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A small business owner’s guide for choosing a fast, quality print vendor

Long gone are the days when ordering business cards or banners for trade shows required multiple visits to a print shop, followed by a lengthy wait to get the job done. Digital printing technology has dramatically improved the process, and that’s great news for small business owners who need quality print products to help build their brand and their business – especially in a pinch.



“Broader access to quality printing and services such as same day pickup have made it easier for small business owners to build brand identity with the print products that are their tools of the trade,” says Karen Post, the “branding diva” and author of “Brand Turnaround.”



Before the advent of digital printing, small business owners would be hard pressed to find a print vendor willing to take small orders, fast turnarounds or requests for customization. Now, print vendors are plentiful, and with so many of them vying for your business, it can be difficult to know which one offers the best services and the best deals.



Post offers some tips for choosing the right print vendor for your small-business needs:



* Check out a vendor’s capabilities. Does the print shop or online vendor offer all the types of materials you might need for your business? Does the vendor only do business cards and photo cards? Or can they also offer postcards, signs, banners, invitations, announcements, stamps, labels, calendars and note cards? Choosing a vendor with broad capabilities can help streamline your printing tasks by allowing you to get everything done in one place, rather than farming out pieces of work to different vendors. This can also help enhance your company’s brand identity by maintaining a consistent execution along with similar look and feel for all your collateral materials.



* How important is face time? Being able to walk into a store and speak with a qualified printing professional face-to-face. Talking to experts in your neighborhood, such as the Certified Print Pros at Staples Copy & Print affords you the opportunity of consulting in person about your print job – and the chance to build a lasting business relationship with a professional who will become familiar with your business needs.



* Can the vendor provide samples? And are they up to your standards? Your print vendor should be able to produce quality samples of a variety of products in multiple formats. Reviewing samples can help you determine quickly if a vendor will be able to meet your quality requirements. Asking for proofs of your job can also help you catch any last minute errors or changes before the final product is produced.



* How quickly can the vendor produce? While digital printing and the Internet have greatly reduced the time lapse between placing an order and receiving it; you’ll still likely wait days for your product if you order from an online vendor. Sometimes you need it for an event immediately. Staples Copy & Print Centers now offer same-day service. You can order your print products online at www.staples.com and pick them up at your local center in as little as four hours.



* Check the vendor’s reputation. Look for online reviews and testimonials about the print vendor you’re considering. Does the online vendor you’re thinking of have a lot of satisfied customers? If you’ll be dealing with a print shop, is it affiliated with a company that has a strong reputation and brand identity such as Staples? You can learn a lot about how a company will do business with you based on how they’ve done business with others. In the end, you’re looking for quality and convenience at reasonable costs.

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