Make Your Next Tradeshow An Event!

Are You Excited About Print13?  You Need To Be!

You book a flight, a hotel room and make sure you register for the free exhibit hall pass. You even sign up for a few conference sessions.  Where are you going?  To a tradeshow!

If you are in your mid-20’s you are absolutely pumped. A trip out of town, a few days away, most likely to a new city, all expenses paid. It doesn’t get any better than this. If you have been around the industry for 20+ years, you are either truly excited or saying “oh, boy another trade show,” with a great deal of sarcasm in your voice. Young or old if you are not excited get out of the industry and go do something else.

Two Types of Tradeshow People

Primarily there are two types of tradeshow people: the buyers and the sellers. Buyers attend to look at new products and services, get a little education and expand their network. Sellers attend to show the buyers their products, share their knowledge and hopefully become part of their network. The buyer/seller relationship can and should be a beautiful thing.

Young or Old Tradeshows Present a Unique Opportunity

I have been attending tradeshows for over 35 years and I still get excited going to one. Why, because I MAKE IT an event. I plan for it, I set expectations and I make sure my investment in time and money will pay big dividends and you should be doing the same thing too.

If you are a buyer tradeshows are a great opportunity to visit with a lot of vendors without being “overwhelmed” shall we say. My suggestion is to:

Put together a show plan:

• Write a list of any technology that your company is considering and cross check it with the exhibiting vendors on the tradeshow website. Do your homework on the vendor companies and visit their booths. Do some preliminary qualification.

• Allow blocks of time for “new stuff”. Large tradeshows are a mecca for new product announcements of products you may not be aware of. Make sure you look on the event website, onsite publications etc. for new technology announcements. The more you know, the better you can stay on the leading edge.

• Look at the available conference sessions. Pick a few that would expand your knowledge base and make you more valuable to your customers and company.

• Get on your social network and find out who is attending and meet up.

Work the plan and plan to work!

As a seller, where else can you hook up with dozens of customers and prospects without flying city to city going through security, eating airport food and getting back home grumpy and tired. Tradeshows can be a sales bonanza IF YOU PLAN!

• Contact ALL of your customers and prospects to see if they plan to attend. If you can, offer them free exhibit passes, an invitation to a company event, etc.  Even if they do not plan to attend they know you were thinking of them. It is a point of contact!

• Schedule appointments with your customers and prospects. If you have a booth, take them through the latest product announcements and/or new features.

• Check out your competition. (Get some free tchotchkes )

• Allow blocks of time to walk the floor and look at “new stuff” in your product category. The more you know, the better you can stay on the leading edge.

• Look at the conference sessions. Pick a few that would expand your knowledge base and make you more valuable to your customers and company. Learn a couple “techie” phrases. Goes a long way.

• Get on your social network and find out who is attending and meet up.

Work the plan and plan to work

Whether a buyer or seller expand and share your knowledge, meet new people and have fun. It should be.

My next tradeshow is PRINT 13 in Chicago September 8-12. Let me know if you will be there. We can hook up.

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The Future of Credit Cards …. Really!

I recently read an article on “The Future of Credit Cards” published as a result of a conference devoted to travel and credit card rewards.  Executives from Chase, Barclaycard, US Bank, Capital One and American Express were on hand to share their views on the future of credit cards.

My expectation was that they would simply predict the demise of the physical credit card, as mobile technology certainly can replace it almost instantaneously. In one of my February posts entitled “Remember Your Smartphone, Forget Your Wallet”, I addressed this.

However, these execs went beyond the boundaries of simply replacing the physical card. For many, these discussions are not an “epiphany,” individually you may be familiar with some if not all of their talking points. For others, who assume the evolution of technology, they make perfect sense and you ask yourself, “what is the big deal?”

The fact that banks are talking about this collectively is a big deal.

  • Big Data – One of the new buzz words certainly familiar within our community. We talk about it in webcasts and conference sessions but what was interesting in the article is the discussion of leveraging that data across multiple vendors. Can a free Subway drink at your local Walmart be in your future?  (Only makes sense if your Walmart has a Subway)
  • Mobile – Once again not a new concept, but providing realtime “offers” to cardmembers utilizing location and spending data. My wife would love to get a 20% off coupon while standing outside Justice with my daughter.
  • Budgeting Tool/Spend Smarter – This one seemed counter intuitive to me based on the concept of the credit card and habits of some people in using one.

