Exploring Sales Opportunities in Wide-Format Products
The pandemic propelled wide-format printing into the spotlight. Businesses had to put up signage enforcing mask mandates, explaining new order-pickup procedures, depicting current employee safety measures, or even just showing the general public that they were open. Suddenly, wide format was everywhere.
With the U.S. opening back up and the benefits of wide format now abundantly clear to buyers, there are even more opportunities for distributors in this product segment. If you’ve never sold wide format before, or if you’re looking for new ideas, here’s a quick primer to get you going.
Obviously, this past year was all about PPE. Products that related to the pandemic or other safety measures were in high demand. But where many of those product categories have cooled off, signage remains relevant. Regardless of the message your customers are trying to get across, there’s a good chance they need signage.
“Signage is a consistent and safe vertical for wide-format print for both indoor and outdoor applications,” said Kelly Yuen, marketing manager for Orbus Exhibit & Display Group, Woodbridge, Ill. “There is always a need and demand to communicate messages, branding and deliver information with the use of signs and graphics.”
During 2020, Yuen said that Orbus’s sign orders mostly came from companies looking to advertise their COVID policies, like curbside pickup, vaccine information and promotional messaging for both indoor and outdoor locations. But those represent only a small fraction of the potential uses for signage.
“Businesses in all industries have a need to educate, inform and promote outside of the influence of current events, even in a pandemic,” Yuen said.
And while signage is a popular category with a long history in print and promo, suppliers continue to innovate and bring new products to market. Orbus, for example, recently developed the capability to print dye-sublimated graphics on a scale of 16 ft. wide.
“We’re one of the few companies in the USA with this capability,” said Yuen. “This is exciting because it allows our customers more opportunities to be creative with their projects and for the end result to be so much more impactful.”
Signage is a good start, right? There’s not a ton to explain there, and the reasons customers need signs are pretty self-explanatory. But do you have the answers if they ask what types of material is best for their specific application? Do they go vinyl or fabric? Why or why not? What makes one better than the other for certain applications?
Fred Taffer, general manager of Tonbo Visual Promotions, Souderton, Pa., said that, lately, customers have been looking for fabric materials more often than vinyl—specifically banners that feel like flags or mesh.
“I think it’s because it gives a little higher impression,” he said. “It makes stuff look like there’s a little higher quality than vinyl. And I think [it’s] also the fact that it’s so lightweight. It makes it easier for people to deal with than the vinyl.”
In addition to the material that best suits their needs, clients will also want to know about the types of signage available to them. What does it look like? How is it assembled? Is it mobile or stationary? Again, these are things you need to know in order to deliver the right product for your client’s needs.
As trade shows return, Orbus has been fielding orders for all types of wide-format signage, and its warehouse is getting orders for events across the country. Taffer, too, said that products like fabric banners are popular because they’re easy to hang on a fence or as a stage backdrop for things like outdoor concerts (which became increasingly common toward the end of 2020).
“These products range from portable displays—such as tension fabric displays, banner stands, outdoor flags—all the way up to inline and island exhibits that utilize a mix of push-fit SEG, backlit and pillowcase fabric graphics,” Yuen said.
Many events are still being held outdoors to minimize the risk of COVID transmission as the Delta variant causes concern. For those outdoor events, Yuen noticed customers looking for products that work best in that environment.
“We’re also still seeing a large demand for outdoor displays, such as flags and tents, which are being used to promote opening businesses, and for signage and promotion at live events taking place outdoors,” she said.
While health experts and event organizers are doing everything they can to mitigate COVID risk and get back to 100% normalcy, there are still occasional event hiccups that come from high infection rates in certain states and cities. Taffer has seen a few organizations that he would have otherwise worked with cancel or postpone their events, which obviously takes a chunk out of possible revenue.
But if there’s one thing that good salespeople learned how to do in 2020, it was pivot.
Same Products, New Applications
We can’t predict the future. We know that for sure after the last almost two years. What we can do is adapt. If one opportunity goes away, a good businessperson will look at their product offering and capabilities and see where they fit in with the existing need.
At the onset of the pandemic, when businesses first started closing or severely modifying their ways of doing business, Orbus completed orders for floor decals to help with social distancing and wall signage.
The optimists among us would hope that those products are no longer needed. Just like a promotional distributor who put a lot of stock into face masks in 2020, you can’t base your entire future off of that need, even if it was the most popular item on the face of the Earth for a while.
With that in mind, it doesn’t mean that floor graphics and signage will disappear when the pandemic is fully over. In fact, their use over the last year serves as proof of concept that savvy distributors could leverage into other markets and for other uses.
“We now utilize these printing capabilities for other applications, such as warehouse safety,” Yuen said. “These include anti-slip floor signs, workplace wall signs, peel-and-stick window [and] wall signs, aisle and dock door signs, and more to communicate important directions and messaging to employees. This would be a great way for distributors to expand their offering but continue with the momentum of selling these types of printed products.”
Are there still questions you don’t have the answer to? Your supplier partners can help. If you have a good relationship with them, they will be a reliable resource for information on new products and uses.
“Find a good supplier and stick with that supplier as best [you] can,” Taffer said. “Try to find a supplier that offers good service, nice quality and a wide variety of materials that they can supply.”
“There are so many opportunities in wide-format printing from both a product range and customer vertical standpoint,” Yuen said. “From banner stands and trade show exhibits to live events and health care, the opportunities are plentiful. And if you’re not familiar with the industry or market yet, lean on your supplier partners.”