Coastal Enterprises, the manufacture of Precision Board HDU, chats with GRAPHICS PRO about business disruptions amid COVID-19. The fully-integrated U.S. company has not experienced any interruptions during a time when many businesses have had to shut down, cut hours, and furlough employees temporarily, and the company’s marketing manager Tai Freligh has some insights to share.
Because the company’s main product works in several different applications, from signage to prototyping and architectural purposes, the business was able to stay open for customers in essential markets like government and healthcare.
For U.S.-based sign companies who have experienced disruptions, what advice can you offer them to either mitigate or avoid them in the future?
Never stop marketing. With so many people working remotely or scattered across multiple locations, information is crucial. Usually, when money is tight, marketing is the first thing to go, but you can only do so much with little to no money that the value far outweighs the cost.
If you’re going to do social media and are short-staffed, pick one or two platforms that you can really make sure stays current and updated. Instagram is a good one for the signage industry. Highlight that you are a made-in-the-USA company, and if you don’t have supply chain issues because you are U.S.-based, then let people know. Sometimes just knowing that a shop is open for business and ready to get to work is the catalyst needed to have somebody reach out and start a conversation.
What types of projects and products seem to be selling more during this time?
We are seeing our material being used in new ways as sign shops and other customers shift from making signs to making PPE. For example, Monster City Studios in Fresno, California, usually makes themed environments for amusement parks, but have recently pivoted to making plastic face shields. We have also seen companies using our material to fabricate wall panels and partitions.
What’s keeping you motivated and in positive spirits during this time?
Knowing that our product is allowing businesses that are perhaps struggling right now to change how they do business and maybe go after new markets or new customers is very motivating.
Just being available to answer questions or check in on people goes a long way. We enjoy interacting with people on social media, over the phone, or in email. We are all in this together, and it really puts me in a great mood when I see how much people are looking out for one another right now. I hope that continues long after the pandemic is over. Nothing beats the human touch.
You mentioned that you’d learned a lot over the last few months, can you go into specifics on that? What have you learned that has helped shape the way you do business now and for the future?
It’s very easy to fall into the day to day rush and keep doing business as usual, but when the pandemic happened, it tossed a big old wrench into the system. It really forced us all to stop, step back, and re-evaluate how we do things. Can we simplify our message? Is there a more direct way to get something done? Are we still addressing the customer’s pain points?
Most importantly, what is the most current need? We are finding that availability of material is starting to trump preference. (We are) leaning into our strengths, like turnaround time, like customer service, like our flexibility and agility. I can’t say enough about maintaining relationships with your customers and suppliers. Even if it doesn’t result in upfront sales, it goes a long way. People will remember who was there for them when things were bad.