Author Archives: Nicole Schappert

Consider THIS in your digital purchasing decision…

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I read an interesting article today on Printing Impressions’ Digital Printing center which surveyed in-plant managers on their purchasing processes. The article prompted managers to reflect on what they wish they had done during the purchasing process of digital color presses. Benefits from digital color presses are abundant: the ability to finish jobs quicker (and cheaper), the ability to produce higher quality printed outputs, the ability to incorporate variable data printing, etc.; but the purchasing process can still be scary. The last thing any manager wants is even the slightest form of regret after a major business decision and hefty purchase. Therefore, I’ve tried to distill the major themes from executive answers into a few key points:

1. Do your research. The average purchase decision ranges from a few weeks to a few months. During this time, consult every source of information possible. Visit the websites of vendors you are interested in, view their press demos, and compare the press spec sheets. Sales representatives are valuable sources of information, especially since they should be considered experts on the machine they are trying to sell. But we all know they are not entirely impartial and a purchasing decision could be better informed by seeking out balanced and neutral information from other industry experts. Which brings be to #2.

2. Consult your network. Seek out the opinion of industry people who do the same type of work you do. This can be done through existing personal relationships with other print operations or through consulting your online network in the form of LinkedIn groups. A quick search of Digital Printing Group on LinkedIn reveals that numerous print professionals choose the online option, inquire about specific products, and receive thoughtful and detailed replies.

3. See your options print in person. This was a major theme as nearly every manager polled highlighted the need to see the press perform in person. What was interesting in these recommendations is that most managers recommend viewing the machine in a working business location as opposed to the vendor showroom. Doing so gives the added advantage of being able to speak with machine operators and owners akin to #2 on this list. If you do not personally know anyone who operates the machine you are interested in viewing, your sales rep can likely make a connection for you and help schedule a visit. Some managers even mentioned running their own jobs on machines – either in a showroom or at another organization – to see how the machine performs on their specific projects and to better understand the workflow from start to finish.

4. Research the cost of operation and consumables. Don’t forget that the purchase price is not the only price consideration when purchasing a new printing device. You’ll also want to take into account the cost of consumables – like toner – as well as relevant costs per click, electrical costs, etc. Make sure you have a complete understanding of the true cost of operating the equipment.

5. Consider training and service reputation. Make sure to ask your sales rep about the training that comes with a purchased product. Robust training makes your operators more knowledgeable, significantly reduces the time spent to ramp up a new machine, and reduces errors that may occur during the early days of implementation. Some vendors even have business development programs which may provide additional sources of value by helping you make the most of your new purchase. You should also be critical of the vendor’s service capabilities and reputation. While you want to avoid complications, you also want a vendor who can respond quickly and effectively and has a proven reputation of doing so, in case complications do arise. Again, consult your network to learn about your vendor’s service reputation.

Happy purchasing!

Kindle is not for everyone…

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We all know that e-readers are everywhere these days and, in only a few years, have become a commonplace way to consumer your favorite literature. But as the title of this blog suggests, an e-reader is not for everyone. Not everyone has the tech-savvy desire or budget for an e-reader and some people just flat out do not want to read books electronically. For some, there is still the allure of being able to physically turn the page of the book he or she is reading. I am one of those people. Even though I’m addicted to my iPhone, iPad, iShuffle and laptop, I still prefer to read my books in print. Perhaps it’s because I am employed by the printing industry, but I like to think it’s the experience of an actual book versus another one of the many tech products we all seem to own now. Maybe I’m just a hipster and like books because they are not the “in” item.

Regardless, books have been around for a long time and they will likely not disappear for good. Therefore, print will continue to play an important role in the book publishing industry, albeit in a somewhat different manner. Most publishers are looking for the ability to print shorter runs and print-on-demand. To do this, offset is not answer; digital printing is. Offset certainly still has its place. But for those of us who did not come up with The Hunger Games or 50 Shade of Grey, it can be hard to justify the high quantities of offset printing. Digital printing offers a flexible solution for printers to be able to print what they want, where they want, when they want, and in whatever quantity they want.

Ultimately, digital printing technology offers numerous benefits for printers. For one, it reduces the risk of having to forecast demand. Printers can now print only what is ordered, thereby eliminating warehousing needs and waste. Digital print also offers blazing fast turnaround times with some book printers being able to fulfill an order within 24 hours of receiving it. Finally, digital print allows for anyone to be a publisher. With no minimums to meet, books can be published in small quantities. Digital also allows for increased creativity through customization and personalization. All while creating a real life book that someone can hold!

