Butler: In today's highly-competitive market you are not only competing for display graphics jobs with other labs, but also with a number of other print-for-pay operations with wide format printers including reprographics shops, digital print specialists, sign shops and screen printers. Having the ability to turn quality jobs quickly and at lower costs is critical in getting a leg up on the competition.
Shimamoto: Photo labs should continue to market themselves on quality and service. To compete effectively with wide-format, they must also showcase experience and competitive pricing. To best position themselves, they should invest time and resources to become an expert on color, correctly matching images among different sizes, technologies, and paper substrates.
Cedrone: The industry needs to educate their customers to the possibilities of printing directly printing onto rigid materials, the advantages of printing 126 inches wide on roll to roll materials (ideal for exhibition graphics and large banners), the capability of fast turnaround with a highly productive printer, and the availability of long lasting, durable images.
They can better position themselves by promoting direct imaging on a wide range of substrates, long-lasting, durable images, and unmatched substrate versatility. These are features and benefits photo labs cannot get from any of the other digital inkjet equipment, solvent printers, or large-format photo imaging devices they may currently be using.
Griff: The best place to start is with your existing customer base. Find out what type of inkjet displays, materials and services are being outsourced to other companies. Developing a product and marketing strategy with existing customers will help photo labs expand their businesses beyond their current customer base today. Providing additional services and capabilities to customers from a single source is attractive to many companies today. Photo labs are best positioned to provide imaging capabilities beyond the traditional sign shop or printer.
Howard: First, by ensuring that they are working with the proper people on the client side - the marketing communication managers, product managers, design directors - as well as with the print buyer. Also, by communicating to these people how the new capabilities at the lab can enhance their delivery of a product or brand message. The lab should try to become a key factor in the messaging. Some of our clients have been utilizing our Rho printers' varnish printing to both differentiate themselves and to give their clients new ideas for their projects. This has proven to be a great way to build relationships with the client.
Mador: Photo labs should certainly make the most of their existing customer relationships for wide-format business. Getting the message out to customers that poster-size prints are an excellent gift for the holidays should be incorporated in any customer-facing communications.
McLeod: Wide-format printing can be a very lucrative side business for photo labs. There is a low cost of entry and tremendous profit potential. However, as with any business, it is important to research the market to ensure success. Photo labs should consider their location, the market position and product offering of their competitors, and local pricing standards. They should set goals for both growth and diversification. They should also assess the needs of their current customer base and introduce new products accordingly.
Sayers: The services should be marketed to clients by touting the increased range of output options and decreased turn around times for print jobs. Long term success in this market is based on meeting and exceeding customer expectations of high quality output, quick turn around times, and leveraging the right equipment and resources to make it all happen, in other words, becoming a true graphics provider.
Sexton: I believe that a strategy of differentiating, targeting and direct marketing is the key to thriving in the professional imaging business. Imagers need to separate themselves from their competitors. Offer new products that attract new customers and keep existing customers from going to competitors. The imaging versatility of the Chromira wide format printer has given many Chromira owners a strategic edge over their customers. In just about any regional market, the photographers' grapevine will initially get the word out for you that your lab has important new imaging capabilities. Even though this is a very valuable communications, it's not enough. You also need to identify your most profitable existing customers then target this kind of customer and communicate with them on a consistent basis. I believe, for imagers, that Direct Mail is the most cost effective tool. With Direct Mail you can affordably and precisely target the most valuable customer prospects with specific and compelling communications. The key is consistency, 8-12 mailings per year, and use your product (a print sample), to illustrate your quality while communicating your most compelling products.
Sheikh: The successful photo labs are those that are looking at diversification from both a customer base perspective and from a print service offering perspective. Photo labs are a savvy group of people; they recognize that they need to expand – not just in the photo arena, but also into value-added display graphics areas – to survive in today's competitive marketplace. These shops should be looking at expanding their business opportunities with existing accounts by offering new print services.
Shops that have weathered the recent economic downturn have learned that if they do not service their customer base with an ever-increasing range of applications, their customers will go elsewhere. For shops that have the marketing and financial expertise to make a move, this is a great time to add new capabilities that will keep them ahead of the competition.