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Seeking the Secret Sauce of Print Projects

Research. Creative. Distribution. When it comes to marketing material projects they’re the three heavy hitters, the big guns, the meat and potatoes. In fact, if you were to think of a marketing material project as a hamburger, research, creative and distribution would be like the two halves of the roll and the patty. Skip just one and you either have just a roll or you have a slab of ground beef with a hunk of bread on the side. Put all three together and you have a hamburger. That burger, in its most simple state, may be pretty darn good. Add the right toppings and it completes the vision of a spectacular burger. Marketing material projects are similar. The core elements — research, creative and distribution — get the job done. Additional layers complete the package. Kind of like secret sauce, when working together in harmony those additional layers tend don’t stand out, but leave it off and it will be missed. So let’s give some attention to a few of the under appreciated but very important layers piled high between the buns of your average marketing material project.

Specification Writing

The specifications for a printed marketing material project are the recipe by which the whole project is prepared. The specifications explain and outline the physical elements of the project that are not often readily apparent from the project’s design files. This includes important information regarding paper stock, finishing, bindery and assembly. Specifications also detail color expectations, production preferences and quantities. The specifications written for a project present the logistics for the project too. They clarify how the finished product is to be packaged, where it is to be shipped and show dependencies between different vendors such as printers, warehousers, shippers, distributors and mail houses. Spec writing is not something to be taken lightly. The specifications that are written for a project can, and do, make an impact on all of the big three areas of research, creative and distribution. When done effectively with precision and care specification writing:

ü  Provides a clear outline of every production and logistical detail of the project
ü  Drives a smoother, faster process with less risk of mistake and delay
ü  Ensures that final output and implementation of the project is a direct match to its original vision

Vendor Qualification

If the specifications are like the recipe for the project, qualified vendors are like cooks and their kitchens. The teenager frying mass-produced frozen patties at any given drive-through joint can make you a hamburger. A chef grilling fresh ingredients over a fire can make you a masterpiece. When you’re on the go, gulping down a fast food burger in the car might be all you need, the gourmet option would be overkill. When you have the time, when you want to enjoy and savor your meal, the gourmet burger would be the ticket and the drive-through would be a letdown. You need to know what your needs are and identify sources qualified to fulfill them. It’s the same with the vendors producing printed marketing materials. Some are qualified and well equipped for certain projects while some are qualified and well-equipped for others. It’s important to match the needs of your project with the capabilities and capacities of your vendors. Send a big job to a printer who is equipped only for short runs and overload will stand in your way. Have a vendor who normally produces high-end work run a simple job and the price tag may shock you. Identifying qualified vendors is critical to achieving expectations of quality, price and timeliness in any printed marketing material project. Again, this is not something to be taken lightly. It’s also not an easy task that subjectivity and outside influence can make even harder. Having access to a variety of vendors with different capabilities, and really being able to identify and know what those capabilities are can:

ü  Ensure that quality expectations are met all the time, every time
ü  Provide access to the latest innovations, open doors to new creativity and keep your organization’s materials ahead of the curve
ü Save money, save time and eliminate the potential for problems during and after production

Coordination, Communication and Tracking

So you’ve clearly outlined what you want in a hamburger. You’ve identified a couple of restaurants that have the qualifications to deliver the product your mouth is watering for. Now it’s time to bring everything together and make it happen. Getting from the front door of a restaurant to clamping your jaw down on juicy, tasty hamburger goodness takes coordination, communication and tracking. Getting your printed marketing material project from design to implementation does too. Events take place in a particular order for a reason. You must make clear your intentions and desired outcomes. You need to know the right time to ask questions and the right time to respond. You need to follow through and everyone working together needs to be on the same page. If you, the waiter and the cook are all thinking and talking about different things, you’re not going to get what you want. Same goes for the brand manager, creative director and print buyer in a project. Everyone involved in a printed marketing material project must be aware of their role, have the means to fulfill it, be able to communicate with one another and know the status of the project with regard to their responsibilities. While it may sound simple enough, this is no easy task given the number of people, variety of situations and overall complexity of the marketing supply chain. However, when organizations are able, having a means for coordination, communication and tracking helps:

ü  Increase efficiency, streamline processes while ensuring adherence to them and reduce the burden of time consuming, repetitive tasks
ü  Ensure the completion responsibilities and ensure consistency
ü  Keep projects on-time and on-budget while providing a means for review and control

Have you ever taken the time to look between the main layers of your printed marketing material projects? Have you discovered the secret sauce that holds everything together and given it the attention it deserves? Have you seen just how many layers blend together inside of your projects and thought about how much more you could get out of them if you were managing them with software purpose-built for the job? If not, the time to do so is now.