Digital Printing

How to differentiate your business from your competitors

by Mark Coudray | 17/05/2024
How to differentiate your business from your competitors

Mark Coudray shares how print businesses can differentiate themselves from their competitors and emphasizes the importance of adding value to customers. It is important to determine if your customers are "In Market" phase. Having niche expertise facilitates the delivery of multiple value-added services.


In the highly commoditized and price-driven specialty printing world, business owners often struggle to differentiate themselves from their competitors. When customers focus primarily on cost, it can be challenging to stand out and attract loyal clients.

By shifting the focus to adding value for customers beyond the traditional factors of price, quality, and service, printing businesses can create a unique and desirable position in the market. Adding value simply means adding additional goods or services the customer is happily willing to pay for.

Your job begins well before the actual transaction takes place. Understand there are two main considerations when considering a target market. The first is Market Qualified. This means the prospects or leads are capable of fully utilizing your offer AND are capable of growing into the future.

There’s a second critical factor. Are they In Market? This mean they are actively searching for a vendor and are they capable of engaging with you. To fully maximize each opportunity, the strategy is to begin well ahead of the In Market phase.

Building Know, Like, and Trust Prior to Purchase

From the outset, a primary business goal is to differentiate by establishing expertise and building trust with potential customers before they even consider making a purchase. One effective approach is to create educational content, such as social media and blog posts addressing common customer challenges. Whitepapers and Guides showcasing industry trends and solutions also make effective lead magnets to engage prospects.

Providing valuable insight helps to position a business as a knowledgeable leader in the field. Showcasing unique capabilities and processes through case studies and videos demonstrating innovative printing techniques also help businesses stand out from the competition.

Keep in mind, today’s buyer goes right to the internet before they ever contact you. Up to 85% of their homework has already been done before you even speak to them for the first time. They have very likely compared prices between the major online eCommerce suppliers. To be competitive, go beyond the obvious and position yourself by anticipating what the consumer hasn’t thought of.

Becoming a niche expert is a powerful strategy for printing businesses looking to differentiate themselves in a crowded market. When you focus on a specific area, product type, or printing technique, businesses can develop deep expertise and tailor their services to meet the unique needs of their target market.  Your goal is to be considered the “go to” expert for that specialty.

This specialization allows you to provide unmatched value and stand out from generalist competitors who may offer a broader but less specialized range of services. Niche expertise also positions the business as the resource for customers seeking specific solutions, leading to increased brand recognition and customer loyalty.

Keep in mind the definition of a commodity is when a good or service is freely interchangeable between providers with the main decision being price.  When a good or service is generic, it becomes the living definition of a commodity.

Niche expertise directly facilitates the delivery of multiple value-added services. With a deep understanding of their target customers' needs and challenges, a business can offer customized solutions addressing specific pain points.

For example, a business specializing in nontoxic, organic, earth-friendly solutions can focus on sustainability and offer eco-aware solutions and certifications. Niche experts can also provide valuable insights and guidance to their customers, acting as consultants. Being recognized as trusted guides helps customers make informed decisions and optimize their printing strategies. Niche experts can command higher prices, build stronger relationships with their customers, and create a durable competitive advantage in their market.

Nurturing relationships through personalized communication, such as targeted email campaigns based on customer preferences and an engaging social media presence, can further enhance the know, like, and trust factors. This is easily accomplished through the use of drip email marketing that progressively builds knowledge and desire on the part of the target market.

Maximizing Value During the Purchase Phase

During the purchase phase, a printer can differentiate themselves by offering customized solutions tailored to specific customer needs. By taking a consultative approach to understand unique requirements and presenting multiple options with clear benefits, businesses can demonstrate their commitment to meeting individual customer demands. Providing an exceptional customer experience is another key differentiator.

It has been my experience companies simply focus on what the customer is asking for. This is a self-limiting factor that tends to add to the commodification factor.  It is an apples-to-apples comparison that leads directly to price negotiation and the lowest offer.

To combat this, offer at least three levels of quality, service, or both.  For example, UPS and Fed Ex offer premium pricing for faster delivery, or lower economy for longer delivery. Product quality is another important factor. Up to 20% of an order can be at premium or super premium positioning with the bulk of the order at a lower price point.

This works well for garment decorators where the top tier goods go to sponsors, event winners, or owners. One very effective tactic is to let the buyer know the goods reflect their brand and therefore need to align with what the brand stands for. Lowball providers never consider this essential factor.

Dedicated account management build relationship value for seamless communication and a streamlined ordering process. With the massive influence of generative AI, online automations, notification, and tracking are now easily possible. Furthermore, demonstrating environmental and social responsibility through sustainable printing practices and partnerships with local charities can appeal to customers who value corporate social responsibility.

Delivering Value After the Sale

Differentiating a printing business doesn't end with the completed sale. To create lasting value, businesses focus on delivering a smooth and satisfactory experience after the product or service has been delivered. This includes ensuring timely and accurate order fulfillment, providing real-time order tracking and updates, and offering flexible shipping options to meet customer timelines.

Additional ongoing support and maintenance, such as a dedicated customer support hotline and proactive check-ins to address any issues or concerns, can help build long-term relationships.

Offering value-added services, such as design assistance for future projects or storage and inventory management solutions, can further differentiate a business from its competitors. Finally, fostering long-term partnerships through loyalty programs with exclusive benefits and regular customer feedback surveys can drive continuous improvement and create a loyal customer base.


In today’s crowded market, differentiating solely on price, quality, or service is no longer enough. Adding value for customers throughout the entire buyer's journey can create a unique and desirable position in the market. Building know, like, and trust factors before the purchase, maximizing value during the purchase phase, and delivering exceptional value after the sale are all essential strategies for standing out from the competition. Implementing these approaches, can attract and retain loyal customers, ultimately leading to long-term success and growth in a highly competitive industry.

by Mark Coudray Back to News

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