On selecting a printer

This is another story I authored for the photography community at Microsoft regarding the production of the 2013 photo book.

When I hung up the phone with our contact at “Company B” on Tuesday I was both happy and sad. Let’s start with sad first so we can end on a high note.

“We know how important this project is for the photographers at Microsoft, and for raising money for the United Way so based on our conversations I really can’t recommend pushing to go with us for the 2013 book.” Said Mr. B (our contact at Company B).

For the past few days I’d feared this is where things was heading. We had been working on some final attempts at a workable solution. We’ve been working schedules and deadlines for about four months as well as exploring pricing structures, book sizes and printer options. Lots of moving parts. Why had we been pursuing Company B? They could also create a great online sales experience.

The thing that caused me the most heartache as I hung up the phone was that we know how important buying online is for you and that it had been problematic in the past. We really want to make it work.

At the end of the day it came down to time. And not enough of it. Specifically the difference between July 1 and July 22. Company B was relying on a third party printer based in Asia to do the job. Company A is based in the US and printed our book for the last two years. If we had known back in February what we know now we could have pulled in production… judging… submissions to hit the July 1 date (hurrah for 2014 planning!). At the end of the day we were not prepared to sacrifice the quality of the book to make the July 1 deadline. Your experience when you open it and leaf through the beautiful photos is paramount. The Give Campaign is in October and it’s critical that we make the book available for that wonderful carnival.

Company B used to only do Print on Demand. Which is rather expensive. They now also offer “offset” (bulk) printing. As such they can deliver products comparable to the 2012 book, in the quantities we need.

A partnership with Company B goes beyond printing. The most obvious and important thing the project would benefit from would be having a frictionless online sales motion. One that captures the necessary information to enable the charitable match. A US Benefit. This. Is. Huge. Double the money when a US employee purchases a book? Yes please. An important part of the project is raising money for charity so a focus on the US market is inevitable.

Online sales also open up our ability to sell the book externally, and internationally. Whilst our communities product is different to a standard coffee table book it doesn’t exclude others wanting to buy it, for a good cause. When you think of your family and friends getting a copy think about the charitable match you will get, as a US based employee, when you buy it for them.

“So let’s start talking much earlier about the 2014 book, as we’d love to be involved. OK?” Said Mr. B and I replied in the positive.

We hope you enjoyed this story. The photos just entered the layout process. We’ll keep you posted on that soon.

For now we will continue to use Company A and the Company Store and continue to plan for how to expand plans in 2014.

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