3 Ways to Pivot your Business in order to Thrive in 2020

 approx 11 minute read

There is no doubt that it is hard to be a business in 2020. Covid doesn’t care if you own a printing company, a leisure centre or a dental practice. The global pandemic has torn up KPIs, targets and strategies relating to 2020. Balance sheets have been wiped. In the same week that hairdressers and pubs re-opened, Boots and John Lewis announced store cuts with the loss of thousands of jobs. Every company in every sector, big and small, is being forced to pivot their business and adapt. Does it come down to survival of the fittest? An evolution of sorts where those that are able to flex and change will be the businesses left standing? As Charles Darwin once said in his Origin of Species, “the species that survives is the one that is able to adapt to and to adjust best to the changing environment in which it finds itself”.

This evolution is something that the print industry is already experiencing. It started years ago, albeit Covid has expedited the process. With more of the market moving online, paper prices rising and margins being tightened, the print industry has been waging its own war for some time. And there have been casualties. 

Do I need to pivot my business?

The reality is that printers must pivot to satisfy new landscapes. Clients want more. They wanted more pre-Covid but they certainly want more post-Covid. Print is still a massively important part of the client’s marketing mix. Some think print is dead. But it’s a medium that makes you feel. It’s emotionful. It’s tangible, it’s exciting and it’s memorable. Think of how you felt when you got your last stamp on your loyalty card that had been in your wallet since 2018. Waiting for the moment when that free latte would be yours. Or when you received your wedding invitations, proudly keeping a copy for yourself as a memento. When you gave away your first business card after opening your new company. Print will always exist and it will always be ‘of the moment’. 

But it’s getting harder for printers to provide just print. 

And because of Covid, more of the print companies that were surviving, are now in danger. A study undertaken by the BPIF and published in Printweek in May revealed that 13% of respondents “are not expecting their demand levels to recover until January 2021, with a further pushing it out until April 2021”. Over 27% stated that they felt recovery would take more than a year.

So in this article, we’ll be looking at the top 3 ways printing companies, print shops and print resellers should be looking to pivot their business in order to not only survive 2020, but to future-proof themselves for the foreseeable future.

1. One ring source to bind them

Think back to print shops ten years ago. When the ‘thing’ that clients wanted most was a set of business cards and 5,000 flyers. A brief design consultation would be followed by payment and the client would await a proof. Sounds simple right? A client wanting print from a printer? But fast forward to 2013 / 2014 and clients began to ask for help with websites, signage, something they could take to their exhibition. Print was still on their priority list but it wasn’t top.

Take a look at these pie-charts from Nettl’s company-owned web, print and signs studios.

Back in 2015, 75% of Nettl’s company-owned print and design studios’ revenue came from print projects. In April of this year, print made up just 11% of revenue with web bringing in the most sales, closely followed by signage. You could argue that Coronavirus has had a significant impact here. With businesses closing their doors and working from home, clients have less need for print. But look at where clients are buying websites from, despite Covid-19. The same graphics business who supplies them with their business cards and flyers. These businesses that were printers before they pivoted had 61% of their revenue come from web design and SEO.

What would the impact have been on that business if they had turned the client away when they asked for a website or digital marketing? Perhaps the client would have taken their work elsewhere. To a kid who is good with computers who can send print files to an online supplier. Or to a marketing agency who has in-house digital print equipment. According to Web FX, 73% of companies allocate marketing budgets to ensure that the way their brand is presented online differentiates it from competitors. 

How do I become the primary creative source to clients?

Printers must pivot to satisfy this digital landscape and an increasing demand from clients for an online presence. 

That is why printers must diversify their product offering. They must become the sole creative source for all of their clients’ needs. This will maximise both client retention and acquisition. Printers have long held the creative trust of their clients and this is something easily leveraged. The same skill-set required to design a leaflet can be used to design and build a website. Partnerships like Nettl help to up-skill in-house graphic design teams so printers can use existing staff to diversify their services list. 

2. Get yourself online, extra points if you can sell online

Between April 7th and September 30th, the Irish government is offering businesses grants of up to €2500 to spend on an e-commerce website. More details on that can be found here. The grant highlights the importance of having  an online presence. (And it’s a great sales tool – if you can offer websites, what a great client conversation starter?!)

