If you look back at the past few months it’s all too clear that change is afoot in virtually all markets around the globe. Graph Expo, which is normally about products and services was more about how many attendees went to the show and whether it be possible for those that did attend to buy the technology they had their eye on. Our industry is not alone.
The Big 3 U.S. automakers get a lot of press, but consider that Toyota has posted it’s first loss in 70 years. Nissan Motors is pulling out of the Los Angeles Auto Show and almost every new car and truck can be had for a fraction of it’s normal sticker price. Closer to our industry, Apple has announced that the Macworld coming up in January will be its last and Adobe, the company that virtually invented desktop publishing on the Mac, will not even be at Macworld. Trade shows all come out of marketing budgets and companies are cutting every corner they can to conserve cash, the better to survive what looks to be a longer than normal downturn. Marketing budgets are usually among the first places to cut, even though it is proven that companies that continue marketing in a downturn come out stronger than those that do not. The same is true for print providers: It pays to keep listening to and talking with your customers. In our conversations with all types of print shops we’ve noticed the theme, “We still need to increase our competitiveness. We still need color and most importantly, we need to move forward with this job.”
Survival of the Fittest
While every printer is worried about the economy and whether they can manage with the equipment they have today, it has finally started to sink in that color is becoming the standard and they need to react. For many, it’s becoming obvious they can no longer make do with the older monochrome machines (unless they change some of their applications) but instead they have to invest. But is it a good time? I think the short answer is yes, not because I work for a vendor but because it’s about survival of the fittest.
Just as companies that keep marketing through a downturn come out stronger, so do those that make carefully calculated investments in turbulent times. The more business you can pull in now the better off you are when business begins to improve, especially if you can offer a wider range of services and print capabilities to accommodate customer needs. I know it is a tough time to go to the well for money but if you can be poised to strike while the economy is down you can be much better positioned for the future.
Beyond Money to MICR
Beyond the questions about money and the economy we have been fielding a lot of questions about our MICR ink jet announcement on the Océ JetStream. Over and over I’ve heard the customers say how other vendors claim it could not be done, insisting that MICR had to use dry toner. I’m sorry to disappoint them, but we have done it and it does work. So well, in fact that we will issue our MICR guarantee of quality on all checks printed using JetStream MICR technology ensuring a reject rate of less than 1%! Direct Group, a leading direct marketing and fulfillment company with three locations in New Jersey that already uses the standard JetStream system, will be the first company in North America to take advantage of JetStream MICR printing, when its installation is completed in the first quarter of this year.
Of course, everyone wanted to see the big machine at Graph Expo, but the set-up and tear down time available didn’t allow us to have the printer there. Many people asked about both color and MICR print quality and we showed many samples of each. As we did, I couldn’t but notice the recurrent question, “Can you really do this with this machine?” The answer is, yes we can, and with a TCO that’s more than competitive.
To make your own assessment, the best place to see the JetStream in action is at the new Customer Experience Center in Boca Raton, Florida. The Center is designed to show the full breadth and depth of Océ products so visitors can see first-hand how JetStream and all our other equipment and software can deliver uncompromising value to their businesses.
It really is a difficult time for everyone, and the secret to everyone’s survival –not growth, but survival– is to make sure that they are well-entrenched and well positioned for the difficult year ahead. We will do whatever we can to help our prospects and customers alike and we all have to work together to be successful in 2009 and invest in our people and services. We cannot stop: it’s simply not in our nature. And neither should you. Keep selling, keep marketing, and where you can, invest in capabilities that make you stronger.