Is there a best type of printer for associations that we should be utilizing?

There are many great reasons to use vendors that specialize in associations.  They tend to have a better understanding of your target markets, your processes, your special challenges (also known as your most difficult volunteers), your unique timing needs, and your budget needs.  A good printer who has worked with associations in the past can be helpful in many regards.

That said, unlike many other vendors, printers can be very constrained by their equipment.  The best association-oriented customer service will always have difficulty overcoming having the wrong printing press for the job.  Here are some examples:

– Many printers tend to be better geared for small – or medium – or large jobs.  It’s unusual to find a printer who can handle all size jobs with ease. If a printer can handle all size jobs with ease, they often have significant overhead and may not be cost competitive on all jobs.

– Most printers tend to either have sheetfed presses that are suitable for small to medium size jobs, or web presses that are suitable for much larger runs.  Both types of presses can ultimately do any job, but they run so differently that they are only cost competitive at their natural job size.

– If your association needs very simple two-color printing for some jobs such as business cards or notepads, short-run 4-color process for small brochures, long-run 4-color process for large runs of your magazines, and specialized directory printing for your complex resource directory with laminated tabs, your association will probably find it more cost effective to use four different printers rather than one printer.

Therefore, from a pure cost standpoint, it may be to your association’s advantage to use more than one printer if you have a variety of job types.  However, using multiple printers does have some drawbacks for your association:

– You may not get each printer’s very best customer service (e.g. squeezing in last minute jobs or moving you ahead of another job) because each printer only does a small amount of business with the association.

– The printers may not fully understand your business because they don’t deal with your association enough.

– You may find it a hassle to deal with different printers because each has their own systems, proofing methods, printing quality (e.g. some print darker than others, etc.).

One way around these drawbacks is to have your outside marketing company or agency deal with the printers.  Because the outside company may have many different clients and more printing volume, they will tend to be able to ask for special favors such as ultra-fast timing with better results.  They may also be able to secure better pricing and overall service.  If you don’t utilize an outside design company, a printer broker may be able to fill that role.

While there may be a few printing companies that specialize in associations, the major driving factor in choosing the correct printer for your association may be whether their equipment matches the type of printing your association needs.  There is some downside to using multiple printers, but that downside can be offset with the assistance of an outside marketing company or print broker.  The downside of using multiple printers is also offset by the cost savings you will achieve by utilizing the appropriate printers for your association’s jobs.

How does your association choose printers?  If you use several printers, has that been problematic for your association?

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