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Digital Printing vs. Screen Printing: A Quoting Quandary?

(September 2006) posted on Tue Oct 03, 2006

Estimating whether a job should be printed digitally or produced with screen printing involves more considerations than cost alone. Mandel explores other factors to keep in mind when recommending production methods and setting prices.

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By Rick Mandel

Straight numbers is the game for the banner printer. This is a market of very tight margins and even tighter quotes. Quantity determines the winner here. Finally, the garment printer I contacted indicated that digital printing has almost eliminated four-color-process screen printing in his shop. Digital printing allows the shop to generate accurate proofs, produce customized garments, and handle very short runs. Line work, which he said is 80% of his volume, goes to the screen presses.


Now that we've outlined decision-making parameters and have heard from some printers, let's get real about value. The duty of sales reps is to present the company as a value. I truly do understand that clients tend to ask for capabilities and equipment lists. Value selling steers this inquiry toward final products that emphasizes company strengths. Strengths may be in turnaround time, customer service, custom graphics, or one-stop shopping. Focusing only on equipment puts printers back into the little box.

Next is information. Do we know what the image is? Not often—and seldom do we ask. Could we add value by pushing to see the image during the quoting stage? Most definitely. Do we usually have a feel of timing? No. Hey, this is a quote against three competitors, so timing doesn't matter yet! Could we add value to this scenario with some understanding of timing? You bet.

Now, the numbers are the numbers, right? Sometimes. Digital may hold more value, and the market may bear additional markup. We want to avoid leaving money on the table. Can we add value to our business? All the time. Do we want to be low-cost suppliers, or is service and value the mantra of our businesses?

No one should ever suggest quoting screen and digital just to see which one comes out cheaper. Management should review quotes for what will add value for the client and add value to the business. The decision should be specific and explained to the client as a value proposition. Salespeople tend to look for the least costly way to bid. Nervousness about selling on value rather than cost will always exist; however, success in selling value will breed more success. Reps do not want to lose an order on price; therefore, price becomes the only sellable item. Salespeople who focus on value can handle all the questions above and explain the whats and whys of the estimate.

I'm not naïve enough to assume that buyers never choose on price. Yes, a high percentage of them require a three-bid deal. I truly believe the answer is in the information that is seldom provided (or requested). If we want to jump ahead of our competition, we need to provide value. Buyers put printers in a box so that the printers can be compared on a short list of criteria. But if we provide more expertise, the box loses its borders. Therefore, we have to persistent and ask the questions about imagery evaluation, timing, and expectations for resolution (notice I didn't say quality). A fully explored quote will let potential customers make accurate, apples-to-apples comparisons and decide which bid provides the best value. Screen and digital printing are not adversaries in price, but valuable partners for our clients.


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