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Print Outsourcing vs. In-House Printing

Print Outsourcing vs. In-House Printing

Note: with marketing budgets being slashed due to the economy, more and more companies are looking to outsource their print production to a company like us (Ballantine). We noticed a surge in traffic to our blog using outsource-related terms. As a result, we updated the post below with additional info (11/3/08).


There was an article in DM News about how Peapod, the online grocery delivery service, outsources their printing to save money and increase efficiency.  Since we’re a print production company, we love to see stories like this.

On page 2 of the article, there was a special section that debated what was better: outsourcing or in-house printing.  In a nutshell, do you hire staff to handle your direct mail print campaigns, or do you use a production company like us to handle it for you?

But first, there’s another angle that isn’t mentioned…

We have many clients that have a full production staff, and they still use us for their printing and mailing.  They look at us as a printer, but one that partners up with them on the production of their projects. Our pricing saves them money and our support increases their project efficiency…plus, they now have two sets of production eyes watching their work.

The argument to this is, “well then we’ll be one removed from the actual work being produced.”

Well, yes and no.  Yes, you are one removed from the actual plant printing your work.  But a print production company that is good at what they do won’t make this an issue. They’ll get you involved in the job; they’ll work with you as a team; they’ll introduce you to new direct mail formats; and most importantly, they’ll help you get the job done right.

We even tell our clients that they can have direct contact with our printing plants if they want…but 99% of the time, this is the last thing they want to do.

So should you outsource your printing?

The answer to this question is going to vary from company to company. What follows is a basic outline and can of course vary based on the many many variables that exist…

Situation 1

If you have a small marketing staff and you’re dealing directly with the printing plants, getting pricing, working on the production of the projects…and you have other marketing responsibilities…then you are absolutely the perfect candidate to outsource your printing.

Situation 2

If you have a medium size marketing staff including 1 or 2 production people, you might be a good candidate for outsourcing…it really depends on how much direct mail you produce. If it’s 500,000 pieces and above, then your production staff would probably welcome the extra help with open arms. Less than this quantity and your production staff probably don’t need the extra help unless of course you find a production company that can deliver much better pricing.

Situation 3

If you are a large company with a full production staff, you most likely don’t need the extra support a production company can provide. One exception is if you have extremely complex projects that often vary in formats (#10, double postcard, 6×9, magalogs, etc.). Since production companies don’t own equipment, most can produce just about any format you need as well as give you ideas for new formats to test.

In Summary

If you are a company that is considering outsourcing your print, we recommend you gauge how busy your staff is. Do they seem overwhelmed? Do they obviously need more help? Are there other responsibilities that they should be attending to, but are neglecting because they don’t have the time?

If so, find a reputable print production company and price out your direct mail with them. If their pricing is the same, or better, then you might have found a great solution to giving your staff the help they need.

We’ve been doing direct mail production since 1966. If you’d like to speak with us, please contact us.

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I'm the Director of Digital Services and Partner at Ballantine, a family-owned and operated direct mail & digital marketing company based in New Jersey. and started in 1966 by my great uncle!