How to Tell if You Are Considered a Print Vendor or a Print Partner

a purple image of a climber offering a helping hand to another climber

If print customers are thinking of you as a print vendor and not as a print partner, you are in serious trouble. You are interchangeable. You are competing on price. You are a number on a spreadsheet. You aren’t top of mind for recommendations or referrals. You are on the way out and you probably don’t even know it.

How can you determine the position you occupy with print customers? More than likely if you are asking yourself that question now, you are a print vendor. But just in case, here are 2 ways to tell for sure.


Back in my agency days, I called upon my print partners to help me create specs, find resources, and explain how something worked or needed to be created to work. I asked for ballpark guesstimates and recommendations for paper. I asked for printed samples to show internally and externally. And more.

I asked for some or all that assistance as needed. My partners helped me without any expectation they would receive the job in return.

I can feel you rolling your eyes, and that is fair. My asks took time and resources. However, in so many cases if I couldn’t get initial information upfront, I couldn’t make the best recommendations to the creative team. That would have consequences and never happy ones.

If you are a resource under any condition, you are a print partner. If your help is transaction based, you are a print vendor.


There are 100+ ways a printing job can go wrong, but only one way a print partner responds to it – “Don’t panic, we will get it done.” That doesn’t mean for free, it means exactly what it means… WE GOT YOU. We hear you. We will get it done.

A print vendor on the other hand typically leads with all the reasons it can’t be done or shouldn’t be done. They tend to focus on blame versus proactive solutions. They tend to focus on the money to fix the problem and not lowering the temperature the problem caused. This position often leads to a worse customer relationship, not a better one.

It’s like an insurance representative explaining how your rates will go up after a car accident and not asking if you are ok, first. Just leaves a bad taste in a highly emotional situation. And trust me, any issue with printed materials for a giant global brand or a local solopreneur is an emotional situation.

Choose Your Path

Despite wishful thinking, I don’t think all printers can be or should be partners with all customers. There are customers who deserve your partnership, and some who don’t.

When you can be a partner and it is reciprocated in a way that benefits a print business in terms you have defined, go all in, and never look back.

For everyone else, I strongly suggest you assess whether they are right for your business before you continue wasting time and resources on print customers and relationships that will never change.

If they are salvageable, look to use your website information and educational content to address the most frequently asked questions. Put an e-commerce system up to provide quick quotes and for job ordering from transactional customers so you aren’t offsetting profit with time.



See Deborah’s featured post: 3 Ways to Earn Trust Through Collaboration with Print Customers

NEWS!!! Girls Who Print Day and International Print Day Coming in October with ‘Be BIG and BOLD’ and ‘Print Smart’ as Central Themes

See all posts by Deborah


Deborah Corn is the Intergalactic Ambassador to the Printerverse at Print Media Centr, a Print Buyerologist, international industry speaker and blogger, and the cultivator of Print Production Professionals, the #1 print group on LinkedIn. She provides printspiration and resources to print and marketing professionals through education, events, Podcasts From The Printerverse, ProjectPeacock.TV, and an array of community-lifting initiatives including Girls Who Print, Elevate Print, #PrintChat, #PrintLife and International Print Day.

Deborah also helps companies create more meaningful and profitable customer relationships by utilizing more than 25 years of experience as an agency, brand, and corporate print buyer who has assessed, hired, and worked with a plethora of printers and service providers.

Explore Podcasts From The Printerverse

ProjectPeacock.TV is streaming PRINTSPIRATION to brands, agencies, students, and printers!

Connect with Deborah: Twitter / Facebook / LinkedIn / Instagram / YouTube / Pinterest / Print Production Professionals Group /

Please subscribe to PMC’s News from The Printerverse for topical posts and information delivered to your inbox 1x a month.

Calling all Girls Who Print!! Join us on LinkedIn and check out our revamped Mentoring Program – it’s free!

One Response

  1. Despite my best efforts, I do not believe that all printers can or should be partners with all customers. There are customers who deserve your collaboration and those who do not. I’d like to read more articles like this.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Canon Solutions America Production Printing Print Media Centr