Technical mastery of the screen-printing process is no guarantee that a steady stream of customers will come knocking at your door. You also need to ensure that your facility looks professional, clearly identifies your business, and provides a place where customers can view samples of your work and discuss details of potential jobs.
By Mike Ukena
The outward appearance of your building says a lot about your whole operation. Customer are receptive to exteriors that look neat, clean, and properly presented (Figure 1). If it looks trashy, unkempt, or otherwise uninviting (Figure 2), then customers are more likely to look for a different printer. Keeping the exterior of a printing business looking good is not expensive. It just takes a little effort. As with the inside of the shop, a good exterior presentation pays for itself rather quickly.
The outside of your business also should feature some form of signage that clearly identifies your company. The signage doesn't have to be sophisticated or expensive, but it should look professionally done and be easy to see. It makes no sense to lose potential customers simply because you haven't gotten around to hanging a sign over your front door.
Keeping it up
Upkeep is a critical part of creating a customer area. The space should not look like a delinquent teenager's bedroom. Keep the area clean, vacuumed/mopped, and dusted. Again, I have seen many shops where the owner had the right intentions in the first place by setting up a customer area, but then failed to maintain the area, allowing it to devolve into a dirty, dingy, storage-like space very quickly. Having a customer area that looks bad is as big a mistake as not having one at all.
Another area where I find fault is in the updating of print samples. You need to keep your display samples current. Customers in 2006 are not impressed by your high-school graduation shirt display from 1997. You know the one I mean—the single-color print with all the names in the form of the 9 and 7 on the back of the shirt. If that is the best you can do, that is the kind of work you can expect to attract.
You constantly need to be on the lookout for good prints to put up. You can involve your staff in this process. Have them watch for job runs of which they are proud, either from a technical or aesthetic standpoint, and make sure to run extra prints that you can use as samples in your display area. Make a point to change out the oldest or least technical prints for the new ones on a regular basis.
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