Industry Insights: Is it Time to Diversify?

Business growth surely is on top of everyone’s do-to list as we move into the new year. Expansion can come by focusing on refining existing products and seeking out new clients for services. But growth also can come through diversification into new product lines.

When a major corporation diversifies, it may look like Virgin, which operates an airline, a phone company and an entertainment arm. Or Husqvarna, which produces everything from motorcycles to sewing machines, though it is probably best known for lawn equipment.

For most of us in the sign industry, this type of diversification doesn’t make sense. That doesn’t mean that the notion of diversification should be dismissed all together. There are ways to expand that use core strengths. A printer may think about applying existing equipment and personnel expertise to new opportunities.

Diversification can allow a company to better weather changes in business needs and consumer desires. More importantly, it can help you solve problems for your clients; they may begin to view you as a partner who can help them navigate this area of their business. Most of our clients aren’t necessarily experts on printing and some smaller end users may not even be experts at marketing. We can use our knowledge in these areas to help them grow their businesses—and grow ours in turn. Diversification also can help you reach new clients, who may be drawn to one product line and not realize that they may benefit from another.

Whether business growth means expanding into new areas or honing in on existing ones, having a good understanding of what is happening in the sign industry is the key.  That’s why ISA International Sign Expo 2014 will offer opportunities to explore related areas of business.

A dedicated area on the Expo floor will showcase commercial printing options for your existing printers. The first-ever INKJet Print Theater will include printers in action, along with free education sessions designed to solve the daily issues that printers face. Why not fill in downtime by exploring commercial print options? We also have partnered with the Inflatable Advertising Dealers Association, which will co-locate with ISA Sign Expo in Orlando in April.

We will bring back our Dynamic Digital Park, showcasing the latest in dynamic digital signage manufacturers and suppliers. The Park and its related educational events were a rousing success in 2013, with most of the events standing room only. I anticipate that interest in this area of business will only continue to grow.

Whether it makes sense to jump fully into a new product line or not, smart sign professionals will be well versed in all avenues of the on-premise sign industry. That way, you can help your customers understand how your particular solution can best serve their needs. Your customers are no doubt somewhat aware of these other signage opportunities and may be wondering if they would work for them. If you aren’t up to speed on the benefits and drawbacks, you can’t have a knowledgeable conversation.

Retailers these days find that consumers come into their stores knowing more about the products than the sales associates. They’ve researched them, read the reviews and compared them to similar products. When they encounter a sales associate who knows less about a product than the consumer does, it is extremely difficult to close the sale.

End users have a better understanding of signage possibilities than they ever have as well. Not only has it become easier for them to do their research, but signage is everywhere. When you start thinking about purchasing a new car, you suddenly start to notice vehicles while sitting in traffic. In the same way, end users may notice signage in the gas station, grocery store and on their competitors’ store fronts.

Sign company owners can build a long-term relationship with an end user who feels that they are up to speed on the latest offerings in the industry and who can recommend products that fit their unique need. And the only way to do that is to devote the time and resources to learning more.

That’s why I hope to see you at ISA International Sign Expo 2014 in Orlando, FL, where once again we’ll have more than 185,000 square feet of exhibit floor space packed with the latest products in the on-premise sign industry, including these new areas of business. More than 85 educational opportunities—including 30 free sessions—have been planned to help you learn more about what is happening in signage today, including new product areas like dynamic digital signage and print offerings. To learn more about registration, visit

At the end of the day, you may decide the best way to grow your business is to focus in on what you’re already doing. Just don’t make that decision by default.