Winning Strategies: Growing by Diversifying

There is no question that our quick print or small commercial printing businesses are changing. The way we manufacture is changing as the shift from offset to digital continues, possibly at an increasing rate. Client buying patterns, the products they buy, and the services for which they rely on us has also changed dramatically.

Everyone is looking to see where the new sales opportunities lie. When I owned my printing business, we grew substantially by adding new services and products – some of these services or products were ones we subcontracted out and then decided to bring in house. Examples were typesetting, mailing, signs and process color printing. Others were brand new services like faxing (keep in mind that I started in this business in 1978), color copying, and wide-format printing.

The best area to grow today is in signage. Many if not most printers have already added wide-format printing in house. They use it for proofing, printing posters and banners.  Wide format has added some revenue but the real opportunity is being able to produce and sell the full gamut of sign products and services.

Double-digit growth

The sign industry is experiencing double-digit growth. Why is this happening? Primarily due to the low-cost methods available today to produce a large variety of custom signage that has allowed businesses and organizations to display their brand on almost everything.

The sign industry today is reminiscent of what the quick printing industry was like in the 1980s. Sign shops are now everywhere in visible locations. Some printers have added signage but still a very small percentage. Signage is one graphic-related service that will continue to grow as most clients do not have the ability to produce their own signage and, due to the size and weight of most signs, they need to buy these products from a local source.

Here are the main reasons to add sign services:

  • Your existing customer base uses signage
  • You already have many of the tools required in your shop plus the needed skills among your current staff
  • Ability to cross sell – printing customers and prospects will buy signs, and sign customers and prospects will buy printing
  • Better utilize your space that is not being used or is not producing profitable products or services
  • Allow your sales staff to sell more products and services – become a one stop shop for your customers
  • Give existing production staff more work which will increase your sales per employee and decrease your percentage of payroll to your total sales revenue
  • Shift some work that you presently send out and bring that work in-house. For example: labels, decals, static clings, bumper stickers, magnets and banners
  • Sign companies are adding printing services, so you will need to counter that trend as its easier for printer to add signs than sign shops to add printing
  • Add profitable sales which will increase earnings and your business value

Besides banners and posters here’s a short alphabetical list of possible products that you can sell: Acrylic/Lexan Signs; ADA Signs; A-Frame Signs; Aluminum signs; Architectural signs; Awing Signage; Boat Lettering & Wraps; Cabinet Signs; Canopy Signs; Carved Signs; Channel and Reverse Channel Lettering; Coroplast & Plastic Signs; Decals; Digital Signs; Dimensional Letters; Directional Signs; Directory Signs; Electrical Signs; Engraved Signs; Flags; Giclees – fine art reproduction; Labels; LED Signs; Magnetic Signs; Marquee Signs; Metal Signs; Message Center Signs; Monuments; Murals; Nameplates; Neon Signs; Plaques; Pole/High-Rise Signs; Polysterene Signs; PVC/Sintra Signs; Ready To Apply Lettering; Routed Signage; Sandblasted Signs; Screen Printed Signs; Static Clings; Traffic Signs; Wood Signs; Vehicle Lettering &Wraps; Wallpaper; Wayfinding Sign Systems and Window Lettering

Some of the associated services you can also provide are sign design; permitting; installation; sign surveys and refurbishing.

The best part of adding signage is that you may be able to use your existing space. Here’s your opportunity -- according to one of the leading sign franchises, they claim their average store sells over $750,000 per year. You have an existing client base and can add hundreds of thousands of revenue dollars without a huge capital investment.

One reason I am so confident that adding signage is a great way to grow is that I own a sign shop in the Hilton Head, SC area. I am an absentee owner, but I have witnessed that business more than double their sales in the past couple of years. The sales will cross the $1 million dollar mark in 2014.

If you would like to visit my sign shop to see first-hand how to add signage to your shop, call me at 561-351-6950  or send me an email mevans@napl.org.

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