20 May Commercial Printing
Commercial printers are some of the unseen heroes of our local economies, providing not just a
commodity or product but an essential service to local businesses and communities.
Commercial printing is essential, but like many essential businesses it is somewhat unseen—although
it makes others visible. This can be a problem for commercial printing firms who want to expand their
businesses or grow new business lines. It can also be an opportunity for printing firms to get very
clear about the value they deliver, and how they can build on it.
Some industries are so fundamental to the way we live that we don’t even really stop think about the
value they contribute. Commercial printers are one of those businesses. Consider the utility they
provide to the world:
- Commercial signage helps communities’ function and communicate
- Printed signs guide and inform people as they make their way through the world
- Printed materials provide tangibility and credibility for companies
Commercial printing delivers meaningful value
Printed signs are touchstones and markers that provide valuable information to people, delivering a
message of constancy and order. When signs and other printed assets are damaged or inaccurate,
the community and the businesses in it suffer a loss of reputation.
Print, like no other medium, delivers a message of reliability and trustworthiness.
Because the value they provide is so fundamental, commercial printers can struggle to differentiate
their offerings in a meaningful way. Just as printed signs help businesses become visible, commercial
printers must make the value they provide to a community visible. Many buyers are still focused on
volume and price as key buying points, which not only ends up in race to the bottom but can also
prevent businesses from realizing the full value that a commercial printing service can offer their
Helping businesses see that value can also help commercial printing firms innovate to become more
profitable and future-proof.
Competing beyond price and product
Commercial printers that focus on the end product or position their offerings as a commodity can end
up trapped in a price war. You don’t want to be thought of merely as a sign printer or brochure maker.
However, differentiating your service without adding in unnecessary complexity or unwanted features
means means really understanding the value commercial printing delivers, and what the customer
needs. From here printers can think about how to add-on meaningful (and profitable) features and
services. From design to maintenance packages and consulting and design support, there are many
opportunities for commercial printing firms to innovate and to strengthen their value proposition.
Printing as a service
Although the final product is a tangible asset such as a printed sign, brochure or banner, commercial
printing is really a form of media that informs, entertains and provides direction. It is also a part of the
larger infrastructure that is constantly being updated or edited to reflect the values of a changing
world. And, as the digital world expands and interfaces with the larger world, it can serve as both a
physical extension and validation of that space. This can also be an opening for printing firms who
want to go digital to move into content creation and marketing. The efficiency and operational
soundness of commercial printing firms could provide an interesting model to deliver disruptive digital
marketing, but understanding what businesses need is critical to the success.
In addition to reinforcing the a brands digital footprint, commercial printers are essential to the
wellbeing of communities and businesses.
They inform and direct. Printed banners announce community events, resources or important news
for individuals–basically they create content.
They establish reputation and brand affinity and help build up and support the entire community or
Signs serve as landmarks and markers, making brands visible but also providing larger utility to
communities and visitors to an area.
While digital technologies will never make commercial printing obsolete, the existence of a digital
technologies is disrupting printing, and pushing printers to innovate.
Commercial printing companies can innovate to grow
While growth in the commercial printing industry is projected to be sluggish, there is value for
commercial printers to capture from adjacent businesses and industries if they adopt an innovative
approach to growth and pay close attention to their customer’s needs.
Now is a great time to talk to businesses, learn more about the communities they belong to, and find
opportunities to help them reach their audiences–this is true purpose of printing companies, and if
you stay true to this you can succeed even in these uncertain times.