Palmer: With increased pressure on the traditional core markets, sign business owners need to differentiate themselves from the masses. The need to stay ahead of the technology curve as new processes and equipment for producing signage come online is one aspect of this issue. The other is the need to stay ahead of the social curve in communicating with and marketing to our clients. Clients expect rapid and convenient interaction in more than one medium, and they now have more options than ever to express their pleasure or dissatisfaction publicly.
Education is the solution to both sides of this issue. Effective business managers will make sure that their team stays current through a well planned and scheduled process of education.
Phipps: I think, with the introduction of new technology from manufacturers, the biggest issue facing the sign and graphics shops is sorting through the fluff and really understanding what it is they need out of their equipment to satisfy their market focus best. Ink technology, printer performance, new machines, and soft signage opportunities are all being pushed to this market by some big OEMs. Some of this information is being marketed in a way that may not provide the best solution to many shops. It is important that the users do their homework so they fully understand what they need to accomplish as most critical to the success of their business today and in the near future, and then to ensure the equipment they bring in is truly the best fit to accomplish it.
Radogna: The key is to avoid falling behind and to stand ready to meet the industry’s demand with the right products. Continuing to use outdated imaging technologies will put companies at a disadvantage, especially as the economy improves. The companies that regularly take stock of imaging workflows for better productivity, reliability, and print quality will be more competitive in the long run.
Robertson: Providing overall value to the customer is the key to success. The print process is becoming commoditized to the point that it’s hard to compete on imaging alone. The challenge is finding a unique value proposition that fits your company and fits your customer base.
Scrimger: Looking at this question from a broader standpoint, the issue is whether we’re really in the sign and graphics business or something larger. The term “visual communications” may actually better define what most print providers produce today. As applications and technologies continue to evolve, we, as a manufacturer, are enlarging our view of the market as well. This shift in thinking will benefit us all, leading to new opportunities for growth and prosperity.
Sheikh: One of the biggest issues is driving a continued, growing demand in a time when print runs are typically getting shorter. Embracing this instead with a digital solution and offering more “value” through new products and services (such as Web-based offerings—Web hosting, design, e-commerce, SEO, etc.) rather than dropping print prices is an important element in survival and growth. Many traditional print providers are changing their businesses to embrace the model of an integrated marketing service company to meet their clients’ full service needs from marketing campaign concept to fulfillment (both print and digital) to hosting and campaign reporting.