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August 9, 2023

3 Key Tips for 5 Vertical Markets

# Vertical Markets

Tips for succeeding in the financial, retail, medical, hospitality and non-profit markets

Printers have the ability to go after as much business as they can, from wherever they can get it. But some are discovering that “being all things to all people” isn’t optimal. Instead, they’re focusing on clients and prospects in specific vertical markets.


A recent Keypoint Intelligence survey found that a little over one-third of print providers now have a vertical market focus. These printers don’t want to cast a wide net when aiming for new business; they want to throw darts at specific targets that best match their capabilities and past successes.

Post-pandemic, is the strategy too risky? Are end users in vertical markets really noticing and rewarding them with business? Is the decision to be a specialist instead of a generalist worthwhile? 

“I think most of us are sitting on a goldmine of untapped vertical market business,” says Doug Traxler, CEO of SLWM (formerly WebbMason Marketing), based in Hunt Valley, MD, USA. “We should all be using our natural expertise in certain industries as a basis for an effective vertical market strategy. We should analyze our current customer base, determine why certain clusters of clients rely on us and align well with our offerings, and then go after more businesses that fit our strengths. It makes more sense to go after business while armed with great stories to tell. We all have an opportunity to build a vertical market strategy around our sweet spots.”

Snapshot of 5 Sectors: What to Keep in Mind

It makes sense that brands prefer to work with printers who can talk their language and understand the nuances of their niche. For print company owners and salespeople, that might mean staying updated on changing regulations in the financial sector, or anticipating the seasonal marketing needs of retail stores, or following the data security protocols of health care institutions.

If you’re thinking about sharpening your focus and leveraging past success with clients in key verticals, here are three tips to embrace in the financial, retail, medical, hospitality and non-profit markets:

Financial: Become the Asset

There are about 11,000 banks and savings institutions and 12,000 credit unions in the United States, according to the FDIC. The market is big but complex, and if you don’t have a keen understanding of the industry, you’re probably just selling products instead of building relationships. 

The market is ripe for printers who can …

  1. Track frequently changing regulations. Staying current on banking industry trends and regulations can be daunting. One printer recently hired a law firm in Boston to inform the company when legislation has changed, so the printer could prove its knowledge during client review meetings.
  2. Act like a bank’s internal purchasing department. Providing value-added services such as warehousing, fulfillment, cost-center accounting and automatic shipments goes a long way in this niche.
  3. Offer training seminars. Consider holding seminars for clients on topics such as cross-selling. When a loan officer receives a car loan application and he or she pulls the consumer’s credit report, the loan officer may notice the person has a credit card with another institution. Your training could help the loan officer get that customer to leave with two loans or credit lines instead of one.

Retail: Keep the Customer Satisfied

The pandemic hasn’t made it easier to sell printed products to stores, but some printers are succeeding in the market, especially ones who focus on helping retailers promote their brands and win back business. 

Even before the pandemic and economic turmoil, brick-and-mortar retailers had been fighting a fierce battle against Amazon and other e-commerce players. Those challenges have now accelerated.

Recent surveys from McKinsey and others show that consumers are likely to keep the behaviors they’ve adopted amid stay-at-home orders, such as more online shopping and fewer mall visits. But retailers still have basic needs that print often solves: attract people and keep them coming back.

From boutiques to big-box stores, the market has room for fast, marketing-minded printers who can…

  1. Handle constant change. Purchasing agents frequently relocate, bosses frequently alter selling strategies and stores frequently go out of business. You can’t help stores make money unless you can turn on a dime.
  2. Help clients establish and protect branding. Retail firms want to distinguish themselves from competitors, so printers must win over marketing personnel to gain accounts. This often stipulates the need for creative professionals such as graphic designers and copywriters, and technology that centralizes purchasing and features customizable administrative controls.
  3. Offer new ways to help them target customers. Supermarkets and department stores spend millions on advertising based on the fact that a consumer’s business isn’t guaranteed. For printers, fierce competition among retailers means opportunities to provide products and services designed to retain customers, including direct mail with personalized URL programs, social media strategies and more.

Medical: Promotion Is This Market’s Oxygen

Walk into a typical hospital, doctor’s office, nursing home or laboratory, and patients are moving, papers are shuffling and staff members are scrambling. For printers targeting the health care market, all that busy-ness means lots of business. 

Time-strapped, patient-focused healthcare organizations crave a strong dose of expertise — consultants who understand the needs of the market, and can deliver materials that keep processes efficient, patient information safe and documents protected. 

“The head of the hospital’s admittance department isn’t looking for a ‘printer’ as much as he or she is looking for a company whose documents and labels can keep patient information safe, the hospital HIPAA-compliant, the workflow process efficient and spending in line with a group purchasing contract,” Doug says.