The way consumers research has changed

Printers have typically had a retail focus, used to welcoming clients through the door with an array of samples and prototypes. In-house graphic designers ready and eager to sketch out a brief. But before any of that happens, the client needs to find you. Do some research. Check out local reviews. And that’s no longer done face-to-face. It’s done online. According to this blog published by mention, 90% of shoppers read at least one online review before deciding to visit a business. But if you don’t have a website, you don’t have any reviews. Your competitor down the road might though. You can discover more tips and ideas about how you can effectively manage customer experience in this blog.

This is also true of home-studios or print resellers who work in serviced offices. A bundle of good reviews will give the client confidence to meet you, regardless of your business profile and where your base is. Encourage customers to leave you a review after receiving their order and make sure you’re visible on social media.

More powerful still is the ability to sell online. And if you’re a printer or a print reseller, it’s likely you have an array of products to show-off. The Office for National Statistics reported that “online sales as a proportion of all retailing reached a record high of 22.3% in March 2020 as consumers switched to online purchasing following the pandemic”. Although that was a direct result of Coronavirus, the print market has been moving more and more online since the launch of Vistaprint’s web-based model in 1999. Printing.com launched its online channel in 2000 and its w3p software processes circa 1,000 orders a day nationally from printing.com and Nettl studios.

How can an online presence improve by print business?

Picture this. It’s a Saturday morning, 8am to be exact. After a busy week of homeschooling the kids, your client has a peaceful hour to herself whilst said kiddos are out for a walk. Your client runs her own business and it’s been hard to find the time to think about marketing. She browses the internet, searching for ‘back to work Covid essentials’. If she had the ability to view your prices, transact with you online, and receive an order confirmation automatically, you could have made £145 before your second breakfast. 

Nettl’s w3p software

3. Promote yourself as the local expert

Clients have never been happier to shop locally. And they’re being actively encouraged to do so. According to analysts Kantar, small local shops have benefited massively from clients switching buying habits. The print industry must take advantage of this. Printers and print resellers are rooted in communities with strong ties to local schools, charities and businesses. Make yourself approachable and well known. Having a retail unit is not essential. Get networking, market your business as the go to local expert for all things creative. 

How do I position myself as an expert?

Nettl partners, (web, print and signs studios located in most UK towns and cities), started a  ‘local businesses support website’ initiative to help promote companies in their communities during Covid-19. For many Nettls, the websites became a source of lead generation as well as good karma. Businesses were encouraged to become ‘listed’ on their local town website and promote the ways in which they were still operational. Think butchers offering home deliveries, nail salons asking for gift voucher donations. Printers have long been responsible for helping others to market themselves. But they must practice what they preach. Because who will the butchers and the nail salons turn to when they need social distancing floor stickers and face-masks? The local printer who helped them out when times were tough. And who knows when the schools are going back. And which pub has the best beer garden.

Example of a local business support website powered by Nettl of Dublin

Beyond these initiatives, Nettl has helped these businesses strengthen their brand presence, online and offline, maintaining consistency of brand and voice. Nettl studios who were once the printer can now help their clients to grow in every sense. Brand their business. Launch a website. Book and sell online. Optimise that website to rank on Google with SEO. Design and print marketing collateral to promote and share insight. Design, produce and install signage. What was once your printer, is now your partner. Helping clients get more customers. Which do you think is better positioned as the local expert?

Takeaways of how to pivot your print business to survive 2020

According to neconnected.com, almost two thirds of the print industry executives “are facing a crisis and around three percent are facing critical impact. Almost half of them agree upon the fact that covid 19 has caused major and significant market disruptions”. There are many takeaways from this article but the biggest is that printers must recognise the shifting landscape of their industry and that clients require a new level of satisfaction. Covid-19 has accelerated new habits and reinforced the idea that print is not enough on its own. It must be sold as an offer amongst other offerings. In the same way as McDonalds’ clerks ask consumers “would you like fries with that”, printers must get used to asking “would you like print with that” as an up-sell to a website or signage project. Or “would you like a website with that” as a cross-sell to a print campaign. 

Printers must pivot their businesses in order to survive the global pandemic but the 3 tips mentioned above will only help if they are used long term. Clients wanting everything from one place, wanting to browse and buy online and wanting to  buy local are trends that are not going to disappear. 

If you’re a printer or a print reseller, you can discover more information on how Nettl’s brand partnership models can help your business to pivot to satisfy new client landscapes. 

If you’re in the graphics, signs and print industry and are looking to diversify your offering with web design, digital marketing, signs or fabric, Nettl partners can help you begin your journey with marketing, training and custom built CRM systems to make your dream a web design reality. Take a read here to learn more or drop a message to our Nettl team.