7 Reasons You Shouldn’t Use Low Cost Print Suppliers

Low cost print suppliers and services such as Vistaprint are damaging the print and design industry.

By offering “low cost print solutions” they’re taking the majority of the work away from highly reputable printers, and delivering sub-standard products.

Here are seven reasons to avoid low cost print suppliers and cheap printing solutions:

1. Low In Quality

We’ve seen our fair share of printed materials. Offering stationery design as a service, means we’re often organising printing too.

The quality from a low cost printer just doesn’t compare to a quality printer. Owing to the high volume of traffic that sites like Vistaprint are dealing with, quality control can often be bypassed and when you look at their business cards next to a more reputable supplier, you can really tell. Sometimes, their business cards are smaller than others too.

2. It Can Hurt Your Brand

Often, printed material is the first time a new customer experiences your brand, so why sacrifice quality? First impressions count so make sure you’re making the right first impression with your printed materials.

More on this later…

3. Shoddy Customer Service

So you ignore everyone’s advice and order from a low cost printer. When your order arrives, the quality isn’t great, it doesn’t match the digital proof they sent and you wouldn’t be happy giving it to your clients, so, you call them, right?

Not so fast. Ringing them is easy, getting through to them isn’t. There are reports of people trying to call certain print suppliers and being on hold 20 minutes and up. Not acceptable. Once you’re through, trying to get a straight answer from them is a nightmare all of it’s own.

A quality print supplier is contactable and can answer any questions or queries you have. A service that is definitely worth paying that little bit extra for.

4. “Free” Just Doesn’t Exist

Some people are sucked into using low cost printing sites with a “free” printing offer. However, when trying to order, you find that you have to use a pre-designed template (a big no no if you’re trying to promote your own business) and you still have to pay for the delivery.

Yes, you still get your business cards at an exceptionally low price, but they also come with the printers logo on the reverse side, or sometimes even a “snazzy” calendar. Free really doesn’t exist.

5. Their Websites Can Be Messy & Confusing

Lots of low cost print suppliers’ website designs can be messy and confusing.

After you have fought your way through the barrage of information and added on your “upgrades and extras”, that would come as standard from a reputable supplier, you realise that…

6. They’re Not Really That Cheap

After all of your upgrades and extras that you shouldn’t have to pay for and once you pay the company to not advertise their services on the reverse of your card, your order probably only falls £10-£20 short of getting a quality print run from a local printer. Invest the extra money, it really is worth it.

7. Local/Reputable Printers Actually Care

When you go to a reputable printer, their customer service is second to none, the advice they have to offer can’t be matched and the print finishing is superb, why? Because they actually care about your work. These suppliers aren’t just looking to take your money. They’re highly professional people filled with the desire to deliver the highest quality goods at all times. Why? Because that’s how they build their business; with care, consistency and attention to detail. Bad printing reflects badly on their business, good printing results in repeat business and new clients.

As promised, here’s more on how cheap printing can really ruin your brand.

Cheap Printing Can Really Ruin Your Brand

Cheap printing, is exactly that, cheap.

In this day and age, you can get printed goods and stationery for next to nothing. Companies like Vistaprint are literally giving their products away.

But low cost print suppliers can have a huge negative impact on your brand.

Sure, printing is commoditised nowadays. But there’s still a lot to be said for collaborating with a trusted print supplier.

Plus, nobody really wants a bloody calendar on the back of their business cards from Vistaprint.

But what’s the real problem with cheap printing and buying the cheapest print you can find?

You’re Not Building That Relationship

The first thing that really sucks when you’re communicating solely with a company, is that you’re never truly building a relationship with them.

For example:

If you only place on order a month, or one order a minute, your status with that company will stay the same. They don’t see you as special, you’re simply another number.

The key to building a successful brand is to build strong relationships. It’s good to be able to pick up the phone to your printer, ask them questions and have them answered honestly, without their bottom line in mind.

And that’s why at Canny Creative we choose to work with Stationery Direct.

We love the fact that they’re there to give us expert advice, and tell us what will and won’t work. That’s the sort of relationships that we like to have with our own clients, and it’s great to be on the receiving end of that too.

Here’s an example of that great relationship in practice:

We design a quarterly magazine for a local Council. This boosts the council’s branding efforts within their district.

Every quarter, we hand this over to Stationery Direct for their printing. Not long ago, we provided the wrong print file. We provided an old issue of the magazine that had already been printed.

Rookie error, I know!

Thankfully, the team at Stationery Direct noticed that they’d already printed this issue several quarters ago, and alerted us immediately.

Had we not have built that relationship up over time, or we’d been shopping around for the lowest price, that order simply would have been printed and boom, Canny Creative are out of pocket to the sum of several thousand pounds.

Cheap Online Suppliers Will Run Literally Any Order

As I mentioned above with the magazine example, if that order had been place with some cheap online supplier, we would have been massively out of pocket.

