The Estimating Challenge

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Once a year or so I get my knickers into a bunch due to circumstances surrounding a challenging estimate. Printing is frequently considered a commodity, so we are fairly certain that when someone requests an estimate, they are looking for the cheapest option. If we want the work, we need to be the cheapest.

When compared to a broad cross-section of printers, Reno Type tends to pop up right in the middle when it comes to pricing. When compared to “real” printers, shops like ours with extensive in-house capabilities and actual printing presses, we are almost the cheapest. When compared to quick copy shops and brokers who don’t have any equipment, we tend to be more expensive.

It makes us feel bi-poloar. Half the time we hear “Why are you guys so much more expensive?” while the other half of the time we hear “How can you be so cheap?” The truth is that we base our prices on what it costs to do the work at a commercially acceptable standard, and what we think is a fair amount of money to make. What the other guys may charge does not really enter into it.

And we don’t want to get work because we are the cheapest (though we frequently are). We want it because we are trusted to do the job the way it needs to be done. And we really don’t care about one job in a vacuum. We don’t want projects. We want clients. When we get to work with the same client again and again on a variety of projects, everyone benefits. The volume of work creates efficiencies in our process that we can pass on, and the client gains the benefit of consistency and a vendor who truly understands their needs.

But rarely do we get to present our company as a whole solution. Instead we are asked “how much for business cards?” If we just give a cheap price to get the opportunity we either can’t do a good job, or get accused of the old “bait and switch.” And if we try to educate our client and give them what they NEED, not what they asked for (these are rarely the same!) then we risk being too expensive, preachy, or just plain annoying.

So the question remains. Tomorrow, when I am asked “how much for 500 business cards,” how do i answer?

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