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Capturing the attention of potential customers in the modern world is by no means an easy task. Rob Fletcher looks at the marketing options available to sign-makers

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Spreading the word

Securing new customers is critical to the success of any sign-maker or wide-format printer, but before you can even think about expanding your client base, you must first look at how you are going to attract potential customers to your business in the first place.

Marketing your business and making people aware of your services is key to bringing in new work, but in what is an incredibly fast paced, modern world, how do you go about putting in place an effective marketing strategy?

Here, we speak with a number of companies from across the industry that have done just this and examine the innovative ways they are connecting with new customers across a range of channels.

Confidence for clients

Leeds-based Northern Flags is highly appreciative of how important an effective marketing strategy can be, with managing director Iain Clasper-Cotte explaining that the business’ own efforts have helped to bring in a range of new work.

Iain Clasper-Cotte, managing director of Northern Flags

“Our business is very competitive with lots of over-capacity, so it is essential that you have a strategy to ensure you are top of mind with prospective customers and you give confidence to your existing clients,” Clasper-Cotte says.

“It is easy to waste lots of money if you do not constantly measure the results against your goals. Likewise, it is easy to spread yourself too thin and not achieve proper traction in the areas of the business that you want to succeed in.”

It is easy to waste lots of money if you do not constantly measure the results against your goals

Clasper-Cotte recommends multi-channel marketing in particular, explaining his background in media and marketing has given him valuable insight into how different medias work in different ways.

“It is important that you recognise how each one builds up to deliver your objectives,” he says, adding: “It is also important that you have a clear view of how you want your customers to perceive you and your company.

“We have spent a lot of time creating our brand personality and use different elements and medias to reinforce this. We find using team members in social media, rather than the company accounts, works particularly well.”

Looking at some of the other methods that Northern Flags has used as part of its wider marketing efforts, Clasper-Cotte offers an interesting example in the form of ‘Action Now’, Northern Flags’ green initiative that has won a number of marketing awards.

This whole campaign, Clasper-Cotte explains, was designed to create a culture internally and drive customers to make their own green strategy by taking ‘Action Now’. Northern Flags supported clients with a multi-media and direct approach strategy that included training, social media, fact sheets, emails, and brochures.

“The whole strategy was around us doing the work to make it easier for our clients to become more environmentally friendly,” Clasper-Cotte says, adding: “This has gained a lot of traction with our trade clients as many do not have the time to research and peel back all the green washing to launch products to assist their clients. Our communication strategy has made this far easier for them.”

Focus your efforts

Elsewhere and laser cutting and engraving systems provider Trotec Laser is also committed to a strong marketing focus. Marketing executive James Hutton says in competitive markets such as signage and print, it is essential for companies to have a robust marketing strategy to distinguish themselves from the competition.

“At face value, many companies can appear similar since the products or services offered often appear interchangeable, with the ultimate buyer decision often coming down to one or two key considerations, such as price,” Hutton says.

“Especially when referencing these industries, visual marketing is essential to highlight the benefits of the products to help businesses stand out from competitors by communicating the real product benefits.

“To be successful, companies have to drive resources to the channels which are most likely to attract the right audience, with activities ranging from social media to more traditional methods like direct mail and tradeshows.”

Hutton goes on to say that without a proper focus on marketing, you limit the potential for business, adding that choosing the right channels to market plays an essential part in a company’s success.

“While it is good to cover a wide range of bases, companies can spread themselves too wide and focus on areas that bring little benefit to their overall activities, taking resources away from avenues that could yield more successful results,” Hutton explains.

“Multi-channel marketing is an essential consideration for all businesses; by focusing on different channels and coordinating marketing efforts across them, you can reach a wider audience with your products and services.

“The key consideration is where your audience is and how their needs can be met with your products. For example, certain customer demographics may be more prevalent on specific social media channels, while others may prefer printed collateral or email marketing.

“Whilst the basic message will be the same, utilising different channels allows you to tailor the message to best suit each market. Doing so not only increases exposure of the brand, but also means you are more likely to attract the right audience.” 

Offering an insight into Trotec’s own marketing efforts, Hutton gives examples of some of the recent initiatives put in place by the business. In 2021, Trotec ran a series of regional roadshows where laser experts visited towns and cities across the UK offering clients the chance to see first-hand the benefits that a laser cutter could bring to their business.

Trotec Laser uses marketing to showcase the benefits of its laser and engraving technology

Though Trotec has six regional showrooms, Hutton said the roadshows gave its experts the chance to meet with clients further afield where a visit to the showroom was not an option, allowing them to get practical, hands-on experience with the machines. This was supported with the addition of online laser demonstrations, allowing the company to reach a further audience.

During the festive season, Trotec also ran its ‘12 days of Christmas’ social media campaign, each day covering a different practical idea for materials that can all be laser cut and used for the craft industry.

“The campaign not only shows how diverse the lasers are in terms of application fields, but also showcases them as a tool only limited by the user’s imagination,” Hutton says, adding: “Many people within this segment of our target audience can be found on Facebook and Instagram and so we chose these channels for this campaign.

“We have also continued to utilise the traditional marketing channels during an uncertain year, including email and print marketing. All of these efforts have allowed us to continue to effectively support our customers and prospects while also successfully raising our company profile.”

Think outside the box

Online printing provider Where The Trade Buys (WTTB) also places a heavy emphasis on the importance of marketing. Emma Thompson, marketing director at WTTB, says if a business wants to improve sales, they will need to put together a sound marketing strategy to support this aim.

Emma Thompson, marketing director at WTTB, says companies should seriously consider multi-channel marketing

“It might be difficult to grow a business and know which marketing methods to adopt, so I would suggest starting with what you have,” Thompson advises, continuing: “What are your strengths, what are you selling, who do you want to sell to, and what financial resources are available to assist you with your road map?

“Think outside the box; wide-format is so versatile and often we only think of the product rather than its usages. Start to think of the environment your products could sit in and be used, and you will be surprised how a simple roller can be utilised from retail sales through to a wedding table plan. Once you think of the usage this will broaden your target market by miles.”

 Thompson goes on to say that the pandemic and the impact it has had on our lifestyle, with digital the new norm for many things, means businesses could have to look at adapting their marketing approach to appeal to consumers.

“As customers search online, digital marketing will become much more crucial, and content marketing will become even more important,” Thompson says, adding: “Passing traffic and word of mouth are no longer viable options; if customers are serious about increasing revenue, marketing is a must for any business.

 “Unfortunately, content marketing is no longer enough; digital marketing must be explored in order to stay ahead of the game and at the forefront of your target audience. What better method to reach customers throughout the day and at any time than through mobile, desktop, email, and online channels?