This annual list of the best printing/marketing franchises was revised and updated on May 24, 2023.
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We may be living in the digital era of the twenty-first century, where more and more of life takes place online, but there is still a need for both individuals and businesses to print documents of all sorts. The printing industry in the US is still worth $85.8 billion, providing materials for advertisers, publishers, and other clients. But this is an industry in decline, as the digital age consolidates its hold.
The key to survival in this industry has been to widen the scope of services offered beyond just rapid printing services. After all, printing industry revenues have been declining on average 2.6% each year for the past half decade. Companies have diversified into design, promotional, and marketing services to make up for declining printing revenues, leading to a hybrid market section, in which the original business is increasingly secondary to other activities. The medium, print, might be in decline, but the seller’s message remains urgent.
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The problem is finding a part of this industry strong enough to survive the digital onslaught. The promotional products industry, printing mugs, t-shirts, and other promotional materials, is one that clearly has its own niche. The physicality of these objects makes them useful for occasions where digital advertising won’t do. Even so, growth for this part of the industry has been only 1.1% per year for the past five years, and growth in 2020 was only 0.7%. This sector is maintaining some growth, as businesses look for interesting ways to promote their products and services, and it is often tied to print work, using similar designs and selling both leaflets and novelty marketing gifts to the same customers. But despite recovering from a Covid dip in 2020, it’s not an area with strong potential.
Digital printing, which a few years ago looked like a relatively strong part of this industry, is now in decline. Revenues have fallen 2.8% per year for the past five years, as printers rushed to digital printing only to find that demand for any sort of printing was falling, as material such as catalogs moved online. Both convenience and environmental concerns are leading both consumers and client businesses away from print. Digital printing is still worth $16 billion, but while revenues are forecast to rise by 3.7% in 2023, over the next five years, they’re expected to decline.
Marketing and advertising, the other side of these businesses, is a growth area, worth over $154 billion in 2021. For a savvy entrepreneur, a printing company could be a way into the marketing industry, which is fundamental to the modern economy. But with digital marketing increasingly important, print is unlikely to be the best route in.
Any sort of promotional business is dependent for its revenue on the needs of other businesses, and so on the state of the economy. With an economic downturn still a real concern, printing is vulnerable to the possibility of lost revenues over the next few years. And while forecasters don’t currently expect a big downturn, printing’s existing vulnerability and its old-fashioned nature as a marketing tool means that it could be particularly vulnerable to cost cutting by client businesses.
Some sources are predicting a growth in demand from publishers of books, magazines, and newspapers over the coming years, creating work for printers. But this prediction goes against current trends in the publishing industry. While the decline of the magazine market and the shift toward e-books may no longer be as dramatic as it once was, the rising cost of paper is reducing the profit margin for publishers, pushing them toward printing fewer books, but in a high-quality format with a higher profit margin. This will reduce volumes of work for printers, and mean that only those with a range of specialist tools and skills can meet some publishers’ needs. Right now, it’s unlikely that publishing will save the print industry.
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Declining demand for traditional printing services is having an impact on all the companies on this list, despite their efforts to diversify. The location numbers for these companies have mostly either been holding steady or declining in recent years. There is serious money to be made in print, but that money was falling even before the pandemic, and this means that there’s fierce competition among the existing businesses. Before taking on a franchise in this industry, it’s worth asking whether the commercial fight is worth the rewards for you, and whether this industry’s declining long-term potential will meet your own long-term needs. Digital printing can reduce costs and improve performance, but it brings its own costs, and may not be enough to compensate for the business lost to the world of digital advertising.
The Top Printing/Marketing Franchises of 2023
1. Minuteman Press
Minuteman Press has always had a primary mission in mind: Helping local businesses build their brand identity and gain greater visibility in the community. Its printing services cover 37 distinct kinds of products, while its business services include not only printing and copying, but also brand identity, graphic design, direct mail, lead generation, list acquisition, logo design, strategic consulting, and website design services.
In other words, Minuteman Press can not only meet the printing needs of local businesses, but also help them put together full strategic branding, advertising, and marketing plans to boost their local visibility. Different categories of branded promotional products include awards, bags, corporate gifts, drinkware, magnets, pens and pencils, plaques, and tradeshow supplies.
Keeping up with online developments, Minuteman Press customers can enjoy online design, ordering, and proofing to keep things moving along as quickly as possible.
Founded by father-son team Roy and Bob Titus in Plainview, New York in 1973 and franchising since 1975, the number of locations has held relatively steady in recent years, hovering around the current total of 967 (up from the previously reported total of 956), of which none are company-owned and 258 are located outside the US.
Proforma takes a really interesting and unique approach to its printing and related services. A Proforma franchisee acts like a kind of local sales agent to meet the needs of local businesses and organizations. The franchisee meets those needs through a carefully selected network of suppliers who deliver the services and products the customer requires.
