Going Digital at Your Own Pace

Submitted by Alexandra Truchot, Content Creation Specialist for Objectif Lune.
May 25, 2016

Going digital: everybody’s talking about it. For some people, it’s a no-brainer and has been reality for a number of years. Others are still struggling to digitize their business procedures. Any way you look at it, the future is digital. But making the switch is complicated.

In a perfect world, you would always send documents by email or publish them to the web. Not only would you be more efficient, you would save money.

Yet, most of organizations still do not send electronic invoices, even in simple PDF format! Customers are still requesting paper invoices and the employees are used to handling documents as they always have. Often, organizations do not have all of their customers’ email addresses. Small- and medium-size enterprises (SME) that began operations prior to the advent of digital, for the most part continue to use paper. Large businesses can afford to develop custom solutions and withstand the risk. SMEs that start up today put digital solutions in place from the get-go. But for medium-size enterprises that have been in business for a number of years, the risk is too great of placing the billing process at a disadvantage or weakening their finances by changing their procedures too abruptly. They lack the means to throw themselves into costly development projects and do not have the in-house resources to modify the systems in place.

Is your organization experiencing these problems?

There is, however, a way to remedy this situation without generating astronomical costs and up-ending your current procedures. Digitize your in-house procedures first. The transition will be smoother when you are ready to communicate electronically with your customers.

Here are some first steps that will make it easier for you to go digital.

  1. Set up an automatic digitization process for archiving your communications with your customers, such as invoices and other documents. Using a middleware system, you collect customer communications to digitize them and make them available as needed. This means that you are keeping electronic copies of all your records, even if you still do not send them to the customers.
  2. Have customer service employees routinely ask customers for their email address when speaking to them on the phone.
  3. Archive these documents in an .XML file and generate PDFs solely upon request for a copy. This takes up less space on your servers.
  4. Start by always sending PDF copies of current accounts in addition to the paper copy requested by the client. You won’t be abandoning paper right away but you will be starting a smooth transition.
  5. Once you’re more comfortable with the digital format in-house and your clients are used to receiving a PDF copy, it will be time to format your invoices so that they can be sent directly in an HTML email.

The right solution adapts to the processes you already have in place and does not require changing everything. Be careful with anything promising drastic changes; you need a solution that will adapt itself to what you already have.


AlexandraTruchot ThumbnailAlexandra Truchot – Content creation specialist with Objectif Lune. Writer and compulsive reader. Eager for unknown destinations and exciting encounters. Anything is possible, you just have to believe it. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Objectif Lune has 20 years of experience developing Customer Communications Management solutions. Our solutions bridge the gap between systems and automate more personalized, relevant, multichannel customer communications. Learn more at: www.objectiflune.com.

4 Ways to Improve Your Customer Communications

Submitted by Alexandra Truchot, Content Creation Specialist for Objectif Lune.
April 25, 2016

You’re probably bombarded with articles showing the need to improve your customer communications.

Now that you’re well aware of the impact the customer experience can have on your business, how exactly do you go about it? What are the main things to keep in mind and to implement?

Multichannel, rather than digital, communications
We repeatedly stress the importance of moving into the digital age. But consumer expectations are more complex than simply wanting to communicate with you by email because they are all different in terms of their speed in adapting to the digital world: traditional channels only, a little bit of digital or digital in every aspect of their lives.

All of these consumers co-exist, and it’s not as easy as it used to be to separate them simply based on age. Seniors are now as digital savvy as young people, who are still gravitating between traditional and digital. You have to be able to reach all of them. If not, a competitor will beat you to it.

Mobility and consistency
Not only are consumers connected 24/7, but they travel around a lot. And they want access to the same quality of information, no matter where they’re located.

Most companies have already started to offer their content through mobile and email, but it’s not easy to read, extends beyond the device’s screen and doesn’t offer the same features. Simply put, because companies are still not managing to change content based on the strengths of each platform, they settle for using the same elements, regardless of where the content is posted. But customers have less and less patience with sites and email unsuited to mobile. They want a total, consistent experience.

