How to Grow Your Business When Demand Slows

There are forces beyond a slow, uneven economy that continue to reshape the printing industry. Most of us have come to accept that in positioning a printing business for significant growth in the coming years, the owner must evolve his or her business with new service offerings to meet consumers’ demands and needs.

Emerging technologies command a rebirth of the printing industry and a change in the role of a print shop owner. The printing companies that are successful today are the ones that realize their responsibility is to keep an eye on technological breakthroughs and evaluate how they can be applied specifically to marketing strategies.

Printing businesses need to evolve into graphic communications centers and become professional marketing service providers that also print. As a full-spectrum marketing service provider, a printing business can grow and prosper even as printing demand slows in the digital age. Having a breadth of knowledge and experience ranging from traditional offset printing to the latest in personalization, mobile marketing, QR code technology and social media has become a prerequisite for a thriving enterprise.

We identified this trend a few years ago at Allegra Network and have since embarked on an aggressive plan to help our franchise members evolve their businesses. The latest National Association for Printing Leadership (NAPL) State of the Industry Report and a large study of small businesses conducted by InfoTrends have confirmed this trend. In light of these reports and the recent recession, we are even more certain this is the right path for the printing industry.

Now, you may be asking, How you can evolve your printing business into a full-spectrum marketing service provider?

The first step to take is to add “implementation services” to your capabilities so your business is positioned to execute multi-channel and new media marketing tactics with single-source efficiency. For printing businesses that target small- and medium-sized businesses with modest resources, it is critical to erect a low-cost-to-serve model. A fully integrated development and production service is also essential.

Carl Gerhardt is the chairman of Alliance Franchise Brands LLC, the parent company of Allegra Network LLC and Sign & Graphics Operations LCC, and a world leader in marketing, visual and graphics communications, linking more than 600 locations in the United States, Canada and United Kingdom. The company’s Marketing & Print Division, headquartered in Plymouth, MI, is comprised of Allegra, American Speedy Printing, Insty-Prints, Speedy Printing and Zippy Print brands of marketing, printing, mailing and Web services providers. Its Sign & Graphics Division, headquartered in Columbia, MD, is comprised of Image360, Signs By Tomorrow and Signs Now brands of sign and graphics communications providers.

Carl and his wife, Judy, owned and operated their own successful Allegra franchise for nearly 20 years before selling the $2.3 million operation in 2003. He is a PrintImage International/NAQP Honorary Lifetime Member and was inducted into NAPL’s prestigious Soderstrom Society in 2010 in recognition of his contribution to the industry.

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