You’re planning a big direct mail campaign with several different pieces. You need it to hit mailboxes on a certain date, but you’re unsure of when to get started. It’s the age-old question clients ask us all the time -- how long does it take to print marketing pieces? We’re glad you asked.

First – What Are Print Turnaround Times?

Print turnaround time, also referred to as production turnaround, is the amount of time required to print, cut, bind, finish, and mail or distribute a print job. It can vary from printer to printer, so we’ll speak from Ironmark’s experience. Also, note that “shipping turnaround” is entirely different. This occurs once the printing is done, and depends upon the schedule of each carrier.

Here’s an expert tip: the earlier you engage a printer in the process of printing your deliverables, the more smoothly the entire process will go for both of you. You can also expect better turnaround times, since they’ll be prepared and can line your project up earlier in their schedules. This is also true for costs. You’ll avoid rush costs, and even additional postage costs, if you begin the discussions early. You’ll also avoid expensive mistakes that often trip you up when you’re rushing a job – everything from missed typos to paper sizes that drive up postal rates. You’ll also be able to coordinate the creative side with the practical side to catch discrepancies early in the process.

At Ironmark, we pride ourselves on high-quality printing jobs done right every time. We also pride ourselves on fast turnaround times. Depending upon your print job and the requirements for it, we can often provide completed jobs within 1-6 days. Note that all dates are provided in business days, excluding major postal holidays.

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What Affects Print Turnaround Time?

  • Design/Copywriting Services: You’ll want to build in time on the front end to have the piece created. Typically, you’ll need one month to create, revise, and approve this before printing. Once the art print is ready and able to be uploaded or sent to us, we’ll start the print turnaround clock.
  • Paper Size: We determine printing sizes by the press sheets, not the actual size of the piece. The more sheets, the longer a job takes (of course, smaller pieces will yield higher quantities because more fit on a sheet).
  • Print Quantity: The higher the quantity, the longer the turnaround. For example, we can generally print 5,000 direct mail postcards within two days, but would require three days for 10,000.
  • Stickers or Labels: These usually require an extra day.
  • Number of Pieces per Item: A direct mail piece including an invitation, other informational card, or return envelope also requires more time to stuff.
  • Is a Die Required? If you’re creating a specially shaped piece, like a flower, star, or something with a pocket, we’ll create a die that you can use again and again to cut that shape. That requires at least five days to produce, in addition to the printing.
  • Digital or Offset Printing: This is sometimes tied to quantity because we use different technology for different quantities. Digital printing turnaround is usually between five and seven business days. Offset varies depending upon each project. If it's a one- or two-color offset, it will be quicker, usually between three and five days.
  • Number of Folds: More complicated brochures with several folds require more runs through the folding machine and therefore more time.
  • Finishing Options: Varnishes and other special embellishments require an extra step in the printing process and therefore add one to two days.
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Expert Tip: If you’d like to review an electronic proof (and we highly recommend this for every project), we can provide a digital proof within approximately 8 hours. We can also provide a hard copy by the next day. Proofs are important for a number of reasons. They allow you to catch any color discrepancies, typos, spacing issues, or other items you might have otherwise missed. They also allow you to check for any electronic changes that might have happened when you uploaded the file. At Ironmark, we offer a proofing service and carefully review each piece for errors before we print.

Don’t forget to build in extra time for any delays. Turnaround times can sometimes be changed by unforeseen issues, including delivery issues on the supply side, vehicle delays, printing press failures, and other issues. We strive to meet or exceed our promised delivery times every time, but in these rare events, you can expect that we will communicate any issues as early in the process as possible, so that we can address and possibly overcome them to deliver on time.

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For your next print run, keep these considerations in mind for a smooth and streamlined process. Print turnaround times are faster than they’ve ever been, and it’s never been easier to create beautiful, long-lasting, and highly effective print pieces to build and grow your business. For help with your next print campaign, contact the excerpts here at Ironmark. We’re eager to help with your next project.

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Written by Samantha Philipson

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