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Dale Salamacha Discusses Marketing Your Vinyl-Wrap Shop

You know who your best customers are; look in similar markets

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How do those us of in the sign business gain more business? Is it the same for us as it would be for, say, an electrician or a restaurateur? Or, is it slightly different? Let’s examine some tried-and-true, business-promotional tools, and decide how the sign industry may have some advantages or challenges.

First, business owners must ask themselves a simple question: “Do I WANT more business”? That may seem like a pretty ridiculous question – who doesn’t want more business, right? Well, consider it from a different perspective. Can you actually handle more business? Do you have the facility, the manpower and the equipment you need to grow? Are you willing to make the investments that this growth will require? It’s important to consider what growth would mean for you, your staff and your current clients.

The good, the bad and the…
I’m sure we can all agree there are two types of business: good and, well, the other kind. Good business brings you clients with whom you enjoy working, those who’ve stuck with you through thick and thin for years. They appreciate your service and pay on time. These are the clients we love to keep happy. And if you are a good businessman, you will do everything in your power to keep them coming back to purchase more signs.

Unfortunately, you also have not-so-good business. These are PITA clients – that means a type of posterior pain, not Middle Eastern bread. You can’t help but wince thinking about customers who always try to get you to cut pricing and constantly shop around for a better deal. And, of course, these same clients complain the most and drag out payment well beyond terms. If you want to increase your clients who appreciate your business, you must look at the elements that make a good client, opposed to one with whom you don’t want to do business.

In general terms, the saying “The customer is always right” is a good rule, but I believe it only applies to customers with whom you’re already working. It doesn’t apply to new business. If you want to be successful, you have to target your ideal customer, and avoid the “price monsters” – those who care only about having cheap work done for them – you don’t want.

The 80/20 rule
Remember the Pareto Principle. The Pareto principle was originally suggested in 1941 by management consultant Joseph M. Juran. He named this principle after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto who, back in 1896, published a paper which stated that approximately 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. He furthered this idea by examining income and wealth distribution among the population. It held true; 80% of the money was controlled by 20% of the people.

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Today, the Pareto Principle remains a good rule of thumb for business; 80% of a company’s income comes from 20% of its clients. Essentially, approximately 20% of your clients generate the majority of your business and subsequent income. Keep these clients and pursue others like them. Don’t even stress over the other 80%. Does that mean you ignore 80% of your current and potential clients? Not at all. But, when looking to increase your sales, go after similar types of clients who are ambitious to grow and make significant investments with their signage.

Do you have a client list? Do you review it regularly? If not, open up QuickBooks and make a printout of all clients you’ve served in the past year. Print a list in numerical order based on how much they’ve spent with you over the past year. You’ll instantly know who your biggest clients are. You probably already know, but it helps to back up your theory with a sound financial analysis. Some results may even surprise you. We do this every quarter to gauge which clients should receive the most attention.

After you make this QuickBooks report, review your Top-10 customers. Maintain strong ties with these “hero” clients. At Media 1/Wrap This!, most of our income stems from a list of Top-15 clients. After those top 15, our list rapidly decreases in sales volume. These are your hero clients, the clients you want to pursue, because they give you the most money.

What industries represent your biggest spenders? Real estate? Pest control? Restaurants? Service work? Go after these specific industries, not only because they are spending more money, but also because you are already great at servicing this particular business segment.

Let me give you an example: Here in sunny, bug-infested Orlando, FL, pest-control and lawn-fertilization companies comprise a huge part of our business. Our biggest fleet-wrap client maintains a fleet of 1,600 vehicles! Air-conditioning service and installation is also in great demand here. These are big accounts, because they maintain massive fleets; every single truck or van serves as a “rolling billboard” to publicize their names.
Naturally, we target our advertising toward other companies that do this same type of work. In this way, you can aggressively target whatever industry already provides your best work.

If you want to increase revenue, study your client list and design customized marketing plans based on your findings. No need to reinvent the wheel; you’re an industry leader in one or more fields. Do you specialize in printing fleet wraps? Pursue clients that buy a lot of vehicles. Visit dealerships that sell a lot of work trucks and vans. They serve a captive audience that buys vans in need of graphics. Are you better at small-scale wrap projects, such as a landscaper with a trailer or two? Look for ways to capture that audience. Visit your local lawn- and irrigation-supply shops. Try to set up a small display in the shop advertising your work. Leave cards with their sales guys and give them $50 kickbacks when they send you a client. That goes a long way to keep them referring you!

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Become an ad agency
The lead-in header statement on our company brochure reads: “An Advertising Firm Specializing in Custom Signage & Vehicle Graphics”.
An advertising firm? Of course we are! Not in the traditional sense, but it’s what every signshop does. We create advertising for other businesses.
If we provide this service daily to clients, it should be easy to create ads for ourselves, right? Not necessarily. When you wear so many different hats, it can be hard to define yourself. Sure, we design wrap campaigns for real-estate agents and their vans, for example. But, designing a wrap for your own shop may cause some aggravation. Typically, we’re so immersed in our own company functions, it’s hard to look at your business like an outsider.

Step back from your day-to-day duties, and, armed with your top-client list, ask yourself why particular companies and industries work with you. Why do you excel in serving this segment? Take some time with this; ponder over what makes you special to this type of client. Filter your answers to two or three specific reasons. Maybe you work faster, better or more cheaply than your competition. Maybe your equipment is superior, or you offer a specialty product no competitors can match. Whatever it is, figure it out. You’ll create the perfect springboard for a new ad campaign.

Now that you’ve pinpointed your ideal clients, we’ll next look into some specific advertising avenues we can use to attract more of them!
 

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