In the space of just 12 months, the business world as we knew it has changed immeasurably. For the print and display industry, this has seen large chunks of their bread and butter sales simply dry up overnight, with a complete cessation of trade shows and significant restrictions on key markets such as retail, hospitality and the commercial sector.
But as Albert Einstein once said, ‘in the middle of every difficulty, lies opportunity’ – and over the past year it’s been encouraging to watch our industry pivot and adapt to the challenges as well as identifying ways to keep moving forward. For example, business lost because of trade shows being cancelled has been recouped in many cases by demand for safety and information signage to reinforce the new infection control guidelines in workplaces and public settings.
Another key change that has been dramatically accelerated by the pandemic is the move towards online selling. The print and display industry has slowly been moving this way over the past number of years, fuelled largely by new companies boasting fast, cheap mail order services where customers can upload their own artwork and have bespoke displays delivered to their door. Traditional print shops have understandably felt threatened by these competitors – but interestingly, the pandemic has forced many to explore ways that they can compete in the online space without getting caught in a race to the bottom on price.
2021 will hopefully be the year we finally get the better of Covid-19 and see our lives slowly returning to normal. But this will be a gradual process – and many of the consumer trends that have emerged as a result of lockdowns are likely to stick around even longer, perhaps forever. This means print businesses will have to continue to adapt and seek out new ways to sell for 2021, and beyond. Here are our top tips for sustaining your business through this period of transition and change:
If you’re not online, get there
Many traditional print shops resisted moving their businesses online before the pandemic because they felt they wouldn’t be able to compete on price, not to mention the cost and logistics of e-commerce setup. But an interesting side effect of lockdown is that people have a new appreciation for their local businesses, and want to support them – if they can. If your physical store is closed and you’re not online, your customer is forced to go elsewhere. Going online doesn’t always mean you have to compete directly with those ‘pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap’ businesses. Quality, personal customer service still counts for something and customers are still prepared to pay for it – especially if their goods are coming from a local business. There are lots of simple e-commerce platforms that can have you set up with a simple website quickly, without massive costs attached. They may not be all-singing, all-dancing solutions, but the important thing is to give your customer that choice – if you’re not in, you can’t win!
Show you care
If your business can’t compete with the rock-bottom prices and super-fast turnarounds being offered online, why not think about other ways you can compete? Being sensitive to the needs of your customer is one way you can take on the big guys and win. Simple things like offering a payment plan to help them spread the cost, or free design services when they spend a certain amount, can really give your customer a leg up during these difficult times, and boost your own sales in the process. Another good tip is to make sure your marketing reflects the challenges your customer is facing – nothing turns a buyer off quite like tone-deaf communications that try to sell as if the crisis doesn’t exist.
Social media is a powerful marketing tool that allows any business to build relationships with their customer. It’s also free, although growing your audience can take a long time without putting some money behind your advertising. Nevertheless, organic reach on social can have real impact so it’s worth investing the time in creating content that will engage your customer. Creating video demonstrations of your best-selling displays or printing processes, going ‘live’ with a sales pitch or promotion, or simply sharing some behind-the-scenes activities can open up conversations and most importantly, remind your customer that you’re still here and ready to do business! Don’t forget that these relationships are a two-way street, so you should spend some time seeking out prospects on social and engage with their content too. You never know where these connections might lead.
The pandemic will pass eventually, but businesses that adopt a ‘wait it out’ strategy probably won’t be around when it does. Now is not the time to be passive, or to just keep plodding along the same old furrow in hopes you’ll come out the other side. Opportunities still exist for businesses prepared to take risks and think outside the box. Can you adapt your existing offering to meet a demand that the pandemic has presented? Can you anticipate the needs of existing or new customers as we move beyond the critical phase of the pandemic? Is there a way you can add value to your service? Could your business be greener? Is there something you can do to help your local community? Anything you can do to make your business stand out now, will increase your chances of bouncing back strong in 2021 and beyond.
We’re always interested in talking to our customers to see if we can help them overcome challenges and find new ways to thrive, especially right now. If you’d like to chat, drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.