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I was fortunate enough to be asked to provide data and outline speaking points for a Big Picture Magazine (BPM) article on beating online competition in wide format printing. (I highly encourage you to take a few minutes to read what the BPM Brain Squad had to say about the subject.) The article discussed the influence of online purchasing becoming a driving factor in the commoditization of wide format print products as well as what can be done to combat it and maintain profitability.
Online purchasing is not going to decrease—it will only continue to grow, and every wide format print service provider (PSP) needs to have an online store. There is no getting around the fact that some applications are now considered commodities. Having an online store to capture quick turnaround applications (e.g., banners, posters, and stickers), while a necessity, is only some of what wide format print buyers need.
Let’s take a quick look at five ways a wide format PSP can add value to their business outside of online, commoditized offerings.
1. Sell Services
Most (if not all) wide format print buyers are buying multiple applications—often from different PSPs. Wide format PSPs need to communicate with their clients about all their offerings. Bundling them will always capture more of the buyer's marketing dollars and offer the convenience of “one-stop shopping” for the customer.
PSPs must also continually ask “What else can we do for you?” as the print buyer might only know of some of your offerings. If you are a full-service PSP (e.g., installations, maintenance guides, service, repair), let your customers know!
2. Create a Community
PSPs need to establish strong relationships with their clients by providing excellent customer service, responding quickly to inquiries and issues, as well as offering solutions that a simple “click to purchase” workflow can’t provide. This will only help retain existing customers and generate repeat business. PSPs should always ask for referrals and testimonials from their buyers and market their customer’s voice on their social media platforms and website to build a community presence.
3. Fine Tune Your SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) is no longer on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Still, it is more important than ever for small businesses to optimize their website and content for search engines to improve their online visibility and attract potential customers. Depending on the business’s service area, optimizing search words for maximum regional effect can increase the attraction rates of local companies starting their search for a PSP.
Additionally, it is vital to target the right customers. PSPs should target customers willing to pay for premium products and services and market to them accordingly. Adding essential search words, developing targeted marketing campaigns, as well as email or social media ads will help reach specific customer segments looking for a service partner and not just a commodity.
4. Diversify Application Offerings
Creating differentiators is essential in any business model. Being able to offer applications that others don’t or can’t provide is a way to increase the opportunity to draw in new customers. Differentiation can allow a PSP to focus on high-margin products and services. The attention should be on products and services that generate higher profit margins, such as custom prints, specialty substrates, and design services. These can be more profitable than low-margin commodity products like banners and posters.
5. Streamline/Automate Workflow
Simply put, doing more with less will increase profit margins. A PSP needs to keep costs under control by optimizing workflow, minimizing waste, and negotiating with suppliers for better pricing. Investing in automation technology like cutting/finishing equipment, a digital front end, production workflow, and nesting software will streamline business processes, reduce labor costs, and add to the bottom line.
Keypoint Intelligence Opinion
In a world where online purchasing is becoming increasingly prevalent, wide format PSPs must adapt and find ways to add value to their business. While having an online store is necessary for capturing quick turnaround applications, there are other ways for PSPs to maintain profitability and differentiate themselves from competitors. By selling services, creating a community, fine-tuning SEO, diversifying application offerings, and streamlining workflow, PSPs can provide additional value to their customers and increase their profit margins. It is important for PSPs to continuously evaluate their offerings and find ways to stand out in the marketplace while still maintaining their margins.
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