Read the Signs
On an average day, how many signs or displays do you think you encounter? Perhaps the better question: How many of them force you to stop and look?
There are signs people don’t notice until they’re standing next to them, displays they register as they pass by, and signs and displays that grab their attention enough to make them stop and process. With signs around (literally) every corner, it becomes increasingly important to stand out. Staying apprised of trends and techniques is a good place to start.
Industry experts Harvey Meister, president of Bloomington, Illinois-based GDS Retail & Display Graphics; and Ryan Hudson, outside sales associate for Traverse City, Michigan-based Britten Studios, weighed in on how to get your clients the best results.
CONSIDER THE END-USE
For temporary signage, opt for basic substrates, like paper and vinyl. As Hudson pointed out, there are reasons why they have remained at the top of the pile for so long. “Paper and vinyl signs and displays will never go away because they are a fast, affordable option when it comes to temporary signage,” he said.
Meister shared this sentiment. “If it’s retail [e.g., point-of-purchase signs and displays], they are typically short-term use and then thrown away, so why spend more than you need to on them?” he explained, identifying cost as a major factor for most buyers. “The imaging is still great even though the materials are inexpensive.”
FIND THE RIGHT FIT IN FABRIC
Paper and vinyl are the classics, but as ideas evolve, more modern substrates are coming to market, too. “Many new products seem to arrive every month with some potential for growth in niche applications,” Meister observed.
According to Meister, wood veneer, textured and metallic films, acrylics, window films, magnetics, and magnetic receptive films are substrates that are better-suited for a more permanent type of display.
But one substrate stands out to both Meister and Hudson for its rise in popularity. “Certainly, fabric and soft signage are growing faster than many segments in the large-format world,” Meister said.“Customers are looking for a nicer, cleaner look, and printing direct to fabric can offer that,” Hudson noted, citing the company’s Infinity Standees that utilize fabric print as an example.
Britten Studios also integrates the fabric trend into its business in other aspects. “Our purchase of direct-to-fabric printers has allowed us to keep all of our fabric printing in-house,” Hudson said. “That is a big selling point to our customers—everything we print, we print in our own warehouse(s).”
UNDERSTAND WHAT THE DIGITAL WORLD MEANS FOR YOU
When it comes to signs and displays, you have a choice to make. Will you go digital—offering electronic options or alternatives—or concentrate on your wheelhouse already in place? There is no wrong answer, but in an increasingly tech-savvy world, it’s an important issue to be aware of.
“We are pretty focused and comfortable with our existing technologies and process, and aren’t looking to get into what is essentially a very different industry,” Meister said. “If we were a big electrical display shop, that may make more sense, but we are not.”
Still, GDS Retail & Display Graphics recognizes the need to keep progressing in its area of expertise. “We continually challenge our company to improve in all aspects of operations,” Meister said. “It’s an ongoing and never-ending process. [...] We have upgraded systems, equipment, software and workspace, as well as trained people to be prepared in each department for what might come next."
While GDS Retail & Display Graphics may not feel much impact from digital displays, Hudson explained that Britten Studios has seen sales affected for certain locations—think malls and stadiums—due to this growing demand.
But the company has come up with other alternatives to reach clients in this sector. “As a company, we are constantly coming up with new ways to keep our products relevant and competitive,” Hudson elaborated. “Britten now offers several proprietary L.E.D. backlit displays that are incredibly sleek, like our BriteWall and AdPanel displays.” BriteWall displays are printed on 10 oz. vinyl for superior color saturation and detail, housed in a spring-tensioned frame and energy efficient; AdPanel displays, available as single- or double-sided, have a clear tempered glass exterior and internal steel frame. According to Hudson, both formats have met with success and positive feedback.
TAKE THE TIME TO LISTEN
It’s important to understand the nuances of the industry you’re working in, but that doesn’t mean you need to forget Sales 101. Work to establish a relationship rather than a sale. In the end, you’ll get both.
Need a brush up on the basics? “Do not sell products, listen to the customer and offer solutions,” Meister said. “If you sell products in today’s world, a buyer will find a thousand other companies doing the same thing with pricing in about two minutes. You won’t be the lowest.”
Hudson agreed on the value of listening to the customer. “We all have basic assumptions on how sales are printed, and, unfortunately, those assumptions can sometimes get us in trouble,” he warned. “I have found that I do a lot better when I am listening to what the customer wants and responding, rather than telling them what they need.”
Looking to advance to Sales 201? Move past industry sayings. “In signs and displays, the customer is not always right,” Meister said. “That’s an old adage from the retail world, and if you believe that, you will likely go broke in this industry.” Listen to customers, understand what they want, and apply your industry knowledge and expertise to help them achieve the best product and results.