By Amber E. Watson
Product demonstrations are a great tool for customers to visualize the options and services offered by a print service provider (PSP). Constructing a display room and deciding what to showcase involves a thorough look at a PSP’s strengths. Ultimately, a showroom is a physical representation of the company and provides a competitive edge against the competition.
Tom Wittenberg, sign and display market development manager, Americas, Hewlett-Packard (HP), advises PSPs considering a product showcase to focus on what “can be” versus “what is.” End users and brand owners want the wow factor; and seeing is believing. “A creative showcase of your shop’s capabilities helps customers envision how the examples in a showcase may work for their own products,” he says.
Reed Hecht, product manager, professional imaging, Epson, notes that product showcases indicate to the customer what forms of signage, wrapping, and other output the PSP is capable of doing and to what scale. “It shows the customer exactly how the PSP can implement a specific type of sign or application, and instills immediate confidence that the PSP can accomplish this.”
Britten’s 300,000 square foot facilities in Traverse City, MI are home to a team of over 250 industry experts. The business has come a long way since it began in 1985. It currently offers services that include digital printing, apparel, fabrication, and point of purchase products and displays.
“Showrooms can be colorful, exciting, and dramatic expressions of the company culture—not only to inspire ideas with touring customers—but equally as important, to teach and instill the company culture to all employees,” says Paul Britten, president, Britten. He is surprised when graphic production companies in the visual arts field ignore the opportunity to use their medium to inspire.
Without a product showcase, customers typically resort to what they know. Hecht recommends that PSPs utilize the necessary resources required to display a sampling of each type of output and application they are capable of producing.
“Keeping a visual log of previous jobs is a cost effective way to help customers understand the full scope of a given print shop’s capabilities,” continues Britten.
According to Dan Wilson, associate creative director, Roland DGA Corporation, the total time and resources dedicated to a project depends on the amount of foot traffic through the facility—present and future. “Make sure you come up with a design that allows for changing out displays and adding to the environment as business grows and advances with new technologies. Also photographing showroom exhibits to display on a Web page provides additional value from of the project,” suggests Wilson.
“PSPs should focus on customers’ requirements, their organization’s strengths, and build from there,” recommends Wittenberg. “The more products offered, the larger the showcase and the longer it takes to complete. If a showcase communicates your shop’s capabilities, the time/effort is made up with business growth.”
What to Display
A showroom should display the range of services, especially at different price points. It is a an opportunity to showcase variations on products.
“Show the same graphic in different media grades and finishing techniques side-by-side, and include the varying price points so your customer can choose the best solution to fit the application as well as his or her budget,” recommends Wilson. “If you have the space, create small signs that provide details on each job similar to what you might find in an art gallery.”
If you don’t have enough space in your showroom to display all of the applications offered, an alternative is to include photographs and testimonials of recent jobs, or have an office double as an extension of the showroom.
Since 2010, Maxwell Dickson LLC has offered custom photo printing from a 3,500 square foot facility in Los Angeles, CA. Its showroom is a multi-functional space that serves as an office where seven employees work, as well as a place to display products and meet new clients.
“We have done this from the beginning because it is a great way to showcase what we do,” states James Freeman, owner, Maxwell Dickson. The showroom took three weeks to set up; art is not changed out very frequently. Maxwell Dickson functions more as an online business, but for customers who come into the office, the showroom is an eye-catching method to demonstrate application possibilities.
Additionally, showrooms are an excellent method to illustrate new applications that a shop is just beginning to offer. Wilson points out, for example, that if your business specializes in signs and banners but you would like to get into apparel decoration, it is a good idea to create samples and feature them in your demonstration space.
How often you update the showroom depends on your customers’ cycle, according to Wittenberg. “From experience, showcases can change every month; others only one to four times per year. The greater the frequency, the greater the number of new ideas generated for your customers. In some cases, a showcase can actually take a low change frequency account and turn them into one that becomes high frequency as the sales payback is realized. For the PSP, this generally leads to more revenue.”
Hecht says the frequency should depend on how often customers visit the location. Keeping information up to date on the Web site is a good way to spur customer visits to the location, or calls to inquire about new items the PSP can produce.
“Some shops keep a customer mailing list and send out a monthly update that highlights new applications. Even if it only generates a few leads, updating potential customers has the potential to pay for itself in new business or new applications,” adds Hecht.
Although Britten does not receive a lot of foot traffic through its showrooms, the company puts in extra effort to impress during every tour. “I believe the entire company is a showroom,” says Britten.
The print provider installed over 150 yards of catwalk above the screenprinting, digital printing, and fabrication floors. The creation and evolution of the space never ends. “We are always looking to create the next big thing for our customers and try to incorporate that work into our space,” he shares.
The continuous creation and evolution of products and technologies make change-outs and additions an on-going activity, and clients react positively. “When customers have the chance to tour the catwalks and view real work fresh off the printers, their eyes light up. That’s a great feeling,” adds Britten.
A Competitive Edge
Creating a product showroom is a competitive advantage, but publicizing the secrets to success isn’t always safe. To avoid consistent visits from competitors, Hecht explains that some PSPs keep their most prized or unique applications in the back room. “This works not only as a way to avoid prying eyes, but also makes their customers feel special.”
If a current customer’s examples are used—versus dummy samples—Wilson recommends not displaying customer names in the showroom, to avoid losing a customer to the competition.
“Also, be sure to check with customers before displaying their graphics. Getting full permission is always good business practice and helps foster a relationship of trust and loyalty going forward,” he continues.
A showroom is something a PSP should be proud of. It is a portfolio of the company’s best work as well as an opportunity to expand business via its current and perspective customers.
Mar2014, Digital Output