Regardless of the industry, growing numbers of print providers are turning out masterpieces for the trade show and exhibit markets. And that’s no surprise. After all, new printer technologies, inks, substrates, and processes are putting enticing profit potential well within reach of many wide-format imaging pros.
To ensure you grasp the trends and opportunities available in this marketplace, as well as the means by which print providers gain and retain the business, we took the liberty of assembling a short list of companies that have navigated the sometimes-difficult waters of these markets and found gold.
In these pages, they tell you in their own words how they charted a course for success serving the trade show and exhibit segment, and how you can, too.
Serving the trade show market is something Omaha-based Renze Display has been doing for a long time. Established in 1895, the company spent its first 30 years building parade floats. By the 1930s and ‘40s, it had branched out into all types of signage and traveling displays, which led later to producing point-of-purchase materials, screen printing, and trade show displays. Today, the company is about evenly divided between trade show markets and what it calls “branded environments,” such as corporate lobbies and retail settings.
In trade shows, said executive vice-president Michael Compton, “we don’t work for a particular type of industry, but we do work for advertising agencies and design firms. They provide the bulk of volume. We don’t target or focus on any particular industry. Because of our geographic location [its offices are in Omaha and Kansas City], our bigger clients are in insurance, food, and agriculture.”
Renze Display does very little marketing aimed at end users. That’s because over the years the company has built solid relationships with agencies and design firms, and those shops have become something of de facto sales people for Renze. Compton doesn’t have a single new business salesperson calling on prospects. Renze Display gets almost all new business from referrals.
But that’s not to say the company doesn’t do any advertising. Some of its most successful promotional efforts have been broadcast emails to past clients, depicting some of the “cool projects” the company has taken on, Compton said.
Because trade shows are such competitive marketplaces, graphics on display at shows have to be as noticeable as possible, he added.
That’s why Renze Display stresses to its clients that display graphics must be big and bold. “Trade shows are no place to be subtle,” he said, noting gaining attention is the order of the day at a show. “You have to get impact.”
Among completed work of which Renze Display is proudest, its ConAgra trade show and event graphics stand out. “It’s not just that we’re producing their large-format graphics, but the fact that it’s food,” Compton said. “We’ve got to really make that food look good. ConAgra’s red logo, you have to make sure you hit it, no matter the substrate you’re printing on. We’re proud of doing just that.”
Trends now impacting the trade show market have been taking shape for years, Compton said. Among the leading trends is the continued embrace of fabric. “Trade shows can be very expensive for clients, especially when it comes to shipping and material handling by the people running the show,” he said.
“A fabric graphic may cost more than a non-fabric graphic [to produce], but that cost is more than offset by the cost savings in shipping, labor, and material handling.... Through the use of fabric and aluminum extrusion, we can create very large walls that are considerably lighter and easier to assemble than traditional wood and laminate structures.”
Within the area of fabric, Renze Display is increasingly working with sheer fabrics. These materials allow clients to enjoy both a graphic presence at the booth and more light penetration for an airier and lighter ambience, he said.