Cheap online printing suppliers will literally run any order that’s handed over to them.

For example:

My friend got married a year or so ago. After the wedding, he wanted to send thank-you cards to all of the guests for their presents.

He tried to use a cheap online printer in order to cut costs. And that didn’t work out well for him. He had to provide all of the artwork and use their clunky online ordering system to make it happen.

Attempt One

They printed the artwork at the wrong size. £60 down the drain.

Attempt Two

The artwork was printed on the wrong type of paper. Another £60 down the drain.

Attempt Three

The artwork was printed in the wrong order. So ended up with the photo on the front and the Thank You on the back of the card, rather than the inside.

After attempt three, he gave up and sent the cards anyway.

But, that’s the thing with an online print supplier with little to no human element. If there’s nobody there to sense check the order, they’ll literally run out whatever they’re handed.

And on top of that, you have to deal with their:

Crappy Online Ordering System

Maybe it’s just me as the owner of a branding and design agency. But I hate dealing with online ordering systems.

I always have questions.

“Should the artwork have bleed? Does it need crop marks? What order should the magazine be in? How should I supply variations of business cards?” and more.

Trying to persist with a rigid e-commerce website that makes key design mistakes annoys the life out of me.

It’s much easier to just fire off an email and have your questions answered. Then, you can place the order and send the artwork and it takes about 5 minutes.

Having to continually battle against terrible website design really makes my blood boil.

And then:

What About Custom Orders?

Say you find a reliable online company that you’re happy dealing with. Their ordering system isn’t too clunky and they’re reasonable enough.

But then:

You need something they don’t offer.

You need a die cut brochure with Spot UV printing on one side, and foil on the other. And they don’t have a way to place the order in their system.

All hell breaks lose.

You can put a name to it and ring them, because you don’t know who you’ve dealt with in the past. Same goes for email. You’re at a loss.

And again, this is where that relationship becomes important.

If you’re running a company that deals with a lot of print material, it’s only natural there’ll come a day when you need something that little bit special.

You need a print supplier that can take care of that for you.

Low Prices = Low Quality

Remember that expression: You pay peanuts, you get monkeys? That’s true in the printing world too.

Have you ever seen a Vistaprint card and sat it next to a professionally printed, good quality card? The difference is astounding.

With cheap business cards, I’ve noticed several things tend to go wrong:

1. The print looks dull
2. The edges look frayed
3. They’re the wrong size
4. The print rubs off or smudges

That’s a lot of ways a low cost business card can negatively impact your brand.

Imagine handing someone a business card at a conference. You’re in the hall and things are a little clammy. As you hand it to them, your thumb catches the details and they smudge.

It doesn’t look great does it?

Let’s go a little bit crazy here:

What happens if the person you’re handing that card to was a potential £1 million lead? Your details smudge off and nobody notices. Suddenly, you’ve lost a lead that could’ve been worth a lot of money.

I know that’s a bit drastic, but I’ve got a point to make here!

The True Cost Implications

The cost implications of dealing with a trusted professional print supplier really aren’t all that drastic either.

Sure, you can get 100 business cards for £1. But honestly, why would you want to? What sort of quality do you think they’re going to be at that price?

If you’re ordering in high volumes, working with a professional print supplier will almost always be cheaper than some “one size fits all” type website anyway.

When Can A Cheap Printer Be Effective?

But there are times that a low cost print supplier can be effective.

I’m not a big fan of them for professional stationery or branded goods, but I know my friends have had success with Printed.com for wedding stationery.

When you’re only ordering 50-100 of one item, sometimes these cheap websites are actually your best bet.

But the rest of the time, you want a printer on board that you can rely on.

Our List of Recommended Print Suppliers

At Canny Creative, we recommend several print suppliers to our customers.

They include:

  1. Stationery Direct
  2. Northern Print Solutions
  3. Fantasy Prints

And between them, they can source pretty much anything you need – and each provide a great level of customer service!

Print Suppliers We Avoid

And the flip side of our recommendations, are the low cost print suppliers we avoid.

They are:

  1. Vistaprint
  2. Solopress
  3. Any printers you find on eBay

We just find they’re not as reputable, and fall foul of some of the things we’ve talked about in this post.

Conclusion: 7 Reasons You Shouldn’t Use Low Cost Print Suppliers

I’m one of those people that will always choose to work with a reputable professional rather than a huge faceless corporation any day of the week.

Many people hate starting new projects and relationships because they’ve been let down in the past. But I enjoy the relationship building. And because of the strong relationships I build, I know I can rest easy.

I’ve ordered print from Stationery Direct for the last 5 years. And I know that they’ll deliver what I’ve ordered, when they say they’ll deliver it.

Check out this post if you’re looking for stationery design inspiration.

And having that is easily worth the extra £1 or £2 I pay in the long run.

