You’ve Cut Your Print Spend, But Are You Spending Smarter? 13 Ways to Reduce Printing Costs

13 Ways to Spend Your Print Budget Smarter

Even if your print budget is leaner than ever, you still have opportunities to spend smarter. But how? The best way is to leverage your printer’s expertise while you focus on your business. Here are 13 ways you can lean on your printer to help you stay lean. 

  • Save money by using select printer services
  • Use your print materials more strategically 
  • Create print projects that are more cost-effective
Rethink using the high-end paper you've always used.

1. Use your printer’s house stocks

If you’ve been hooked on a certain high-end paper for a while, consider looking for a near-equivalent in your printer’s house stocks.

Printers designate house stocks based on volume pricing from their vendors. That means when your printer saves, you could too when you opt for house stocks.

2. Seek opportunities for longer-term printing commitments

If you want a quote for a thousand newsletters, maybe what you should really ask is, What would it look like if you took over our monthly newsletter?

“Oh, sure,” you’re thinking. “You’re a printer—of course you want a long-term commitment.”

Well, yes, we do. But understand that long-term project commitments are a two-way street. You’ll enjoy much better rates thanks to greater volume pricing.

And don’t forget what happens when competent pros (i.e., both you and your printer) continue to work together. Trust and mutual understanding grow and, more specifically, projects become increasingly efficient over time. That means they also become more cost-effective.

Have different material for different prospectives.

3. Save your best stuff for the best prospects

When it comes to distributing your print materials, never lose sight of the actual end user. If you’re handing material out at a trade show, for instance, have a postcard or flyer for the general masses.

For those interactions that seem like truly promising leads, now you can reach for the multi-page brochure or pocket folder you put so much effort and expense into.

4. Tweak projects to create efficiencies and best yields

If you’re in the design stage, check for small modifications that could result in a much more cost-effective project. 

For example, rather than sending a 6” x 11” self-mailer at the USPS Marketing Mail flat rate, you could send a 6” x 10 ½” piece at the USPS Marketing Mail letter rate. For a for-profit business, the savings in postage alone would be somewhere between $131 to $367 per thousand pieces. A nonprofit could save $74 to $310 per thousand pieces.

Similarly, if you’re ordering only a few banners, you may still be charged for the entire sheet of banner substrate. How many banners can fit on that sheet? Consider making the most of your large-format order by looking to your future needs. 

Standardized pricing can create huge cost savings.

5. Create big-time cost savings with standardized pricing

Some of your print needs are one-offs. But a lot of them aren’t. Rather than constantly going on time-consuming quote hunts, ask your printer about different pricing approaches.

Take standardized pricing. A printer can analyze your projected print needs to find opportunities for economy-of-scale pricing. From that analysis, the printer turns to suppliers to buy print materials more strategically and cost-effectively.

As a result, you get a value-based, standardized price list that can save you time and money. In fact, by seeing your printing needs as more than a series of individual projects, standardized pricing can transform not just your spending but your overall budget planning.

Incorporate evergreen material to keep costs low.

6. Leverage volume pricing for evergreen materials 

For printed information that won’t change for a while, take advantage of volume pricing. For instance, if you have customer forms or product brochures that rarely change, go for larger orders.

But here’s a caveat: Work with a trusted printer to find the volume sweet spot. Nobody wants to see three skids of brochures headed to recycling.

7. Pick print-on-demand services for ever-evolving pieces 

Certain documents and collateral are just too fluid to print in bulk. But thanks to digital printing advancements, producing smaller quantities essentially on-the-fly can be more affordable than ever. (Also, the quality for shorter digital printing continues to improve.)

You can request the exact needed amount of, say, a frequently-changing flyer and have your order turned around in a relatively short time.

Meanwhile, today’s digital printing technology allows you to continually—and conveniently—customize that flyer’s message for subsequent print-on-demand orders.

Deadlines will help your project move along.

8. Set early (and hard) deadlines for event material 

Events in particular can cause logistic nightmares. Do all you can to get info like the following as early as possible:

  • Sponsor logos
  • Presentation outlines
  • Speaker bios
  • Speaker photos

Alert all parties months in advance of what you need and, of course, when you need it. (And keep alerting them.) Also, remind them to confirm that reviewers and final-approvers will be available to sign off on everything. 

Shipping an order three days out vs. overnight could be the difference between a couple hundred or a couple thousand dollars. 

Using fulfillment experts can be a cost-effective option.

9. Rely on fulfillment experts (not your staff) to pick and pack

Rather than all-hands-on-deck pick-and-pack marathons at your office, your printer’s fulfillment services could be a much smarter and more cost-effective option.

If they have fulfillment expertise, not only can your printer do a great job with even the most complicated kinds of projects; they can allow your own staff to do what they were hired for (and what they actually want to be doing).

(Check out this related fulfillment case study.)

10. Plan ahead for preprint/imprint projects

For projects that demand a complex and more expensive setup, consider a preprint/imprint model.

Take foil stamping on your business cards as an example. You can have a large run of foil-stamped cards produced just once. Now the most expensive part of the project is over. 

Later, you can have these pre-printed cards imprinted with individual employee information when the need arises—as opposed to paying for the foil stamp setup for each order.    

11. Ship directly from your printer

Why have your printed materials sent to another vendor for final mailing? See if you can rely on your printer’s distribution team. They should be familiar with the various shipping options that exist, e.g., USPS, UPS, FedEx, local carriers, LTL (less than truckload), and others. 

Shipping directly from your printer creates a more efficient and cost-effective process. In fact, see if your printer can put both the printing and mailing services into a single quote for you.  

12. Clean up that mailing list 

Of course you know it’s a good idea to update the mailing list. But how long has it been since you’ve done it? 

Imagine sending 10,000 personalized pieces quarterly—but with 25% of your recipients no longer matching the address. That’s 2,500 items, sent four times a year, with little to no chance for conversion! (For additional direct mail support, see below.) 

Maximize direct mail's effectiveness.

13. Use your printer’s direct mail expertise to drive better results

Your printer may have the latest tools and software to maximize your direct mail’s effectiveness. Are you using them? For example, advanced variable data printing lets you customize individual pieces like never before:

  • Go way beyond “Dear Customer” and connect more personally with each recipient.
  • Customize donation suggestions based on prior giving.
  • Deliver targeted messaging from hundreds of variables like age, geography, home value, and purchasing history.  

Lean on your printer to help you see beyond the single project

A printing partnership should be about so much more than moving quickly from one project to the next. 

Now that you’ve seen 13 ways to spend smarter with your print budget, maybe you also noticed the common thread running through many of them: A strong relationship with your printer can be the key to improving your spending habits.

If any of the tips above resonate with you, bring them up with your printer. You’ve put a lot of work into planning your print budget. Now see how far you can go with it—with the guidance and support of a trusted printer.

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