Banks hope to offer cardholders not just deals and offers, but information to help manage spending  offering information to consumers about how they spend and how to spend smarter. This should be interesting to watch.

  • Unbanked/Underbanked – At the conference it was reported that 8.2% of the people did not have a checking or savings account and were referred to as “unbanked.” They also referred to the “underbanked” as people who have a checking or savings account, but use non-bank means of credit, like payday loans. This group represents 20+% of the population and growing.

AMEX partnered with Walmart on the BlueBird prepaid card looking to the next generation who may not want a bank account. As mentioned in the article, it remains to be seen but the next generation might find bank accounts as relevant as land lines, compact discs, and print publications.

  • Less Junk Mail / More Social Media – Note was made that credit card marketing is changing. No surprise here. Rising costs of traditional mail coupled with the communication preferences of the next generation makes this a bit of a no brainer. Barclaycard was noted as leading the way in integrating social media with its credit card products by introducing the Ring card .

David Gold, General Manger of Partnerships for Chase Card Services noted that he wakes up every day worried about what will be written online about his products by bloggers who focus on how many cents they can get out of each point. Certainly something we need to watch today.

What does it mean for the stakeholders?

As a customer:  Some of it sounds pretty good and high tech. Who wouldn’t want great relevant offers, discounts and ways to spend your money smarter?

The credit card company: higher customer retention, decreased costs, increased revenue and more accounts.

As a vendor: Opportunity! These companies will need consultants, software and hardware to implement these changes.

Will be fun to look back on this in a few years.

To read the whole article go to: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/future-credit-cards-080024294.html

Better Ingredients, Better Pizza, Great Marketing …. Papa John’s

PapaJohns_SkipHenkDespite the fact that they are in all 50 states and 35 countries I have never had a Papa John’s pizza. The only reason I can cite is that they came late to our relatively small community where I have bought from our local New York pizzeria, Pizza Supremo, for 10+ years.

I will admit for kid’s birthday parties I have ordered from the national chains, but what do kids know about good pizza, and despite the fact Papa John’s opened a location that serves our area about a year ago, my curiosity had never peaked or inspired me to deviate from ordering from my local pizzeria.

I have marveled at their TV commercials, especially during Super Bowl when they give away 1,000,000 pizzas, which still boggles my mind. I love their tagline “Better Ingredients, Better Pizza, Papa John’s,” but I have never ordered one pizza.

Well anyway, my 11 year old came home with a fundraiser for the school, sponsored by Papa John’s. This was not the typical “order from us and we will donate xx% to your school.” What Papa John’s did was brilliant!

They delivered a whole lot of pizza boxes to the school, had the kids decorate them and if you order a pizza they will deliver it in the box your child decorated AND donate 20% of the sales to the school.

ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT!!!!!  Kudos to Papa John’s! What father would not order a pizza in a box decorated by their 11 year old daughter?  Not this one.

Caroline_PizzaWell we had pizza last night and I must admit it was pretty good. I had to call the local Papa John’s to order as opposed to ordering online but I understood immediately when I was asked my daughter’s name, grade and who her teacher was. (They had almost 800 boxes)

I elected to pick up my order and as soon as they placed the box in front of me I knew it was decorated by Caroline due to her signature giraffe drawing and I love dance notation.

The box itself was a standard Papa John’s box that was folded inside out, so the outside was now all white and a perfect canvas for kids.

While Papa John’s may not entirely replace my local pizzeria I certainly will order from them when I have the need for a “national chain” pizza at the next birthday party.

KUDOS again to Papa John’s!

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Office Depot is Getting It!!!!!

Last week I finally broke down and bought a new office chair. I had been looking at this particular one for months but was unwilling to spend the $$$$ for it. Alas, I received an email promotion from Office Depot and MY chair was on sale for 50% off and it was free shipping. I could not resist.

I was like a little kid waiting for Christmas.  Two days later my chair arrived, I opened the box, assembled and settled in for a day of bliss, which it was.

Yesterday, I receive an email from Office Depot, the subject:  Your New Chair is Lonely, Accessorize Your Office. The new ad had several items for my desk, chairmat, lamps, etc.

After being on their mailing list for more than a year, and buying quite a bit of stuff, this was the first time they tried to upsell and I applaud the effort.

