In December, lots of trends and predictions are published in various newsletters, magazines, and blogs. Your print shop management team can learn a lot by collecting and discussing these articles - especially those related to the future of marketing, advertising, retailing, entrepreneurship, decor, publishing, branding, and small business.

Predictions that guide your customers’ businesses could eventually affect your own printing business, whether you produce marketing collateral, retail signage, catalogs, books, decorated apparel, promotional products, photographic prints, art, and/or decor products. Some trends might create new opportunities to sell short runs of customized products. Other trends might soften the demand for your existing product line.

In any case, keeping up with trends that affect your customers enables your sales team to sound knowledgeable when asked about topics such as experiential graphics, sustainable sourcing, or subscription-box package printing.

As you gather insights about how different markets are expected to evolve, ask your print management team these questions:

For example, special events and brand experiences have become a popular form of brand marketing. New agencies specialize in creating immersive, multi-sensory experiences that will be so remarkable that attendees will share photos on Instagram or Facebook.

Has your shop seen an uptick in demand for event graphics, backdrops, or printing of unusual objects? Designers of experiential graphics might ask your print shop to decorate objects or backgrounds that can be used to stage special events.

For example: Should you consider printing custom labels or packaging? Could you wrap surfaces other than vehicles? Are you fulfilling web-to-print orders for customized garments, home goods, or awards?

Once you have tested your ability to pint and convert new types of finished products, publicize your capabilities through blog posts, newsletters, and social media. Send samples to new types of creative-services agencies that are involved in creating branded environments and experiences.

For example, what steps has your shop taken to respond to the increased use of digital signage in outdoor advertising or the decreasing need for point-of-purchase signage in retail stores? What other types of products can your shop produce with your existing digital printing equipment? Printing industry trade shows feature all sorts of innovative materials that can be converted into new products with popular types of digital presses and wide-format printers.

Not all trends will catch on in every region of the U.S. And many trends don’t spread as quickly as some analysts predict. Your print shop management team will have to assess which trends might have the greatest immediate impact on your business and which ones are likely to develop more slowly. You can seek insights from your current customers or visit a few regional or national trade shows that your customers attend.

Definitely. It will show that your shop is prepared to help customers meet new challenges. And, when you are the first in your area to promote new types of graphics or printing services, you can charge a premium for those products.

Encourage your design team to create a few sample products that reflect your knowledge of emerging trends. Then photograph the items and spread the word. For example, if you typically use fabrics to make trade-show graphics, show how printed fabrics might be used for non-promotional purposes such as backdrops, decor, or  branded environments. Make designers aware that your shop has the capability to produce graphics for all types of events and experiences.

Keeping up with trends and creating sample products can be time-consuming. But marketing managers and designers are always looking for fresh, inspiring ideas. If your staff keeps up with emerging trends, your business can continue to offer the types of products buyers need and want. Otherwise, new generations of customers will regard your business as out of touch and unaware that printing needs have shifted.

Automation Provides Time and Data

Your staff won’t have time to study trends if they are bogged down with repetitive tasks that could easily be handling by a modern Print MIS program such as Ordant software.

An easy-to-use estimating and order management system such as Ordant software can help your team efficiently manage the thousands of details associated with everyday operations. It can give your staff more time to devise the updated product lines and marketing strategies your shop will need to evolve..

Data from your print management software can also help your team analyze which pieces of equipment are under-utilized and which types of products are gaining popularity. When combined with your awareness of emerging trends, this data can help your print shop management team make strategic decisions about equipment purchases and marketing strategies for the next year or two. To schedule a demo of Ordant software, visit www.ordant.com