Print Management 101

I recently sat down with the Marketing Manager of a company that uses a slew of different print materials to promote their products: catalogs and brochures, trade show booths, in-store signage, direct mail, gift cards and apparel. When I asked her how she selected a printer for a print job, she explained it the same way I’ve heard it many times before:

“I have two printers that I like to work with.  One is really great at big projects, like my catalog. The other is good at small projects, like business cards. I pick which one I think is best suited for the job I have, get a quote, and then let them run with the job”.

Sound familiar? I have no statistics to back this up, but sixteen years of experience tell me that, oh, about 75% of all companies use this same method. The problem is, how do you know you are getting enough value out of the relationships you have with your printers?

What is Print Management?

While some companies tackle print jobs the same way the Marketing Manager described, others take a more strategic approach to managing, producing and distributing print materials. Big marketing departments often have employees that work continuously to reduce the costs of printed materials while maintaining brand quality and managing tight production schedules. These companies follow a strategic plan with goals, measurements and standard procedures that are designed to consistently reduce costs while improving performance.

A Managed Print Program has the same goals as that dedicated employee, except it is administered by a company who has expertise in managing print projects (like Synapse). This approach is ideal for companies that can’t dedicate resources to internally manage their print programs. And some companies find that even with dedicated resources, it takes an experienced partner to help them truly maximize cost savings and efficiencies.

Is a Managed Print Program right for me?

If your strategy includes hiring and managing a mix of printers, mailing houses, fulfillment vendors, promotional products distributors, product suppliers, packaging vendors and list brokers, you should at least sit down with a Print Management firm and discuss their Managed Print Program.

If you’ve ever made any of the following five statements, a Managed Print Program could be right for you:

“I want to save money on my print materials.”

This is at the top of everyone’s list. Printing can be an expensive, time-consuming process and it helps to have someone on your side to help you navigate the industry and understand how to reduce costs. There is more to cost reduction than just beating up vendors for the lowest price. Saving money on printing is a byproduct of proper vendor selection, understanding printing terminology and materials, and leveraging the total spend that is controlled by a Print Management firm. A well-structured Print Management program will save you 10-50% on annual print costs.

“I need better quality and faster schedules.”

Saving money is good, unless you have to wait an extra week for your materials or if they arrive looking like last week’s newspaper. Since Print Management firms work with dozens or even hundreds of reputable printers, they offer plenty of options and ‘Plan Bs’ when it comes to meeting tight deadlines. Better yet, these firms can also command better schedules and quality than a typical customer can due to the volume of work they can potentially give (and the money they spend with) each printer in their line-up.

“Dealing with print projects can be a nightmare. I want to get more done from my marketing department without risking costly mistakes.”

Many print projects end up on the desk of a designer, a marketing assistant, or worse yet – yours! If you were hired to buy print, then go for it. But if you’re too busy to meet with print sales reps, decipher a slew of quotes or try to keep a project on track when all hell is breaking loose, then you may want to seek out a pro to help you.

Another major benefit of a managed print program is risk aversion. When a printer screws up, it’s you who is typically left holding the bag. Respectable Print Management firms put guarantees in place that remove the risk of costly errors.  They have the experience to avoid problems in the first place, and quickly fix things when they get off track.

“My print projects need to freshen up. I’d love to see what’s new in the print world.”

New print products come out every day. The printer you currently use cannot produce every type of printing possible. Print Management companies can give you options, because they focus on the industry as a whole, not in a niche.  These companies literally have all sorts of niche print products and techniques in their arsenal, and the best Print Management firms will show you these options during the planning stage of a project.  The major benefit is that the right print product can certainly boost the success of a marketing campaign, just like the wrong approach can work against you.

“Print materials are just one part of my communications plan but they need to work with my website, internet marketing and other advertising initiatives.”

If you have to manage a brand across print, web and other channels, it pays to have a partner that can make sure every piece of your brand works well independently and together. This is an advantage that a Managed Print Program has over working with multiple vendors: because your Print Management partner understands your overall marketing and brand goals, they can make adjustments between various print pieces to keep your brand looking consistent – even across different channels.

How does it work?

The Print Management process typically  works in four phases:

The Print Management firm analyzes your past (and planned) print projects in order to assess the cost savings and other benefits you’ll gain from a Managed Print Program. During this meeting, you should also have an opportunity to outline the goals you’d like to achieve with your program.

A solid Print Management proposal outlines the benefits you will get from the program, all costs that are involved in the program, who’s responsible for what and how the results of the program will be measured.

Program Implementation
Once you’ve committed to a Print Management program, it’s time to do the work. A successful program offers training for your team and plenty of ongoing support to your company.

Reporting & Analysis
This is a regular, often quarterly, review of your managed print program and the results that you are gaining from the program. You should expect to leave this meeting understanding the savings, value and performance you are achieving from your program – along with goals to improve the program between now and the next review meeting.

How do I get started?

With a conversation. The best Print Management firms will spend more time listening than talking in this initial meeting.  This process is necessary in order to understand your needs, answer your questions and develop a solution that aligns with your goals. If additional research is needed, your potential partner will coordinate that process. These meetings should lead to one deliverable: a thorough Print Management plan that outlines program goals, benefits, workflow and costs associated with it.


Nearly every company can benefit from a Managed Print Program. Sure, it’ll take some different thinking and a little bit of work to make it happen – but the results could mean a healthier bottom line, more marketing dollars to invest and a better night’s sleep.

Synapse proudly provides Managed Print Programs that saved our clients nearly $14 million in 2011. For a free Print Management consultation, email us at

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