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Business + Management: Marty Mcghie

Finding Specialty Niches

There's more to vinyl graphics than vehicle wraps.



By now, we all know that the vehicle-graphics market has officially exploded. You cannot drive in your city or town without seeing some type of graphic solution on a vehicle. There are more options than ever before for producers and clients alike.
But wraps have moved beyond vehicles. Today, you can “wrap” floors, sidewalks, asphalt, windows, painted drywall, stucco, bricks, and just about any clean surface, and you can choose from many printers, inks, vinyls, and laminates. The choices are seemingly limitless—a very good thing for clients and also a very good thing for those of us producing these graphics.

So who has raised the bar when it comes to wraps? Clients. They’re aware of these types of products—they have “seen something wrapped” and they want to know if you can wrap a similar something for them.
The latest trend: installing printed vinyl on things that are not your typical car, truck, van, or bus—and this market segment is booming. For instance, in the past several months, we have wrapped Zamboni machines, helicopters, ATVs, push carts and helmets, plus mailboxes, laptops, ATMs, and kiosks. There is not a week that goes by that a client does not ask us if we can wrap “something” for them that we have never wrapped before.

Increasing print volume
And, after all, why should we limit this technology to vehicles? I say bring it to the masses. Work hard to find unique uses for this medium to increase your clients’ sales as well as your own.

When you have this kind of attitude to find work for your machines, you’ll eventually come to the conclusion that it really doesn’t matter where a wrap will be installed. Volume is volume, no matter the job.

Plus, it’s worth noting that a specialty-graphics client can garner loyalty with volumes easily surpassing the revenues derived from your average vehicle-wrap client. Consider this: If you do a great vehicle-wrap job and you produce that wrap using the right materials, it should last for years. And if that client is not adding any vehicles to his fleet, you’ve probably noticed that he might not have need for your services for quite a while. You can wait for this client to need more vehicle graphics, but if you’re more proactive you’ll try to find another client who needs vehicle graphics.

But another, more savvy option is to go after a client that needs graphics you can produce on a weekly basis. Some of these types of clients might include a company who produces industrial trash cans and would like the ability to sell wrapped trash cans to its client.


Get a client like this, and you will receive orders with much higher frequency than the average vehicle-wrap client would provide.

Surfaces and materials
As with any wrap, however, there are steps to take and pitfalls to avoid when it comes to specialty work. Make sure that you take into account the following factors on any specialty job: surface and material choice, shape, and estimating.

Surface and material choice just might be the single most important factor to consider when deciding how to estimate and eventually produce a specialty wrap. The worst situation you can get yourself into is quoting a project using a material that you have never used before, so get the spec sheets and read them thoroughly. The smaller the print, the more important that detail is. Order a sample roll and print on it. Then laminate it. Then install it. Get feedback from everyone in your shop who touched it. Record the information provided by the media manufacturer as well as your own notes on your shop’s experience in using it.

Once you have this list compiled, you should be able to quickly identify which materials you are confident will work on which surfaces. Be very specific here. If you find something that works great on painted drywall, for instance, be sure to include what specific type of paint it works on. Our shop has had to re-do a painted drywall mural becausethe paint was a matte finish and we used vinyl that we had only tested on semi-gloss and gloss paint.

The time to gather and test all of these materials is now, in your down time. You won’t have time to test materials when a client has asked you for a quote on a surface you have not previously wrapped. Some materials you should experiment with include: steel, textured plastic, stucco, concrete, asphalt, painted drywall, tile, brick, glass, painted metal, MDO, PVC, Lexan, foamboard, carpet, wood flooring, and others. I think you get the idea—don’t limit yourself. To this day, customers still bring us surfaces that we have not previously wrapped. It’s very easy to think, “It should work just fine,” only to find out that it doesn’t and for a reason you never would have expected. Do your homework!

The shape of things to come
We have been a little spoiled by the great job companies like Digital Auto Library have done in handing us templates that are generally very accurate. Companies like this, however, cannot provide you with templates for your client’s 16 go-carts at the fun park.
My advice on determining a wrap job’s shape: Think like an installer when you survey the object. Not only will you need to take the right photos and get the right measurements, but you will also need to decide (while you are on site) exactly how you are going to wrap the specific shape.


What panels should be produced? Where should you include bleed and how much? Keep in mind that there is such a thing as too much bleed. Not only does having too much bleed waste material, but it can really hinder the time it takes to install and it can also affect the quality of the final product. At bluemedia, we turn in a design job (and we charge for it) to build an accurate template to scale before we quote the production and install.

Estimating `true´ time
It’s possible to get the right material for the specific surface and the right plan on how to produce the graphic of that particular shape—but still grossly underestimate the time involved. Be sure that you consider the time to survey the object, the time to build the template, and the true time to install. Present photos to your installer and get his or her opinion—too often, shop owners or sales people don’t involve installers in the quoting process.

If you print on materials that you have tested, use a perfect template, and quote it right, you’ll love these specialty jobs. There are more of these opportunities than you might think, so keep your eyes open. Finding one or more of these clients is a great way to get repeat, steady business even in challenging economic times.

Jared Smith is president of Tempe, Arizona-based bluemedia, a leading provider of design and printing for use in vehicle, large-format, and environmental applications for b-to-b and b-to-c organizations. [email protected]



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