So many times, someone purchases something from us and other than a “thank you” confirmation we very rarely associate the sale with other opportunity. Some companies do it better than others. And many companies do nothing.

This ad was not obnoxious or offensive. I did not feel pressured to buy anything else and visualizing my “lonely” chair was actually humorous.

Is your company missing opportunity?  (BTW, I anxiously await my new chairmat, although not quite as exciting as my chair).

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A Printer Who Won’t Take An Order

Many of my blogs talk about the future of print and the other opportunities that may be out there for the “masters of ink” to grow and expand their business. I came across something that is a bit on the fringe but it is print per se and has an unlimited number of applications.

While doing some research on printing technologies I came across hydrographic printing, also known as water transfer printing. Never heard of the process, maybe you have, but it did peak my interest and so I spent a bit more time checking it out.

Video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADq96RGRf00

Now the icing on the cake. I go to the Hydra Imaging website and right across the page it says “Until we fit our present contracts, we will not be taking any new orders.” WHAT?????

I am thinking there has to be an opportunity here. What are your thoughts?

By the way, here is the website that is not taking orders:  http://www.hydroimaging.com/index.html

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Is The Tablet Becoming a Small Boat Anchor?

Is The Tablet Becoming a Small Boat Anchor? (That floats intermittently)

Last week the motherboard went out on my PC which caused the usual chaos and scrambling to find a new PC, load programs, backup files, etc. It was painful, but it too has passed.

While researching what my next PC would be I ran across several articles on the demise of the PC. In fact one of the original architects of the IBM PC team states, “Personal Computers Becoming Obsolete.” He himself has chucked his PC for a tablet.

Read article at http://www.forbes.com/sites/sap/2011/08/11/personal-computers-becoming-obsolete-says-ibm-pc-architect/

The IBM 3270

In reading this article and others that talk about applications and data being in the magical “cloud”, I started to wonder if we are setting ourselves up for failure.

IBM_3270Not many people remember the IBM 3270, a dumb terminal that hooked up directly to a mainframe. It had no standalone computing capabilities and if the mainframe was down every 3270 hooked to it was also. In large companies that could be thousands of terminals.

Imagine what is like when you lose the internet but worse, because you can’t do anything else as there was no Microsoft Office, no applications or documents on the terminal. As a technician once described it to me ”It becomes a boat anchor that floats intermittently”, until the mainframe was back up.

What may the future hold?

You have your “tablet” in hand your applications and documents sitting on the cloud and the cloud suddenly “dissipates”.  It could be a hardware or software failure, a hacker or cyber terrorist but your tablet becomes  a smaller boat anchor (that floats intermittently), until the cloud re-appears.I thought this scenario was a farfetched at one time, I almost felt like some conspiracy guy but with all the stories of hacking and cyber terror that has emerged over the last several months, I am not so sure.

In Florida we have hurricane plans. We prepare to be without electricity for several days. You fill your gas tank, stock up on food and water, get cash from the ATM and if you are really prepared, have a generator. All in preparation for not being able to buy gas, food or get cash because of the loss of the “electricity cloud.”

As we look to empower the cloud by trusting it with all our applications and data are we setting ourselves up for failure? What is the back-up plan? Is my tablet becoming a boat anchor?

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Love Them or Hate Them, They Can Make or Break Your Business

Over the last several weeks I seem to have run into a barrage of good and bad customer service experiences. One, being a personal experience and a couple other examples involving an airline and a toy company.

(This kind of sounds like the making of a good joke: Once upon a time there was a digital document guy, a baggage handler and a toy maker. I digress, sorry)

Being a Customer Service Representative has to be one of the most difficult jobs that there is. No one calls to say “everything is great” and CSR’s have guidelines that they have to stick to. But can those across the board guidelines, hurt your company.

I am going to make these brief and change the names of the companies to protect their identities.

The Digital Document Guy …. I ordered a PC from SamsClubski’s. Received notification that the order was processed, then cancelled. After spending an hour on the phone, the customer service rep (and supervisor) said there was nothing she could do, as I got one digit wrong on my credit card and it had been more than three hours. The order was cancelled. BUT I could re-order at the higher price if I like. Thanks. (BAD CUSTOMER SERVICE)

Got ticked off, cancelled the order and bought a PC from BestBuy for $150 more. Got angrier, called back and spent 20 minutes trying to get an address to send a letter, vowing never to order from SamsClubski’s again. Sent a letter, received a call from a VP at headquarters and promptly had a credit issued for the difference of what I paid at BestBuy and the sale price at SamsClubski’s.  (GOOD RECOVERY) I may buy from there again.

