We have all seen the stories of large news papers and magazines folding or turning to digital formats. Printing companies consolidate to cut production costs as more people turn to greener alternatives to print. Quick copy shops spring up all around us, in office supply stores, packaging and shipping stores, even big box retailers. What can the small to mid-size print shop do to stay relevant and competitive in today’s print market?
Update your equipment
Ultra-high definition TVs are all the rage right now. It seems almost every year they double the resolution offered on even modestly priced units. Of course, TVs are not print equipment, but the print industry has not stood still either. New printing machines offer better resolution and quality than ever before.
When was the last time you invested in your printers? If it’s been a couple years, you may need to investigate what new technologies exist that will offer your customers the best prints possible. After all, if they demand ultra-high definition TVs, they will demand the same in print. The latest printers not only pack more dots per inch, but improved color management and application processes handle fades and transitions better for even more realistic prints.
Of course, print shop equipment goes way beyond printers. Binding machines, collators, direct mail equipment, paper cutters, etc. have all come a long way in recent years. Plus, the great thing about technology, you may find machines you could only dream about last year discounted to a point you can afford today. Look for model year closeouts or even used equipment that can still update your shop.
Expand to new media
Often it only takes one new item to revitalize your business. Think about what you see around town. Are there any trends that might be a good fit to add to your business? Die-cut stickers are making a comeback. What about buttons, or wall decals, or vehicle wraps?
If you are a small shop, think about offering outsourced products. Work with a larger business in your area to get wholesale or reseller pricing on large format printing or other jobs you might not be able to handle. Expand into T-shirts or promotional items. The more you can offer your customers, the better.
Invest in new technology
Let’s face it, people do not interact like they used to. Once upon a time, you had to drive to the print shop, hand them a disc and wait a week for your prints… uphill… both ways! Kids these days will never know the struggle. But such is the way of technology.
Web-to-print offers a way for average consumers to take control of their print jobs. Allowing customers to upload files to your system and specify print options takes all the guesswork out of the equation. They feel empowered. You can sit back and fulfill orders. It’s a win-win.
Investing in the technology to do it correctly can add an important advantage for you over your competition. Anything you do that makes it easier for the customer is worth at least some research.
Go where your customers live. Today, that means Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, among others. If you haven’t already, setup a company page on one or more social media sites and invite your customers to Like and Follow you. Offer incentives to get them involved. Post your capabilities. Post exciting jobs you create. Post things you find interesting. The goal is to connect with current and potential customers.
All these suggestions move your business toward the future. New technologies and techniques arise continually. You need to keep up with the times to remain relevant. The old adage still applies, “you need to spend money to make money.” Only now, there are even more avenues where you can invest time to make money. But then again, “time is money.” Invest wisely.