The bottom line is that books are not a thing of the past, and by implementing digital printing technology, printers are able to stay in the game and are better equipped to deal with whatever trends may come their way. They can have greater turnover, new revenue opportunities, and improved profitability. And these business benefits are not just limited to book printers! Photo book sellers, self-publishers, non-profits, and corporations can all benefit from the publishing revolution through digital printing technology. The question is… how can you benefit from it?

Social Media for Printers

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Social Media is huge right now. HUGE. If you keep up with this blog, then you’ve likely already caught a few posts about social media. But here is one more; one that is specifically focused on printers and how they are using social media to achieve their business goals and communicate with customers.

I recently read a 2011 InfoTrends study on social media usage in the printing industry and was surprised to learn some of the findings. As of 2011, about 1/3 of print business had adopted social media and used it in their day-to-day business operations. I was at first surprised by how low the percentage was, but considering data was likely gathered for this study at the end of 2010, I would imagine the usage rate is significantly higher by now. What it also interesting is that print providing companies that were smaller in nature had the highest rate of social media adoption, while larger companies were less likely to engage in social networks. The most common networking platforms used are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and company blogs.

According to InfoTrends, the top business goals driving social media usage for printers are to engage with customers, promote their brand and generate leads. While technology is still advancing in terms of measuring the ROI on social media marketing, most respondent indicate that social networking is positive for their business and brand image. With that being said, social media is still a marketing initiative that should be approached in a strategic manner with well defined objectives and an operating plan.

One point that I want to get across here is that print providers who have not yet adopted social media usage, should seriously consider doing so. Not only is it a great way to engage with customers in a convenient and free manner, but it can be a great way to demonstrate expertise in communication. Print providers and marketing services providers attract B2B customers because of their ability to communicate with end users and effectively communicate a message that will move someone to purchase. Being able to do that in the online world signals to potential customers that a print/marketing services provider can do the same with a printed piece. Demonstrating expertise in both online and printed communications could provide the opportunities to manage both for customers. Not too bad of business proposition, eh?

Welcome, Canon Solutions America, Inc.

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In 2010 two of the printing industries largest players – Canon and Océ – announced plans to merge with Canon taking over Océ North America. That announcement has officially come to fruition with the launch of Canon Solutions America, Inc., on January 1st of this New Year. The new company reports to Canon U.S.A. and combines the best of both companies to offer a depth of sales and support for Canon and Océ hardware, software and services targeting general office, production print and large format markets.

While this is major industry news, what does it mean for customers of both companies, print providers, and marketing service providers? I’ve tried to sum up a few key areas below:

  • Increased Focus on R&D. Canon and Océ product strengths complement each other in that Canon is strong in office printers while Océ is a market leader in continuous feed, high-volume, and wide format printers. Canon has shown a large commitment to funding R&D which will benefit all product lines and allow the companies to build on each other’s strengths.
  • Service. Océ is known for its quick response times and exemplary servicing practices to average 98% uptime. Canon production customers will now benefit from this and receive the same promise of efficiency and uptime.
  • Workflow. Océ PRISMA® workflow software has been greatly successful in on-demand printing environments. Now the software will be available for both Canon and Océ product… handling new job types in shorter run lengths with the ability to support converging offset and variable data applications
  • Financing. Canon brings financial strength to the table which means more options for financing and leasing printing equipment – this goes for both Canon and Océ product lines.

Those are just a few things to be on the lookout for as the new Canon Solutions America, Inc. establishes itself in the printing market as the combined force of two well-respected companies. Only time will tell if Canon and Océ are truly, “stronger together”.

If you want to learn more, you can read the official press release here or read the merger brochure here!

Looking Forward… Marketing Trends to Watch in 2013

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As with the coming of every new year, we all look forward with anticipation of what the new year will bring. For marketing service providers, 2013 seems like it could be an exceptionally exciting year with new advances in technology and the ever growing integration of marketing communications across multiple platforms.

It’s not uncommon to see various blog posts predicting what will be big in 2013. But in my opinion, one of the best compilations of forthcoming trends was blogged by Matt Graham on the SourceLink blog. While I cannot take credit for any of these thoughts, I was so interested by all of the posts that I thought it best to share his insights instead of creating my own (with permission from SourceLink, of course). It is my guess that these trends will resonate especially with print and marketing services providers. These trends will not only challenge marketers, but will provide new opportunities to incorporate some creativity and take advantage of marketing channels, variable data, and emerging technology. So here are the trends, according to Matt Graham, to be on the lookout for and to take advantage of in 2013!

