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Print Management Companies UK – what do they do?
There are a number of different types of businesses who call themselves Print Managers. But from many customer’s perspectives (i.e. anyone print buying on a project by project basis) a print management company will seem pretty much like talking to a printer. You talk to them about the print you require, they will advise you, take your order and payment and produce your print, delivering it when and where you want it.

For businesses who buy larger amounts of print, some print management companies can provide many more services – see Adding Value below.

However, while some print managers do own printing presses, others do not – leading to quite a few people who are print buying to get confused. So, let’s take a look at what print managers are and what they’re not and how they can add value to your business – as an alternative to going straight to your local printer.

What is Print Management?
At its most basic level, print management refers to the management of a printing project from start to final delivery. Usually, this involves print procurement, specifying, print project management and delivery, though the titles of those involved in the entire process may differ depending on the type of print management company involved (read on dear reader and all will become clear!).

Who calls themselves a Print Management company?
This is the crux of the issue and often leads to confusion. Companies who call themselves print managers include 3 types of businesses:

1. At one end of the spectrum, printers often describe themselves as being print managers or offering a print management service because they do, indeed, manage print projects through their presses. Printers may outsource products they can’t print themselves – or turn your project away if it doesn’t suit their press.

2. In the middle, print management companies with presses will offer to print and manage any sort of project. They own their own presses so their first port of call will be to print using these presses because empty presses cost money. However, they generally have procurement and project management specialists to manage externally-sourced print on behalf of clients, so can offer to print a full range of products.

3. At the other end of the spectrum are independent print management companies without presses. These businesses aren’t tied to particular presses but aim to add value to clients offering independent consultancy, advice, purchasing, project management, software and an extensive range of other value adding services. Webmart is an example of this sort of print management business.

Webmart print management in the UK

Some print management companies are brighter than others!


Own presses or not?
Print management companies with their own presses highlight the benefit of going straight to the press owner to get the lowest prices. However print managers without presses highlight the fact that they can match up each project to the right press and this is what reduces prices for clients – that press owners need to fill presses almost to capacity to achieve break even so cannot ensure they keep costs down by putting the project on the right sort of press.

Customer satisfaction
Print management companies of all shades, like any modern businesses, focus to a great extent on giving customer satisfaction. However, the best ones formally monitor customer satisfaction through feedback mechanisms. Indeed if you choose a print management company who has achieved ISO9001 accreditation, any learning or improvements made throughout the year should be formally documented and process improvements made to improve customer satisfaction.

Adding value
The best print management businesses take customer satisfaction further though, aiming to add value to their customers’ businesses in as many ways as possible. They offer free consulting to understand their client’s business objectives and bring the expertise and tools found within the print management business to bear on behalf of the client. This can include anything from bringing experience and advice aimed at anything from increasing marketing ROI to internal process improvements all the way through to practical software and business productivity improvements.

We’ll be looking at examples of how print management companies add value to their customers in a future article.

Print everything
A key benefit of using a print management company is that the best ones will be able to print anything and everything your business requires. They have dedicated procurement teams who ensure they’re competitive in a wide range of printed products, and can fulfil orders for promotional or point of sale items just as easily as they can for items like leaflets and brochures. This can be a core benefit for busy marketers and business owners.

Lower price
The best performing print managers also make it their business to monitor the price fluctuations in the print industry to ensure the prices they give to market are always competitive. While many older-style print management businesses do this at the expense of their suppliers, a more enlightened breed of print managers recognise the value of a strong and broad supply base and can deliver competitive prices to market that are sustainable in the long term.

This collaborative approach is a key way to ensure the long-term health of the UK printing industry (and print management companies UK).

Access to redundant capacity
The data which allows monitoring of print price fluctuations can also be used by print managers and their suppliers to fill redundant capacity. Redundant capacity is seriously damaging for a printer’s bottom line so it’s in the printers’, print managers’ and print buyers’ best interests to use that capacity. The print manager’s position as intermediary in this process can help anyone print buying to locate capacity at a reduced cost and offering a win/win/win for everyone in the supply chain.

What to do next?
If you’re looking to buy print in the UK, we’d recommend giving us a call. Webmart is the UK’s No.1 low-cost independent print management company. Check out our FAQ where we answer most of the questions that commonly puzzle print buyers not familiar with print management companies. Or drop us a note with any queries or for the UKs quickest price.

