I recently ordered business cards with rounded corners for the same shoestring customer from story#1 above. I ordered them from CopyCraft. When I received the cards, they were perfect — except the corners were not rounded. I sent an email to my Copy Craft account manager, Rusty. First thing the very next day, Rusty called me. He apologized, he explained what had happened, and he explained what they were going to do to fix the problem at no cost to me. The day after that (today), FedEx arrived to pick up the square-cornered cards, and early next week I expect to receive my box of rounded-corner business cards. (When I talked with Rusty he offered to get this done more quickly, but I explained that I don’t need to rush.) This story reveals an important contrast between these companies: CopyCraft assigns an account manager to you so you always have an individual’s phone number and email address to contact. If Overnight Prints offers this, I never knew about it.
The moral of the story
Customer service and Quality win the day over Price. Yes, I sometimes (not always) pay a little more for using CopyCraft, although their prices are still competitively low. But most importantly–what I get for an invoice that is about 5% higher is (A) a higher quality product, and (B) an account manager who cares about my projects and who will make sure I get what I need, when I need it. I get exactly what I pay for. I’ll stick with CopyCraft, and this is the company I recommend to those who ask for advice about online printing services. Thanks Rusty!
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