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Cheap print is not always the most cheerful option

In today’s world there are so many cheap print options available, however a little research will usually uncover that cheap is actually not the most cost effective option. Cheap print jobs often turn out to be poor quality, unprofessional and sloppy, with little to no Return On Investment (ROI).

The savvy consumer knows that all of their print and digital outputs are an investment in their business. In order to make a good first impression and see a good ROI, you need to make a financial commitment which is consistent with the business you want to generate. This is not to say you should launch in immediately and go for the most expensive option, but it is good to keep in mind that, as is often the case, you get what you pay for.

Many print buyers will try and beat suppliers down for the best price, and whilst this tactic may be a good one to employ in some industries, in the printing industry a lower price will most likely be reflected in the end product. The supplier will need to cut costs somewhere in order to meet the financial requirements of the buyer which will compromise the quality of the final product.

When considering your print budget there are some key points the buyer should keep in mind to ensure they end up with a great product that is going to yield a good ROI.

1. Quality

The quality of the paper and ink used will be the difference between an unprofessional, novice looking product and a professional product which also feels good to touch.  People love something tangible which appeals to as many senses as possible. The sleeker and better quality your product, the more credibility you will have which converts into more business. Special finishes such as matt lamination or spot UV will feel better in the hands of the reader and thicker paper stocks will always add value if you are trying to impress.

2. Design

Do not underestimate the power of professionally-designed print material. A cheap print design will make your product look naff, and will not grab your prospective customer’s attention.  A good design will draw your customers in and make them want to pick up your leaflets or flyers and find out more.  There are lots of new and innovative ways to get your designs noticed. For example, simple options such as QR codes let you link directly to a URL, whereas augmented reality designs that use smart phone apps to show extra product information can really give you the competitive edge. But be wary of overusing technology if it doesn’t suit your market place.

Sometimes less design is more.

If you only have a small flyer, and your offer is simple to understand e.g ‘FREE fries with every burger – today only!’ the headline says it all. You don’t need to explain the offer anymore. A few location details and a good image and you’ve nailed it – The reader can make an instant decision based on the headline and won’t need to invest any more time in making a decision. But, remember that decision is still being based on the item they are touching, feeling and seeing – these are subconscious feelings that influence them to buy the burger or not – if the offer feels cheap they may think your burger is cheap too – no one wants a cheap burger!

If your offer is sophisticated or of a great value then the reader may need time to consider all the details required to make a decision. A brochure of four or more pages may be required for a job like this so don’t use cheap print here or you could find your marketing is put straight on the recycling pile.

3. Images

‘Images speak a thousand words’ it’s a cliche but it’s true. So ensure your images are going to engage your audience. A good image will bring your print to life. Make images visually appealing but ultimately ensure they embody the message you are trying to convey and that they are memorable.

Try and work your image around your text. Adjust it in photoshop, try blending sections away so your text is completely legible. We recently received a sample of an appointment card where the image used swathes of dark green grass in the background, the designer (or online editor – most likely) had placed black text over the top, rendering the card completely unreadable, pointless and unprofessional – made worse by the fact that the offending text was their telephone number.

Text-only design is mostly suited for direct marketing where you want the reader to actually take time to read your message and become drawn into your sales message. No (obvious) visual distractions, just powerful, motivating copy.

Of course there are always exceptions.

If you have access to a brilliantly creative designer who can typeset and make text look amazing using fonts and colour, you’re luckier than most. There really is no substitution for hiring a professional designer to make your artwork look amazing. Combining good layout and images, and using high quality paper stock will bring out the best in your pictures and give you the best all-round solution.

4. Colour

Promotional print material which only consists of black and white text and images can look dated and cheap.  Gone are the days of photocopying and home printing. Print has moved on. Digital, full colour printing is no longer a prohibitive option, so don’t scrimp!

Using colour printing for your marketing is a must. If you don’t want your advert, brochure or leaflet to be immediately binned, then think carefully about using low quality, single colour artwork.

5. Copy

Nothing is more important than the words you write! (Apart from the way you spell them).

Poor copy combined with spelling mistakes and bad grammar will turn your reader off – immediately.

If you are responsible for writing text for your marketing, run it by your colleagues, get them to proof read it, then re-read it and tweak it if necessary.

If you are not a copywriter – and many of us aren’t – hire a professional. Award-winning design can’t overcome wishy-washy copy, so make every word count.

6. Make sure you can measure

Whatever the cost of your print campaign, make it measurable. Being able to measure your campaigns will help you develop and enhance any future campaigns you may run. Add a code that customers can quote when responding to your marketing or a link you can track. You could also try using dedicated freephone numbers – these can easily be linked to direct sales.

A final note

Buying cheap print for your next campaign could prove to be a waste of your marketing budget. Don’t let potential customers think you’re a cheapskate! Invest in your image and build your profile with better design and better quality print.


We’ve done the research, so you don’t have to:

  • Why print buyers who stick to cost-cutting are failing to do their job – Print & Procurement

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