Being responsive and fast
Mobility leads to a real-time need. Customers are now used to getting news at any time, and as soon as it happens. They expect things to work the same way in their business relationships. They want information to be available 24/7 and on demand.

More than anything else, consumers assess your response time. Organizations that can respond in real time are now getting ahead of the curve.

Your customers want their next invoice to reflect the latest call they had with you, even if it was only a couple of days ago. If they request a change in their account or billing, you can no longer afford to wait several weeks before accounting for it in the communications sent over any of the channels.

Loyalty: an ongoing pursuit
Loyalty means little anymore. Just because customers buy your products, it doesn’t mean they’ll stick with you forever. Nowadays, they need to be wooed on a continual basis because they’re always assessing you. The digital age has made it possible for them to move around: in just a few clicks, they can find out what your competitors are doing. They can make quick online comparisons.

If the competitor seems to be offering a more personalized customer experience, chances are your customers will go to that competitor, even if your products are top of the line.


AlexandraTruchot Thumbnail

Alexandra Truchot – Content creation specialist with Objectif Lune. Writer and compulsive reader. Eager for unknown destinations and exciting encounters. Anything is possible, you just have to believe it. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Objectif Lune has 20 years of experience developing Customer Communications Management solutions. Our solutions bridge the gap between systems and automate more personalized, relevant, multichannel customer communications. Learn more at: www.objectiflune.com.

 

Harry’s Corner – Adding Value with 3-4-1 is Another Win-Win

Submitted by Harry Stephens, President/CEO of DATAMATX
October 5, 2015

I have just finished my usual round of September travels—starting with the Major Mailers Association, the National Postal Policy Council (NPPC) where I serve on the board, then on to the INg workshop and finally a visit to Graph Expo to see what is new. I always learn a lot on these whirlwind trips and this one was no exception. This year there was a great deal of buzz around inkjet technology and how it makes it more affordable to add color to our documents to keep print alive and relevant. It is a proven fact—color delivers value. Of course we still need to find a way to communicate the value it has in order to charge for it. That’s why the leaders in our industry are gathering as much information as possible on how to produce color at a reasonable cost—and work to make informed decisions on investing in equipment that allows for more affordable full color capabilities.

Delivering value was also the buzz at the NPPC meeting. James (Jim) P. Cochrane spoke to us about the need to make mail more relevant. We have to find ways to add more value to mail in order to keep it in the system. Jim is a 41-year veteran of the USPS and has been acting chief marketing and sales officer and executive vice president (CMSO) since April 2015. He reports to the Postmaster General. What I liked about Jim is that he understands the need to be flexible and change things if needed. He directed the advancement of new mail intelligence, engineering systems, information technology systems, payment technology, secure digital solutions and corporate information security to meet the changing needs of today’s marketplace.

As Jim spoke about relevancy and value, what immediately came to my mind was “2-4-1 and Everybody Wins.” It was the title of a column I wrote for this very publication four years ago. 2-4-1 came about at a Major Mailers Association meeting where Paul Vogel, the president and chief marketing/sales officer for the USPS at the time, spoke about improving the USPS experience for its customers. After his talk, one member brought up the idea that perhaps the USPS would approve allowing business mailers to mail a two-ounce piece at the one-ounce rate. Every major mailer at the meeting liked this idea, the USPS implemented it and it was highly successful.

I began to think about all I have been learning about inkjet technology having been at the recent Inkjet Summit and its ability to lower the cost per page; and if 2-4-1 was a success in increasing mail by making mailing more documents affordable, why build a better mousetrap—just make it larger by now allowing three ounces at the one-ounce rate. That would give business mailers a little more latitude and alleviate the worry of losing the discount to mail at the single piece rate if they were slightly over the two ounces—adding value. It would help support the demand for creating (and mailing) more documents in color—adding value. It would allow mailers to get the mail to the recipient faster as 3-4-1 would be at the threshold of the cutoff for Standard Mail—adding value. Of course, it would require a 6 x 9 envelope, but many folks are used to receiving transactional bills that way already.

