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Print-On-Demand Services: 6 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Vendor

Tips to help you find the right print-on-demand (POD) partner to help you market your business at the national, regional, and local level.

Finding the right print-on-demand (POD) partner to help you market your business at the national, regional, and local level requires a healthy dose of due diligence.

Rushing into a project with the wrong provider can be an expensive mistake. Overruns are the most obvious budget-wrecker. Up to 25% of the print materials an average business purchases will either end up destroyed due to obsolescence or be used despite containing out-of-date information.

But wasted spend can also come from the critical activities many print partners either can’t do or can’t do well, like digital asset management, brand control, personalization, and regional in-house fulfillment.

When these components aren’t conveniently bundled into an end-to-end solution, the need for multiple vendors to handle it all can lead to expensive, time-consuming headaches and introduce unnecessary risks that can threaten your success.

Making sure you don’t end up with a partner that might saddle you with problems like this requires asking a few smart questions when evaluating different options.

To save you time brainstorming these questions yourself, we’ve created a handy list to use when evaluating print-on-demand vendors for your next project.

1. Do they have a centralized digital asset management system that’s easy for end-users?

The time employees, field reps, franchisees, or other end-users spend searching for approved branded materials can be a silent killer on their productivity and everyone’s bottom line.

A well-designed and easy-to-use asset management system is the solution to this problem. But simply having one isn’t enough. In order to expect success after you hand the keys over to end-users, it needs check the boxes on a few critical traits and features.

Users should be able to:

  • Manage all types of content from a single platform. Supported file types should include PDF, .EPS, .JPG, .PPT, .INDD, and Microsoft Office files such as Word, Excel, etc.
  • Access the system from anywhere. Your end-users should be able to access, create, and order materials from wherever they are.
  • Access branded content and assets. Users should be able to access pre-approved libraries of content and creative assets created by your corporate team, making it easy to create professional-level collateral with ease.
  • Access and download marketing and sales collateral. In addition to a library of design assets, end-users should be given pre-built marketing and sales materials they can customize and use to address the entire buyer’s journey.

2. Can they print all kinds of marketing materials?

Capable print providers shouldn’t limit you to just a few types of print pieces––forcing you to go elsewhere when you need, or your end-users need, a unique piece.

Make sure their in-house printing capabilities cover the following formats to ensure their facilities are fully capable to create whatever your end-users may need.

  • Postcards
  • Direct Mail
  • Manuals
  • Booklets
  • Marketing collateral
  • Product information
  • Directional signage
  • Banners
  • Stadium and event signage
  • Window graphics
  • Temporary wall graphics
  • Pop-up banners
  • Floor graphics
  • Trade show collateral
  • Vehicle wraps

3. Do they make it easy to customize, personalize, and localize materials on-demand?

With studies showing more than half of consumers now expect the offers they receive to always be personalized, this functionality has become essential for marketers at all levels.

A capable print-on-demand provider should offer a solution that enables approved users to localize, personalize, and customize approved, branded content without needing to be a graphic designer or digital expert.

Since this involves investigating some specific capabilities of the print-on-demand platform itself, use the following questions to understand just what such a system can do and whether or not it can help your end-users create compelling approved marketing pieces without slowing them down.

  • Does the tool define which areas of print-on-demand content can be changed? This keeps marketers in control and simplifies the process for end-users.
  • Does the tool offer templates? Pre-designed, editable templates make it easy to customize, localize & personalize marketing content for users without strong design skills.
  • Can the tool provide national level marketing materials at the local level? This allows each location to capitalize on the brand recognition while modifying the materials to meet the needs of their local consumer. Again, the user experience needs to be simple, fast, and easy.

4. Do they properly secure your data?

Trusting a vendor’s system with information from your marketing database shouldn’t be taken lightly. An insecure system can expose you and your customers to serious data security problems and put you in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Make sure your print-on-demand vendor takes data protection seriously throughout all the industries they serve. Ensure that your vendor follows appropriate security protocols, or holds certifications, for the following:

  • HIPAA/PHI
  • SOC2
  • ISO9001:2015
  • FSC
  • SFI
  • G7 Compliance
  • 3M MCS Warranty Certification

5. Do they save you money by fulfilling and distributing orders in-house and at scale?

A print-on-demand partner can only truly call itself an “end-to-end solution” when it provides capability and expertise in both printing and distribution at the scale you need. This is especially true for franchise systems and other mid-to-large size companies with a network of locations across the country. Without streamlined regional distribution, frustratingly high fulfillment and shipping costs can quietly eat away at ROI.

Print-on-demand allows you to buy at scale without wasting money storing materials in warehouses. On top of these savings, however, a partner who reflects your national reach with multiple fulfillment centers of its own can save even more money than one with a single facility. Make sure they can save you money by fulfilling orders close to where you need them––not half-way across the country.

In a single year, a company that partnered with OneTouchPoint for print-on-demand saved $120,000 in freight costs alone thanks to our network of regional fulfillment facilities.

6. Do they enable you track campaigns and optimize future efforts through reporting?

In order to know what’s working (and what’s not), you need a consolidated view of your entire marketing supply chain. Sophisticated print-on-demand providers have the tools that enable you to analyze the most used assets to influence future collateral, as well as who is using them. This enables you to manage and track orders, assets, and inventory levels in real time.

Make sure your print-on-demand partner can provide modern analytics and reporting tools like:

  • Inventory reports
  • Order reports
  • Usage reports
  • Mail reports
  • Billing reports
  • Cost-saving reports

A Quick Summary

The capabilities of a print-on-demand partner are critical to the success of your marketing efforts.

To be a genuine print-on-demand solution, your print provider needs to actually address and solve the problems that get in the way of marketing success at the national, regional, and local level. While we addressed these factors in some depth above, they boil down to a few key points:

  • Is the print-on-demand solution suitable for your end-users to utilize themselves?
  • Can you create all of the content types and formats you need on-demand?
  • Can your end-users customize, personalize, and localize marketing materials using approved branded content?
  • Is your data properly secured?
  • Do they handle fulfillment and distribution in-house and at scale?
  • Do they provide sufficient tracking and reporting capabilities?

Launch global and local marketing campaigns on-demand through OneTouchPoint’s U.Connect platform.

Take full control over design quality, production quantities, distribution, and budget.

Marketers today are continuously being challenged to do more with less. And while teams and budgets continue to shrink, consumer expectations have risen to an all-time high. Companies are now competing at a customer experience level – with marketers needing to produce content that is personalized, customized and localized – all while ensuring consistent branding across the organization.

Making matters more complex, the world in which we live requires the ability to interact with remote sales teams, local franchises, dealer networks and team members spread across the globe. Marketers need a platform in which to share brand vision and material.

To execute, marketing teams are increasingly turning to technology to help them organize and orchestrate their marketing programs, to ensure a seamless customer engagement and provide a personalized experience.

Our full suite of solutions puts you in control of your brand – and keeps you there.

OneTouchPoint’s U.Connect platform helps companies take control of their brand, budgets, and future, serving as a central command center for flawless marketing execution and supply chain management.

U.Connect enables end-to-end management of local, national, and global marketing campaigns and programs from creation to distribution—offering digital asset management, governed localization and customization, on-demand Web2Print ordering and fulfillment, budgetary and financial controls, and in-depth analytics.

Provide them with real-time access to the most up-to-date marketing assets, sales materials, kits, samples and more – from anywhere, anytime,

Click here to learn more about how U.Connect integrates print-on-demand into an end-to-end marketing platform companies need to be successful at a national, regional, and local level.