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Successfully Selling Wide-Format

(July 2008) posted on Tue Jul 01, 2008

How products, customers, competitors, and technologies play into successful sales.

click an image below to view slideshow

By Tim Greene

Respondents in the survey also were asked about their annual expenditures on marketing as a percentage of sales. The mean percentage for all respondents was 4.5 percent, but that number is certainly lifted by the 12 percent that spend more than 10 percent of their annual sales, because more than 67 percent spend less than 4 percent of their annual sales revenues on marketing.

It's important to remember that, according to InfoTrends data, 90 percent of wide-format print shops are small companies with fewer than 10 employees and less than $1 million in annual sales-so it's not surprising that marketing budgets would be very limited. This necessitates more effective and cost-considerate marketing avenues than mass marketing with television or newspaper advertising.

With this kind of limited marketing budget, it begs the question: How do printing establishments market their services? The most common marketing tools tend to be direct marketing (71.4 percent of respondents indicated this tool) and word-of-mouth recommendations (71 percent). Another excellent way to market wide-format printing services is to donate some wide-format print services to non-profit or community organizations. Many of the people that work for these organizations own or operate local businesses that could become clients. Mammoth Media, for instance, does an excellent job of publicizing donations to non-profit or community activities, such as donating a billboard reproduction of the scene at ground zero on the anniversary of September 11.

Effective pricing
It's very important for wide-format print service providers to effectively price their services. By knowing your market, customers, and competitors, you should have a good idea as to where your pricing should be.

The chart on page xx illustrates some of the pricing that InfoTrends has found for wide-format printing projects. The yellow bar represents the highest price found, while the blue represents the lowest price found. Average selling prices per square foot vary very widely based on volume, print media used, and the concentration of print service providers in a particular area.

The most common way that companies in the wide-format printing business price jobs now is on a cost-per-square-foot basis or cost-per-piece basis. In many cases, print buyers require this approach to pricing because it allows them to try to compare competitive print bids on an even basis. However, as much as possible, InfoTrends recommends that print providers develop more of a cost-per-piece approach, which details all of the cost element that go into a wide-format print project; this makes it more difficult for customers to negotiate downward some of a print job’s particular cost elements.

Opportunity recognition
The wide-format digital-printing market is highly fragmented, hence there is no "one way" to sell wide-format print that suits all types of print shops. Some highly successful wide-format printing organizations are driven by entrepreneurs who constantly scan their local market and their customer base in an attempt to recognize opportunities to grow their business. What we can learn from these entrepreneurs is that creativity and opportunism have been key success factors in growing their business-but also that these leaders utilize a wide variety of marketing avenues to sell their company’s abilities.

Tim Greene ( is the director of wide-format research at InfoTrends, a Weymouth, Massachusetts-based market-research and strategic-consulting firm focusing on the digital-imaging and document-solutions marketplaces.