As it turned out, adopting the 2-4-1 suggestion on the part of the USPS was easy. First, there were no legal restrictions to worry about and it didn’t need the PRC to rule or Congress to approve, as it was not a rate increase or a mandate. So adopting 3-4-1 could happen just as smoothly.

At these meetings, we openly discuss ways to create more value with printed mail. So after Jim spoke, I made the suggestion that moving up an ounce to ‘3-4-1’would be a serious additional stimulus for marketing via First Class. As I said earlier, I think Jim Cochrane is a person who welcomes changing things if it makes sense—and 3-4-1 certainly does. In 2011, in this very publication, I predicted 2-4-1 would be a win-win for mailers and the USPS and it was. I think 3-4-1 will be a win-win as well—providing the extra value needed to keep printed mail relevant.

What’s your opinion on 3-4-1? I am interested. You can email me at hstephens@datamatx.com. I hope to hear from you!

Until next time – Harry

Harry Stephens


Harry Stephens is President/CEO, and founder of DATAMATX, one of the nation’s largest privately held, full-service providers of printed and electronic billing solutions. As an advocate for business mailers across the country, Stephens is actively involved in several postal trade associations. He serves on the Executive Board of the Greater Atlanta Postal Customer Council, Board Member of the National Postal Policy Council (NPPC), Member of Major Mailers Association(MMA), and member of the Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service . He is also president of the Imaging Network Group (INg), an association for Print/Mail Service Bureaus. As an expert on high-volume print and mail, he has frequently been asked to speak to various USPS groups, including the Board of Governors, about postal reform and other issues affecting business mailers. Find DATAMATX at www.datamatx.com.

Why is the EDBOK important to our industry? By Roberta McKee-Jackson

Note: At Xploration®14 Xplor International began a roll out of the first Electronic Document Body of Knowledge by providing conference attendees a limited edition of the document with the official First Edition released at the 2014 Graph Expo event.

Due to the significance of the publication and the impact on the industry as a whole Xplor has decided to provide a series of articles outlining what the EDBOK is, the impact it can have within your company as well as on one’s career.


Publication of A Guide to the Electronic Document Body of Knowledge (EDBOK), First Edition, represents a significant achievement for the electronic document systems industry. The industry as we know it today has changed dramatically from the one we understood 35 years ago. Innovations in technology, hardware, software, and people skills have resulted in the complexity of digital documents and data-driven communications that we utilize today.

The EDBOK represents the first compilation of the knowledge and expertise required to create and develop digital communications in today’s world – bills, statements, insurance policies, regulatory documentation, financial documents, and marketing communications. Never before has the collective knowledge of our industry been compiled into a single resource document, from the history of technology and processes to the current state of the industry.

The EDBOK serves as a brilliant resource for staff at every level within a company. For those new to the industry, it is a roadmap of the technologies and processes required to create digital communications. For more experienced staff, it is a reference source for continued development and education.

Topics covered in the EDBOK explain the technologies and processes using a standard vocabulary to describe the day-to-day production workflow and the long-term document systems development lifecycle. All forms of digital communication are created using these production job steps, from data to doorstep. The development processes covering the entire life of a document include business requirements, business/technical analysis, architecture, design, development, testing, production, and maintenance.

For those who want to pursue designation under the EDP (Electronic Document Professional®) program, EDBOK represents the body of knowledge categories required for peer review and assessment. Perusing the varied topics will help candidates determine how their expertise and knowledge map against the criteria for certification. Staff who have two years of industry experience may apply for the EDA (Electronic Document Associate) designation while those with five or more years experience may apply for EDP certification.

The EDBOK embodies the collation of knowledge of the digital communications industry at a point in time and will prove to be an extremely valuable resource for anyone in this industry. As a living document, updates to reflect further innovations in technology and processes will be added to provide the most up-to-date industry guide.

For more information on the Electronic Document Body of Knowledge please visit: www.edbok.org or call Xplor International at +1 813-949-6170.