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You want to buy print?
You want to make sure you get great quality?
You also want a good price?
You’re scouring the web for Web Offset Printers?
…but you’re not sure where to turn?

It’s a problem lots of us print buyers have had. And it’s not just web offset printers who are tricky to assess when you don’t know them from Adam – it’s the same for digital, screen, gravure – any printers you can mention. So how do you get the print you want from a reliable, quality printer?

2 Options
There are two possible routes you can follow.

Firstly, you can follow the steps we outline below. These will help you assess whether you’ve found the right printer for your job and give you piece of mind that you’ve made the most informed, researched choice possible.

Or secondly, you can drop down to the bottom of this article to find a shortcut that will greatly increase your chance of success with minimal effort.

Our 4 steps to sorting the best web offset printers from the not so good.

1. Is a Web offset printer right for your job?
Check out this short article to assess whether web offset is likely to be right for your project. It looks at product types and whether web offset will be appropriate. If you’re not sure Web offset is the right process, understand a bit more by reading our marketers guide to sheet fed litho printing or web offset litho printing.

2. Assessing your chosen web offset printers
We’ve made it easy to check you’re asking the right questions to assess if a printer looks like they’ll give you good service and produce a quality product. Of course, each project is different and can bring it’s own issues for the printer to overcome. But check out our New Printer visit Checklist – it’s a great way to know what questions to ask and make sure you’ve covered all bases. This is the form we use to initially assess new printers we work with.

A form to help you assess initial impressions of a printer.

Printing supplier checklist - click to download pdf.

3. Speak the same language
When you talk to a printer, you need to make sure you’re speaking their language. If you don’t, they may not understand precisely what you’re after and could potentially give you an inaccurate quote. The end result could be you get a job that’s not quite what you’re after or a quote that doesn’t cover everything you need. Read our 5 tips for specifying print – including our own print specification form which you can download to use with the printer of your choice.

4. Other things to be aware of
Artwork – Make sure you deliver your artwork how your printer needs it. They usually want a PDF file – for more information, see our guide on how to deliver artwork to a commercial printer.
Preflighting – is a process you or your printer can run your artwork through to make sure it’s set up correctly and includes all the necessary elements. Click for more information on preflighting.
Proofs – if  you’re unsure of your chosen printer, make sure you get proofs back before the job is run. We’ve provided a guide on your options here.

Shortcut to all the above

Finding a printer that consistently provides you with good service, low prices and high quality – and that can print everything you or your business need – can be very difficult and time-consuming. A shortcut is to give Webmart a call. We monitor UK printers and place millions of pounds worth of print each year. You work with us just like a normal printer, except we find the right printer for your project and project manage it on your behalf. To get in touch for a friendly chat, contact us at the Webmart website.

 

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Embossing is a process where a metal stamp is pressed against a piece of paper to create a raised impression on it. It’s traditionally seen on business stationery,  especially as embossed business cards where it’s used as a way to add impact to the print and give it a high class look and feel. However, in recent times, it’s been adopted as another effective tool in the designers toolbox, being used more creatively to produce a wider range of subtler effects.

Many creative possibilities

How it’s Done
The embossing process takes place as a separate stage after the print and varnishing. A brass or magnesium die is created in the shape required and is carefully aligned with the area to be stamped. It’s then forced onto the paper, often with a pressure of several tons, to leave its stamped impression in relief on the reverse side of the card.

There are other similar and less common techniques available, such as multi-level embossing to add more depth to the relief, or debossing which recesses the card (kind of a reverse embossing).

When embossing is used without ink, it’s called blind embossing. But it’s more commonly used with ink or metallic foils on the raised area which can really add to the impact.

Printed & embossed metallic business cards

Price
It’s tricky to give an idea of price because that’s very much dependent on the number of items to be embossed, the type of items and the complexity of the die. But as a rule of thumb, a run of 500 embossed business cards with a single embossing on it will add around £200-300 to the cost of the job. But with a business card still being a key tool for self and business promotion, the increase in cost can be a worthwhile investment.

 

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We’ve produced a 2 minute guide to web offset printing before, explaining how the process works. Here, we take a look at web offset from a product perspective. What sort of products can be produced at a web offset printers? It’s a key question because, as you may (or may not!) know, placing your job at the wrong printer will result in a less efficient production and a higher cost.

