Large and in Charge
Large-format products are hard to avoid. Whether they’re wrapped around an SUV, adorning the wall of your local hardware store or 20 feet in the air on a billboard, chances are you see a few every day. With such a large category of even larger (literally) products, how can distributors be sure that they’re getting their clients the right products for their promotions? To learn more, Print+Promo spoke to Harvey Meister, owner of GDS Retail & Display Graphics, Bloomington, Ill.; and Ryan Shacklett, president of signobi, Denver, about what distributors need to take into account when tackling a huge job with large-format printing.
KNOW THE END-USE
Individual attention must be paid to every job involving large-format products. Shacklett advised distributors to think carefully about which printers and technology to use. “Each kind of printer has its own pros and cons, and applications,” he said. “The technology you use really is paired to the kinds of customers and the kinds of work that you cater to.”
For instance, if a company wants a sign to display outside, the product must withstand the elements. “You’ve got to know where it’s going, because some materials definitely will work outdoors, some will not,” Meister noted. “Some will go either way. People [often] think outdoors is more, but it’s not necessarily the case.” Shacklett added that when distributors tell their clients that their products will last awhile, they better be able to back up those claims. “Longevity is, for me, one of the biggest concerns,” he said. “[When] a customer says, ‘Well how long is this going to last?’—if you say three years, it had better last three years, because there’s always going to be a customer who calls you out on that. I don’t want to buy a product that’s going to come back and haunt me later.”
KEEP YOUR PRODUCTS AVAILABLE
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the “next big thing.” Shacklett said that many clients will be interested in new products, but it’s vital for distributors to be able to deliver the goods. “I understand the situation of wanting to come in selling neat, new products, but [some distributors] never stock any of it, so when [clients] say, ‘Oh, we’re ready to order,’ [distributors] say, ‘Oh, well, we haven’t stocked it yet,’” Shacklett explained. “Well, how long is it going to take? Three weeks? The job is dead. It’s hard to sell something that’s not really available.”
Having something to show clients at meetings can make the difference between a success and a failure, as well. Meister encouraged distributors to come prepared with specs. “A lot of times the customer might know what they want, but that’s frequently not the case,” he stated. “With the printed material, they might have something in mind, but they don’t know how to call out the spec, so they may not know the difference between [materials]. It makes a difference if you’re quoting it because some of the materials can vary greatly in cost.”
Meister said that GDS Retail & Display Graphics stocks 50 substrates that it can print for clients to check out, and the company even has a sample kit that distributors can reference. This sales tool not only gives distributors an opportunity to show customers materials, it also gives them the confidence to speak intelligently about them.
There’s no surefire way for a distributor to secure a deal, but according to Meister, having a strong understanding of the products being sold, along with their possible applications, is a good place to start. “You’ve got to learn the differences [between different products] and speak intelligently about the large-format print world,” Meister warned. “Otherwise, it’s not that complicated—the next guy who comes in and knows how to speak intelligently about the products is going to make you look foolish.”
Meister recommended attending trade shows, or even leaning on supply-chain partners for support. “Give us a call and talk to somebody here,” he said. “We’ll do our best to find the best solution for the customer so they aren’t spending more than they need or getting something that’s not going to work for the application they need. We don’t expect distributors to know everything. That’s why we’re here. We can help them with it and help them ask the right questions.”
A lot of distributors think that finding a client who will make repeat orders a reality is the highest goal to have. And while they aren’t wrong—after all, that would mean steady business—Meister said that, with the growing competition in the wide-format printing industry, distributors also should look for large, one-time orders. “We’re looking more seriously at launching a marketing effort focused on more permanent types of architectural graphics that are custom-printed but more permanent rather than promotional,” he said. “And there’s a lot of value in that to the companies that are buying it. You don’t see a lot of it. Everybody wants to get a Wal-Mart or a Home Depot and do a promotion every month, but that’s low-hanging fruit in a sense. I’m not saying it’s easy to get those, but those are obvious graphics options.”
Meister added that what he, along with others in the industry, are starting to look toward is decorating areas that aren’t in the public eye, such as corporate offices. “On the whole, the large-format print world’s matured,” he said. “The acquisition of new customers is getting more difficult, and the abundance of more shops with equipment is driving prices down. … So, the key to good growth is to find some value-added products and services that you can work with; otherwise, you’re just going to be making more products for less money.”