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Multi-Platform Publishing Offers New Opportunities for “Print” Buyers

Contract negotiations are no longer just about print services.



By Bert N. Langford
05/19/2011

If you have not bid out your work to the printing marketplace in the past three or more years, you are likely missing out on a great opportunity, not only in your print deal, but also the growing synergies between digital and print that printers now offer.

Within the following I’ll offer some tips (but not all, due to limited space) on how to conduct printing negotiations in a manner that maximizes your company’s benefits and opportunities.

Your first step is to form an aggressive yet adaptable strategy for how to conduct negotiations and track the comparative results. In all cases, create the comparative
printing analysis based on the same issue makeup found on your printer’s invoice (and reported by the same fiscal month) for the most recently completed fiscal year.

Then below the line, adjust the basic pricing results to consider all costs of doing business with each printer that can occur over the contract term.

This includes each printer’s ROI-proven digital/print Value-Added Program (VAP) of interest to your company. Consider each as another “adjustment” category (as the printer’s pricing is offset by savings/income). But contractually require that your company retains ownership of the data and can move to another printer later, without losing the program’s benefits.

After adding/subtracting the above adjustments to the printer’s basic pricing for a new yearly total, then multiplying that by the contract term (e.g., five years), you have the total cost of doing business.

There are a number of items to incorporate in a printer RFP, including,

• Specifications and production schedule.

• Capabilities Comparator applying to that printer.

• Request for printer’s VAP offerings for print and digital capabilities, including content management integration.

• Printer’s Magazine Pro Forma worksheet by title.

Enclose a covering letter indicating the Printer’s bid due date and request the Printer’s Standard Contract (boiler plate) along with a complete Price Schedule formatted similarly to the Pro Forma worksheet’s price itemization included within the RFP—to be enclosed with each bid.

Identify Printers for Bidding: By defining your wish list and requirements in the preceding steps, you can then locate six (preferably more) qualified printers to compete for your business. REMEMBER: don’t favor just the largest printers, as they may not have the best arrangements including price for your company. But, make certain that each printer is financially sound!

Receiving and Analyzing Printers’ Bids: Once you have the printers’ bids and their responses to the Capabilities Comparator, copy the printer’s filled in pro forma worksheet to replace that printer’s blank worksheet—then hyperlink it to the Magazine Summary worksheet.

For comparing printers—I (along with the attorney) evaluate each printer’s boiler plate to incorporate any changes that you and your attorney require. Make note of these issues within the Capabilities Comparator while analyzing the other bids.

Next, I analyze the rest of the bid for accuracy and completeness in comparison to the other bids and the “Target” you want to competitively achieve or surpass.

Negotiating with Each Printer: You will negotiate pricerelated issues like comparison to target but also be open to new opportunities that the printer might offer which are favorable to your company. And, do not over-play your hand with risky demands! You don’t want any printer to walk away from negotiations for the wrong reasons.

NEVER allow a printer to see the details of another printer’s bid. It is both unethical and prejudicial thinking that could backfire on you.

Visit Each Finalist’s Printing Plant: A week or more prior to the trip, e-mail each finalist your talking points to cover during the meetings. Provide any pointers that you can to the finalists about their weaknesses—both in comparison to target ($$), as well as the updated Capabilities Comparator.

Next, tour the plant to confirm the capabilities including state-of-the-art technology of the major equipment that the printer will use in producing your magazines (in comparison to the evolving Capabilities Comparator).

Tour not only the pressroom and bindery, but all departments/facilities affecting your business, even accounting. Include in discussions with the printer regarding the printer’s ability to fulfill your USPS requirements (including USPS work-sharing programs); as well as all newsstand requirements in cooperation with your newsstand distributor); along with any other third party supplier.

You, any project team, and your management can then go over the standings you have updated; and develop a consensus as to the best offer both quantifiably and in terms of workflows and business accommodations in your company’s favor.

Bert N. Langford is a veteran independent publishing consultant with extensive background in Printing and Publishing (in the process: negotiating from “both sides of the desk”). He can be reached at (314) 458-8863 – or at bert@pubresource.com. Visit his Web site at www.pubresource.com.

By Bert N. Langford
05/19/2011







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