If you’re just beginning a partnership with a new print vendor or are moving a print management role over to a new member of your staff, proper onboarding is essential to ensure your print process moves without a hitch.
But, what does “onboarding” mean in this context?
Well, similar to how you would onboard a new hire at your organization to learn your systems and processes, onboarding with a print vendor is where you or a member of staff familiarize yourself with your print vendor’s services, technology and processes. By going through a thorough onboarding period, you’ll lessen the risk of errors slowing your print projects down or, if errors do pop up, be able to get your project back on track quickly.
Here are some key steps to ensure you’re sticking to a thorough onboarding process.
Build a Partnership
The first and, for some, most essential step in ensuring proper onboarding is to become familiar with your vendor. To achieve real success, you’ll have to develop more than just a customer/vendor relationship. For optimal long-term results, your print vendor will need to become a true partner who feels empowered to make proactive suggestions to streamline or cut costs on your future print projects.
By hosting an initial walkthrough meeting, you will have the opportunity to build trust and ensure you and your printer are on the same page. Schedule an in-person meeting or host a virtual walkthrough – whatever your internal point person is most comfortable with. During your meeting, have your print vendor explain how they prefer to receive projects and establish who your go-to contact is for any issues which might arise.
Make sure the point person within your organization understands the standard production times for various types of projects, including both your internal processes and those of your vendors.
What date does a project need to be submitted to your printer by to ensure your deadline is met? Before getting started on any internal work, contact your print vendor to establish their timeline for printing and shipping (if necessary) of your print project, then work backwards. Establish dates for getting copy approved, selecting images and finalizing design.
With those dates established, you can submit your project to your printer, confident you’ll receive proofs on time and, ultimately, your project delivered on your deadline. However, be aware that alterations at the proof stage could create a delay in your delivery. We’ll touch on this in greater detail below.
A key part of this walkthrough includes discussing the importance of submitting your print project in the correct file format. While this may seem like a relatively easy task, this is a common point of error. For example, maybe one image in your document was saved incorrectly and no one noticed it until it was too late. While your printer will likely catch the error through either their system or by a trained technician’s eye, time will be lost before this is caught, and any delay will likely set your print timeline backwards.
Take whatever steps you can to make sure your print files are saved in the proper format. Print out your printer’s guidelines or build them into a checklist you go through before submitting every job. Keep it next to the computer that is used to design and upload these files, and manually check off each step as you go. It may seem like needless busy work, but it’ll help you in the long run.
Reacting to Errors
Of course, no matter the precautions you take, occasionally errors are going to happen. When they do, you need a game plan to react accordingly. Throughout the onboarding process, be sure to ask your print vendor what the steps would be if things did not go according to plan. If something goes wrong, you don’t want to be left completely in the dark. Discussing appropriate steps to take in the face of these mistakes – before they ever happen – will make handling them much less of a stressful proposition.
Luckily, if you’ve followed the above onboarding process, corrections will likely be relatively easy. You’ll know who the appropriate contact is at your vendor and will be able to track your process moving backwards to determine where errors might have occurred.
Keeping Costs Down
A successful onboarding brings with it many benefits, including the ability to maximize the ROI on your print projects. Having all your files submitted to your printer with their proper specifications will help you avoid unnecessary costs; including being forced to pay for extra print runs to correct errors. You’ll cut down on wasted employee time fixing the errors. You’ll stay on deadline. And you’ll open the door for your print vendor to offer up further time and money saving solutions.
There’s a lot that goes into making onboarding a success, but by keeping all of the above in mind, you can make this a smooth, pain-free process.
Onboarding isn’t just about familiarizing yourself with your print vendor’s technology – it’s also about building relationships, fine-tuning your inner processes and ensuring your print projects are of the highest possible quality.