What is an EDBOK, anyway? By Pat McGrew

Note: At Xploration®14 Xplor International began a roll out of the first Electronic Document Body of Knowledge by providing conference attendees a limited edition of the document with the official First Edition released at the 2014 Graph Expo event.

Due to the significance of the publication and the impact on the industry as a whole Xplor has decided to provide a series of articles outlining what the EDBOK is, the impact it can have within your company as well as on one’s career.


 

EDBOK

Pat McGrew, M-EDP, CMP
Print, Inkjet, and Production Mail Evangelist at Hewlett-Packard

When the project began to create A Guide to the Electronic Document Body of Knowledge (EDBOK), there were team members who had experience with other groups with similar documents. The one we used to model our talk track was the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) from the Project Management Institute. Their document forms the basis of the knowledge needed to attain one of the four PMI certification levels. We saw that as a great model for Xplor and the Xplor certification programs.

With the PMBOK as a model and years of Electronic Document Professional (EDP) certification portfolios to provide ideas, a team of Xplorers began the process of defining the knowledge they wanted to capture. The intent was to document the topics that form the basis of the EDP certification matrix so that prospective EDP candidates could map their knowledge to the certification criteria. Along the way as the contents were defined, and subject matter experts stepped up to write about the things they knew we found that the EDBOK was more than a path to EDP certification. It became the documentation of our industry.

We call it the guide to the Electronic Document Body of Knowledge because Xplor has always been the user association where professionals involved in generating bills, statements, regulatory material, proxy statements, insurance policies, and the rest of the documents that authenticate relationships between consumers and businesses gather.  It is a tall order! And over the years Xplor expanded to touch all types of data-driven communication, including marketing communication. So think of Electronic Documents as the shorthand for all of those mail pieces that begin deep in a computer and end up in your mail box or inbox.

So what is the EDBOK? It is the definition of the key facets of the electronic document industry. It covers every step in the lifecycle of a document, from the idea to create it to the requirement to archive it. It covers the history of the industry through the changes in technology, file formats, and delivery techniques. It looks at details like image and font formats, and big ideas like Critical Communication recovery.

We consider it a living book. This is just the first edition to get us started. Our hope is that in the coming years there will be updates to keep the book current with technology and processes, and to add any missing pieces from the history gathered so far.

For more information on the Electronic Document Body of Knowledge please visit: www.edbok.org or call Xplor International at +1-813-949-6170.

Connecting the Dots – Common Sense in Customer Communications

Blog Submitted by Scott Bannor

The variety of technologies available for use in the customer communications arena has grown to the point where no doubt there’s something for everyone.

Whether you’re in IT and need a way to build high volume, transactional mailings or in marketing and need a way to create targeted direct mail you can be sure there’s a vendor that has just what you’re looking for.

But as far as I can tell so far there’s no technology that consistently delivers common sense to the process. Here’s what I mean…

Last week my wife and I received new credit cards from a bank with whom we’ve done business for several years. Since the new cards were unexpected – the expiration date for the old cards was more than a year off – I wondered why we had received them. I compared the numbers on the new cards to the numbers on the old ones. Surprisingly the number on my wife’s card was the same but the number on my card was different.

This made me even more curious. Why were we getting new cards before the expiration date and why was the number on my card different?

So to get these mysteries answered I did what hundreds – perhaps thousands – of other folks do. I called the bank’s customer service.

Now for the good news: They answered promptly. Even better – it was clear from the way they answered that the bank’s customer service was US-based (apologies to anyone reading this who’s not US-based). The pleasant young woman who answered asked me how she could help. I explained what my questions were and (it just keeps getting better) she knew the answers.

The reason we received new cards was because the bank was moving from mag-stripe to chip technology in their credit cards. I was happy to hear this because having traveled internationally I was aware of the fact that the US trails the rest of the world in this particular field. But what was the reason for the change to the numbers on my card? She explained it was because chip technology requires unique numbers on each card – even in the case of multiple cards on the same account.

