Is wide format a path to future profitability?
Everyone likes money on the table.
The decline of A3 and A4 pages changes the game for copier-printer dealers, some of whom are chasing a shrinking revenue stream from service, paper, and consumables. One of the ways to mitigate some of the declines is with wide-format printing. The money on the table comes from two places. One is adding wide-format printers to help offset the decrease in A3 and A4 revenues. The other is adding wide-format printing services in addition to selling and supporting these devices. You would not be the first dealer to do either.
This month we’ll look at ways of casting a wider net and bringing these machines to existing and new customers. In the September issue, we’ll get into how you can change your game by adding wide-format printing to your mix of services.
Hitting Your Targets
To start, wrap your head around this: You probably don’t understand all your customers’ office printing needs. Moreover, there are probably prospects your sales team has yet to consider. Either way, the potential is there for selling full-color, wide-format printers. For example:
- Law offices often need large-format prints to provide visual displays in court. Attorneys often rely on a local print shop, but it can be faster and easier to print in-house.
- Local city or town offices use wide-format printing to share plans for new buildings and developments.
- Restaurants and retailers commonly use wide-format prints for point-of-purchase and window displays. While they may rely on a local printer, the economics of wide-format printing can save money, while signage and displays need to be changed more often.
- Schools, colleges, and universities need wide-format printers for signage and student use. Likewise, health care facilities need temporary signage. In-plant print facilities at all these operations need local sales and support.
- Many small and quick printers still lack wide-format printers. Once you sell one, customers quickly develop a need for a steady supply of ink and substrates.
- Ad agencies and marketing communications firms probably use wide-format printers, so there is opportunity to upgrade or add to the devices they have.
These are just a few target customers you already know about, and there are others in almost every market. Begin by talking with your customers to measure demand and visit new prospects to learn what else may be out there. Paper is the primary consumable, and most users need multiple types of paper. The revenue opportunity is ready and waiting.
Wide-format devices are inkjet printers using the standard CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) palette. While large- or grand-format printers will produce printed panels suitable for billboards, the smaller ones deliver prints from 24 to about 60 inches wide. Prices range from under $2,000 to more than $60,000 depending on size, speed, type of ink, number of colors, substrate capabilities, and whether a device is roll- or sheet-fed, with some models able to do both. Inks come in a variety of flavors, including aqueous, eco-solvent, latex, and UV-curable. Each size and type has its place, differences we’ll get into in the September issue.
“Many users are turning to CAD printers, which used to be monochrome and favored by architects, but are now four-color and provide excellent prints for many applications,” explained Marco Boer, vice president of Boston-based industry research firm IT Strategies. “Aqueous printers were the original choice, but eco-solvent models are faster, the ink costs are lower, and the margins are better.”
Applications vary widely, and there is no one-size-fits-all version. For example, some machines can be used for printing a thin, clear film that can be mounted on the inside of a window versus a material that is a quarter inch thick. The thin-film job requires a roll-fed device, the other a flatbed. Understanding the applications a prospect may have in mind helps you provide the best possible device (or devices) for their needs.
A Wider Page for a Fatter Margin
You probably have a pretty good idea of what your margin might be for selling wide format, but inkjet printers generally need less maintenance than toner devices. However, they inhale ink and paper. This is good.
Right now, your competition is online vendors, not other dealers. So far, few coper-printer dealers have made the move to wide format, and OEMs are disinclined to chase single-unit sales of relatively low-priced machines. “Most businesses needing one pull out the plastic and buy online,” said Boer. “And get their supplies the same way.”
So why can’t some of that business be yours?
No matter who your competition is, learn about local retail pricing for wide-format printing and note that prices may be calculated per square foot. Your local Staples or Office Depot may even post their rates online. Next, talk with prospects about their total cost of printing (TCOP) so they can see the value of having wide-format printing in-house. TCOP is the cost of ink and substrates, plus whatever value you assign to the cost-per-print based on the lease. Knowing the TCOP lets you talk about these devices in terms that are relevant to the customer, as in “You presently outsource 42 prints-per-month that are an average of five square feet each. So, you’re paying the local printer about $X. Now, if you have your own 36-inch wide printer, the cost per print will be $Y, so you save Z% a month, plus you can have all the jobs faster.”
Do similar math for the printers available online to find the price and volume points that work in your market. Talk about the advantage of having your dealership as the local supplier of paper.
Key prospects are customers that frequently need large format prints but who’d like to get out from under the time delays and the outsourcing costs. Talk up the convenience angle: Having a 3 x 4-foot print in an hour or two with five more coming overnight (many wide-format jobs can print unattended) can be a compelling advantage over getting the same job into the schedule at a local printer.
Boer noted that the ideal place in the market is eco-solvent and UV-curable, both areas where customers are likely to need more support and guidance. This increases the need for expertise on the part of dealers and makes a dealer a more valuable resource, which adds value that can show up on your bottom line.
But Wait, There’s More
Even though some roll-fed printers automatically trim the trailing edge of a print, other edges still need trimming, especially if a bleed is required. This creates the need for manual or automated cutting and trimming tables. Some prints need lamination to add durability and UV protection—important value- adds. Cutters and laminators are commonly bundled with many wide-format printers.
You’ll like the margins, volumes of ink, and sizes of substrates that come with wide format. But before you get all excited, start with some business basics: Talk with your banker and vendor about your credit line because some machines may cost more per unit. Also, work out a supply delivery agreement with vendors because big prints are always needed yesterday—so you need to be sure customers have the consumables they need. And, of course, your tech support people will need to be trained.
The money is on the table. It is time to cast a wider net.
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