As printers, we have the challenge of discerning which products and services to offer. In an ever evolving marketplace, we must be nimble and responsive. Sometimes our decisions are based on equipment and available materials, other times client demand and industry trends shape our decisions. But before committing to a path of action, how do we know which products will be successful? Here are some of the basics on identifying and developing healthy product lines.

A product line refers to the collection of related products marketed under a single brand. Companies want a healthy product line as a base, which means your offering matches a market need that is growing. If your equipment is up to date, you have the potential to be proficient for decades.

Product Line Extension

When you have customer loyalty you have the opportunity of adding more lines and being successful. You are usually adding additional lines for growth, but I have supported an acquisition of a label company purchasing a folding carton company, as our customer’s buyers did business with the competition who had both. We were worried those suppliers who had both could leverage them to get the other part of the business.

Pick Wisely and Measure

Here is an example. You have a successful book business and there would be no reason to equip for dictionaries, phone books, or encyclopedias, but you might add a distribution services for the publisher, complementing the manufacturing. Often printers are not set up to measure by product line, which I believe is a must if you intend to grow. An enterprise resource planning (ERP) MIS that requires you to code the incoming order will pay dividends.

Marketing & The Product Line

If you have loyal customers, adding additional product lines for a product or service your customer uses is a good bet, and a sure bet, provided there was a conversation up front. The marketplace will have a better chance to see your specialty as you continue to market to the same group. The more you grow around the same product, in the same place your customer is growing, you’ll have a winner. Also, you will know more about the product which means you will have more solutions to provide your customers and prospects.

Educating your staff on the new opportunity, especially sales, will have a bigger payoff. I used to use ‘cheat sheets’ that outlined the specifications and application, and all of a sudden, it wasn’t an issue. Having a healthy base product line gives your company the opportunity to specialize, forcing you to be more efficient inside and known more on the outside. This has to be better than a general store approach for growth and profit.

Pick a Growth Market

Pretend you’re in the direct mail (DM) business, providing print and mailing, and your other product is forms. You might decide to sell the forms business to a competitor and build the DM business. Long term, you could aim to be a solution provider offering a multi-channel marketing approach as you have the knowledge on how to combine DM and social media, working together for your customer’s success. Research is available to help make the right choice.

If you’re looking for help identifying a winning growth strategy, contact us! Our experts are here to help.


Gordon Griffiths is a highly respected corporate leader throughout North America. He has successfully led some of the most high-profile printing companies, including Cenveo’s International operations, Quebecor Printing, and Ronald’s Printing. He was responsible for profitable operations, in many cases requiring turnaround efforts to return to profits, for almost 100 individual manufacturing plants. Annual sales at individual plants ranged from over $5 million to over $100 million. He continues to demonstrate his innovative approach, as he was the founder of a marketing services company that was taken public and achieved annual sales of over $125 million. To get in touch with Gord, contact us.