By Melissa Donovan
There is a lot of noise about being a one-stop shop to “offer it all” to your customers. This might have been feasible ten or 15 years ago because offering it all didn’t encompass so many applications, but today it can be downright impossible if you aren’t the sign shop with the staff, space, and money to handle the influx of products introduced every day.
And that’s okay! Because the different types of print service providers (PSPs) throughout our industry is what makes it so exciting and unique. And if you are one of those PSPs that can’t offer it all under your own roof, that doesn’t mean you have to turn the job away—trade-only wholesale printers are an ideal alternative.
While the term outsourcing may imply loss of control and fear, this shouldn’t be the case because when you find the right trade-only wholesale printer, it acts as an extension of your business—operating on behalf of you and your customer.
Above: 4over, with locations all over the U.S. and shown here its OH facility, is all about simplicity, convenience, and execution with speed.
Some print providers’ perceptions of trade-only wholesale printers are based off of fear of the unknown, losing control, and risk. They may be deterred from working with them based on previous experiences or misconstrued notions about their business practices. Trade-only wholesale printers work hard to overcome these concerns.
A couple of things come to mind when discussing why PSPs might be hesitant to outsource some of their work. “It can be an intimidating process, especially given the high stakes, and may also feel too time-consuming for busy resellers. In response to all of these issues, I think it’s important to keep in mind that the right wholesale partner will not only help print resellers deliver more and better products to existing customers, but also enable them to expand their business in new areas or take on bigger projects—without requiring additional financial investment for new equipment or more personnel,” explains Shaheen Javadizabeh, CEO, 4over.
“Without a doubt print providers give up a fair amount of control when ordering from a wholesaler, which can be tough for business owners. We find though, that after just one or two orders a new customer often sees how much time and labor they can save by using us as a partner and the relationship grows from there,” says Gavin Parberry, marketing and key account manager, B2Sign.
For Gene Hamzhie, CEO, FireSprint, when PSPs don’t see trade printers as a solid option it’s typically because three key points weren’t established or were lost in a prior experience. These are consistency, true wholesale pricing, and a non-compete policy. “If that happens, the best thing a trade printer can do is get back to the basics. Relentlessly focus on these three points—in addition to quality and service—until an opportunity arises again to work together.”
“Some printers are hesitant to give up control of the production process or are weary of developing an outsource relationship because they may have been burned in the past. Some shops choose to purchase new equipment to increase capacity or capabilities, and others may choose to tell their customer ‘no, we cannot print that,’ but those might not be the best decisions for the business. Every shop is different, and there is no one right answer,” notes Jennifer Hoyt, marketing communications manager, Stouse, LLC.
Lack of trust and control dissuades many from taking the leap. “Printers feel if they don’t produce in house then they don’t have control over quality. Some feel that if they print in house they would have better control over cost. Trade printers need to educate customers, provide them with good customer service, and demonstrate that outsourcing could be profitable,” advises Raji Alatassi, president, Ultimax for Trade.
“I think there are a lot of factors, but loss of control is probably the biggest deterrent. When you choose to depend on someone else to custom produce something for you, it means you no longer oversee the timeline, quality control, and packaging or presentation. These are details that you might handle differently than another printer would,” agrees Jeff Hartman, sign sensei, Yard Sign Ninjas.
Mike Morrison, national sales director, WS Display, believes fear is another trait that may deter a PSP from working with trade-only wholesale printers. “The fear that the wholesale provider will attempt to take the print provider’s client away for a lower price. I often advise my clients that we are too busy for that and that we only market to clients like them, not the end user.”
Another point to consider—there is risk. Once on board, a PSP hedges its bets on those first few orders. “The first few orders with a wholesale printer determines everything, those orders are somewhat a leap of faith. Can the wholesaler deliver a product their customer will be satisfied with, does it reflect well on the print provider’s business, was the order process simple and quick?” asks Parberry.
“When a PSP works with a wholesale printer, that reseller is putting their own reputation on the line. We all know that it takes hard work to build a relationship of trust with a customer—and that relationship can be jeopardized in a second if the wholesale printer delivers a poor-quality product or doesn’t meet a deadline. It can be a scary thing putting one’s hard-earned livelihood and legacy into someone else’s hands,” agrees Javadizabeh.
Making a Match
After overcoming any doubts, it’s time to choose the right wholesale printer for you. PSPs need to examine a few key traits that align with their own business methods.
