Tips for Conducting Market Research for Your Print Shop

As digital printing continues to blur the boundaries between different types of print service providers, good market research for your print shop can help protect the viability and profitability of your business. For example, market research can help you identify potential areas of disruption as well as opportunities for expansion. It can help you figure out which types of products and services are likely to be most profitable for your company now and in the future.

Consider these tips when gathering market research.

Establish clear objectives.

The type of research you conduct will depend on your goals. If you are thinking of bringing new capabilities into your print shop, use market research to help gauge whether you can generate sufficient demand to justify the investment. If you are considering opening a facility in another city, do research to identify regional competitors, find potential clients, and understand local restrictions and regulations that could hinder your success.

Decide what type of research will provide the answers you need.

For example, will your business decision require primary research, secondary research, or a combination of the two?

Primary research includes surveys, studies, interviews, observations, and test projects that your company conducts. For example, you could interview a few of your best clients. Or, you could send questionnaires or surveys to get feedback from customers and prospects. Sometimes, it might make sense to hire an independent moderator to lead a focus group of eight to ten potential buyers of types of products you want to sell.  Or, you could simply spend time observing where different types of graphics are used or how your competitors sell to specific groups of people. Test marketing samples of a proposed product can also yield useful information.

Primary market research can help you determine what types of new products your current customers are most likely to buy from you. It can also give you insights about the demographics and preferences of your customers and prospects.

Secondary research is information gathered from other sources, including industry consultants, trade magazines, association reports, government agencies, and conference seminars and panel discussions. Secondary market research is a good way to assess the overall size of different vertical markets and potential for growth or disruption.

Don’t limit your secondary research to printing-industry studies. You should also look for statistics related to the problems and buying practices of professionals in the markets you plan to serve. For example, if a study shows that more B2B buying decisions are made by Millennials, you should tailor your marketing messages and channels to their preferences.

Decide who will conduct the research.

If a business decision involves major expenditures, you may want to hire outside consultants to help with market research. But if the research is fairly basic and straightforward, you could ask someone on your staff (e.g. a business development director) to take charge of the project.

Determine how often the information will be updated.

Because the markets for different types of printed products and visual communications are constantly changing, you can’t always assume that all of the optimistic projections for growth will come to fruition within the anticipated time frame.

Over the past few years, print-industry forecasts have been affected by changes in buyer behavior; disruptive technologies, regulations, and business models; or slowdowns or upticks in the economy. If each market-research report is simply a snapshot of the conditions and attitudes that exist when the data was gathered, plan to update your market research regularly.

Finding the Time.

Reliable market research can help you stay ahead of the curve. It can help you determine how to react to new sources of competition, such as new types of printing businesses or bigger, stronger companies formed through mergers and acquisitions. New well-financed competitors can set up brand-new, highly automated printing businesses without any of the complexities of combining analog and digital processes. These businesses are designed to for mass-customization or print-on-demand production of hundreds of products that can be distributed in nations around the world.

If you haven’t started automating some of your print-shop business-management functions, now is a great time to start. When you streamline routine (but increasingly complex) tasks such as estimating, order management, scheduling, proof approvals, shipping, and invoicing, you will gain more time for market research and business development.A well-executed print-order management system such as Ordant can help you identify and relieve bottlenecks in your existing operations and determine which projects are becoming more or less profitable. It can also help you track customer preferences and communications. To schedule a demonstration of Ordant’s easy-to-use and expandable cloud-based system, system, visit

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