  1. Display becomes addressable – New targeting tools allow for online display targeting that is closer to direct mail.
  2. Direct marketing becomes conversation – Direct marketing is no longer one-way advertising but now must be able to respond to interested consumers and support two-way conversation.
  3. Smartphones and tablets pass PCs – As more and more people begin to own and use tablets and PCs to access online information, websites and mobile content will become optimized for various screen sizes to increase the viewing experience.
  4. Social becomes measurable – This is a big advantage for any Social Media Manager! New tools allow for a better measurement of ROI from social media marketing.
  5. Hyperpersonalization: the use of big data – The options here are overwhelming when you consider the amount of data being collected and the number of channels available for communication.
  6. Digital Mailboxes take root – the digital mailbox replaces email in-boxes while direct marketing and advertising quickly follow suit.
  7. Channel convergence becomes real – Marketing channel crossover continues and increases as users expect to have seamless conversations across multiple platforms.
  8. Digital couponing and payments sway consumer decisions – Direct marketing allows for marketers to target coupons to relevant prospects and stimulate purchase decisions.
  9. Direct mail survives, but not standalone – Direct mail will still be utilized. However, volume and expenditures will continue to decrease as integration of direct mail and online initiatives becomes more prevalent.
  10. Big Data – Big Data is everywhere and the topic of many a white paper in 2012. The trend increases in 2013 as marketers learn how to organize and capitalize from data.

If you clicked through to all of the articles, this is certainly more than enough reading to get you excited for 2013! May the new year bring you success… Happy Marketing!

 

The Online Shift… for Statements.

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It should come as no surprise that more and more people are shifting their once offline activities to online activities. This is true for things like shopping, reading newspapers, keeping in touch with friends and family. In fact, you are even reading you are even checking on your industry virtually by reading this online blog. This trend has numerous meanings for the printing industry which affects book printing, magazine printing, creating marketing communications, and… printed bills and statements. Scary stuff for the printing industry! But, is this shift actually as prevalent as we think it is?

According to a massive 2011 InfoTrends study, the shift is taking place slower than anticipated. In fact, only 11% of American consumers receive their bills electronically. While there is a push on the part of billers to move billing and payments online, the vast majority of customers still prefer a printed statement. That is the good news for printers. However, younger generations between the ages of 18-24 seem to have adapted most to online billing and payments, which may suggest that future generations will do the same.

What does this mean for printers? It means that they don’t need to panic yet. But they do need to keep an eye on the future and whether or not this trend of online activity continues to shift. In all likeliness, it will. Unless printers can come up with creative reasons why the printed piece is more powerful. With the increases in variable data printing capabilities, printed statements can act as a personal and impactful touch point with customers that the online experience may not fully provide.  A printed statement can be an opportunity to inform, educate, and promote. This is especially important when considering that, according to InfoTrends, printed statements are still the best way to cut through the clutter of communications.

So don’t give up on the printed statement! Think of it as a challenge to capture emerging generations. Could this be a new resolution for 2013??

The Great Green Debate of the Printing Industry

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Being at Graph Expo this year, I was interested to see how big of a topic environmental sustainability was. So many industry-leading printing equipment manufacturers were eager to demonstrate their environmentally responsible solutions. The industry has come under pressure in recent years as the growing trend to go “paperless” takes off. But what I was surprised to learn, and I’m hoping many others will be too, is that a number of myths exist regarding the sustainability of paper and the printing industry. Thanks to information I picked up in one booth from Two Sides (www.twosides.us), I engaged in my own version of myth-busters and would like to share the same with you.

Myth: Making paper destroys forests.
Fact: Paper production supports sustainable forest management and depends on sustainable forest growth to provide a reliable supple of wood fiber.

Myth: Making paper is bad for the environment.
Fact: Paper is one of the few truly sustainable products because it is made from a natural resource that is renewable and recyclable. Furthermore, paper is one of the most recycled products in the world.

Myth: Making paper consumes a considerable amount of energy.
Fact: While this true, nearly 2/3 of the energy used is self-generated using renewable carbon-neutral biomass. Most U.S. pulp and paper mills are self-sufficient and some even supply excess energy to the electric utility grid.

Myth: Harvesting trees to make paper is bad.
Fact: Sustainable forest management can actually benefit people and the planet by supporting jobs and reducing development.

Myth: Electronic communication is more environmentally friendly than print and paper.
Fact: This is not necessarily true as online media also has environmental impacts which are easily underestimated. Electronic products have a lifecycle including depending on energy and managing end-of-life products which also has an environmental footprint. This seems like an especially important tidbit of information for print shop owners to share with customers.

These are just a few of the myths Two Sides debunked for me. On a whole, it seems like encouraging information for our industry and worthy of sharing on a larger scale. If you’re interested in learning more, I definitely recommend checking out the Two Sides website and learning more. They do a great job of formally researching and presenting data to support all of these claims.

LIVE from Graph Expo 2012!

