Extreme Vinyl: Standing Above the Competition

How to attract potential customers, and what to offer them.

Having a business or other college degree does not guarantee any amount of success or sustainability in the wrap business. Nor is there a manual that spells it all out for you when courting brand new projects. This industry is ever-changing, and you have to learn how to invest in and adapt to the latest trends, printers, tools, vinyl film, installation techniques, etc.

I can attest that when you do receive that first job opportunity, it can become the start of a satisfying venture (or an indication that this business might not be for you). When we secured our very first customer back in 2008, I remember how pleased they were with our installation performance on a small fleet of box trucks with free-floating decals. I decided to ask the customer what we had done differently from the other graphic installers within their network. They specifically stated that despite their competence in executing vinyl wraps on their fleet programs, the majority of their installers lacked a certain amount of professionalism, especially in the areas of communication, appearance, and customer service.

More important, some graphic installers were not as well-versed in effectively wrapping many types of vehicles such as sedans or vans, while others did not offer wall or floor installation experience. Based on our customer’s feedback, we made slight changes to our business plan with an emphasis on the expansion into the types of graphics-related services or departments that we wanted to establish at the company.

Thanks to this customer, we understood right away that professionalism and diversity would take us a long way in this business. Here are a few ways to capitalize on those elements to continue growing your shop.

Make a Good First Impression
“Can six small box trucks be installed with graphics by next week?” “Is there any way you can design them?” “How long will these wraps last?” These are just some of the initial questions we are asked by potential clients who are inquiring about our vinyl wrap services. For the past nine years, we at Icon Image have received a plethora of requests for our custom, fleet, and paint protection (PPF) services. Customers want to wrap everything from bizarre and unconventional items like bathroom urinals or coffins (with the latter artfully covered by Justin Pate in one of his Wrap Institute videos), to other peculiar items where your immediate response would be a “No. You can’t wrap on that substrate because it’s not warrantied, the film won’t adhere, etc.” But, as a rule of thumb, you should always be open to proposed projects and never quickly pass on a job. Wait until you receive full details as you may miss a golden, and possibly out-of-the-box, opportunity to sell your wrap services.

As silly as it may sound, you begin to develop a script in your head to politely answer the most complicated – and the most mundane – questions about the art of wrapping. For the most part, the majority of our business dealings are over the phone and through email. We’re able to obtain the important details of a customer’s inquiry and needs if he or she isn’t available for a face-to-face meeting. First impressions are everything, and aside from a wrap shop’s ability to provide amazing customer service or showcase their online portfolio via their website, I believe the core of gaining new work is contingent on what graphic opportunities they can – and will – offer to a new client looking for vinyl wrap services.

Broaden Your Scope
Whether it’s pricing, mobility, location, or salesmanship, there are numerous factors put into play when attracting new customers or clients. I remember reading about the “ins and outs” and the “how-tos” of the graphics industry when I first started my wrap business. Those articles by industry experts were very helpful and inspiring when it came down to the basic fundamentals of the graphics world. But no matter how in-depth these articles may have been, they were only partially relatable, because what they wrote did not exactly match what I experienced starting out in this business. Every wrap or sign shop is essentially different from the next. Thinking outside the box on how to market yourself in your respective industry or geographic location, upgrading your workspace to accommodate new wrap services, and expanding your team out in the field or in the office are just some key factors that should be of considerable importance when running your business.

Now, I’ve never been one to chase after trends in the wrap community, but you cannot ignore the amount of eye-catching and ingenious designs of the custom wraps on the market today. I recall an Instagram exchange I had with Frank Fellers, industry wrap supplier, when I posted a snippet of a clip from the reality show “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” Reality star Scott Disick made a recommendation to Kris Jenner, who was clueless about vinyl wraps, to consider it as an option for her new ride. Upon viewing the clip, Fellers shared, “It’s taken a long time for ‘wrap’ terminology to become mainstream. …” I believe Fellers’ statement to be absolutely true. Wraps are becoming more popular and prevalent thanks to an increase of automotive rallies, car clubs, television commercials where picture and lead cars take center stage, and acceptance that it’s an absolute alternative to paint. Basic color changes are another prime example of what is considered the norm today as more and more car wraps hit the road. It’s harder to distinguish a wrap from a painted unit when the installer has perfected his craft with a seamless approach. The next evolution in the custom wrap market is infusing a design element into your project as colors, textures, or finishes are mixed and matched to create a one-of-a-kind or customized look. Let’s not forget digitally printed films and their blank canvases that will eventually encapsulate a wrapper’s intricate designs.

Stand Out
As certain markets become saturated due to an increase of graphic companies popping up in the same region, the deal breaker with acquiring that new account may come down to just pricing or a special rapport with the potential client. I think it’s vital that wrap shop owners consider diversifying their services in order to stay competitive. Aside from custom wraps, many shops are expanding to cover other lucrative, installation-related services that include design work, corporate fleet conversions, retail, PPF, and architectural film. This makes for a more appealing one-stop shop where the customer will likely feel more comfortable that you are versatile in what you do – as long as the quality is present and within industry standards. Some of these new avenues of business have been around for a long time, while others are fairly new and have gained much attention in the last few years. Whatever the case, those services are opportunities that can possibly increase a company’s revenue or act as filler work during a lull on the company’s job board. Being certified in any of those areas would legitimize your shop in the eyes of that customer, thus solidifying your status as a trusted expert in your field.

It’s worth mentioning that your portfolio is a key introduction to your business, and a selection of your work should be prominently featured on your website and social media platforms to promote your services. Showcasing the different types of installations you’ve finished will display to your future clients what you’re capable of accomplishing for them. Think about the design, content, and image selection, and aim for originality with your posts.
And, always keep your business’s reputation in mind; that next big referral could be right around the corner. This was evident when we successfully completed a huge job for Rihanna within budget and on time. Graciously, this led to referrals with new clients and upcoming work for the likes of Brian Wilson, Ariana Grande, and Metallica – not to mention a high-profile stint with Lady Gaga for her recent Super Bowl appearance.

As the industry changes and trends are recycled and revamped, you really have to take the extra time to embrace those changes. When your company goes to great lengths to earn a new customer, it will help shift the direction of your business. Always remember that as you focus on building a strong relationship with that new client and their reps, you are working toward ensuring their satisfaction and potentially gaining repeat business.

Sino Tour is co-owner and director of operations at Icon Image Graphics, a full graphic installation company in Sante Fe Springs, California. You can find him on Twitter @IconImageWrap and Instagram @sino_tour.

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