If you have not been reading Pat McGrew’s ongoing series “Enabling Sales,” I highly recommend that, when you are done with this article, you go check it out (the latest is right below this feature). The last couple of installments have focused on putting together print sample kits to use to sell your capabilities to prospective clients. In the previous installment, she described how to assemble a hypothetical “Marketing Sample Kit” for a bank, identifying the disparate and unique items that banks often need printed, from brochures and other marketing materials promoting their latest offerings or special deals, to complementary signage and display graphics. As Pat points out, while online banking is certainly popular, if you have ever been in a bank branch lately, they are by no means abandoned edifices, with tumbleweeds rolling through the lobby. Get there at the wrong time and you’ll still be stuck in a queue for a short eternity.
Sometimes, though, being stuck in a line is not a bad thing, and it can actually give us some much-needed downtime to take a breath, have a look around, and get a sense of what printed products are currently in vogue.
Since I started covering Wide Format for WhatTheyThink a thousand years ago, I have gotten into the habit of paying attention to signage and other kinds of display graphics whether I am walking down the street, in a shop, or, indeed, in a bank lobby.
Given the inordinate amount of time I spend delayed in airports, I could write a dissertation on airport graphics (consider yourselves warned), and am intimately familiar with every sign and poster in the Albany, N.Y., airport. I can even tell you when airport advertisers first started using silicone-edge graphics; a cool example was installed near Gate C3 about two years ago.
A couple of years ago, silicone-edge graphics (SEG)—printed fabric mounted in a lightweight aluminum frame—started appearing, commonly in airports, such as this example just to the right of Southwest’s boarding stanchions at the Albany, N.Y., airport.
Walking around my downtown, which I do frequently, I also noticed that in the past couple of years, a unique variety of light-pole graphics started proliferating and have become more and more popular and commonplace.
I was in a cheese shop in Manhattan a couple of years ago and noticed that their interior wall graphics used magnetic materials from Visual Magnetics to dynamically change the display depending on what specific kinds of cheese they wanted to highlight. There is a local brewpub here in Saratoga Springs that uses dynamic digital signage—via Untappd—to highlight what specific brews are on tap on a given day. (Another one across town uses a floor-to-ceiling chalkboard and requires the bartenders to perform some precarious acrobatics to change the menu items. Score 1 for digital signage.)
The reason I bring all this up is twofold. First, to riff on what Pat has been talking about in her “Enabling Sales” articles; seeing what kinds of graphics are popular and prevalent “in the wild” is a good way to make the decision of what to include or highlight in your print sample portfolio. The point of creating a print sample kit is to of course show off your printing capabilities, but it should also highlight those capabilities in the context of products that are popular and in-demand by the market. After all, it takes a crowd to draw a crowd; if a potential client sees a certain new kind of graphic crop up (maybe produced by their competitors), if you can demonstrate that you can produce that same kind of graphic, half the sale may already be made since you don’t have to explain what it is. It may also serve to stimulate the imagination of a potential client, who may not have given much thought or attention to a particular kind of display graphic (they may be the type who stare at their phones 24/7 and are oblivious to the world around them). Not that your sales reps are going to tote around large SEG displays, retractable banners, or light-pole banners, but you can include these items in an online portfolio and/or an on-premises print sample showcase.
The second part of the reason for paying attention to the graphics around us is to identify potential new product areas. I interviewed a print business owner some years ago who, when the company was making the decision to get into wide-format graphics, he and his reps literally went out to places like convenience stores and made notes as to what kinds of display graphics they used, and this in part guided the new product mix they would pursue.
All businesses should do some kind of market research, and the cheapest and easiest can often involve just getting out of the office and doing a little reconnaissance. It can be some of the easiest market research you’ll ever conduct.