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Add Value with Print To Cut

Posted by
Nov 09, 2011 02:04pm
Posted in: Shop Talk

Print to cutIntroduction

Flatbed printer owners who have reached the “What should I do next?” stage of their business often ask me whether they should be considering another flatbed printer – or adding a flatbed cutter.  If you’re asking yourself the same questions, then this article is for you.

Do you really need another Flatbed Printer?

You might. There are, of course, perfectly legitimate reasons for buying another direct-to-substrate printer:

  • You need additional capacity, and have ruled out adding a second shift
  •  An existing printer is approaching the end of its life cycle, and needs replacement
  • A new printer will significantly increase throughout, reduce costs, enhance print  – or some combination therein

Just Don’t Add Capacity for Capacity’s Sake.

Unless you already have contracts waiting for a new printer to come online, simply adding capacity likely means you’re going to have to get busy landing new customers – in a competitive market.  This is an expensive, risky, long and hard road to growth. And it almost always leads to thinner profit margins.

By contrast, your existing customers already know you, already like you, and already trust you. The hardest (and most expensive) part of selling anything is already done.  So the easiest, least expensive and least risky road to profitable growth is to sell more to existing customers.  And that’s where adding a flatbed cutter may deserve stronger consideration.

Adding Value for Customers.

Adding print-to-cut technology provides new capabilities for adding new value for customers; creating new opportunities for up-selling and cross-selling new products, and setting you apart from competitors.  Before we begin to explore how print-to-cut adds value for customers, however – or exploring the opportunities this creates for your business – I think it would be helpful to frame the discussion by starting with what customers value most.

What do customers value most?

Obviously, the answers depend on who your customers are. If you’re wholesaling print production for other signshops, let’s agree to focus this discussion on what end-user customers value most.  It’s not price, or turnaround, or convenience – not that any of those are unimportant.  Why do customers want a sign, or a display, or a vehicle graphic – or any of the projects they come to you for? They want to build a brand, attract customers, promote sales.

For any of that to happen, the finished product needs to:

  1. Be placed in the line of site of the intended audience.
  2. Be conspicuous. The finished product needs to stand out in its environment.
  3. Be legible from the intended viewing distance.
  4. Communicate your customer’s message a limited time frame, usually seconds.
  5. Where appropriate, the message should move a reader to take a specific, measurable action

printocut2In other words, successful communication is a process.

Each of the steps outlined above is equally important in providing your customers with what they value most.  As such, they each merit attention in your design process – so that the finished product has a fighting chance to deliver the goods.

Adding Value With Print-To-Cut Technology

In your sales process:

Whether or not you own or ever plan to purchase a print-to-cut solution:  Bear in mind that you can demonstrate the added value in dealing with your firm by simply framing any discussion of the customer’s project within the context of using the communication process above – to get them the results they want.  And I would recommend starting early in your sales process, for two main reasons:

  1. By focusing on what they want and how to get it, price becomes secondary
  2. By positioning yourself as a credible expert, you’ll set yourself apart from most competitors

In your design process:

Print-to-cut gives you the ability to use custom shapes to help customers compete for attention in an environment crowded with predominantly rectangular signs and displays.  People are hard-wired to notice difference. Use it to your customer’s advantage.

Look at every sign and display project as an opportunity to integrate eye catching shapes at the concept stage of design – in order to make the finished product as conspicuous as possible.  Simply presenting additional design concepts demonstrates added value to doing business with your company – and gives you the opportunity to up-sell more effective solutions.

Beyond unique, eye-catching shapes – print-to-cut provides the opportunity to add subtle finishing touches to signs and displays – with greater repeatability, faster turnaround, and more cost-effectively than other methods in small quantities.  The medium is the message: Those subtle finishing touches communicate messages of quality, sophistication, and attention to detail.

Finally, don’t overlook your opportunities to create additional visual interest by adding dimensions to otherwise flat panel signage and display products.  Raised lettering or other elements of the design come to mind as examples. You can also excite customers by designing for mixed media.  Following the previous example: digitally printed, custom shaped background, and raised, brushed metal finish lettering in the foreground. You get the idea.

Developing new business with existing customers:

It’s funny how freshly acquired production capabilities can heighten your focus – especially when you make it your mission to help customers get more of what they really want.  You may have experienced this when brought your first Gerber EDGE – or when you first brought wide format printing in house, after years of outsourcing it. Suddenly, you start seeing opportunities you didn’t see before.

Print-to-cut may cause you to re-think what “full service” means to you, and for your customers.  And that might take you places you never imagined your business going.  For example, a customer who orders a banner to bring attention to an in-store promotion may not have fully considered how to display the product(s) they’re promoting.  Or perhaps your customer is a manufacturer who wants to lift sales at retail. With print-to-cut, you have new-found capability to produce a one-off custom Point of Purchase display… or display prototypes for market testing.  Ditto for custom and prototype packaging.

You can probably imagine other scenarios. The trick is to move from simply responding to customer requests (project level thinking) into taking a proactive role in helping customers achieve their business objectives (partner level thinking).  That change in mindset builds loyalty and referrals – and makes for terrific case studies to share with other customers.

Your turn.

What do you think?  Helpful?  Have I overlooked anything?  Would you like to see any specific topic covered in more detail?  Please leave a comment below.


  1. Avatar for Joseph Christoff @ Christoff Creations Joseph Christoff @ Christoff Creations says:

    Very informative, thank you so much

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