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What is a Print Broker and What Do They Do?

January 1, 2018

In much the same way that other commodities can be brokered (insurance, mortgages, pensions etc.), so too can print: that’s what print brokers or managers do.

They act as an out-sourced sales solution to their trade-only suppliers. Those suppliers maintain low overheads by – among other means – not employing dedicated sales staff of their own: they out-source sales on a part-time basis to print management companies. Those companies then represent a “collective” of printers, who together offer a complete printing solution.

Traditionally, you’d buy business cards from one supplier, brochures from another and large-format graphics from yet another. To free up their resources and save them having to shop around, many customers employ companies do it for them: all in one place.

For example?

As well as providing a one-stop solution, management companies are used for many other things:

A complex project, which would normally involve several suppliers with different areas of expertise? Free up your resources to concentrate on that project and out-source the printing to a service provider.

Exhibiting at a show or fair? Similarly, concentrate on the logistics and leave the printing of business cards, exhibition graphics and stands, leaflets and flyers to a Brokerage.

Print brokers don’t have any printing presses?

No. They are management companies, utilising the varied and diverse equipment of their equally varied and diverse supplier base. they’re just like a huge print company which can produce anything that their customers require: they represent the entire industry.

The industry is so varied and diverse that no individual printer could hope to serve the entire market competitively. They’d have down time on their presses and so on. Print brokers take a number of trade-only suppliers, with diverse equipment able to serve the whole market, package it up and bring it to the market as a complete solution.

Is this a new market niche?

Print brokers and managers have been around for a while. In fact, some of the most successful companies in the industry don’t have any presses of their own.

How can a print manager or broker be the cheapest, quickest and most environmentally friendly, as they often claim?

They scour the market for their customers to get the best deal. They make sure that each project is produced on the most appropriate equipment and because they have a wide ranging supplier base, they have access to just about any printing press you’d care to think of. No individual printing company would be able to address every printing need but brokers can, through their diverse supply chain. They keep prices down by using trade-only suppliers and maintaining low overheads of their own. Their extensive supply base means that they can always find the right supplier for the job: this benefits their suppliers by making a contribution to their overhead and it benefits their customers because of the reduced rates which they are able to acquire printing for.

Often though, a customer requirement will be very specialised or time-sensitive. In these instances, price is not necessarily the primary concern.

In these instances, a print broker’s customers will approach them because they don’t know where else to go. They could undertake a lengthy search for the most appropriate suppliers but to free up their resources, they employ a management firm. As well as a general print management service, these companies are able to offer a service wherein their supply base allows them to provide pretty much anything, any time. They’re print managers and exist as an out-sourced procurement service to their customers.

Who are print managers’ customers?

Their customers include individuals, members of the public, sole traders, small, medium and large companies; government departments, local authorities and charities.

In any case – whether sole trader or multi-national corporation – each of their customers are equally important to them and customers use print managers or brokers for the service which an out-sourced supplier can provide in procuring their printing.

How do print brokers make money?

As a business, a print broking company naturally needs to remain a profitable concern. They maintain low overheads by not having their own printing equipment, among other means. They procure goods on behalf of their customers through trade-only suppliers who have low overheads themselves: they don’t employ sales staff (they out-source that operation to management companies) and they occupy premises in geographical areas where business rates are competitive (typically out-of-town).

Print brokers apply a modest margin to their trade purchasing prices and their prices to the end-line user are representative of those which their customers would find in the commercial market; often less so. A managed or brokered printing service is value-added and a print manger or broker’s diverse supplier base allows them to be a one-stop solution to their customers, saving those customers the cost and resource of employing a dedicated buyer.

Who are a print broker’s competitors?

Commercial printers and High Street-based print shops. Neither do what the other does but print management companies offer what both do and more besides. A print broker’s managed print solution means that they can offer their competitors’ services in one basket; often at a reduced cost.

How can print management companies be better than traditional printers?

Many traditional print companies try to offer the one-stop solution which print brokers do but they have higher overheads. Therefore, all non-core business which they outsource will come at a premium. They also don’t have the resources to have researched their non-core business market thoroughly enough, nor usually sufficient staff to offer the level of service which a dedicated management company offers on out-sourced work. Print managers and brokers are dedicated to a constant awareness of the market and the changes therein, to consistently offer their customers the best printing solution.

Because they out-source all of their customers’ projects, the print broker’s internal resources are free to manage their customers’ printing for them.

Why don’t customers deal directly with a management company’s suppliers?

Because print brokers’ suppliers only deal with the trade (managers and brokers). If they were to deal directly with customers, they would need to employ sales staff and incur the salaries and indirect costs associated therewith. They can’t justify such an expense with their individual, specific offerings, so they out-source their sales on a part-time basis to print brokers, along with other suppliers offering different goods and services.

Why wouldn’t a print broker’s suppliers approach a customer directly?

Because they don’t have dedicated sales people and employ printing management companies in that function. From a print manager or broker’s point of view, if any of their suppliers were to adopt such a practice, they would deny themselves the other leads which might otherwise be introduced to them.

Who is responsible for “managed” printing?

The print management company are: even though they’re print managers – middle men – the buck has to stop somewhere and as far as the customer is concerned, that buck stops with the service provider. Otherwise customers may as well deal directly with the manager or broker’s suppliers and for reasons given above, they really don’t want to do that. Brokers provide a complete managed print service, which extends to total responsibility for customers’ printing: they can approve proofs on-press, so that customers don’t have to; advise on pre-flighting customer files and are ultimately responsible for their customers’ printing and all that’s entailed therein.

Why would a customer deal with a broker and not a “traditional” printing company?

Because print managers and brokers represent a one-stop solution for all of a customer’s printing needs. Rather than shop around many printers for the best deal and most appropriate production medium, print brokers do that for their customers.

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