Effectively Sourcing Commercial Print

With the right spend management strategy and solutions, companies can control costs and maintain quality


Marketing departments in large organizations are under constant pressure to become more and more creative with the printed collateral they develop to promote their company's products and brand. However, the latest materials and formats can be very expensive, and efficient spending is not always top priority to marketing managers. In their view, branding is critical to a company's success and cost overruns are a necessary evil to drive market share. But this doesn't have to be the case. With the right spend management processes and tools in place, marketing professionals can control these costs while maintaining supplier relationships and improving the quality of the printed materials they produce.

Make no mistake: Sourcing printing services for marketing materials is not as straightforward as purchasing supplies; it often involves last-minute changes, alternative specifications, paper options and a myriad of other variables. As a result, it can be difficult to apply standard market basket e-sourcing approaches. Difficult, but not impossible. With a sound spend management strategy and the technology, expertise and services to drive it, companies can source marketing spend as effectively as direct materials.

Getting Control

The first step in implementing cost control measures is educating employees throughout the organization who may be unfamiliar with strategic spending principles. Outside of procurement, most employees typically do not understand cost structures or the effects of sub-optimal ordering, slow lead times, missed press dates, over-ordering, obsolescence, storage and errors.

Marketing, for instance, may take a dim view of commercial print cost reductions when compared to the value of the actual printed materials and the direct sales they may generate. In their mind, while highly leveraged negotiations such as online sourcing events may generate savings, they may ultimately damage vendor relationships.

In addition, as a driving, creative force (as well as a cost driver itself), marketing may also think that savings, while important to budgets, should be treated as a priority but not to the extent that it may overwhelm creative efforts or impact expected campaign ROI. The truth is that all marketing requirements are reachable and sustainable through spend management.

Marketing Print Is Addressable

Contrary to popular opinion, effective print sourcing does not have to impede the value marketing brings to organizations. In fact, it can enhance their efforts by:

  • Re-pricing and aggregating vendors
  • Redefining specifications
  • Formalizing static "rate" card processes and tying them to contract compliance
  • Increasing collaboration

The key to successfully sourcing print spend lies in an integrated approach that addresses the unique requirements and concerns of all key stakeholders. The first step in creating such an approach is to adapt traditional strategic sourcing strategies and tactics to account for the nuances of marketing print services. This step includes driving a process through which all stakeholders can communicate their needs and make the trade-offs necessary to create savings without sacrificing quality.

Then, technology and best practices are applied to make the process standard and repeatable.

How might such a process work? A typical marketing print project may have the following material requirements:

  • 11"x17" folding to 8.5"x11", upright
  • 80# Something Litho Gloss, self cover
  • Saddle Stitched
  • 36 pages, bleeds on all sides
  • 4/4, all process inks, 50 percent ink coverage
  • 5,000 (quantity)

In sourcing the work, marketing may look at similar assignments or this assignment's last price as a benchmark, and then obtain bids. But what happens if there is a sudden change in one or more of the core elements such as quantity, ink, page count, folding, size, bleeds, timing, cover stock or any other specifications?

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