So the mysteries were solved. The nice young woman asked, “Is there anything else I can help you with today?” and my customer communication industry professional came out.

I said, “Sure. I’m in the customer communication industry and I’ve actually been in your production print operation a number of times and am familiar with the technologies your bank uses in developing and producing customer communications. So how come you folks don’t put a notice in with the new cards that says something like, ‘Here are your new cards. We’re replacing your old cards because… Your numbers might be different because…’. Something as simple as that would go a long way toward driving down the number of phone calls like the one we’re having right now and save your company a lot of money.”

She said, “Yes, that’s right. A note has already been passed up to customer communications on this subject to see if there’s some way to drive down all the redundant calls we’re getting to answer these questions.”

In other words in spite of the fact that this bank has spent millions of dollars on all sorts of customer communication technologies no one thought the process through. No one stepped back to think about what customers would do when they receive new cards unexpectedly and / or their new cards have different numbers. No one thought about the back end cost of “all the redundant calls” their customer service group would have to handle because of the changes.

In other words the lack of common sense as it applies to this sort of process has a profound effect on the cost of customer communication as well as on how customers perceive companies with whom they do business.

By the time the folks in customer service passed a note to their colleagues in customer communications about it a lot of money had been needlessly spent. And of course, because of this the bank isn’t getting anywhere near the value they need out of those very expensive technologies.

I suspect the situation I’ve described is repeated time and again throughout the broad spectrum of customer communications and services. What can be done about it?

Is size the problem?
The problem, besides the absence of common sense lies in the fact that enterprises have become so large, complex and compartmentalized that it’s difficult maybe impossible, to connect all of the dots involved in customer communications and service.

Customer communications in itself is so complex and involve so many different constituencies and disciplines most enterprises are challenged to have a meaningful view into or an ability to control the entire process. Not to mention all of the different channels and all the different document types by which we communicate with customers.

For example let’s look at the process of sending out replacement credit cards. I think it’s safe to assume that in many cases the same organizations that produce credit cards also produce and send out documents such as letters, invoices and statements. In fact up to a point these processes employ many of the same technologies and concepts – databases, document composition systems, postal hygiene, production speed non-impact printing systems, etc.

Of course they diverge when it comes time to produce credit cards. I won’t go into the details on this. If your organization produces credit cards and you’re curious about how it’s done I’m sure you can easily learn about it. But once the cards are produced they’re affixed to what the industry calls “carriers”. Carriers are in effect, letters. The next time you receive a new or replacement card take the time to look at the carrier. If it was done “right” it should be personalized – at least in that it has your name, address and account number. More sophisticated operations may include other information specific to you such as your FICO score, your credit limit, etc.

But is the card issuer taking full advantage of this opportunity to communicate with you?

Would it be better for the bank as well as for their customers if (in addition to common sense) they had a way to allow people in customer communications to control the process of designing, approving and updating carriers Would it be especially effective if customer communications didn’t have to depend on IT to act as a conduit between them and their production print operations?

If the carrier my replacement cards were on had contained a message explaining the reasons for the replacement it almost certainly would have eliminated the need for my call to customer service. If the bank’s customer communications group had an easy way to manage the content of the carriers without having to rely on IT resources they would most likely be proactive rather than reactive in communicating with customers regarding changes of any sort.

I should point out here that I’ve suggested this approach to people who run companies the banks outsource credit card production to. I’m sorry to report that they haven’t yet seen the advantages of offering this sort of facility to the banks they work for. It seems they’re content to manufacture the cards and affix them to relatively generic carriers. In fact in many cases the carriers are printed in completely separate operations. This is just one more example of unconnected dots. But there’s more…

Technology silos = unconnected dots
In the past it’s been normal practice for enterprises to build technology silos to address specific needs. However, it no longer makes sense financially or process-wise to continue doing this as it is a major inhibitor to connecting the dots.