Web offset printers are suited to fast turnaround of high quality print where large print-runs are involved. Web offset presses can print several million A4 full colour sheets per hour with a wide range of finishing options available – many printers offering them inline (i.e. not as a separate ‘bolted on’ process). So if your project is high volume and needed quickly and it’s not too specialist (needing thicker papers or a special process for example) then web offset might be the printing process you need for your project.

 

web of paper passing through press

Web of paper being fed through a 48 page web offset press

Magazines
Web offset printers are great at producing high volume, high quality magazines. If you’re looking to print over around 10-20,000 magazines, and have a demanding delivery schedule to keep, then web offset will probably be the right solution as it’s fast, printing straight to the web of paper as it’s fed into the press. Many web offset printers also have processes for ensuring colour reproduction (often ISO certified colour standards) and many comply with PEFC/FSC and or ISO 14001 environmental standards if you need to ensure brand or corporate environmental guidelines are adhered to.

Brochures & Catalogues
Similarly, larger volumes of brochures and catalogues are well suited to web offset printers. However the point at which to go web offset or use another process isn’t always clear and is dependant on a variety of factors such as length of run, paper weight, inks to be used – and even finishing required. If you’re not sure, it’s worth getting independent advice.

Finishing options are extensive. A definition and information on some typical finishing options can be found here.

Direct Mail
Web offset printers are often used to produce the ‘base’ direct mail print work, which is then over-printed with further personal information for each customer. Printing larger quantities web offset reduces the cost for the majority of the print, leaving the personalisation information to be printed digitally. Doing the whole project digitally would, in many cases, be prohibitively expensive for larger direct mail printing runs.

Finishing options for the direct mail piece are extensive too and include the use of a variety inks such as coin-reactive, metallic and thermochromic inks; varnishes; remoist glue application and die cutting or pattern perforation.

Other types of print project can be run web offset, but again as long as they are of sufficient quantity to cover the press setup (make ready) costs and the wastage that occurs when getting a web of paper up to speed on the press.

If you’d like to speak to an independent print consultant to find out more about web offset printing or to see if you can save money using the process, contact us here.

 

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The term thermographic or thermography printing is a bit of a misnomer to the non-printer as it’s actually a way of producing raised printing. Rather than describing the end result, it describes the method for getting the raised print onto the page which involves the application of heat, hence the name.

The process hasn’t changed much since its invention. In essence, it involves taking the printed piece and, while the ink is wet, dusting the ink with a material which will stick to the ink. The dust is then heated to turn molten and, when dried, forms a raised area where the wet ink was.

thermographic or thermography printing

Today, the printed sheets with areas of wet ink are passed under a polymer powder hopper which drops the powder onto the sheet. This adheres to the areas of wet ink and not the dry. Next, the sheet is vacuumed to remove excess powder, then passes into a heat or UV oven. Here, the powder melts, forming a raised area on the wet ink and curing into a dry raised surface.

Thermography printing can be used on double-sided items and can also be printed multicolour. It’s used extensively on business stationery but can have other creative applications where a raised surface adds to the tactility and impact of the print.

To discuss how thermography printing might help your next print project, why not contact the friendly folks at Webmart?

 

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Direct Mail is a favourite of marketers because it’s relatively straight forward to calculate a direct ROI from it. Check out our other guides for more information. In a nutshell, if you include the right trackback mechanisms, you can calculate the effectiveness of each printed item. You can even segment data by geographic region, postcode, printed item, message etc. etc. to get a detailed drill-down on responses. The ways you can segment your data are limited only by your business objectives and your imagination.

But that’s all well and good. Assuming you’re convinced by the effectiveness of direct mail, let’s have a look at 3 key areas you need to focus on – as determined by direct mail printers themselves.

Aside from the usual considerations to maintain print quality and stick to delivery schedules (see our guide on how to find a quality printer), our direct mail printers tell us there are three main areas you should think about focusing on. Data, Postage and Packaging.

printed direct mail

The end result - a DP piece ready to go.

1. Data
Every direct mail campaign starts with the data. Direct mail printers will take your data and set about cleaning it. This is arguably one of the most important aspects of any direct mail campaign as it increases the effectiveness of each mailed item through:

  • Removing duplicate contacts
  • Removing redundant contacts
  • Removing corrupted data

The best direct mail printers can also sell you a contact list too if required though, as a rule of thumb, your own harvested lists will generally give you a better result.

