Sometimes it feels like COVID-19 just ruins everything. It’s amazing how totally and completely it has seeped into every facet of our lives. And now the incessant talk is focused on crippling logistical lags. They snarled the supply chains of 94% of Fortune 1000 companies, hurt the business of 75% of companies, and actually forced 55% of companies to downgrade their growth outlooks. What a bummer!

Unfortunately, commercial print products are not immune to the supply chain issues plaguing businesses. Print problems abound. There are stories of printers bidding against each other for precious paper supplies. There are paper types that simply aren't available anymore, even if you used them in previous campaigns. And there are stories of paper just sitting inside shipping containers, locked up until we can figure this logjam out. 

Related: Supply Chain Issues

Not only is there a supply issue, but the corresponding spike in prices can raise print costs far above previous levels. This affects every type of print product. Graphic paper costs are increasing, and every paper grade is seeing shortages. Labels are a challenge since they’re tied to paper pulp’s rising costs. On the graphics and retail signs front, increased demand has coupled with increased costs and surcharges to drive up prices. The same is true for packaging.

Related: Where Has All the Paper Gone?

But there is good news. With a few quick shifts in thinking, we can prepare for (and overcome) any shortages. This is not a post about how supply chain shortages will derail your print products - it’s a post about taking advantage of supply chain solutions!

Three Things to Do Now to Avoid Shortage Shortfalls Later

We’ve been in the print advertising business for over sixty years, and that has more than readied us for the current climate. We have the resources to help you overcome the shortages. We have the connections to help you minimize price increases. If you are planning print for corporate events, trade shows, marketing campaigns, product launches or more, here are the best ways to ensure that you don’t get snagged by shortages and pummeled by pricing:

plan ahead1. Plan Ahead: Remember the funny poster that might have been hanging at the front of your fifth grade classroom that read, “Plan Ahea” and was cut off because, well, you know? It pays to plan ahead. In the past, we were trained to think a few months ahead. Now we need to look at the entire year. Even if it’s not an exact count of the print order you’ll need, you can get a fair estimate. Once you have a handle on your printing needs, you can set up a schedule and get ready for the next step.

2. Order Early: The best way to counteract supply and shipping issues is to place your order early. If you can send the PO one to two weeks before you send your files, your printer can pull the paper and other materials together well ahead of time. If you are mailing out pieces, and you have a big run, ordering early becomes even more important. Mailing times have increased, so we need to account for those. By ordering early, you won’t miss out on specific products. There will be more inventory available, so you can ensure you’re getting exactly what you need. You’ll also skip the hefty rush charges that come with placing orders too late.

3. Build Buffers Into Your Delivery Times: If you normally receive your jobs within a week, build in an extra week in order to create a small buffer. To counteract mail delays, it’s smart to give everyone extra time to get your job delivered. Projects that include standard letter mail, standard flats, and non-profit mail can sometimes take twice as long as usual to be delivered. Send your items first class if they absolutely need to be on time. And since expectation is everything, the worst that can happen when you build in a buffer is that you under-promise and over-deliver. That’s not bad for anyone!

Talk to the mailing experts at Ironmark today to get ahead of the supply chain struggles.

Related: How to Set Up Your Direct Mail Piece for Mailing

Put Us to Work for You

Times are definitely challenging, but at Ironmark we’ve been building strong relationships with vendors, customers, and other partners for decades, and we have a variety of companies to tap for print products. We’ve got a plan too. Here’s how we’ll keep you ahead of any issues:

1. Offer Product Alternatives: If a type of paper that you’re planning to use is out of stock, it's likely that another vendor will have what you need. And if you can’t find exactly what you need there, we have an array of options and can help you find a great alternative that you may end up liking even more.

2. Provide Shipping Options: If overseas shipping issues are stymieing your deliveries, we can shift to domestic partners to alleviate the time crunch.

3. Stock Paper: We’ve already pre-purchased large stocks of paper to cover our customers’ needs. If you don’t need yours yet, we can even store it for you so you can use it when you’re ready. We have materials to create banners, newsletters, and more—so there’s no need to incur increased prices or the added stress of wondering whether you can get what you need on time.

4. Mitigate Price Increases: Since we handle so many projects, we also enjoy more competitive pricing, so we can help mitigate some of the price spikes that so many marketers are facing right now.

5. Make Your Campaigns Shine: As your competitors struggle to find the print products they need, you’ll be able to get your messaging out, with the look and feel you want.

When you review your calendar for next year, think about when you might need print. Our promotional calendar guide helps you align your messaging with holidays and other events that you might not have explored before. And when you’re ready to formulate your next print project, talk to a print expert at Ironmark. We’ve got our inky fingers on the pulse of the print market and can roll you through the shortage seamlessly. We’ve been preparing for this moment for sixty years. Don’t let COVID-19 ruin your print project too. With a little planning, you can make it an opportunity instead!


Written by Lynne Kingsley

Lynne Kingsley oversees the digital marketing client services team as well as the marketing strategy division for the company. Since joining the company in 2016, she has increased Ironmark’s digital presence by over 700%, establishing a new lead generation mechanism for the sales team. A certified inbound marketing professional and HubSpot agency partner, Kingsley has been helping companies transform their marketing function into fully diverse and streamlined growth engines since 2003. With agency and client-side work under her belt, Kingsley’s strategic experience spans both the B2B and B2C sectors. Prior to joining the Ironmark team, she served as in-house marketing director for several non-profit organizations. Kingsley is an honors graduate of the S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communication at Syracuse University.
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