The printing industry today is based on stepping into a niche and meeting client demands. Print service providers succeed by harmonizing their client relationships, awareness of their own capabilities and keen market intelligence. This means that growing, expanding and becoming established call for slightly different processes than they did when high-volume jobs were at their height.

Turning a print shop from an upstart into a lasting success doesn't just mean going for scale, getting more presses and seeking out ever-larger contracts. In a climate where volume is never a given and some of the most promising avenues include jobs that are involved and evolving, there are other ways for print leaders to push their companies forward.

Taking the chance
Printing Impressions contributor Kelly Mallozzi pointed out that when the owners and operators of print service providers step outside of their comfort zones, they may find exciting new opportunities. This may mean using company operational funds for something other than upgrading software and buying new hardware. Mallozzi emphasized that while leaders may feel bad about going beyond this narrow scope, considering anything else a luxury, it's actually this expansion of perspective that helps service providers grow.

For example, shops can send their owners or other leaders to trade shows such as the recently concluded Print 17. While there is a cost associated with attending events, the chance to discover the state of the industry in person is often worthwhile. Networking with fellow companies and seeing the latest vendor offerings in person instead of online can refresh an attendee's perspective and forge an enduring connection with the rest of the printing business.

Beyond taking chances to get out of the office now and then, print service providers can get a little more adventurous in their offerings. Mallozzi explained that when a potential client comes in with a request of a type that the company has never fulfilled, printers shouldn't automatically turn them down. While it may seem sensible to refuse a job that would require a new approach, taking the contract could lead to a new permanent offering. If there's no need to buy new hardware or software, branching out and trying a different kind of job may help a print service provider find a profitable new niche.

The general theme of taking chances and getting exposure to new ideas is an important one to internalize. Companies that take a purely defensive posture, perhaps intimidated by the digital era's falling print volumes, may end up harmed by their timid approach. Daring to innovate is the first step to improving as a print service provider.

Where the opportunities are
Staying aware of new opportunities and being willing to change direction are definitely virtues in today's printing industry. The big changes brought on by the digital revolution are so large that they may obscure the fact that the sector has not stopped changing in the decade-plus since digitization had its impact.

WhatTheyThink contributor Joe Webb recently viewed printing from the vantage point of the Print 17 conference, explaining that today's companies are finding new ways to be valuable for their clients. Some of these printers are becoming adept at using client data intelligently, especially in the world of marketing. Today's outreach strategies are more targeted and intelligent than ever, and shops that can step seamlessly into these campaigns have a readymade selling point.

Webb also highlighted the increasing value of short print runs of specialized deliverables. These items can be highly customized and are designed to be more relevant and useful than the mass-produced printed items of years past. However, to turn these short print jobs into a profitable and stable source of income, businesses have to take on more of them. This, in turn, leads to new strategies such as consolidating many small print runs into larger batches at single locations. Fresh approaches can suit the new facts of printing in 2017.

Stay curious
Printing leaders who are willing to learn about their industry and ready to let their companies evolve with it may be better attuned to the market conditions of the next few years than their more hesitant peers. This commitment to learning and evolution doesn't mean being overly reckless or spending huge amounts of money. It does, however, mean assuming an openness toward new facts and practices.