This story is an excerpt from an article which appeared in Sign Builder Illustrated magazine in 2006.
Although digitally-printed textiles currently represent a very small segment of the signage market, manufacturers see the potential of this fast growing market and have invested in developing top coated fabrics for solvent, ecosolvent and UV inkjet printers. While many of these textile substrates are more expensive than vinyl banners, printed fabric banners project an upscale appearance that warrants its higher price.
By adding printed fabric banners to your portfolio of products and services, you make the most of your printer investment, because your equipment can be printing on these additional substrates rather than sitting idle.
Use of fabric media at this time is not widespread. Because very few sign shops are fabricating fabric banners, printing on these textiles provides you with a way to differentiate yourself from other sign shops. By being more flexible in your product offerings, you can provide your customers some unique and creative solutions for their graphics requirements. Because the media is new and unique, profit margins are typically higher for fabric banners than for vinyl banners.
I am a believer in the maxim that the more you tell, the more you sell. But, when selling fabric banners, printed samples and pictures of completed projects are worth a thousand of a salesman’s words. What works for sign shops is to display the printed textiles so they can show and tell their existing customers what is possible. Two of easiest ways for sign makers to grow their business is to increase the unit of sale either by selling additional products and services at the time of a sale and by increasing the frequently of sales to your customer base by offering new products, such as textile banners.
Selling more to your current customer base is much easier than finding new customers. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with expanding your base of customers. Selling printed fabric banners can open the doors to opportunities in other markets, such as advertising agencies, museums, airports, architects and designers.
Lightweight vinyl banners and fabric are excellent choices for general purpose interior applications, such as Point-Of-Purchase banners and tradeshow signs. The smooth finishes of vinyl banner materials and top-coated fabrics are perfectly suited for printing high-resolution photographic images.
Banners can be used for cost effective product promotions, complementing advertising messages and marketing themes. By reinforcing an advertising message, POP signage entices the consumer to make a buying decision on the spot. According to POPAI, the international trade association for the Point-Of-Purchase industry, 70% of purchases are impulse buys.
After you complete a banner, take a photo of it for your portfolio. With a picture of a past job you can show a prospect what is possible. By doing that, you can “sell up”. Instead of black letters on a white background, you can now sell the customer on the idea of digital images or cartoon elements, airbrushing, etc. As you add design elements, you add to the uniqueness, visual impact and most importantly value, which all add to the selling price.
Sales opportunities for sign makers are not limited to retail graphics. Other opportunities include banners for tradeshows, airport graphics, museum graphics, backgrounds for theater performances and signage for sporting events.
In addition to commercial applications, banners can serve a decorative function, complementing and enhancing the décor and ambiance of an interior environment, such as a restaurant, museum, airport, or shopping mall. Various colors and the soft textures of fabric can effectively soften the hard edge of a sterile commercial space, brightening and warming the atmosphere.
In January of 2005, environmental artist, Christo, displayed over 7,500 saffron yellow banners, called “The Gates”, along the paths of New York’s Central Park. Like it or not, and many didn’t, the flowing, colorful fabric banners made viewers of his artistic statement more aware of their environment and elicited an emotional response. And that was part of his message. Color doesn’t communicate intellectually; it communicates emotionally – right at gut level.