Tips and advice to help become a solutions provider.
By Craig Miller
When you talk about decal application, vehicles are at the top of list. We still provide a vehicle-graphics solution. Although I know a lot of great out-of-house installers, for us to not do this in-house is giving away half the profit on a wrap. Also, since it’s about half the cost to do a staff install, you can be more competitive on a quote than someone who is only the print provider and still be profitable.
As advantageous as install capability is for vehicles, the installation markets we really like to serve involve tradeshows and architectural projects. These installs tend to be on large flat surfaces – large means more square feet and flat means faster and easier. We frequently get much better square-foot rates for both our printing and our install on these types of projects than we do for vehicles.
Expanding via human capital
Two ingredients are typically needed to become a solution provider: equipment and human capital. We spent more than a decade looking at which specific pieces of equipment would diversify our portfolio. Today, we aren’t looking at capital equipment for solutions because of the tight money situation.
We do, however, have an opportunity to expand our solutions portfolio via human capital. After all, there are a lot of talented people among the 15 percent of our local citizens who are unemployed.
For the past 15 years, we have had at least one talented and degreed designer on staff. Today, because of the rich talent pool now available to us, we have three. They share duties in design, prepress, and customer service. Having a team with great design, illustration, layout, color, composition, and creative chops has given us a significantly enhanced capability.
For instance: We have a customer with seven restaurants who plans to open 100 more locations over the next 12 to 18 months. We landed this account partly because of our ability to print wall covering, tabletops, rout direct-printed boards, and stretch dye-sublimated fine art. However, it may have been even more important that we took early meetings with the client with one of our designer teams.
We’ve found that being able to contribute in the creative and planning stages of large projects not only helps make the sale, but also keeps that customer coming back. In this instance, one of our staff designed all the decorative, branding, and informational elements (these are all done in four different color schemes), while another developed an online catalog so that franchisees could decorate their stores online in any size and configuration anywhere in the country. And another of our designers handles the ongoing customer service with the franchisees.
I’m not suggesting that we have found the right and only path to becoming a solutions provider, but I do believe there are niches for every market. If you can recognize your clients’ needs and find a way to fulfill them, you will strengthen your competitiveness in your markets and perhaps create new ones.