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Expanding Your Shops Market Penetration - Editorial Article

Reissued with the permission of Art + Framing Magazine

Expanding Your Shop’s Market Penetration

By Jim McNickle, Marketing Director, Fletcher Business Group

Market Shifts

As a recognized leader in both the picture framing and sign and graphics industries, Fletcher Business Group has seen a lot of market change since starting our business back in 1868. In order to constantly make our solutions more relevant to our customers, we make a point to educate our users that cutting is cutting and joining is joining. Our technology-driven solutions are universal, no matter what our end users’ needs may be because all of the applications are ultimately the same. We use this approach as a method to inform our customers of the quickest path toward positive equipment ROI.

At Fletcher, we have seen market shifts come and go, but one undeniable trend we continue to see year after year is the market crossover between the “traditional” picture framing industry and the growing sign and graphics industry.

What is driving this trend?

The main push behind this trend is digital printing technology and printer affordability, along with a growing list of printable materials. At every trade show, it seems that the major wide format printer companies continue to introduce new technologies to market that keep bringing these two industries closer together. New flatbed printers, with increasingly more advanced technology, are now capable of printing direct to substrates like foam board, matboard and canvas. And, we are also seeing a growing “print on metal” market trend in both the picture framing and sign industries.

So what does this mean for Picture Framing Industry?

With the evolution of digital printing technology, customers are coming to expect a one stop shopping experience. To answer this need, traditional frame shops need to be more nimble and consider offering more sign and graphics services. With minimal investment in a just few key pieces of new equipment, your shop can expand its clientele.

Become a Print Service Provider and be a player in the product fulfillment arena

One of the biggest crossover opportunities we see for frame shops is becoming a PSP, or Print Service Provider. Commonly found in the sign industry, PSPs service their customers by printing all types of signage and wall coverings. With better technology that is becoming increasingly more affordable, PSPs are moving away from printing and mounting, and beginning to print directly onto materials such as fabric for both commercial and residential applications.

From branded signage and custom picture framing for all types of businesses – think corporate offices, hotels and retail establishments – to consumer-friendly décor and artwork, your frame shop can easily expand into this market opportunity. With the right digital flatbed printer, you can print (and frame!) one-off keepsake projects for your retail clientele and also handle larger scale projects for your business customers like store signage, event signage, wall décor and even outdoor signage.

Or, if you want to go even bigger, consider becoming a product fulfillment house and run high volume jobs for others. And, with the growth of online retailers, opportunities might exist to become a fulfillment partner for an online retailer’s overall finished product capacity.

Offer glass and acrylic cutting services

Another opportunity to tap into this expanding crossover market is to offer glass and acrylic cutting services. If you are currently ordering precut glass and acrylics, why not consider taking this job in-house? Adding a cutter to your frame shop not only provides the opportunity to handle all of your glass and acrylic cutting needs directly, but you can also offer these services to your local picture framer or photography. In the United States, hardware stores often handle these services and report an ROI with our Fletcher 3000 Wall Machine within a year or less after they added it to their store’s services.

Find ways to tap existing customers

Before looking for new customers, consider offering your existing customers more services. Look for opportunities to penetrate these current accounts deeper and become a more valued service provider. We refer to this sales strategy as “account penetration” efforts. If you already offer picture framing services for a retail operation, through this new sales approach you could now offer this same customer promotional and directional signage. Or, you could position yourself to create a wall décor and signage theme.

Be creative and do not be hesitate to ask your accounts what types of “full service” offerings they would like to receive from your shop. You may be surprised to find out how many customers prefer the one stop shopping experience and want to build on their valued their relationship with your business.

Plan your sales strategy and budget

Before you dive into purchasing new equipment, make sure that you have developed your shop’s “account penetration” sales strategy. Consider what kinds of customers you will be marketing to, what new services you will offer and what you need to accommodate these changes. Do you need a bigger shop? More staff? Will you be cutting back on some services that are no longer relevant? What does your local competitor offer that you do not?

The last thing you want to do is overextend your finances, so be sure to set a budget and stick to it. And, if numbers are not your strong suit, you may even want to consider bringing on a business consultant to help you plan.

What to think about when purchasing equipment

To keep up with market trends and expanding your shop’s offerings, you will most likely need to invest in some new equipment. You may need to add a new flatbed printer that is capable of printing direct to substrates. Maybe you also need to add a cutter that can handle cutting different materials. Whatever the case, most likely you are going to need to spend some money to make money.

Audit your current equipment inventory to see what needs to be upgraded and what is still usable. Then, decide what you need to purchase to make your new strategy come to life. And, do not forget to stick to your budget!

Consider ROI on new equipment purchases

Also consider the ROI on your new equipment purchases. Yes, you will be shelling out upfront costs, but how much more money can your shop make in the long run using these new tools? You will be doing more work in-house helping control outside spending, and you will most likely be increasing overall efficiencies and product quality. You may even be bringing in new revenue streams by offering new services to your current customers and also by adding a new customer base. Try and purchase equipment that will give you the most value now and more importantly in the future.

Plan for expansion

As a general rule of thumb for purchasing any new shop equipment, be sure that you always “buy up” where capabilities are concerned. Make sure that the equipment you are going to invest in cannot only accommodate your current needs but also grow as your business grows. Whenever possible, try and look for equipment platforms that can expand in both capability and production volume.

Selecting the right cutter for substrates and materials

  • Clearly understand what materials you want to be able to cut, not only today, but possibly new materials that may be important down the line.
  • Make sure your cutter utilizes an interchangeable cutting head design platform that can expand for growth to cut new materials or be used for various application methods such as a V-Groove into ACM materials.
  • Consider either a wall or free standing installation.
  • Look for a cutter that you can place in the same room as a printer for effective and efficient process flow.

And remember…

In any business, your production capabilities and marketing strategies are a working document, and you should always be evaluating your business. Look at your successes and things that were maybe not so successful. Determine how you can improve and grow, and then make the necessary changes. Always also be on the lookout for new market trends, and be nimble enough to adapt to these new business opportunities. One thing we have learned in our 150 years in business – the only thing that is constant is change itself.

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Comment from article..."One of the biggest crossover opportunities we see for frame shops is becoming a PSP, or Print Service Provider. Commonly found in the sign industry, PSPs service their customers by printing all types of signage and wall coverings."