Out of OfficeOut of Office Blog

The Business of Printing for Marketers

Mark VrunoMark Vruno

Marketing executives admit that jobs printed in-house often pose more trouble than they’re worth, new survey says.

The age-old business dilemma: to outsource or not. Is running an in-house print shop the most cost-effective strategy for your business, or does doing so diminish your core-business focus — at the expense of profitability? There still is a place for traditional ink (or toner) on paper for most integrated marketing campaigns. The question is, who’s going to physically execute the printing, whether it’s reproduced on an offset or a digital press?

Marketers’ business printing needs and distribution efficiencies were studied in September 2015 research conducted by the Printing Industries of America (PIA) on behalf of FedEx Office. (More than 400 marketing executives completed a seven-minute telephone survey.) Participants included marketing vice presidents, CMOs and other senior-level marketing officers at mid- to large-sized companies.

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Key Findings

Interestingly, only 14% of the marketing executives surveyed said they use internal or “in-house” printing capabilities exclusively. Frankly, I thought that percentage would be much higher. And nearly one-third (31%) said that most of their printing is done by commercial printers. Fully 90 percent of these marketers also revealed that they’ve purchased outside commercial printing services in the past 12 months; 72% of them also employed internal printing.

Quality always is a concern, of course. As commercial print shop owners like to jest: price, quality and turnaround time – you can pick any two.

Businesses place more importance on product quality (64%) than Business cost (54%) when choosing an external printing service provider (PSP), according to the new PIA survey. And both quality and scalability (92% and 88%) trump turnaround time (81%) when choosing a commercial PSP. Overall, respondents have high expectations for commercial printers. When deciding whether or not to use one, they value knowing the partner can deliver product quality (92%), handle the volume needed (88%) and deliver product color consistency (87%) at an affordable cost (87%).

Marketing executives across the board reported that internal/in-house printing resources more frequently result in end-product challenges. Color accuracy is the most often reported issue with end products produced internally (42%), compared with external printers (32%). Three other problematic areas:

  1. Product quality flaws (53% internal printing resources vs. 40% commercial printers)
  2. Color consistency issues (35% vs. 34%)
  3. Content incorrectly displayed (39% vs. 34%)

Surprisingly, perhaps, in-house process control isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Only 10% of those who use internal printing resources said they’ve never encountered end-deliverable challenges. Comparatively, nearly twice as many (19%) who use commercial printers reported they have not encountered any challenges in doing so.

Mark3However, despite their reliance on commercial printing services, marketing executives seem to encounter the same management challenges for both commercial and internal printing: completing jobs on budget and on time. Completing jobs on budget is the greatest issue faced, but is more of a barrier for internal printing resources (57% internal vs. 49% commercial). For nearly half of respondents, completing jobs on time poses a barrier as well (48% for internal vs. 47% for commercial).

So how do these percentages stack up for you and your corporation? Take a moment and ask yourself some of these same questions. The bottom line may be that if you haven’t considered using a commercial print firm, perhaps you should crunch some of these numbers and give the prospect some serious thought. Either way, the decision may save you money and might make you look good.

In our next blog, I’ll examine printing from the Cloud and the digital management of print orders – two areas “in demand” for many of the marketing executives surveyed.

Mark Vruno is chief editor of Printing News magazine. Based in Chicago, he has reported on the commercial print industry for more than 20 years and also has written for related publications and websites, including Editor & Publisher, News & Techand Package Design. Previously, Vruno was executive editor of Graphic Arts Monthly and Graphic Arts Online. He has also spent several years in marketing, public relations and corporate communications, working for such firms as RR Donnelley, Banta, Agfa Graphics and Fujifilm Graphic Systems USA.

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