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Using Wide-Format Digital to Grow in a Maturing Market

(March 2007) posted on Tue May 08, 2007

Explore ways in which digital imaging can broaden a shop's service offerings and help generate new revenue.


By Tim Greene

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Start by answering these questions: Are there opportunities for you to expand your reach (geographic expansion) your portfolio (products) or your services? Do you have an outsourcing strategy? By this I mean are you cooperating with any other print companies to help them handle peak volumes in return for them helping you with yours? The simple term "sell more" means taking market share from somebody else or expanding your portfolio of products and services to grow your share of pocket from existing customers. There are many examples of print-service providers investing in a wide-format printer to use as a proofing device, then using it to make and sell posters as a complement to bigger print jobs, then investing in a bigger wide-format printer once their volumes justify the investment. Sell more of the things that make you the most money.

Are there activities or customers you support that you know are low-margin activities but you still do them, and still support them? That is fine for the slow periods, but it is often difficult to find the time to conduct strategic activities in the middle of getting the job done. If you can find the time and resources to get all the work done profitably and still do the market development work you need to do to find more profitable lines of business, then great. If you are skipping some of the market-development activities that would drive high-margin business in order to complete jobs that are low in margin, then there is a problem.

Isn't it always better to make 30% margin on a $10,000 print job than it is to make 2% on a $100,000 print job? Only you know because only you know how important that $100,000 customer is to your overall business. But if you have some of the type of customers who give you $100,000 projects that you don't feel you profit from appropriately, does it make sense to break your back doing these projects or to focus your efforts on selling projects that are much more rewarding? These are the kinds of decisions you have to make, especially when it comes to wide-format digital, which is often very project-oriented.

Expand into adjacent businesses

You're a screen printer. You produce printed materials. You are part of a professional graphics supply chain. That chain includes your experience and expertise in a variety of fields, like color management, conversion, and logistics. Wide-format digital printing is a logical extension of that business because it also often requires an experienced professional to deliver the finished product. Not too long ago, I spoke to a screen printer who told me he was producing thousands and thousands of posters and signage for a major gas station and convenience-store chain. The print shop was investing in wide-format digital printers though, because the chain wanted to put variable data on some of those materials, which this shop could not cost-effectively fulfill using their screen equipment. The shop found that once the digital equipment was in place, its sales force could present the variable-data capability to a number of other customers.

A simple solution?

Perhaps it seems that I am indicating that wide-format digital printing is the answer to all of your problems. I certainly am not trying to say that. What I am saying is that if you are a screen printer who has not already adopted wide-format digital printing, you should consider it as a way to address both the changing external market factors and your own company's objectives for sales and profit growth. Only you, the shop owners and management, can fully appreciate your company's ability to take advantage of your strengths and meet the challenges of today's market.


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