The Baggage Handler …. Guy is travelling with his $10,000 1965 Gibson ES-335 vintage guitar. He asked Deltoids Airline to carry the guitar on the plane but was denied. After landing in Detroit, the case carrying his guitar became lodged between the mobile service elevator and a rail on the loading dock. The guitar was smashed and sustained almost $2000 in damage. Airline offered him $1000, which her refused, Yahoo published the story, Deltoids apologized and they paid the $2000 to fix the guitar and gave him two free airline tickets. (Isn’t that what they did for the Triumph passengers?) (BAD CUSTOMER SERVICE)

Meanwhile, Gibson contacted the guitar owner, offering repairs on the damaged 1965 ES-335 as well as a brand-new 50th anniversary reissue of a 1963 Gibson ES-335, free of charge. (GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE)

The ToyMaker:  A 7 year old boy does not listen to his father and takes his new Gego toy to the store and loses it. The little boy was so upset about the loss of his new toy that he decided to write a letter to the company explaining his misfortune. (The letter and reply from Gego are worth a read for any parent: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/09/luka-apps_n_2434781.html

The 7-year-old was shocked when a reply letter came in the mail offering not only to replace the toy but extra goodies for being honest. (GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE)

The moral of the story ….

Customer Service IS the face of your company. They drive your corporate culture and are the front line to your customers. Sometimes customer service reps have to work by guidelines and rules but maybe those rules are a bit ridiculous. (Remember, “it has been more than three hours and we can’t change your order.”)

Some companies rise above it. I can’t imagine Gibson had a rule to fix a guitar and send a second one for free. Or Lego (oops that slipped) sending the lost toy for free along with additional goodies.

These companies obviously empower their people and allow them to humanize their interaction. The cost to these companies was minimal for securing two customers for life. PLUS Gibson and Lego received a great amount of good publicity as the stories were reported. (Deltoids not so much).

My advice, empower your people to do the right things and set the rule book aside when you should.

Any interesting Customer Service stories?

Remember Your Smartphone, Forget Your Wallet

In past blog postings I have spoken about change in the printing industry, technology and how people receive information.  I continue to believe that there is  room in the world for both print and digital communications and it should be YOU who determines how you want to receive, view and store information. Whatever is convenient for you.

Speaking of convenience, I ran across an article about Google Wallet and was intrigued with the whole concept of not having the need carry a wallet. I thought about the things in my wallet and what it would be like if all my “printed” documents: pictures, license, credit cards, membership cards, voter registration, etc., were on my smartphone.

Add the keys for my car(s), house and office along with the ability to pay everything by smartphone and my life becomes my smartphone.  In thinking about that:

• If I lose my  wallet, I have to replace everything. Call credit card companies,  get a new license and voter registration card, membership cards, etc, and I am out whatever cash I had in my wallet..

However, if I lose my smartphone, I go on your computer (or other web based device), try to find it using GPS, disable it if I can’t find it and send out automatic notifications to credit card companies who could tag the account and immediately issue a new “card”.

My license, membership card and voter registration cards have my picture (and maybe thumb print identification) so I would be good. I would lose no cash and I could change the code on my cars and the digital locks on my office and home. This really starts to look like George Orwells’s 1984.

Of course like anything, there are some drawbacks (and solutions):

•  Since I don’t need a wallet, what would someone get me for Christmas?
An  iTunes card or new smartphone case

• What if someone only takes cash?
A smartphone case with a money clip for emergencies

• How about cash discounts?
When was the last time you saw one anyway?

Check out the article on Google Wallet and let me know what you think?

Note to self: Need to figure out what to rename the smartphone since it is not a phone anymore but can make calls. How about a tablet?  (Nah)

Using Their Data To Create Your Future, Now

He who controls the data wins ….

I started to look at content for the upcoming issue of E-Document News and I was not surprised that I ran across yet another article on the demise of the transactional document industry and the impact on print service providers.

