Having been a print buyer and working closely with a number of our competitors, printers, and merchants (many of who are now my customers), it’s interesting to be sitting on this side of the desk and seeing how paper is viewed from the manufacturer’s standpoint. In full disclosure, most of what I bought/managed was on the uncoated mechanical side of the business as it related to newspaper inserts, but I’ve also managed direct mail, in-store signage/collateral, and publications which all have their unique set of requirements. No project is the same and every customer’s expectations are different. As a print buyer and end user, here were the key factors for me when choosing suppliers to work with (which probably aren’t much different than any of yours):

Supply
I have a job that needs to print; I need press time and paper – pretty simple. Working with a partner that could guarantee me paper when I needed it was key, period! We all have customers (whether it be internal or external), the printers and paper suppliers work with the print buyer, the print buyer has internal management (internal management has owners or Wall Street) – price, service, quality aside, I could NEVER say “Sorry guys, our marketing piece wasn’t distributed because we couldn’t get paper.”

Service
The economy over last few years have been rough, every person and company has felt the effects. With the ever-shrinking marketing/advertising budgets that most have experienced, every company has been tasked to do more with less, this includes the print teams. In many cases it is a 1 or 2 person team managing very complex programs with millions of dollars in annual spend. In my case, I viewed my external partners as extensions of our team. It was critical for me to be able to make a couple calls and know my partners were on it (collaboration between merchant, printer, and logistics partners) to ensure I was able to tell my management “we have it covered.” This extended to post production as well, helping to manage inventories sitting on the printers’ floors and selling any obsolete excess inventory we couldn’t use.

Quality
Quality is a given, but we needed consistent quality. I’m not one of those print buyers that expected perfection every time; I’ve been doing this long enough to understand this is a manufacturing process (both printing and paper manufacturing) and there are variances and factors from run to run that can impact the finished product – but I can tell you, the worst feeling in the world is having the president of the company get a printed piece in his/her mailbox that wasn’t up to standards (to put it nicely) – and trust me, it happens! What’s important quality wise varies from customer to customer (and from executive to executive) and can vary from day to day (just being honest).

Price
Now I’m not going to say price isn’t important; it’s why we always got multiple bids for all of our programs. I had the pleasure (if you want to call it that) of managing our marketing budgets and I can say, it is very important, especially at quarter end when we were scrambling for savings. BUT as a print buyer it wasn’t the most important. At the end of the day if all of the above couldn’t be met, price doesn’t mean a thing – in my opinion focusing on price alone will potentially lead to having to Say NO, excess inventory, and an extremely upset company president – all of which made for a very bad day!

I’m probably a little biased, but I feel like Domtar and our Merchant partners do a world class job of managing the Supply Chain, Service, Quality, and Pricing expectations of our customers. It really is a privilege to work for a company that is dedicated to providing a “Best in Class” service platform and product that allows our end-users and their final pieces to shine.