There is also a distinct focus on landing larger clients, and the franchisees who focus on those accounts are the ones who have achieved annual sales in excess of $1 million. Besides a full range of printing services, including branded merchandise and awards, other services include custom packaging, apparel and uniforms, fulfillment (warehousing and distribution), eCommerce solutions, digital marketing, and a wide range of creative services (graphic design, copywriting, marketing campaigns, and so on).
Founded by Gregory P. Muzzillo and a college friend in 1978 and franchising since 1985, the number of locations has declined in recent years from 718 in 2013 to the current total of 601 (down from the previously reported total of 627), of which none are company-owned and 35 are located outside the US.
AlphaGraphics recently acquired business intelligence software company Print Speak, which has allowed it to develop two new proprietary systems to provide more support to franchisees. One is agLearn, a learning platform with more than 600 training courses covering sales techniques, products, equipment, and more. The other is AgXsell, a customer relationship management (CRM) platform to help franchisees with a step-by-step process to make customers aware of available services and convert leads to customers.
In addition to traditional and digital printing services, AlphaGraphics offers graphic design, marketing communications, book publishing, signage, branding, document creation/management, and more.
Many AlphaGraphics franchisees are involved in Junior Achievement (JA), a non-profit organization dedicated to getting millions of young people excited about becoming successful entrepreneurs. Franchisees share their real-life business experiences and lessons with young people throughout communities in which they operate.
Founded by Rodger Ford in Tucson, Arizona in 1970 and franchising since 1980, the number of locations held relatively steady from 2011-2018 but has more recently dropped to the current total of 263 (down from the previously reported total of 264), of which none are company-owned and 22 are located outside the US.
4. Allegra Marketing-Print-Mail
Allegra Marketing-Print-Mail now describes itself as a one-stop resource for business communications needs, including printing, direct mail, signs, displays, and promotional products. Other services include marketing consultation, graphic design, web marketing, and complete finishing and mailing services.
In a consultative approach, Allegra helps local businesses answer questions such as: How can I build brand awareness? How can I grow my existing accounts? How can I generate new leads? How can I inform and engage my team? The company can help businesses and organizations with brand awareness, customer/donor retention, internal communications, and lead generation.
As a company, Allegra is supporting franchisees with a new technology platform called WorkStream that integrates e-commerce, business management, and workflow automation into one application.
Founded in 1976 and franchising since 1977, the number of locations has declined in recent years from 306 in 2017 to the current total of 246 (down from the previously reported total of 254), of which two are company-owned and 52 are located outside the US.
5. Sir Speedy Print, Signs, Marketing
Sir Speedy Print, Signs, Marketing has a full menu of printing and marketing services that it provides by relying on the equipment and services of key partners such as Xerox, Exact Data, Ricoh, 3M, Acxiom, UPS, Konica Minolta, USPS, Canon, HP, Grimco, EFI, ASI, and others.
In addition to printing and copying, other services include sign making, integrated multi-channel marketing campaigns, direct mail marketing, all kinds of creative services, fulfillment, website design, data services (as related to marketing), trade show materials, promotional products, online storefronts, website design, and more.
Sir Speedy is owned by FSI – Franchise Services, Inc. – a franchise company that has been managing various business service brands for more than 40 years, including TeamLogicIT, Signal Graphics, PIP, Eastnet Print, and MultiCopy The Communication Company.
Founded in Costa Mesa, California in 1968 and franchising since that same year, the number of locations has declined significantly in recent years from 298 in 2013 to the current total of 136 (down from the previously reported total of 147), of which none are company-owned and six are located outside the US.
6. PIP Marketing, Signs, Print
PIP Marketing, Signs, Print holds a special place on this list as the first printing company to adopt a franchising model back in the 1960s. Like Sir Speedy, PIP is owned by Franchise Services Inc. (FSI), so the range of services and key partners is pretty much the same.
What does FSI bring to the table in terms of supporting franchisees of both brands? Each franchisee has a dedicated Business Management Consultant with deep expertise in the day-to-day operations of a PIP business and can help with budget and cash flow projections, business and marketing plans, collections, financial and employee management, technology and equipment analysis, production management, sales and management training, and anything else related to successfully running the store.
Founded by Bill Le Vine in Southern California in 1965 and franchising since 1968, the number of locations has declined in recent years from 96 in 2013 to the current total of 58 (down from the previously reported total of 60), of which none are company-owned and all are located in the US.
An Important Note About Our Methodology
The franchises on this list were ranked according to the number of units in the franchise system. If you are a prospective franchisee searching for franchise opportunities that meet or exceed certain performance benchmarks for sales, profits, and return on investment, please check out this list of America’s Most Lucrative Franchises.