So it would make sense if a system that empowers customer communications people to take control of the design and content of credit card carriers could also be used to connect those users with enterprise data sources and enterprise content as well as allow them (and others throughout the organization) to take control of the design and content of other high value, critical customer communications. These may include depending on industry, acceptance/rejection letters, application forms, order forms, premium notices, statements, bills, etc., etc. – just about anything that affects the relationship between the organization and its customers.

It might also be advantageous if the system allowed business users to make the determination (assuming customer opt-in) of how the communication is delivered – print, email, text, web, mobile or social media – again without having to depend on IT involvement.

The right technology would even allow customer communications to get creative in how they send out updates. For example would it make sense to inform customers that new credit cards were coming their way before the cards are mailed? Some customers might want to know via text message, others via their social media. Would this help cut down on customer service calls from people with questions?

Once this sort of system is in place users would find all sorts of ways to improve how their organizations communicated with customers. And they might use common sense in its application.

It’s clear this approach would save considerable time and money and more importantly, make customers happier. The customer communications arena has lots of dots to connect – isn’t it time to start connecting yours?

Harry’s Corner – Star ‘n Cones

Submitted by Harry Stephens, President/CEO of DATAMATX
May 11, 2015

Anyone who knows me well knows I love everything about the mail. Even when I travel, I like to visit the local post office to see what it is like—particularly in countries outside the U.S. Recently, I was in Italy on a trip that took us from Rome to hilltop towns built up to 10 centuries ago and to Florence. It was quite a trip with our driver (Paulo) who explained the history of things along the way. Of course, my request was always to stop in each town to see how they managed their mail. What I learned was the post offices in Italy don’t resemble any post office we have here in the United States. Unlike here, where we view the post office as a place to buy stamps and send packages, the Poste Italiane is a place where you can accomplish all sorts of tasks.

You can pay certain bills, collect a pension check, renew a passport and even buy health insurance. Seriously—you can. It is also a competitive operator in the area for financial and payment services: savings accounts, interest-bearing bonds, national and international money orders.

Additionally, you can shop for things like books, CDs and even cell phones. There are posters all around promoting these things and there are consultants on site to help you with whatever you need. In Florence, when I entered the door of the Poste, I saw a machine that dispenses numbered tickets based on what you were planning to do there. Then, similar to the DMV, you waited until your number came up on the screen. The Florence post office was a veritable hub of activity.

Standing there I started thinking about our post offices—what may be missing and it sparked an idea (if you read my column, you know I have made several) for an option that might help alleviate some of the financial burden it carries. If European towns use the post office as a hub for other things besides mail, why can’t we? I know we can’t let a government institution go into banking or sell insurance. Private enterprise would not allow it. But how about getting support from private enterprise in another way?

For example, what if a company like Starbucks® stepped up and decided to help out the situation by creating a franchise model that would rent space from the USPS, similar to how the USPS operates within a Staples store? Or a telecommunications provider, like Verizon® or T – Mobile® have a franchise model that rented space from the USPS? If it was the type of products and services people wanted, and the franchise was located within the USPS real estate, perhaps it would spur activity around the post office itself, encourage local involvement and help offset the costs of operating the building.

This idea strikes me as particularly relevant for local post offices in rural areas where services like the ones mentioned are needed and not always available. A model like this might be a good gesture on the part of a company like Starbucks or Verizon and bring in more foot traffic to help keep our smaller post offices open. A few years ago there was a survey that found at least 6,000 post offices in the U.S. served a volume of only 3.3 people each day. 3.3! People in these areas don’t want to lose their post office—or their jobs. So if it’s some of my earlier suggestions, like “no work Wednesdays,” or decreeing “Saturday a day of rest” that might help save the USPS—or sharing space with Star ‘n Cones—the point is we all know something has to change.

Until next time – Harry
Harry Stephens


Harry Stephens is President/CEO, and founder of DATAMATX, one of the nation’s largest privately held, full-service providers of printed and electronic billing solutions. As an advocate for business mailers across the country, Stephens is actively involved in several postal trade associations. He serves on the Executive Board of the Greater Atlanta Postal Customer Council, Board Member of the National Postal Policy Council (NPPC), Member of Major Mailers Association(MMA), and member of the Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service . He is also immediate past president of the Imaging Network Group (INg), an association for Print/Mail Service Bureaus. As an expert on high-volume print and mail, he has frequently been asked to speak to various USPS groups, including the Board of Governors, about postal reform and other issues affecting business mailers. Find DATAMATX at www.datamatx.com.

