Printers thrive on materials for marketing collateral, product instructions, magazines, catalogs, signage, and literature of all sorts. Most of these applications place ink or toner on a white media of various weights. The creativity, color, and shade come from the designer. The printer applies their technical expertise to finishing a quality good.

In this typical scenario, there is little differentiation from one printer to the next, assuming both printers claim to provide outstanding service. So, what is “outstanding service?” How can you define outstanding service to make your shop stand out from the rest? As a manufacturer and distributor of paper products, we have a few ideas and not all revolve around paper.

Let’s begin with “outstanding services” that DO NOT stand out. This is a brief lesson in value differentiation.

  1. Great customer care — This intent is important, but great customer care is not a differentiator. If your competitors advertise “Terrible Service,” then perhaps you can stop at “Great Customer Care.” Until then, you need to back this up with specific services and commitments that demonstrate great care.
  2. Expertise —A great deal of expertise is involved in commercial printing, from preparing digital files and cutting plates or cylinders to make readies, press operation, finishing and much more. You need to understand the behavior of various substrates, inks, toners, and equipment. There is no doubt that technical expertise is important, but your competitors are not advertising “We Have No Idea What We are Doing.”
  3. Quality — This value ranks right up there with expertise. It’s just another variety of the same, undifferentiated statement. The day your competitor promotes “Terrible Results Every Time,” you can stop at “Quality.”
  4. Friendly — We certainly hope so.
  5. Quick — This one can be tricky. Quick can be good, and it can be bad. Exercise some caution here. “Quick” can be the core of your brand and service as a quick print shop, otherwise you should use language that describes your efficiency and ability to deliver on your customer’s day-to-day needs.

The expectations of Service, Expertise, and Quality are table stakes. Without them, you will go out of business, but they do not differentiate your offering. There is no hard and fast rule, and not every print shop needs to make a big case for differentiation. Print shops in smaller markets can rely on word-of-mouth referrals and reputation. They can advertise, “Welcome to Robert’s Print Shop. Friendly Service, Great Printing.” It’s quaint and everybody knows Robert.

However, in the big city, nobody knows Robert, all the salespeople are friendly, and the print shops are committed to quality. You need to make a case as to why a business should choose you over another printer. That’s going to take more than a friendly slogan. You need to display product knowledge and help your customers address their needs.

What Outstanding Differentiators Can You Implement?

  1. Paper samples and application knowledge — Help your customers solve business challenges like improving retail experience, increasing operational efficiency, communicating at point of sale, or enhancing brand presentation.
  2. Office and retail visits with samples — Bring samples to your customers and visit the space they work in. See for yourself how your customer is, or is not, using products you can support.
  3. OCR and visual proofreading — Saving a customer from an embarrassing and costly mistake won’t be forgotten. Even the best quality controls can let through a typo. You may not be expected to spot possible errors but doing so will be greatly appreciated.
  4. Secure, online file transfer portal — Establish a secure portal for print files and increase the ease of doing business with. Do not forget the importance of security. Printers that accept uploads into publicly available databases risk exposing their systems malware and ransomware. You also risk exposing proprietary materials and your customers’ intellectual property.
  5. PDF templates with trim, bleed, and die lines — Make it easier for your clients’ designers to achieve a great result. Templates for perforated products, signage, and specialty dies can be a huge help, even for experienced artists.
  6. Design, marketing, warehousing, and distribution services — You do not need to become an agency to add value here. Smaller clients appreciate a single point of contact that owns the quality from design to distribution.
  7. Quality guarantees — Back up your quality message with a customer bill of rights. What entitles your customer to a reprint or refund? Do you accommodate customers for press checks? Do you offer forgiveness on prepress revisions?

A Focus on Paper Samples and Application Knowledge

We’re going to focus on paper because we are a paper company, plain and simple. Guy’s E. Paper helps print shops differentiate their product lines to address the needs beyond marketing. We also provide great customer care, expertise, and quality ;). Beyond marketing clients, there is real opportunity to help manufacturers, retailers, accountants, distributors, restaurateurs, and artists create, innovate, and support business operations. You are more than a printer. You create custom finished goods.

Menus, door hangers, shelf markers, business forms, table tents, signs, stickers, floor graphics, and much more, are manufactured in print shops. Show the businesses in your community what you have to offer with paper, vinyl, and synthetic media in all the colors and finishes available.

Office and Retail Visits with Samples

We sometimes forget that our customers need help visualizing what is possible. They want to experience what the finished material feels like, and not just glossy or matte. Your customers are not all aware that there are neon papers that can grab attention on a shelf or mark a discontinued product in the warehouse. How about synthetic media that can be washed and disinfected repeatedly without ruining the print or stability of a menu or checkout counter sign?

Guy’s E. Paper helps print shops provide useful products to their customers. Every day we learn about another application that we can share with you. Just recently, a large order of synthetic media was placed for printing temporary license plates. That application had not occurred to us, but synthetic papers are perfect for license plates. We also provide custom perforation, scoring, hole punching, and sorting of most any media, including our industry-leading carbonless forms.

If you’re looking to refresh your print shop samples and consult with us on opportunities to differentiate your product offering, give us a call. We can help you solve your customers’ challenges.