The Art of Negotiation
The consolidation of some magazine printers, coupled with the growing complexity of production processes makes it even more critical for the magazine production director to follow a structured outline when it comes time to review and negotiate the next print contract. Developing a comprehensive Request for Proposal (RFP) and analyzing the resulting print bids can be a complex task. However, the following reminders will be helpful in making the process easier and keeping costs under control.
Define general parameters
Your RFP should clearly define your intentions as to when the new contract package begins, length of term, volume entitlement, project timetable, criteria for printer selection and pertinent contacts.
In addition to the obvious physical specs—trim size, quantity, page count, color, paper, binding style, etc.—your RFP should also clearly define your schedule requirements and quality expectations. While you and your current supplier may understand your specs, competing printers will require these details in order to provide a valid and competitive proposal.
Consolidation: Titles and contacts
With the many mergers and acquisitions in the publication community, a number of publishers now have the opportunity to consolidate multiple titles into a single, large-scale package—even if the titles have varying specs—that may be more attractive to potential suppliers. All negotiations on the publishers behalf should be conducted by a single, high-level corporate authority, not fractured at the various division levels. This step may be key in keeping the balance of nego-tiating power more equitable, as the major printers begin looking more like an oligopoly.
Once the word is out that you're reviewing your print options, you will be approached by a number of interested printers. Your RFP should be sent to only the four-to-six players most likely to meet your capability, pricing and scheduling requirements. A list broader than six will waste time—yours and theirs. Certainly, choosing a printer with the right equipment and capabilities is paramount to getting competitive pricing. Discussions with your peers, as well as qualified industry consultants, will provide the direction you need to narrow your choices.