HP Exstream Takes Customer Communication Management to 11!

Guest post by Deborah Corn

I can’t resist a Spinal Tap reference, and in this case it’s easy to work in. I was hanging out in the HP High Speed Inkjet area at DscoopX last week and Heather Oliver from HP Exstream was just a few feet away manning their demo station. I was able to catch her in a brief moment between customer and attendee visits, and she was kind enough to talk to me about HP Exstream and the upcoming Xploration 15 Conference. I had no idea this software did all that it does – like spell check MEDICAL and LEGAL terms, and now with the launch of Empower customer communications can be managed online, and by a group of people!!! So actually, maybe this product goes to 12!

Check out the Xploration 15 Pre-Conference Workshop I am presenting with Trish Witkowski from Fold factory and Joanne Gore from Avanti on April 13th: Rescue Your Printshop’s ROI… Online Strategies For Offline Success

See you in Orlando!

Want To Earn More Money? Attend A Conference!

Submitted by Skip Henk, EDP, President/CEO of Xplor International
March 2, 2015

A couple weeks ago I read the 2015 InPlant Salary Survey and certainly was heartened to find that salaries are in fact on the rise. In fact, in the InPlant world, they have risen 9.9% over the last two years.IP_Clip

The survey was very well done and included a wide variety of statistics. InPlant did their typical great job. Of particular interest to me was that of the 231 usable responses, 44% of the managers who attended conferences (up from 27.5% in 2013) made 17.2% more than those that did not. That is a significant number.

The question is why?

Today, one can go to the internet and find almost anything they wish. The internet has become the go to source for information but as Albert Einstein once said “Information is not knowledge.”

To experience knowledge one must not only find facts and information but also acquire skills through experience or education.

So it simply makes sense that those who invest in expanding their knowledge by attending conferences, and learning from the experiences of others are more invaluable to their company.

Besides making more money, Why Attend A Conference?

  • Conference attendees benefit from people who have the same challenges and are willing to share them in order to help others learn from their experience. To learn what to do as well as what not to do.
  • Meeting people face to face and expanding ones professional network has many benefits that will impact your career. Your professional network can become a sounding board, a venue for new ideas, a place to find solutions or in some cases a future employee (or employer).
  • A good conference is a great place to keep up on all the latest technologies and trends.

Just one idea from a conference event can save or make a company a great deal of money. Here is what just one attendee stated after a conference.

“XPLOR one year gave me answers to take home a $500 Million dollar savings to my company! That being said, I was nominated employee of the year!” – Gene

All conferences are not created (or executed) equally

Attending a conference is an investment, one that can pay big dividends but all conferences are not created equal. When choosing a conference you should look for several things.

  • Does the agenda have topics of relevant interest?
  • Are there sessions that will take you beyond what you are doing today? Expand your knowledge of the industry.
  • Are the educational sessions a blend of users and vendors speaking?
  • Are there plenty of networking activities?
  • Does the agenda include best practices and industry trends?
  • Will you walk away with new ideas and motivation?

Yes, I am a bit biased. 

Being the president of Xplor, I may be a bit prejudiced but I believe Xploration® 15 is a unique event that encompasses all six points mentioned above “when choosing a conference”, because it was designed that way.

“The conference content is selected by our members, Xplor HQ just handles the logistics.”

Xploration 15 is April 14-16th at the Wyndham Orlando Resort International Drive in sunny Orlando Florida. Check out our digital brochure.

