Understanding print is not easy. Even with a working knowledge of the complexities of putting ink on paper, there are so many factors.
Look at a simple calendar. The Precihole Sports calendar printed by Jak grabbed a gold at the Asian Print Awards 2014. This job was printed on our Indian royal gloss art paper using only four colours on the Heidelberg Speedmaster CD 102-7 LX machine with online aqua varnish on all the date leaves. It is the perfect print quality which is important which can be only achieved by understanding and mastering the print science.
We chart this course, regularly. The main thing is, the team at Jak can spot all the potential hazards and, because these challenges are so obvious to us. However, what I don’t grasp is, why it isn’t so apparent to print buyers.
Often the knowledge of the buyer is basic, yet our publishers and designers do print on a regular job so they should invest a bit of their time to understand the process.
In the earlier days, the person buying print was a pure print specialist.
But at Jak Printers, we don’t see this as a hindrance. We see this lack of expertise as an opportunity to forge stronger relationships with buyers, by providing guidance as and when needed. There are plenty of really good and expert buyers in India, but the key is to offer a helping hand to those who need it, they are more likely to invest in print.
We have a very good relationship with our customers. Maybe that is the secret to Jak’s success.
Of course, not everyone has the time to talk to every client through the process of buying print - the adage ‘time is money’ is as true in print as it is in any other sector – so some printers simply refuse to take on clients who are au fait with the options.
We spend time with all our customers.
The seven noble print truths which are followed at Jak Printers:
Homework is important
We cannot expect a print buyer to be an expert. So it is important to share knowledge if you want to get the most out of the relationship. For example, there are three types of binding adhesives, cold glue, hotmelt and PUR binding. All three are different processes that need careful consideration. Ultimately you have to educate the customer. Like if a person wants to travel from point A to point B, there are three modes of travel: air, road and water – and depending on the need he chooses one. The same way all the three glues are to be understood and selected. Once the buyer gets clued into the system, he can take advantage of innovations. If you talk to your customer about developments and innovation; the customer will be able to find value rather than demand it!
All printers have a small network of good buyers. Value it. Instead of focussing on a large network of mediocre ones. Please speak to your buyers even when they do not print with you and engage with them regularly. Doing this will enable you to know each print job properly. That way you will get the job specifications for the best prices and best product at the best service levels. We show a serious buyer our latest ink management system from GMG which we installed only after GMG modified to our requirements, or even the latest foil machine which may be a simple manual kit but fabulous for high quality short-run jobs.
VALUE THE WORK BEING DONE
Price is not everything. There is a feeling that the buyer will pay for low quality if it was cheaper or they do not see the long-term dangers of under paying for a quality product. Stop chasing the cheapest price. This is possible only if you offer the best quality job and one to one sessions. Make your mantra: Buy on quality and service and not just price. The moment a buyer starts to haggle over tiny amounts of money, you know the print job will suffer.
LEARN HOW TO SUPPLY AN ACCURATE BRIEF
Surprisingly, a more common complaint than price was the lack of a proper brief. It seems very few printers get a brief that clearly explains what the client wants and that causes time delays, cost increase and damage to the relationship. Print buyers are not mind readers. We should be able to read their minds and ensure they have access to what is required, so that they can produce the best job in our press. We cannot do that with vague directions. Sometime, what you have in mind may not be feasible, so provide alternatives. At Jak our belief is: print is a mix of mischief. Therefore the onus is on us to ensure the print fundamentals are grasped.
CREATE A TRUST QUOTIENT
The best way to create a trust quotient is to talk science. For instance, when Jak invested in 2001 in an auto-plate and auto-wash printing press much before the rest of the industry did, we educated our customers. We explained how we could save two hours per job on make ready, registration and getting the make ready right. This meant if 38 sets of 300 pages took four days with other printers; then with our printing press, the job could see a turnaround of two days. There we could deliver the initial books before the other printer could finish printing. This brings us to our next point...
BE REALISTIC WITH DEADLINES
The age of instant gratification is upon us and it seems expectations about how quickly a job can be turned around tend to be very wide of the mark. Buyers feel that your presses are idle and you are waiting for them to call, that the presses are on standby for their job, and that print is an instantaneous process. We stress on proper, sensible lead times for the client’s benefit. Jak’s thumb rule is sensible lead times. Don’t rush a job. Recently, we were offered a photo frame job from an auto giant. The demand was for 1,60,000 pieces. From our point of view it was an unrealistic deadline. So, we informed the client we can produce 80,000 pieces and of our own accord asked them to distribute the job to another reputed printer who could do justification at the same level. This sort of honesty is the best policy.
PROOFS ARE SENT FOR A REASON
High on the irritation list for many printers is the fact that proofs are merely glanced at or if they are even looked at all. I insist that all pages should be checked in order and acknowledged for accuracy carefully. That is the reason why we send them. A buyer knows the nitty gritty of his job better than we do. The buyer must look (and re-look) at the content.
The key at Jak is: find a solution.
In spite of the above seven mantras, things go wrong no matter how well the job is planned or how professional the printer is. If the fault is with the printer, then by all means, do so. But my experience has taught me that in most cases the fault lies elsewhere and blaming the printer is an easy way out. Twice we had to produce print jobs that were not possible because the design was faulty. On both occasions, the customers blamed us and said we were not up to it.
However if the print job or a print buyer is part of a fad, say no. This could be a specialty paper option or a print process in its nascent stag. Learn to say no. Learn to be realistic.
My final mantra is: Get feedback constantly. Printers are a tough lot and can take criticism when it is justified. Do find out from your client if the print job met the clients technical specifications as if they tell you where you have hit the mark and where you have not.