Standing out from the pack is a vital part of marketing your print services, and it likely always will be. No matter how many of your less-prepared competitors were forced out of the printing business by the rise of digital communication methods, competition among those that remain is strong, as providers try to ensure they aren't the next to go. This is the environment you must navigate, and it pays to position yourself as an authoritative and knowledgeable source.

Having expertise and information is one possible ticket to see more attention from potential customers. It fits well with one of today's prime marketing trends across all industries: Shoppers are showing a great deal of independence and initiative, and companies that can get customers to go to them as trusted sources may prove better positioned than those that spend all their time reaching out. One key pillar of making yourself an authoritative source is slimming down your offerings and going after specific customers.

Finding a good niche
What does it mean to become an authoritative source on a particular subject matter? WhatTheyThink columnist Jennifer Matt recently pointed to an example in which a print service provider reinvented itself as an expert in the local elections ballot field. That entailed learning huge swaths of election law and becoming renowned for knowledge. Now, that service provider will be less suited to take general-purpose contracts but, on the other hand, have an almost-unassailable advantage when the job at hand is printing a ballot. You, too, can take this path – it's easier than it seems.

Matt laid out sales experts Aaron Ross and Hason Lemkin's views of niche markets and how to target them. She explained that you should define your business value around solving a leading pain point in your target industry. There's no need to go for obscure ideas. Something that's easily explainable and that your services can solve will suffice. You should also be ready to provide evidence that you can give the results you promise and sell your service on its actual merits rather than as a cure-all.

Raise your value
As this blog has previously noted, Printing Impressions contributor Mark Hahn checked on the mergers and acquisitions occurring in the print world to determine what types of service providers are seen as valuable. He found that the firms seeing interest and holding their value are ones that have defined target markets, rather than nebulous goals. These firms are also good at delivering their core products and able to project that feeling of competence.

This information isn't just valuable for raising your company's profile in the hopes of a merge or acquisition. The same signs of strength and confidence that are so promising to acquirers will no doubt help your everyday sales calls get off the ground. Potential clients today, interested in high-level coordination between their firm and yours, will want to deal with organizations that seem well-established and likely to last in the industry. Does that describe your business?

Projecting your expertise
Becoming a successful niche provider of print services means proving that you can offer the value your clients are looking for. Fortunately, there are numerous pieces of marketing collateral that can fill this role for you. Another Printing Impressions contributor, John Foley Jr., recently recommended several options, such as videos and content downloads like white papers and eBooks. These are parts of an inbound marketing approach, positioning your business as an industry leader for people to seek out when they are interested in finding a practical solution to a particular issue.

You can also get results from conversations and scheduled posts on social media. While it may seem blasphemous for a print provider to be so engaged in the digital realm, this is a great place to reach out to your niche target market. Win praise or followers among the influencers in your target space, and your expertise could receive a great highlight.

Becoming indispensable
One of the recurring themes in the art of modern print marketing is the concept of forming an unbreakable bond with your clients. You want to find companies that will work with you over time, not just delivering short-term returns but also long-term growth and stability. Such contracts can arise out of clients' desire to work with knowledgeable industry experts – that's what you can become.