Seven Big Questions Answered at SGIA Expo

Posted by Rock LaManna


What you learn in Vegas doesn’t always have to stay in Vegas.  Take the 2012 Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (SGIA) Expo held October 18-20 in Las Vegas.  I had seven big questions answered, and I want to share them with you.

1. Why should you go to events like the SGIA Expo?  
Whether the SGIA did a great job marketing its Expo (it did), or our industry is growing, this show boasted some big numbers.  They include:

Total Registrants: More than 22,000

Total Number of Exhibitors: 529

Percentage of First-Time Attendees: 38%

Total Size of the 2012 SGIA Expo Floor: Approximately 230,500 square feet.

Registrants from Top Five US States:

1. California
2. Nevada
3. Texas
4. Illinois
5. Arizona

Top Country for Registrants (excluding the US): Canada

Overall International Registrants: 18.5% of total registrants


In 2013, SGIA will co-locate their event at the Orange County Convention Center with IFAI Expo Americas.  They expect their numbers to swell to 25,000 visitors and 900 exhibitors.

The takeaway is that if face-to-face networking still matters in this day and age (and it surely does), then based on the sheer numbers, this is a great show to make new contacts.

2. What’s up with the industry?  
After attending a number of interesting seminars and meeting with a variety of business owners, the outlook is good for the industry – that is, if you are changing to meet the needs of the marketplace.

My contacts are all expecting growth over 2012.  The last three years of sales growth are at a minimum of 10-35% per year for many of these organizations.  

There are new rules, new strategies, and new niches – the only “old” concept is that you must continue to change to keep pace with your competition.  You must also find a way to get top talent to keep up with growth trends.

3. What are the hot new trends? 
The big talk was regarding the use of data.  How to measure it, how to strategize around it, when to take action.  I did a post on Big Data last week; this is certainly a timely topic.  

In terms of hot new products, check out the 2012 Product of Year winners for a list of who is innovating:
  • Digital Inks: Hewlett Packard Company Latex Inks
  • Media Vinyl: Dreamscape Silver Flash
  • Media Films: Continental Grafix HydroSol 205STLR
  • Media Textile: Pacific Coast Fabrics Deko-Green 7058RCFLBS
  • Media Rigid: Horizons Imaging Systems Group AlumaJet
  • Finishing Display Exhibit Hardware: Visual Magnetics VM-InvisiLock-30HP
  • Finishing-Laminates, Adhesives, Films, Coatings: FLEXcon FLEXmark floor art OV6604 (Safari Overlaminate)
  • Finishing Equipment: MCT MasterCut Digital Finishing System
  • Poster Size - Solvent/Latex Printers <96'': Mutoh America Inc: ValueJet1638
  • Flatbed Rigid Substrate UV <$200K MSRP: Oce Arizona Graphics Systems Arizona 480 GT
  • Flatbed Rigid Substrate UV >$200K MSRP: Durst Image Technology US LLC Durst Rho P10 250
  • Flatbed Rigid White Ink UV <$200K MSRP: Hewlett Packard Company Scitex FB500
  • Grand Format R to R Solvent & Latex Inks: Mutoh America Inc ValueJet 2638
  • Media Non PVC (Non-woven): FLEXcon COUNTERdeco Advertising System non-vinyl, FDA Indirect Food Compliant
  • Media Vinyl (Pressure Sensitive): Continental Grafix panoRama 1520

The 2012 Golden Image Award Winners were also a treat for the eyes.  They covered almost “every item, no matter how complex, created by specialty imaging.”  I pulled a few award winners from their website; click here to see more winners.  

