A critical step in successfully selling sign and display graphics is qualifying customer requirements and expectations. Utilizing NAPCO’s recent research study, better identify your buyers’ purchasing needs and preferences to align selling efforts with customer requirements.
The research study qualifies customer expectations, demands and buying behaviours.
NAPCO Research’s study Who Buys Wide-format Display Graphics: How, from Whom, and Why surveyed sign and display graphic buyers/influencers and providers to understand investment, purchasing and demand trends. A major goal of the research was to identify buyers’ purchasing needs and preferences to support print providers in aligning selling efforts and service offerings with customer requirements.
Buyers have wide latitude in provider selection
According to the survey, sign and display graphic buyers and purchasing influencers participating in the research report having wide latitude in selecting their print providers, as only 24 per cent are required to purchase from approved vendor lists. In these cases, providers typically must apply to be added to a prospect’s vendor list and be vetted and approved by its purchasing department.
As most buyer respondents aren’t bound by lists of approved vendors, this implies an opportunity for providers who can forge business relationships based on meeting customers’ unique needs. High-performance selling practices will be as crucial to success as high-quality production.
Purchase from many types of providers
Buyers of sign and display graphics report using a variety of provider types to produce their work, including general commercial printers, sign shops, retail stores specializing in signs and graphics, and online providers (Figure 1). This diversity of sources for purchasing sign and display graphics means heightened competition for providers. The most successful providers will be the ones who can understand and meet customer needs.
While 42 per cent of buyer respondents use general commercial printers to produce their sign and display graphics, 71 per cent use businesses dedicated to producing these items, including sign shops and retail stores specializing in signs and graphics. Buyers also purchase sign and display graphics from online providers (cited by 28 per cent of buyers as sources) and from in-house printing operations (24 per cent).
The high use of commercial printers illustrates the progress that this group has made toward expanding the range of their services into adjacent markets — a trend often referred to as “convergence”.
Overall, the diversity of sources from which sign and display graphics can be obtained increases competition among providers to capture sales. Given that buyers have many choices, providers need to demonstrate the value their organization will deliver compared with others.
Figure 1: Where they buy
Sign and display graphics a key marketing tool
According to the survey responses, organizations use sign and display graphics primarily as a marketing tool. The top reasons respondents purchase sign and display graphics are to:
– Attract customer attention — 69 per cent
– Support sales at the point-of-purchase — 39 per cent
– Generate awareness and promote events — 38 per cent
– Offer product or service education and information — 35 per cent
Buyers value quality, service, staff expertise and speed
Buyer respondents report that print quality and customer care are the most important considerations — more so than price — when selecting providers (Figure 2). Since respondents reported the top use of sign and display graphics is to attract attention, the high importance of quality in the provider selection decision was not surprising. What is noteworthy is that respondents’ perceptions of the customer experience — ease of working with the provider, responsiveness and service — also weigh heavily in their decisions about where to send their business.
Price is rated very important by 68 per cent of respondents, but more cited quality (85 per cent), ease of working with the provider (78 per cent), responsiveness (74 per cent) and customer service (74 per cent) as very important criteria for selecting providers. Coming in behind price are staff knowledge (55 per cent), turnaround (51 per cent) and streamlining processes (38 per cent). Because buyers take all these considerations seriously when evaluating sign and display graphic providers, it is imperative that print service providers ensure they can meet this wide variety of needs.
Regarding turnaround times, more than half of buyers responded that it was a very important consideration, with 80 per cent stating that a turnaround time of fewer than five days is the most common. This underscores the importance of production efficiency.
Figure 2: Sign and display buyers’ provider selection criteria
In their own words
When asked to state how their sign and display providers could serve them better, buyer respondents offered the following:
– “Expand education offerings to help us learn about new opportunities and product offerings.”
– “Offer more ideas and/or update us on technology trends within the industry.”
– “Suggest products that would complement previous orders.”
– “Email sales offers to us that include items that we frequently purchase, along with new products to consider.”
– “Send more updates on the progress of our work when it is in production.”
– “Use a consultative selling approach rather than transactional.”
– “Be more proactive and attentive.”
– “Better collaboration with our team.”
Referrals key to getting sales calls
The survey asked buyers what would motivate them to accept a meeting with a sign and display graphic provider with whom they had not previously done business. Respondents indicated that referrals from a variety of sources are key motivators. These sources include colleagues (indicated by 58 per cent), from someone with whom the buyer does business (55 per cent), or from someone within the buyer’s organization (49 per cent). Other important motivators, albeit not as influential as referrals, include an introduction at an event (29 per cent), creating badged samples (28 per cent), direct mail (25 per cent) and vendor-created content (23 per cent).
Similarly, buyer respondents identified referrals (46 per cent) as the top way they find sign and display graphic providers, followed by internet searches (31 per cent) and direct mail (22 per cent). But what stood out from this question is that the top response was that “their organization had a long relationship with the provider (51 per cent),” indicating that sign and graphic buyers strongly value partnerships with suppliers.
Overall, the high effectiveness of referrals in connecting buyers to sellers points to the importance of providers in developing best practices to improve their efforts in this area.
Using education to capture buyers’ attention
Buyer respondents report using various sources to learn about trends and advances in technologies for printing sign and display graphics. The most widely used approach, cited by 48 per cent of respondents, is searching for information in online publications and websites. Getting the news from vendors and reading it in email newsletters are mentioned almost as much (46 and 42 per cent, respectively). Other sources are social media (38 per cent), education by a current provider (35 per cent) or colleagues (32 per cent). Because buyer respondents used a variety of methods for learning about trends, providers should pursue all the communication tools at their disposal to educate buyers.
Sign and display graphics are offered by a variety of sources, so buyers have many choices to find the provider who offers the right combination of quality, service and price that they desire. Producers of sign and display graphics who can align their sales and marketing routines with the buyer intentions, preferences and demands previously noted will be in the best position to expand sales and build strong client relationships.
As the range of wide-format options continues to expand, determining the best equipment investments for long-term profitability can be a challenging task – but it doesn’t have to be. To help better navigate the equipment decision process, our team here at Ricoh can work with you to evaluate your operation and business goals and recommend wide-format options that power productivity, enhance customer value and yield profitability. Find out more here or get in touch with our solutions specialists here.
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