I must admit I am a ½ glass full guy but many of these doomsday scenarios and the demise of whole industry or markets is a bit distressing to me as many times the industry or market does not go away, it just looks different.

Let me say this: If you are a print service provider, your best days could still be ahead …. It is up to you, not the post office. Let me share my thoughts.

Let’s make (5) assumptions:

  1. The amount of transactional data is not going down it is going up
  2. The need for that transactional data to be communicated/distributed  to customers will NEVER go away
  3. Volume for printed statements and bills will decrease over time (not tomorrow)
  4. Volume for delivery of electronic documents will increase
  5. Some applications being done on presses will migrate to digital, so digital print volume will increase

So given that today you process transactional data, print and mail bills and statements using digital print technology I would think:

  1. In the future you would have more data to process
  2. That data will have to be distributed
  3. Some information may need to be mailed, sent via email, text  or sent via mobile
  4. There will be more digital print volume as print quality and costs improve
  5. There is HUGE opportunity in information and output (not just print)

So what do you need to do?

Think data and specifically think “who controls the data wins”. What print service providers need to be is the keeper of the data. They want to be the ones that process and format the data but also distribute it: print and mail, email, send SMS, text or support whatever new delivery phenomena comes in the future.

Print service providers should be educating themselves on these ancillary technologies and offering them as a service, one that can generate revenue.  If you just want to print and mail start figuring out your exit strategy. However if you want a bright future become a distributor of information.

Becoming an information distributor

  • Keep abreast of how people communicate
  • Get familiar with all the methods of output and the vendors who offer these products
  • Spend time keeping up to date on the latest digital print technology
  • Invest in yourself and company employees by attending industry events, webcasts, etc.
  • Remember “he who controls the data wins”

By the way, I told the folks at Rollsource that their future is bright also

P.S. –  Since this is my blog, I will shamelessly say you need to attend the upcoming Xplor Users Conference and Vendor Forum April 16-18 in St. Pete Beach Florida. In one place you can:

  • Hear the latest trends and best practices that are driving customer communications
  • Meet with the companies who have made this transition and who are happy to share
  • Spend time with the vendors who can provide the products to grow your business
  • Hear the latest trends presented by the Gartner Group, InfoTrends and Madison Advisors

Visit http://xplor.org/upcoming-events/annual-conference  to view a complete agenda and registration options. Or call 813-949-6170

For my blog readers, (PSP’s and end users) if you are interested in attending please email me at skip@xplor.org and I will send you a promotion code to save on registration. First (5) will save big.

To Blog or Not to Blog, That Is The Question

Over the last several months I have personally questioned the effectiveness of social media as tweeting, posting and blogging can eat up your time. As such I wondered if my time was being well spent.

At this year’s XDU On the Road I have consistently asked “How many people have a twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook account? Write a blog?” The majority of the people raise their hands for Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook with one or two writing a blog.

Then, I asked how many people tweet, use LinkedIn and Facebook AND how many people read blogs. Significantly fewer people raised their hands.

So as I was evaluating how I wanted to spend my time and resources in 2013 Deborah Corn of Print Media Centr sent me a report on my blog. Now, to make sure everyone knows, Deborah helps with my social media including Twitter and the Xplor Facebook page. As far as my blog, I write it, she makes it look great and then posts it for me. So, back to my blog.

The report I received from World Atlas stated the following.

  • My blogs had 5,300 views in 2012 on 26 posts – Average 204 per post
  • The busiest day of the year was September 30th with 261 views. The most popular post that day was Printing is not dead, it is different.
  • The top referring sites were: Facebook, Twitter, networkedblogs.com, globalnews.printmediacentr.com, linkedin.com
  • Blog was read in 117 countries (there are 193 countries in the world depending on what source you reference http://www.worldatlas.com/nations.htm)
  • Most visitors came from The United States, India & The United Kingdom

Now these numbers pale in comparison to many others but a couple key things came from them:

  • I know someone has been reading them, so there is an interest
  • It give me a base line to expand ….. My goal for 2013 is 15,000 views read in 140 countries
  • REALLY has motivated me to really see what I can do with it

Hope all of you had a Happy Holiday Season and I extend my best wishes for a happy, healthy, joyous and prosperous 2013.

Thank you for reading my blog, and don’t forget to pass it along if you think it is worthwhile.