  • 60+ Educational Sessions
    • Featuring end users, industry analysts and subject matter experts
  • Daily Networking Events: The number one networking conference in the industry!
    • (2) evening events, (2) lunches and (1) breakfast
  • 35+ Industry Partners in the Vendor Forum
    • Meet with leading edge vendors
  • Motivational & Industry Keynotes
    • Devon Harris, three-time Olympian and 1988 Jamaican Bobsled team member which inspired the Disney movie “Cool Runnings”
    • John Biehler, Top 10 Influencer in 3D Printing
  • Acadami’s Electronic Document (BOK): Production Workflow Basics Track
    • A great program for anyone who wants to get a better “end to end” understanding of the document lifecycle.
  • Optional Pre-Conference Courses
    • Print Media Centr – Rescue Your Printshop ROI Workshop
    • Madison Advisors – CCM Intensive

For more information, or to register, please visit the conference website.

Hope to see you in Orlando April 14-16, 2015 ….. (If not, at some conference somewhere)


skip_Henk_Photo_2011

 

Skip Henk, EDP
Xplor President/CEO

What Was “Old, Stale, and so 1990s” Is New Again!

Submitted by Skip Henk, EDP, President/CEO of Xplor International
February 24, 2015

The roar from our members had finally reached a crescendo that it was time to do something. I find Inaction under the guise of “not enough time” could no longer be an excuse.

And so it goes for www.xplor.org

The “Ah-hah” Moment

Over the last two years I have received comments about our website. Comments such as: “The site looks old”, “you need to be mobile friendly”, “stale”, “so 1990’s” to name just a few. BUT we were busy, did not have enough time and really could not deal with it at the time. (A bit short sighted)

The “ah-hah” moment came when one of our members called me and flat out told me she was frustrated with the site and would not recommend any of her colleagues or friends to visit the site.

That simple phone call hit home. When your own member would not recommend your site your credibility is called into play and the logical assumption is you are not acting in the best interest of your members, whether intentional or not.

“For every customer who bothers to complain, 26 other customers remain silent.” Source: White House Office of Consumer Affairs”

Your Website Is the Face of Your Company

A company website is many times the “first impression” one will have of your company. Since many people opt first to go to a company website to get information your website design needs to meet their needs. (Not yours) If the design of your website is unappealing, information is not readily available or hard to find, you most likely will lose a potential customer (or member).

• According to business2business community: (46%) of people say a website’s design is their number one criterion for determining the credibility of a company.

• “94% of people cited web design as the reason they mistrusted or rejected a website.” – ironpaper.com

Getting it Done

Like any project you have to commit, come up with a plan, allocate resources and execute. An organization must also realize its limitations and sometimes look outside for a solution.

That is what we did. We committed and incorporated outside resources into the plan. Turning things over is a difficult thing for most organizations but looking back me getting out of the way was the best thing that could have happened.

Our Marketing Coordinator was tasked with getting it done. He worked with Deborah Corn of Print Media Center, who coordinated the project with our web designer, Elementary Digital.

A Statement of Work was created, reviewed and agreed to. Work began and as much as I would like to take you through the process, I received occasional updates and assurances things were going well, and continued to stay off to the side.

The site was launched last week, they still are doing a bit of tweaking, but I feel Xplor has arrived and our “face” to the industry is new, fresh, intuitive and serves our membership.

Things to Think About

• Listen to your customers, they know what they want (and what they don’t)
• No excuses, short-term savings equals long term loss. Commit.
• Get people involved that do it for a living, you don’t have to do it all
• Spend time on the Statement of Work. What the end product will be.
• Do your homework, there are a lot of web designers. They are not all created equal.
• Do it … and enjoy the results

Your plan needs to be forward thinking and include not only viewing on a PC but tablets and mobile devices.

“Only 22% of marketers say they’re ahead of the curve when it comes to responsive design. 29% say they have “average” experience level, 23% say they’re behind the times, and 4% say they’re hopeless. (Source: eMarketer)”

Special Thanks to Deborah Corn at PrintMediaCentr, Andy Holland of Elementary Digital, and Chad Henk of Xplor for making what was old, new again.

And a big thank you to you for stopping by! We would love to hear your comments on the new site! Sound away!