When seeking to enter (or penetrate) the medical market, you should…

  1. Consider yourself an information mover. When department leaders and staff workers gather, process, transfer, share and retrieve information quickly and safely, the organization stays on time and in compliance with federal and state regulations. Information regarding patient care, drug usage, lab tests and more is critical, and so are the ways that information moves — chain of custody forms, physician’s orders, prescription pads, pharmacy labels and much more. These products should be designed to accept, transfer and allow for the immediate retrieval of sensitive information, whether the data is entered manually or digitally.
  2. Ensure compliance with print-on-demand solutions. The CEO of Johns Hopkins’ Healthcare unit recently oversaw the rollout of prescriptions pads that needed to adhere to state and government regulations. He soon realized that nearly half of the organization’s pads were non-compliant. Those pads weren’t being printed on tamper-resistant paper, and they were often lying around medical facilities unsecured, among other issues. To fix the issue, the CEO chose to convert several applications — including prescription pads — to print-on-demand. Johns Hopkins’ Healthcare unit now customizes its pads with variable information, and therefore can make copy and image changes quickly when regulations change.
  3. Think like an advertising agency. In an industry where every brochure, health information booklet or other specialty publication is a potential foot in the door for printers, the more you can think and act like a seasoned health publisher, the better. They need marketing pieces that reflect their styles and services while explaining medical conditions and procedures in simple terms. Many practices market themselves with packages that include personalized letters, outgoing envelopes, business reply devices, brochures and more. 

Hospitality: There’s Vacancy for Consultants

The industry is hyper-focused on sales and service efforts to its own clients and prospects. That should serve as flashing neon “Welcome” sign to printers, who essentially are in the same business — sales and service. 

The market is ripe for printers who can…

  1. Help clients increase consumer activism. Travelers aren’t just looking for low prices; they’re searching for perks. More hotels, resorts and restaurants and casinos are setting up preferred guest or reward programs. Printers serving these clients sell membership cards, including cards with mag stripes to track guests’ reward levels, plus the material mailed about their accounts.
  2. Understand and track data. Collateral marketing materials and personalized direct mail pieces can be customized to recipients based on their buying habits. Helping hospitality firms gather and track data can help them deliver the right message on the right platform at the right times to strengthen relationships with their customers. Do you have the right process for interpreting consumer data? What good are numbers and percentages unless they help make you smarter, more effective and more responsive?
  3. Provide website design and maintenance. There’s a growing need for printers to provide interactive sites that are optimized for search engines and encourage customer interaction.

Non-Profits: High Value on Time-Sensitive Direct Mail

Non-profits are numerous, influential and wide-ranging. Led by behemoths like United Way and Make-a-Wish Foundation, they account for more than 5% of the United States’ GDP. But non-profits (denoted by their tax-exempt status) also include groups like trade associations, alumni associations, private foundations, charitable groups, churches, labor unions, political organizations and many others. 

Those groups differ by topic, scope and size, but most of them share a similar outlook and goals — engage current members, attract new ones, communicate to the public and raise funds.

As printers targeting non-profits can attest, “non-profit” doesn’t not mean these organizations don’t care about revenue. They don’t exist to make money for owners or investors, but many generate revenue by charging fees for the services they provide, earning interest on investments, or producing and selling goods. It’s a ripe market for printers who can help non-profits communicate in a way that generates attention and donations.

  1. Focus on direct mail but think beyond products. Time-sensitive direct mail is a mainstay for non-profits that want to reach the public and gain support. The product category can also include a variety of associated printed pieces printers can sell, including catalogs, cards, letters, brochures, pamphlets and promotional items. But successful printers in the non-profit sector think beyond printed products. One printerresearches and provides mailing lists tailored for its non-profit clients. It also concentrates on design, keeping the client’s budget in mind: What will the package look like? Should it be a self-mailer? A box? Non-profits appreciate the thinking that goes into product and design decisions.
  2. Be ready to discuss budgets upfront, and build relationship beyond the print buyer. For every Salvation Army, there are thousands of small organizations with great intentions but small budgets. Depending on the size of the organization, the person or team in charge of print is likely your best bet, but purchasing authority varies. Don’t discount building relationships with the communications director, director of member services, director of public affairs and vice president of communications.
  3. Educate clients on personalization. Not all members and donors are made the same. Many non-profits are segmenting their lists in sophisticated ways — for example, they might want to send materials only to retirees who have a history of increased giving over the last five years. The ability to personalize text and images in communications to individual recipients is extremely important to non-profits, empowering them to personalize donor appeals, invitations, newsletters, brochures, labels, management reports, customer statements and more.

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