Making Special Events Special

Two things offer potential market expansion in special event graphics production: the nearly unlimited variety of inkjet printing media now available to graphics producers and graphics buyers looking for more cost-effective and direct methods to reach their market.

The foundation of a good sales approach, particularly in this economy, is not in the sale itself but in providing a true consultative service. Special event graphics offer an opportunity to take this consultative approach and provide the end-use customer with ideas and solutions that help them maximize their ad dollars.

Making a List

While ad dollars are generally contracting, the good news is that all companies are looking for other avenues of opportunity, and special events—such as festivals, fairs, and any other community gatherings—are venues your customers should consider to build their brand and sales.

“The companies we work with have been pushing to get into different marketing outlets. The world of radio, television and the Web is getting a little stale to them, and it’s fragmented,” said Rick Mandel, president of Mandel Company in Milwaukee. “Special event work has been a growing business for us, and it’s basically public relations versus the classic ad agency work. The PR people we work with are more used to radio and TV, and need a little more assistance when they have a dream about how they want to present something at an event.”

Mandel’s observations correlate with current marketing and advertising trends. With a seemingly infinite array of electronic advertising outlets, advertisers’ messages are becoming more fragmented. It is more difficult to present your message to a captive audience, simply because those audiences are no longer captive. They’re Twittering here, Facebooking there, and blogging everywhere, not to mention TiVoing and canceling their newspaper subscriptions.

Companies are also looking for ways to connect on a personal level with their audience, and most of the “traditional” methods of reaching that audience are, by their very nature, rather impersonal. Even “social media” has an impersonal aspect to it, ironically enough. In many ways, it’s just a website with a less formal style.

Take it to the Streets

It’s in the community, at the physical, personal level that relationships between buyers and sellers are often most effective. This is especially true for small businesses that live or die by local word-of-mouth business.

This is where the consultative aspect of the sale comes into play. Find out about as many community events as possible, as well as the focus and, if possible, the demographics of each. Enter this information into a calendar of events so that it’s readily available when you communicate with customers and prospects.

Armed with this knowledge you can suggest events that would be most effective for getting their message across. This is not a sale, it’s a consultation. This approach will create a subtle change in the relationship from buyer-seller into a partnership.

A customer may or may not take the advice, but when they do the consultant is positioned to be a value-added partner when it comes to creating the graphics for the event. However, in order to transition from marketing consultant to display consultant—finding the best methods and materials for graphics production to present their message at an event—requires further research.

Material & Application Direction

Every event is different and each has its own peculiar parameters and conditions. The customer will obviously have their own requirements. Because of the numerous variables involved, it is essential to know what materials are available on the market and which applications they work best for.

“Each project that comes along seems to be more custom and unique, but you can be creative and cost-effective at the same time,” said Mandel. His approach is to not only stay on top of the latest developments in inkjet media, but to partner with companies that provide various structural materials, like metals and plastics.

Special event displays are beginning to incorporate more structural elements to help draw additional attention. These structural elements can depict a product, like batteries or beer, on a large scale. From a printing standpoint, the question then becomes which material works best for the application.

“We’ve offset the marketplace by taking on different kinds of projects that may not fit in the typical wide-format market,” said Mike Danz, executive vice president of Mandel. “We’ve been able to expand our role with customers, which has kept us busy and growing during tough economic times. In turn, there’s more value-add with each project where the customer is relying on your expertise, service, and solutions and less on how cheap you can print something on vinyl or plastic.”

It’s no secret that fabric is becoming one of the most popular choices for special events graphics, for a number of reasons. A big part of fabric’s popularity, beyond its portability, light weight and versatility to drape and display in a variety of configurations, is due to its increasing compatibility with various printer technologies. No longer relegated to dye-sublimation, there are a number of fabrics optimized for aqueous, solvent and UV-curable ink sets.

Ozzie Herrera runs the graphics department for DECO Productions, a company based in Miami that specializes in special event design and production. Herrera uses 3P Express Heavy Banner from LexJet “almost religiously,” he said.

“We create backdrops that get hung on pipe and plate or that are dropped down. We just did an event where we did four backdrops, one behind the other, so that each night of the event featured a different product. Sometimes our backdrops are mounted on wood frames, almost like a canvas, when the venue either doesn’t have hanging points or don’t allow hanging graphics,” said Herrera.

Though limited to some degree by having only one HP 5500 printer, Herrera is able to produce top-notch graphics that are shipped all over the US thanks in part to a wider array of aqueous-ink options in fabric and other materials.

So, whatever printing technology you use there is now an extremely wide selection of specialty media that can be used for special event displays, from low-tack adhesive-backed fabric to printable privacy window films and fine-art canvases and papers optimized for solvent and UV-curable printing. It’s important to consult with and rely on your supplier for in-depth information about the materials available and to seek their application advice. Use the free resources that are dedicated to the success of your business.