Javadizabeh recommends taking a real look at the available options. “Online searching and reviews are fine, but I encourage asking print colleagues if they have a recommendation. This gives resellers direct insight into why their colleague is using a particular wholesale printer. Ultimately, however, whoever they select needs to help them achieve their goals—and those may be different for every customer.”
Quality, consistency, and reliability are the big three traits, lists Parberry. “Our customers are putting their name on every product we print. They need be sure that we’ll deliver a high-quality product every time on time.” B2Sign prides itself in upfront pricing and ease of ordering. Registered customers can access instant quotes on every product page including shipping fees. According to the company, everyday pricing for one-off digital prints rivals the prices that competitors offer for volume discounts. Customers upload graphics and approve online.
Alatassi seconds reliability. “A lot of customers shop for price, but many print and drop ship. You need to make sure the print is of good quality and according to specification. What good is a low price if the prints are not good or arrived past the deadline,” he questions.
Ultimax’s customer and design services back its reliability standards. “Many of our customers are small format printers with little knowledge of wide format and signage. We have a dedicated team of customer service representatives that are ready to answer questions and recommend materials. We are here to help them expand their business and be successful. Many jobs we receive are not set up properly, especially contour cut files. Our design team can make sure the files are ready for production,” explains Alatassi.
Another important to consideration—printing expertise and capabilities. “Just like resellers, some wholesalers are specialists, others are generalists, and some are established while others are relatively new to the game. It’s important to ask questions about how long a wholesale printer has been in business, as well as what products and services they offer. What’s their volume and what do they specialize in? Then resellers should ask themselves a question—do these things line up with the goals they are trying to achieve?” asks Javadizabeh.
“A print provider should look for the ability to color match effectively as well as the ability work with the client to assure the right end product to avoid reprints. Communication upfront is key to success in that type of relationship,” says Morrison. WS Display offers quality products, priced aggressively, at fast turnaround times.
Shipping and production options are additional factors. “A wholesaler should be able to offer options that fit your budget and turnaround demands for any project. In terms of costs, does the wholesaler offer savings? Resellers can pass along savings they may receive to their customers. How quickly can they ship products to the end client? A good wholesale partner can help resellers not only profit more from their existing opportunities, but open the door to even bigger ones,” advises Javadizabeh.
True wholesale pricing and a non-compete policy are important to look for. “Trade printers are your partners. The difference between a fantastic printer and a fantastic trade printer includes true wholesale pricing—you’re out there generating the sale, setting up art, and hand holding the process. A trade printer should recognize this and price products accordingly. Also, on non-compete policies—trade printers should never compete with their customers. Reputation is everything,” adheres Hamzhie.
To set itself apart, FireSprint is what Hamzhie refers to as the “goldilocks scenario” of a trade printer. “We’re large enough to be efficient with economies of scale, but still small enough to provide a high level of service when you have a job that needs a little more direction than what can be placed through a website. You’ll find competitive pricing with the big guys, but a personal level of service you can only get with a smaller company.”
It is imperative to consider customer service and guarantee policies. “In an ideal world, every order would be perfect every time, but we all know that perfection is unsustainable. Since errors cannot be entirely prevented, the smart way to assess a wholesaler in this area is their mitigation policies and response to an error. Does the wholesale printer have a guarantee policy in place? This can help avoid lost profits and protect a print reseller’s bottom line. But equally important for resellers is protecting their reputation. A wholesaler’s customer service team that goes beyond what’s required to help resolve an issue quickly can help preserve a reseller’s repeat customer base,” shares Javadizabeh.
4over is all about simplicity, convenience, and execution with speed. “We understand that our customers rely on a trusted partner to help them achieve their goals. Our response to that trust is a continual improvement to help entrepreneurs and business owners create success stories. That’s why we are always raising the bar to give print resellers the best experience they will find in terms of service and output,” explains Javadizabeh. 4over is currently revamping its customer experience program—fixing the ordering process, order status, and delivery capabilities.
Customer service is also about maintaining a good working relationship. Hartman believes the most important thing is to find someone that you can work with. “It’s a relationship, and just like every relationship, it takes both parties willing to work together for the relationship to be fruitful. We think of a lot of our ‘customers’ as friends, acquaintances, and neighbors. We do understand that some people want personal service, other people want to drop it in a box and never speak to anyone. We can work both ways.”
Yard Sign Ninjas operates under the mantra that being the lowest in price isn’t enough. “Follow through and a genuine interest in our dealer’s needs are how we gain trust and repeat business. We answer the phone ourselves. When you call us, you’re speaking to the person who can go right to the production floor and speak to the person who is running the press. Even more than that, we want to help our customers get what it is they’re looking for, and that means we don’t just listen but also ask questions,” comments Hartman.