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Graph Expo 2012 has officially begun. Months of preparation on the part of exhibitors has paid off to create a lively and stimulating environment. I’m always amazed at how exhibitors transform an enormous hall into a series of inviting showcases. As usual, exhibitors compete with each other to drive traffic to their booths.

Stages are big this year. I remember two years ago when Xerox had the biggest stage. But this year, Océ /Canon and HP clearly take the prize. HP has an impressive stage set up that delivers engaging sales pitches on steroids. But if you are looking for a more enlightening experience, be sure to stop by the Canon Live Theater where Canon and Océ partnered with WhatTheyThink to host informative sessions throughout the show. Topics will include: Affordable Sustainability, Supply Chain Optimization, the Changing Face of Publishing, and What to look for in a business partner. I caught today’s first session on Digital Packaging Trends which featured a real customer speaking about his operations and how digital printing and print-on-demand allowed him to keep up with industry change and manage his printed inventories better. The list of live sessions can be found here including a link to watch everything streaming live. Xerox does have a new idea this year – improv session. I’ll have to check one out Monday. As I walked around the show floor more, I noticed numerous other presentations and mini-stages set up… so it certainly is a popular way to reach show attendees!

Like every other year, posters are also quite popular this year, as evidenced by the crowds of people walking around with poster bags. The leading poster providers seem to be Komori, KBA, and Scodix. Gunther smartly realized that so many people walk around carrying their loot and decided to brand wheeling storage units that people can cart with them. Free stuff galore!

Judging from Day 1, there are a few hot topics this year that numerous exhibitors are demonstrating their capabilities in. Inkjet Printing is big this year and is being covered by live sessions on both the Océ/Canon stage and on the HP stage. Automation and software seem to also be a popular topics as print providers today are striving for more streamlined end-to-end solutions. We’re talking automation at the beginning (with feeders) and automation at the end (like envelope inserting). Print-on-demand is yet another key topic. In-RoomPlus described today in the Digital Packaging Trends session at Canon Live Theater how they are able to quickly reprint catalogs as their prices change and how they can print small batches of product mock-ups to use as aids with customers during the sales process. Print-on-demand is so big now in the publishing world that Océ will help launch Daydream Alchemy Press – a publisher inspired by bringing projects to life using today’s print technologies – during Graph Expo.

All in all, there is a lot to see and do at Graph Expo 2012. It will surely be a busy, yet exciting, few days!

A Note on Customer Retention

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So many organizations today concentrate efforts on attracting new customers. While this is necessary for any business, organizations must be careful not to overlook the “low-hanging fruit.” That is – the organization’s current customers. Research shows that current customers are highlight valuable because they tend to buy more, buy more often, are less expensive to serve, have higher retention rates, and are more profitable than newly acquired customers. The average business loses about 20% of its customers annually simply by failing to nurture customer relationships.

This can’t be! Especially when it’s relatively easy to keep current customers. First, keep your customers happy by delivering on what you promise. As a print provider, if you continue to deliver high quality printed materials and marketing communications, on-time, that meet your customer’s needs… then there is a high likelihood that they will frequent your business again in the future. According to InfoTrends, some print providers are relying on streamlined digital workflow to meet the demand for faster turnaround, shorter runs, and variable data. They are also implementing web-to-print solutions that offer the benefits of online ordering systems. The key here is that not only are print providers exceeding customer’s expectations by delivering superior quality printing, but they are making it easy for their customers to continue using their services. What more could a customer ask for?

Opportunity in TransPromo

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In today’s business environment, marketing budgets are constantly under scrutiny while being challenged to demonstrate a clear ROI. Luckily, new technology and developments in the world of high-speed inkjet printing are helping to make this challenging task a bit easier through TransPromo communications. In its 2010 Household Diary Study, the U.S. Postal Service reported that U.S. households received more than 34 billion bills, statements, confirmations, requests for donations, and bills/confirmations for charitable organizations – in other words, transaction documents. That’s a lot of opportunities for companies to share their messages with the right crowd.

According to recent research from market research and consulting firm InfoTrends, as published in this newsletter article, TransPromo communications offer companies the opportunity to improve their customer communications by:

  • Being personal and relevant – TransPromo software and printing technologies allows companies to individually target consumers which is proven to increase response rates.
  • Channeling customer data into lifecycle marketing – TransPromo combined data with personalized message to target specific consumers based on past purchases or responses to previous offers.
  • Allowing for multi-channel engagement – TransPromo direct mail campaigns can be easily incorporated into a cross-media strategy that weaves together customer communications on print, Web, e-mail, and mobile platforms.
  • Providing a new revenue stream – Companies can now use TransPromo to sell the white space on statements and documents.

So when you think about your next marketing campaign… think about TransPromo.