Finished Garments (Dark)
Campus Collection
Elvis at 21 Going Home

Elvis at 21


Unique Applications (Digital Entries)
Build a Birdhouse
Creative Birdhouses

Creative Birdhouses resized 600


Fleet Markings (Multisheet) Digital Entries
Classic Stripes Pvt Ltd.
Volkswagen Polo Cup TSI Car

Volkswagen Polo Cup TSI Car resized 600

Beyond the Expo, you may also want to check out SGIA’s 2012 Market Trends and Product Specialties Benchmarking Report (only available to SGIA members).  Here’s a brief excerpt posted on their website regarding the report:

Nearly 70 percent of companies reported they are exclusively digital or are multi-technology shops favoring digital solutions. While almost 11 percent of the industry sees screen printing as its core technology, the number of companies using screen printing exclusively stands at just one percent.

When it comes to markets, retail and corporate branding continue to be core areas of opportunity for graphics and sign companies.

On the garment side, screen printing technology continues to be a mainstay for garment decoration companies, however, a broad range of digital printing technologies are being adopted. Nearly 65 percent of companies report themselves as multi-technology using mostly screen printing or multi-process with no single process dominant.

Athletic teams, educational institutions and nonprofits are the top markets for garment decoration companies. Each of these markets is served by 70 percent of companies.
The full report, free to SGIA members, provides additional information about:

  • Markets and market expectations
  • Year-to-Year comparisons of product areas served
  • Top business concerns
  • Details about post-production services offered and acquired

4. What is scaring people these days?  
That’s simple:  Marketing and social media.

Many owners are like a deer in the headlights when it comes to social media and content/inbound marketing.  As a proponent and user of the technique, I feel it’s an invaluable way to share your expertise and your knowledge with the community at large.  

However, I met many business owners who shrugged their shoulders at the whole concept, and pined for days of old.  It’s too bad.  To paraphrase Springsteen, “Those (days) are gone boys, and they ain’t coming back.”

5. What is delighting people these days?   
That’s simple:  Marketing and social media.

While traditional “outbound” marketing continues to play a role in the marketing mix, it’s the inbounders who truly are seizing the day.  The people with the excited gleam in their eyes were the people jumping all over the new online opportunities, and finding innovative ways to use it and help their business.

Here’s a great slideshare on inbound marketing from HubSpot:

6. What was an unexpected trend discovered at the SGIA?  
It’s funny, but with all the focus on Big Data and new social media marketing tactics, I kept hearing ongoing discussions about family businesses.

My industry background is based on a family-owned operation, so perhaps I have a keen ear for the topic.  But there was no mistaking the amount of frustration I heard in the voices of many attendees over their inability to move past family problems that were suffocating their business.

I arrived at the SGIA ready to talk more about financials than family.  The presentation I gave touched on the three paths a business owner can take.  These include investing internally (organic growth), expanding externally (mergers and acquisition, strategic alliances), or exit eventually (exiting and succession plans). It detailed how financials can indicate which path you should follow, and how to tap into the metrics on a regular basis.

Yet I was surprised how many people wanted to deal with the qualitative issues associated with the family business, and less with their bottom line.  Unfortunately, many didn’t see how the two are invariably linked.

7. What can someone do to make the most of the SGIA Expo?  
Some may consider this year’s SGIA Expo to be the greatest of all time.  Other may consider it the worst.  Based on your perspective and your approach to trade shows, both opinions may be right.

On the bright side, a world-class facility and a crowd of 23,000 couldn’t possibly be beat.   If you came with goals in mind – attend education sessions, make new contacts, meet with current contacts – then things probably went well for you.

If you didn’t, you probably put yourself in a position to lose.  And that’s what many did. You can’t let an event like the SGIA Expo happen to you.  You have to pull what you need out the event.  Here are some ways you can make a trade show pay off.

As for me, I presented at the SGIA Expo and made some amazing contacts.  A big shout-out to my friends at the SGIA, my clients, old (and new) friends at Vomela, and Immedia.  Special recognition to 3M, who had one of the best booths on the floor and staffed it with people very much in the know.

And, of course, a special thanks to the folks who attended my session.  A lot of great questions, a lot of interesting conversation.


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Topics: Printing Industry