Next, they’ll analyse your data looking at the best way to distribute and achieve maximum discounting. Finally, they’ll organise your data in the right format for printing.

2. Postage
There are several options for sorting and distributing your printed direct mail. Discounts are available for presorting at the printers (called Mailsort), working on the principle that if you cut down Royal Mail’s workload, they’ll reduce the price of  postage since they’re having to do less work. This can be done right down to a postcode level of detail.

With the recent changes to Royal Mail’s pricing structure, your printer should also be able to suggest ways you can access new discounts such as the new Advertising Mail category. This phase is crucial and if you get good quality advice, tailored to the specifics of your campaign, your savings can be considerable.

3. Environmental
There’s lots of arguments and contra-arguments about the environmental impact of direct mail. We’ve discussed the topic before so we’ll leave that argument well alone here. Except to say that using sustainable stock and environmentally-sensitive printing techniques is good for the environment and good for your brand and enhances the sustainability of your direct mail campaign. It also allows you to qualify for the Sustainable Mail discount which can be as much as 1p per letter.

So there you have it. Focus on data quality and analysis, take advantage of mailing discounts and print environmentally and you’ll be well on the way to producing an effective direct mail campaign.

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There’s a great deal of pressure and consolidation going on amongst UK print companies at the moment. Each month we hear of closures, buy-outs and redundancies and amid all this doom and gloom, it’s tempting to think that things are just going to get worse and worse.

However, there’s still quite a bit of positivity to be taken from some of the most recent statistics on the UK print industry – and we believe they reflect the fact that print is still one of the most essential and value adding businesses in the UK.

Statistics
Here’s some statistics taken from a recent BPIF analysis which puts a different slant on Print’s role in the modern economy.

UK Print Companies play a vital role in the economy

UK Print Companies play a vital role in the economy

  • Print was the second highest value-adding industry in the country, second only to pharmaceuticals. This equates to a gross value added of £6.4bn
  • UK print companies contribute to the UK being the 5th largest producer of printed products in the world
  • The industry contains 10,500 companies and employs 140,000 people
  • Print media takes the largest share of advertising budgets (45% 2009) a share which is expected to grow
  • Print had a positive trade balance of £1bn in 2009
  • Print has a turnover of £14.3bn

The print industry is going through considerable transformation at the moment, but with figures like this, it has a vital, ongoing role to play in the economy.

 

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I have to confess I didn’t know much about promotional printing companies, but after a tour of one of the largest in the country, I found my eyes opening wide to the marketing possibilities, especially to the way promotional print might be going in the not too distant future.

Marketing
I guess one of the main points about promotional print is that it can be a very cost-effective marketing medium. If you can produce an item which is useful for your target customers, then there’s a pretty good chance that it’ll get used. And if it does, then your brand is getting eyeballed many times over the period the item’s in use.

Promotional Printing Factory Tour

Some of the crew refreshing their promotional print knowledge.

Which for a widget that costs something like one or two pounds, can prove very cost-effective indeed.

So it’s worth thinking long and hard about your customers; what they might like, what might appeal to them, and what your message might be. A logo and website address is probably the minimum these days – although a strapline describing who you are or what you do would be good to remind anyone who’s forgotten.

Technology & Pricing
There’s an incredible variety of printing presses of one sort or another being used to print on promotional items. Everything from 4 colour litho units all the way to transfers, pad printing and screen printing. Most were automated (as you’d expect) but it was surprising how many had to have a manual involvement. Items like pens can usually be fed from a hopper where they’re machine-oriented, then screen printed. But pens with uneven surfaces have to be hand-sorted and hand-printed!

Promotional printing mugs by hand

The price goes up when each colour has to be printed separately!

Some lower print runs or printing on specialist items might also be more economically printed by hand. So, that explains some of the pricing variance between items that might seem more or less identical to the layman.

Pricing is also dependent on the supplier you go to. Some promotional suppliers are effectively resellers, buying off a variety of UK based suppliers. Others act as main importers from the East, while others actually manufacture many of the items in the UK. So it’s important to shop around, to not only make sure you get the best prices but also, in some cases, to get the item you want at all!

