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How to Become a Solutions Provider

(December 2010) posted on Mon Dec 06, 2010

Tips and advice to help become a solutions provider.

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By Craig Miller

When we founded our company in early 1994, we were simply a print provider. The prints we provided were digital, large-format inkjet. In those days, just printing in high resolution (300 dpi) and large format (up to 36-inches wide) was a big deal. It allowed us to more than double our sales annually for four consecutive years. There are still and may always be many large-format digital printing companies that are first and foremost print providers. Some continue to be very successful at it.

It didn’t work out for us, however. I wish there were a name for what our company has become. I’m still introduced to people as a printer, and I feel uncomfortable with that description. I guess I think of myself more as a graphic-solutions provider. Yes, digital printing is still at the core of our business – but strangely, it may be the least important component of our sales.

The changing market
All print businesses are market-driven. We either serve an existing demand for our products, or we create one. The initial business plan for my own company was to print posters and backlits for the Las Vegas casino market. It was a great ride while it lasted.

We did unbelievably well until the economic principle of supply and demand reared its ugly head. In 1994, we had two or maybe three true competitors in the city. Then, competitors began cropping up, and the supply side changed. Eventually, franchises, storefront sign shops, and dozens of other small to medium-sized independent printers dotted the city. To add insult to injury, many core customers in the Vegas casino and tradeshow industry adopted in-house print departments. Competitive forces radically changed our market (and I doubt our experience is unique).

Various other factors came into play as well, including the fact that the printer manufacturers have developed great products in the past decade. These printers have gotten easier to master, making it possible for all print providers to produce really good-looking images.