For many years, the conventional wisdom in small business printing has been to wait until you have a draft design you’re satisfied with, and confident will be useful for many years, and then order the largest print run you can afford. Small business owners spent small fortunes printing large stacks of business cards, promotional mailers and fliers for distribution, always in the largest quantity possible. That made sense when each plate had to be cut by hand and four-color toner was expensive, but modern printing techniques have made the conventional wisdom obsolete.
Economies of Scale
Before digital technology and the revolution it has worked on the world of small business printing, large runs of printed materials were the only way a small operator could match the efficiency of a large corporation for marketing and letterhead. Since most of the cost of printing was in the design and prep stages, with material as almost an afterthought, ordering a years’ supply of mailers at once made sense. This bulk then had to be stored somewhere, it was liable to damage before it could be sent out, and there was always the problem of prices changing or promotions ending before the last flier went out, but these problems just had to be borne at the time.
Smart Printing and the Economics of a Small Printing Run
Digital technology has changed nearly everything about the way small business printing works. Cheap, versatile computers are ubiquitous now, as is low-cost or free design software business owners can use to create their own materials from the concept stage on. In this world, where an idea can turn into a digital file, which is then delivered to the computer-controlled printers at the shop in seconds, small printing runs start to make sense for small businesses and niche marketers.
Advantages of Small Orders
Small print runs still take almost the same work to set up as large ones, but the per-unit cost has now dropped low enough to outsource the work and send through multiple small orders as needed, rather than making difficult projections months or years in advance. Smart printing like this lets a business owner market to very small groups, such as left-handed stamp collectors who like Classical music, without investing in a run of tens of thousands of sheets. It also encourages experimentation, such as rolling out a new price structure and announcing it on just 1,000 or so mailers. If the idea works out, the same design can be used to print 10 times more sheets. If the new idea falls short, then the stated prices can be quickly changed back, and a new order placed the same day. Or, the new offer can be scrapped altogether; since very little was invested in the small printing run, little has been lost.
Small business printing has changed much over the years, and new technologies have at last made it economical to print in small volumes at with tight deadlines. That fast turnaround and responsiveness to changes makes small runs attractive in small business printing. If you’d like to know more about how the economics of printing have changed in your favor, don’t hesitate to reach out to us and find out how a small printing run can make your business more competitive today.