Personalised Printing
One thing we’re particularly excited about is the prospect of personalised promotional print. It’s very much dependent on the printing processes used, but there’s great potential for the integration of data with promotional print – allowing the possibility for wide-scale personalisation of promotional items. This could be database driven, choosing colours, product types and messages to personalise each item to the individual customer.

A fascinating tour and a real eye opener into the marketing opportunities and future of promotional printing.

 

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We’ve reported on the blurring of the line between digital and print marketing many times in the past and we’re always interested in any multi-channel developments, especially when they contribute to marketing ROI reporting.

As part of the launch of the new film, X-Men First Class, some of their outdoor poster advertisements have been equipped with a new Near Field Communication (NFC) chip. This chip can trigger an NFC-equipped mobile device to take a user to a particular website or other piece of online digital content using the device’s 3G network.

How it works
The user brings their NFC-equipped phone/device within 4 centimetres of a poster, which triggers an interaction that’s pre-defined by the advertiser. In this case, where the adverts are being displayed on bus shelters, the user can ‘scan’ the poster and will then be taken to a movie trailer hosted on YouTube.

The uptake and effectiveness of this mechanism is dependent on a wide variety of factors.

x-men-first-class-print-marketing-poster

X-men first class is scheduled for a June 1 release.

 

Will it catch on?
The customer has to be incentivised to interact with the advertisement. In this particular campaign, they’ll be taken to a website where they get a sneak-preview of the movie trailer – which the advertisers are presumably hoping is enough of an incentive to encourage X-Men and movie buffs (and NFC device early-adopters) to actively seek out the posters.

It also depends on how popular NFC-equipped mobiles become and how quickly they’re released. There’s a few scheduled for launch in the coming months and Japan already has plenty on the market, which may or may not foretell it’s adoption over here.

It’s also dependent on how simple it becomes to interact with NFC-enabled adverts. QR codes rely on applications being installed and the user knowing how to use them. If NFC chips can resolve this (and not be too intrusive at the same time), they might catch on more quickly.

And finally, the cost of including NFC chips into advertising sites needs to be borne by someone; although presumably the advertising site owners will be happy to provide this service as part of their offering, so maybe that won’t be a problem.

And when you convert offline to online traffic, you can of course measure it and report on it. Which makes marketers and marketing procurement happy.

It’s an interesting development in its infancy, but worth watching as it may well  herald of a new level of mobile interaction with printed products and another reason why print marketing is becoming more popular once again.

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Advertising in printed magazines can be very effective. But there’s a real art to creating the most effective print advertising design and to making an ad that stands out from the crowd. As you flick through any B2B trade publication, they’re packed with advertisements all competing for the reader’s eye – so understanding the fundamentals of how to create an advert that is enticing, readable and meaningful for the reader is incredibly important.

So here’s 4 tips to creating that stand-out advertisement.

Use a Simple Layout
It’s common sense really. Busy, cluttered advertisements are a turn off to readers as the eye finds it difficult to find purchase. Simple layouts reflect simple to understand and concise messages and catch the reader’s eye more easily, which is the first goal of any advertisement.

Use Clear Copy
Again, large blocks of copy can be a disincentive to read. Using smaller blocks of copy with bullet points and indentations encourage the reader to start reading and make the information more digestible. There’s also plenty of evidence that readers find serif fonts around 4 times easier to read than san-serif fonts on the printed page. Also, be mindful of the relationship of the copy with any graphics – beware of placing text over busy images as this can render the text illegible.

Logical Ad Flow
The eye naturally starts at a page from top left and moves towards the bottom right. The most effective advertisements help this journey by laying out text along the eye’s natural ‘route’ across the page. To aid the reader’s journey (and therefore improving the effectiveness of your ad) bear this in mind when laying out the text – ensure the reader doesn’t have to fight against the flow.

Highlight the Benefits
Continually focus on the benefits that your customer will get from your product/service. It’s very easy to stray away from the benefits but this is the only reason your customer should bother to read your advert. And keep the message simple without technical jargon – it can be staggering how few people understand jargon words you take for granted. And that includes your target customers.

 

effective print advertising

This ad ticks all the boxes

Getting a process in place that helps you adhere to all these principles is an important step to making sure you’re starting your advertisement on the right foot. And if you do, you should be well on the way to creating a very effective print advertising design project.

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