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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

Since almost anyone can do it, though, it has become increasingly difficult for a print provider to distinguish his or her products from everyone else’s. Even before the recession, there was an oversupply in many print markets. The bad news is, if you want to hang onto or increase your share of the pie, there’s a strong temptation to fall back onto a potentially destructive competitive tool – price.

Then, there’s the drop in overall demand. We were the envy of many of our colleagues because Las Vegas was our market. What was once our gravy train, though, has become the recession’s hardest-hit American city. We have the highest unemployment rate (15 percent as this is written) and highest home-foreclosure rates in the nation. I don’t have to tell you what this depressed market has done for demand.

‘What am I?’
So, how do you break out of this supply-and-demand dilemma? One way is to stop looking at yourself and your company as a print provider. Instead, consider: What else do your customers need to bring their projects to fruition? Is it consultation, design, fabrication, installation, or specialized finishing?

When you assess your customers’ needs, it’s up to you to add services and products that will transform your company into their solution provider. I know this isn’t a new idea and a lot of you already do more than simply print. But I’m suggesting the evolution of our industry requires us to take another look at this and continue to evolve.

The first non-printing service a lot of us have adopted is installation. If we print self-adhesive vinyl, for example, it has to be stuck onto something. The ironic thing is that some of the signshop owners who have added digital printing over the past decade were ahead of those of us who began as print providers. They have been doing decal application and sign installation for a long time; as a result, it hasn’t been much of a stretch for them to print sticky-back vinyl and install it. And, most of them have the added benefit of a contractor’s license, a step that a number of my print brothers have now taken.