In summary, there are many factors to consider. “The obvious ones include competitive pricing, high-quality printing, and turnaround times that fit your customers’ needs. Beyond those, a wholesale printer should provide top-notch customer service, the right equipment coupled with expertise to avoid potential pitfalls and obstacles. They should invest in systems that make it easy to place orders and track jobs, blind ship—to save time and money, and offer marketing tools to help one sell,” shares Hoyt.
Stouse has helped thousands of print providers for more than 40 years with specialty printed items like decals, magnets, roll labels, signs, and plastics. What differentiates it from competitors is its people, from customer success representatives to the operators on the production floor. Stouse understands that its customers put their reputation on the line when they outsource, and therefore it developed high standards for manufacturing superb-quality printed products.
Two additional trade-only wholesale printers are ImagineThis and Signs365.
ImagineThis is a premiere large format and out-of-home digital print shop. It specializes in going large. Whether you are looking for large quantity orders or the largest outdoor graphics, ImagineThis delivers with the highest quality and quickest turnaround at competitive pricing. The company strives to be at the forefront of research and development of new ideas, as well as offering a product created with the leading technologies in our industry.
Signs365 is a grand format, trade-only wholesale printer. It offers a variety of full-color, high-quality printed products all produced in 24 hours. $10 Overnight Anywhere shipping is available on all products. It recently introduced a new product, Hard Cards, which is a new and unique full-color, vibrant 4-mil aluminum rigid business card offering. Both durable and lightweight, Hard Cards are offered as single or double sided and are UV coated to protect the finish.
When You Get it Right
When you choose the right wholesale trade-only printer to partner with, the sky is the limit.
“Trade printers are another tool in your toolbox. Get to know us, and we’ll help you have more fun and keep more profit,” exclaims Hamzhie. “Subbing work out to a trade printer shouldn’t be a hard decision to make, or even one you make every day. Many of our best customers run equipment of their own. They specialize in what they produce in house, and they send the rest of their required work to a trade printer.”
Two examples of FireSprint customers, one specializes in monument signs and HDU sculptures. It is well known for detailed, creative work for amusement parks and zoos. Printing ten yard signs for a local politician ties up creative capacity, so it sends all its yard sign work to FireSprint.
In another state, a customer that services a fast food franchise runs its own flatbed printer, CNC cutter, and several roll printers. It is a medium volume shop with a real focus on speed and quality. In house it handles all of the little one-off requests from different franchisees, and fulfills orders together from multiple trade suppliers. It charges a premium for this white glove service. But, when it comes to the quarterly, high-volume, cost-conscious re-brands, FireSprint steps in and helps with lower wholesale production costs.
“With a trusted wholesale printer, there’s no need to shell out for rolls or sheets of expensive substrates you might not use again, you don’t have to rearrange your workshop to finish an oversized banner or purchase equipment that takes up space you might not have. I speak to customers printing for decades and they are selling off older machines and downsizing their facilities and are happier for it because they drastically reduced overhead while still taking in the same amount of business,” says Parberry.
Hoyt suggests that “with the right wholesale printer, one can say ‘yes’ to jobs they would normally turn away while growing both the top and bottom line.” For example, while Stouse prints some wide format items—like extra large window decals, large floor decals, and large corrugated signs, it is an expert at handling the small products that many wide format print providers don’t want to deal with or don’t have the equipment to produce. “Working with a wholesale partner frees up a printer provider’s time to focus on sales or to work on jobs that better utilize their in-shop equipment.”
Success ties in with constant communication. “You must be willing to get to know your wholesale printer and they must be willing to get to know how you do things. Find a job that works well for outsourcing. Don’t set yourself up for failure right off the bat by having your first job be one that your whole reputation or business is riding on. Create a relationship with your provider first. We’ve had customers with a first order with us of over 30,000 signs, thankfully the orders went well, but if a detail was overlooked they could have easily been ruined,” concludes Hartman.
Like Minded & Ready to Work
Are you convinced? Trade-only wholesale printers are compromised of loyal industry folks who know the latest trends in applications, solutions, and tools. After completing some research, you should find someone out there like minded and ready to help offer your customers the same level of service and reliability that you offer.
Learn more about trade-only wholesale printers in our recent webinar. Click here to register and view the archived broadcast.
May2021, Digital Output