Just about everyone has tried printing something at home only to be disappointed with the final result. Gradients don’t print smoothly and sometimes images end up smaller or larger than expected. However, there are plenty more things that can go wrong.
This unfortunate scenario happens to many marketers who venture into direct marketing. Marketing has become somewhat of a DIY profession these days and when self-taught marketers discover direct marketing, they try to save money by printing their own materials.
Saving money is great, but professional printing is a worthwhile expense. In fact, printing marketing materials is an expense you shouldn’t try to undercut.
1. Printing is truly a profession – DIY attempts will ultimately fail
There’s a reason printing professionals invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment and run their businesses with huge machines – that’s how you get optimal results. If high-quality printed materials were easy to produce at home, printers would have gone out of business a long time ago.
Let’s face it: printing isn’t easy. Even when you know how to prepare a PDF file for print, there’s more to printing than a properly prepared document. A perfect print-ready PDF file still won’t produce a good image unless it was professionally designed and printed.
If you are lucky enough to have your own industry-grade printing equipment (and the staff to work with the equipment), consider obtaining the ISO printing standards relevant to your business. For example, you might find it handy to have a copy of a proper Contrast Resolution test chart and the standards for producing the test. Having the standards will help you produce quality prints.
2. Self-printing tempts you to create your own graphics
If you plan to print direct marketing materials from home, you’re probably going to try your hand at designing the materials. However, if you’re not a professional graphic artist, you won’t get very far.
The biggest problem self-taught designers run into is using the wrong resolution. Your files need to be created in 300dpi, not the 72dpi that most programs use as a standard for every new file. If you created something with 72dpi, there’s no way to make it 300dpi – you’ll need to start over from scratch.
Other common DIY mistakes include:
- Not knowing how, when, or why to rasterize text before printing an image
- Not setting the size of the document correctly (in inches)
- Relying on a computer monitor to select colors rather than using specific and precise RGB codes
- Flattening layers without saving the original file with separate layers
- Not zooming in to 100% when editing part of an image. Zoomed-out images are distorted and lines and shapes appear closer together.
Your direct marketing materials need to be pixel-perfect to make a big impact. Even if you can create some cool designs, those designs might not look good when printed.
3. You’ll struggle to scale your marketing efforts
What happens if you start off mailing to 200 people, but your email list grows to 5,000 people? You won’t be able to do high-volume printing from home.
Professional printers produce high-quality materials at warp speed. That speed will become an indispensable asset for business growth. If your intention is to scale your business, you’ll need to scale your direct marketing efforts while you grow your pool of leads.
4. It’s cumbersome to buy printing supplies
How many times have you been excited to head to the office store to buy printing supplies for your personal use? Probably never. Most people dread buying printing supplies. That’s another reason to leave printing direct mail materials to the pros.
If you’re engaging in a direct mail marketing campaign, expect to need hordes of ink and paper plus special paper and special inserts depending on what you’re printing. Expect to pay a premium for these supplies.
You’ll also need the software required to design your printed materials, which can be a pain to set up. If the software doesn’t come with your blank printing materials you’ll need to buy it. However, if you plan on sending files to your local office or mail store to print for you, you’ll need to verify that they have the same software. If they don’t, you’ll be out of luck.
Don’t learn the limitations of DIY printing the hard way
Professional graphic designers spend years learning their craft and are still learning new skills decades into their careers. Don’t learn the hard way by wasting your time, money, and energy making preventable mistakes.
If you want your direct marketing campaign to succeed, you need a professional graphic artist and a professional printer.