My company wants us to start using print brokers. Should we?

Answered by Suzanne Morgan, founder of Print Buyers

The print buyers at my company (myself included) just walked out of a meeting with the marketing supervisors who suggested that we start using print brokers. Frankly, we’re a little concerned about how they value our work and if print brokers could eventually threaten our positions. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using print brokers and should we be concerned about our livelihoods?


It’s hard to say what’s on the minds of the marketing supervisors in your company. Their suggestion could be prompted by the feeling that your company isn’t using a broad enough selection of suppliers. Or they may not understand the value you’re your team provides or why and how printers are selected. It’s possible that they feel that brokers might provide specific expertise that could benefit everyone. Those guesses could be totally off-base, so I suggest that you approach a few of the marketing supervisors, one-on-one, and probe a bit deeper. You could ask questions such as, “Why did you suggest that?”, “How do you think print brokers can add value to our organization?”, “Are there services that you feel you may not be getting from our internal resources?”.

Some print buyers find brokers to be a very useful resource. Interestingly, there seems to be some cultural basis based on region regarding the willingness of in-house print buyers to use print brokers. In some cities, such as New York City and Chicago, buyers seem to be much more open to using print brokers. Some areas, like Washington, DC where I live, are much more conservative in the use of brokers.

There are many advantages that a good print broker can provide. A good broker should be respected by both his clients as well as printers. He should have long-term relationships with his clients and easily be able to demonstrate how he provides value. To me the best print brokers have niche expertise – are extremely experienced and well-connected for certain type of print programs.

Potential downsides to using print broker are paying for a service that you already provide or being overcharged for the service. A good broker will be clear on how much they earn on the print programs and can also demonstrate why his fees are worth it. If all the broker is doing is shopping your specs out to the lowest-cost printers, then it could be a big mistake.

The bottom line is that using a print broker could be the best or worst thing based on the specific broker you use. Satisfaction is based on the specific individual(s) and what they bring to the table. There’s no universal answer to whether or not you should use print brokers. You really have to analyze the needs of your company.

Finally, it’s rare for print brokers to actually threaten the role of the print buyer. However, do suggest that you and your team make sure that the value that you present to your organization is understood by all involved.

© Copyright Print Buyers, Inc.