What do you think? Would you rather shop around for the cheapest deal, or really build a relationship that can help your brand in the long run?

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12 comments on “7 Reasons You Shouldn’t Use Low Cost Print Suppliers

  1. Avatar
    Stewart Dean on

    Interesting. But as someone who has to regularly get printing done for me its more on reputation and relationship than anything else. Often the cheapest is the cheapest for me because they know I’ll keep giving them work and so give me competitive prices and provide brilliant customer service. Other, more expensive and so, in your opinion “better” suppliers often offer awful customer service, do not meet my clients’ deadlines or even deliver the number of copies I had asked them to print. I know it sounds like a paradox but in my opinion, more expensive does not necessarily mean better quality printing and/or better service – I think it’s often just a printer trying his luck at increasing his margins with someone who may not be aware of how much good printing should cost. I would prefer to ignore the quoted prices altogether and go with who I know will give the best service – indeed, they normally match the best price I’ve been quoted anyway.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Tony on

      @StewartDean

      I think the cheap yet good variety must be of a rare breed. I often find that if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. I’d rather pay a little more for the quality and the great customer service. Have you ever used Vistaprint for a client project?

      Reply
  2. Avatar
    Paul Murray on

    Good post Tony, I tend to stay away from printers who’s business model is basically “We’re the cheapest.” It makes you wonder what shortcuts they’re making to keep the cost down.

    I’m happy to pay a bit extra for a quality service, because I rely on my own clients feeling the same way. I’d be a bit of a hypocrite if I didn’t 🙂

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Tony Hardy on

      @PaulMurray

      Thanks a lot Paul. The “we’re the cheapest’ business model does make you cast doubt over their whole business. I don’t claim to be part of the cheapest design agency, but, we do claim to be quality.

      I’d rather pay a bit more cash for a top quality service. I am sure that their are cheap service providers out there that deliver quality too.

      Reply
  3. Avatar
    Ben on

    Interesting article, this problem is faced in nearly every industry and when in a recession it seems price is paramount. My opinion is that number 2 is the most important “First impressions count “. If you printed flyers are on cheap flimsy paper and the print looks cheap, then surely the impression will be you are CHEAP. Interestingly a flip side, is you may want to advertise a cheap service and see this as appropriate, or you may be taking a gamble that general public won’t be to fazed by poor quality/cheapness. For me the most interesting example of poor quality is the video’s seen on youtube, pixelated video’s that the media industry would never previously allowed on our t.v screens get millions of views on youtube, are people getting more acceptable to poor quality? Could be the real question

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Tony Hardy on

      @Ben

      You make some great points there Ben. Some of the video quality on YouTube is definitely very questionable and to be honest, not acceptable at all. I wonder why they don’t have a quality filter at all?

      If you’re trying to communicate “cheap” then I think there are ways of doing it without using a bad quality flyer. You can still have well printed materials and communicate that.

      Reply
  4. Avatar
    Adam Moore on

    We make sure that we never sell on price. We know our quality far exceeds that of our competitors and make sure that we get samples in front of them in order to show this. However, this doesn’t mean that we are not competitive with our pricing – the point being made is that it is possible to compete with other printing companies without sacrificing your quality – we have found that the best way to do that is by having great long term relationships with your own suppliers.

    As for quality of service I don’t think any generalisations can be made – good service comes from big companies as well as small companies. We have over 300 offices worldwide but have the ethos ‘big enough to cope, small enough to care’ and try to reflect this through our service to our customers.

    Should anyone want more information please feel free to get in touch at [email protected]

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Tony Hardy on

      @AdamMoore

      Getting your samples in front of people in the print industry is always going to be the best way of working. If you put your printed goods next to that of a supplier such as Vistaprint, you’re going to close the sale every time.

      I don’t think sacrificing quality for price is necessary at all. You can be competitive price wise and still deliver high quality goods, I try and do that myself with my design work.

      Good quality service does come from both large and small companies, but, the point in question was that quality control can easily be looked over in a larger company, yes, that may not always be the case.

      I like your companies ethos. Thanks for commenting!

      Reply
  5. Avatar
    Craig Carta-Mumford on

    Its the old saying ‘Buy Cheap, Buy twice’ !!! People’s heads are always turned by a cheap price unfortunately, its a competetive world and many businesses are suffering due to customers driving prices down, you can easily end up being busy fools.
    I work for a quality service orientated small print company and we simply do not dive below our bottom line, it’s commercial suicide. You will sustain your business by providing exceptional work and service……every time. Its a combination of both, eventually folks come around and accept that to get a good job and the service with it they have to pay for it !!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Tony Hardy on

      @Craig

      I think “providing exceptional work and services” every time is the only way to sustain your business. Having a slip up, or one job that just isn’t up to the standard and quality can be disastrous to your business.

      Reply
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