The key to effective strategic vision is to anticipate and capitalize on trends. The SGIA recently shared four important trends for the specialty graphics industry, including ideas on how to take advantage of these unique opportunities.
Data is everywhere, and as you know, we’re research junkies for printing and print-related industries. When we interviewed Ford Bowers, President and CEO of the Specialty Graphics Industry Association (SGIA), we were excited with the data he shared.
Ford provided for us some very exciting news centered around the “democratizing” of the specialty graphics industry. He also shared a powerful case study on how the collaborative power of networks can propel your business to staggering new heights.
What is the SGIA and How Can It Help You Keep Pace?
The success of any printer -- any company -- is the ability to analyze trends, gauge the marketplace, and be proactive.
That doesn’t happen in a vacuum, with you doing the same thing you’ve done, year after year. It happens when an industry shares information and works to make itself better -- together.
The SGIA is a proactive, fast-moving association supporting the leaders of the digital & screen printing community. Their goal is to keep their members informed not only of technologies they can use today, but what they can use in the future.
“We want to help printers be better at what they do,” Ford said. “And we do that by stimulating the forward progress of the industry as a whole in the process of helping out the individual.”
4 Top Trends for the Specialty Graphic Imaging Industry
Before we share with you an example of how a collaborative industry benefitted one of its members, let’s dive into the four big trends the SGIA recently observed.
Every year, the SGIA produces benchmarking reports for its members. Ford looked back at the reports for the last three years, and shared with us the interesting trends.
(Note: The data combines survey results from the Signs and Graphic community and the garment community.)
1. Digital Expansion is Democratizing
Digital expansion in the graphic community has been explosive. “55.8 percent of the graphics markets are now entirely digital in their production technology, up from 36.3 percent in 2013.” Analog-only shops are less than 1 percent.
The garment community did not see as rapid a rise, digital adoption was up 9% to 67.8%, but the entirely digital and entirely analog shops held essentially steady.
The impact is that “digital is democratizing,” as Ford puts it, allowing printers to push into new markets and offer more services because there is less barrier to entry. The data in the next section bears out that theory.
Check out our interview with Ford on what you need to do beyond simply purchasing new digital printing technologies.
2. Less Barriers to Entry = Multiple Markets
Let’s take a look at a data point that illustrates how “digital democratization” has impacted the garment community.
The SGIA tracks 13 different market types (B2C, government, OEM, financial institutions, etc.) In 2013, the customers of garment printers had higher than a 50% penetration among 6 market types. In 2016, all 13 market types had higher than a 50% penetration level.
“The ability to address multiple markets, rather than specializing in only a few, has become a standard strategy over the past four years,” Ford said.
3. Leaning on Internet Marketing More and More
Referrals still rank as the number one method for attracting new customers for both graphics and garment producers, but the numbers for Internet marketing-related efforts saw some significant gains.
For example, on the graphics side, “efforts to improve company website rose to the second spot, up from 51.1 to 80.5, with social media efforts increasing almost threefold from 56.35 of companies putting more focus in this area, up from 22.2%.”
The LaManna Alliance is pleased to see the rise in awareness among SGIA members about the importance of digital marketing, especially because “website and social media efforts have lower incremental cost factors than other traditional methods.”
Websites and social media efforts drive much of our new business; we foresee a greater use of content marketing to drive more sales opportunities, and integrating sales teams into the mix. As Todd Cohen said in a previous post, “it’s all about building your virtual network.”
4. Getting Lean
We’re also pleased to see lean manufacturing and continuous improvement rise to the top of the list as a means to improve productive competitiveness.
Four years ago, Ford notes the top three methods for improving competitive advantage for garment companies was as follows:
- Add new product lines (53.6%)
- Become a one-stop shop (43.3%)
- Staff training (38.1%)
Times have changed, and efficiencies are more critical. The top three are now:
- Lean manufacturing / continuous improvement (56.6%)
- Add new product lines (54.2%)
- Reduce operating costs (51.8%)
Companies such as Delta ModTech have stressed the need for improving changeover times, and we have also shared endless information on lean operations. The payout is so much greater than spending money on new customer acquisition.
Your Competitors Aren’t the Real Competition
With so many new markets being accessed, and so many new marketing and operations strategies to consider, how can you keep up with the Joneses?
As Ford will tell you, it’s the goal of the SGIA to have the Joneses collaborate and share knowledge to keep up with the marketplace. In other words, your peers aren’t your true competition. Your “competition” is finding a way to meet the needs of your customers.
Ford believes that can be accomplished best by networking and learning from your peers. “You can take elements from one person’s approach, and then another person’s approach, and put them together for your business,” he said.
Case Study: Relationships are Currency
To illustrate the power of this open, collaborative approach, Ford shared with us an intriguing case study: Himself.
Ford has a screen printing background, and he previously worked at a company that was 100% analog. Six years later, after interacting with members of SGIA and learning about new possibilities, 75% of the company’s print revenue became digital.
“I’ve sat across the table from some of my largest competitors -- I was always surprised and impressed by how much people are willing to share,” he said.
It illustrates the point Todd Cohen made in our last post: Relationships are currency. Follow Ford’s lead and draw upon the relationships offered by SGIA to learn how to use digital production to expand into multiple markets.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, folks. More importantly, it wasn’t built alone.
Download SGIA’s Research Reports - Special Offer for the LaManna Alliance!
The SGIA has graciously allowed our readers free access for the next 30 days to two of the research reports mentioned in this report. Click below to download:
We also highly recommend you join the SGIA. I’ve been a long-standing member and Ford speaks the truth -- the networking and collaboration is invaluable!