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Not a cloud in the sky…

At Xploration™14 in March we had several sessions on the cloud. Fortunately I was able to attend a couple of them and came back with more questions than answers as to how vulnerable Xplor would be if the cloud suddenly disappeared.

My conclusion to my brief sixty second assessment, we would be in deep trouble depending on the length of the outage and the ability of our provider to get us back up. Xplor’s email system is in the cloud as well as our event registration, website and members hub, which is just about all of Xplor.  We backup our database but if the rest goes down it is still a really big  problem.

Wozniak Agrees?

In further researching I read an interesting article the other day by Steve Wozniak regarding the cloud that made me think. In the article he stated “The more we transfer everything onto the web, onto the cloud, the less we’re going to have control over it. With the cloud, you don’t own anything. You already signed it away.”  Read the article.

The term that really caught my attention was You already signed it away.”  Yes, that is what we often do when we check that terms and conditions box in addition to absolving the provider of most if not all liability.

The Need to Ask Questions

What if your cloud provider goes out of business, is a victim of hackers or cyber terrorists. What are their safeguards? How do you get back up and running?  How do you recover? What is their liability?

Xplor as an organization is going to be asking the three vendors that control our “clouds” these questions.

So how does your organization handle the cloud and the people you entrust with your information?

What if there was not a cloud in the sky? I am curious to hear your views.

 

 

Dear Occupant, We Are Raising The Bar!

If you are old enough to remember receiving direct mail addressed to “Dear Occupant,” you will certainly remember the astonishment and wonder when you received your first piece of “personalized mail” – Dear (insert your name here).
Over time the level of text personalization increased to include things like the company you worked for, the city you lived in, etc., and we all felt connected in some way. We were not just an “occupant” but an individual.

That was the late 80‘s, early 90’s if I recall correctly.

Today, receive a piece of personalized mail and you are typically less than impressed. In fact, you probably may even ignore it unless it is something out of the ordinary, like your name spelled in the sand on a beach, or in the clouds against a blue sky. There is still a WOW factor to the innovative use of personalization. However personalization and the WOW factor have to be relevant. A catchy piece, plus a good offer to the right person, equals a winner for the Brand.

In 1999 Harry Quadracci of Quad Graphics wrote, “We are in the Age of Advertising. Baby Boomers, now in their peak spending years, have a lot of buying power, and there’s going to be a lot of advertising to get that dollar. The best way to harness that buying power will be through properly promoting the brand… and the most effective media for brand promotion will continue to be ink on paper. It’s The Brand, Stupid, it’s The Brand!”

Mr.Quadracci was right in 1999 and remains so today, “it is the brand” and the decision makers of the brands who require results. Sending out 100,000 pieces of direct mail to “Dear (insert your name here), hoping 2-3% produce results is no longer what the brands are looking for or need. Sending out 50,000 innovative pieces, to the right people with the right offer drives double digit results. If you are a printer I am not saying you need to be a “marketeer” – but you do need to understand what your customers may ask you to print. (Everyone familiar with augmented reality?)

So as a printer, what is interactive print? (I personally believe it could be the Renaissance of direct mail) What do the brands need? How can you be part of the opportunity?

There is a great deal of opportunity for those who get it. To get it you need to reach out to different places and spheres of influences.

I invite you to add Xplor to your sphere of influences and join us for Xploration 14, March 25-27th in Orlando Florida.

Visit http://xplor.org/upcoming-events/2014-annual-conference

Are We Sacrificing Sales For Convenience?

A Mobile App or The Hot Dog Guy

One of the big joys in my life is attending sporting events whether it  baseball, football, hockey, arena football. There are some things I love and I hate about the experience.

Baseball• I LOVE to sit in the stands, do the wave, eat a hot dog and drink a beer
• I HATE to have to get up and stand in line for a hotdog and a beer
• I LOVE to sit in my seat and buy a hotdog and beer from one of the vendors
• I HATE when they pass my hotdog down the row and 10 people have their hands on it
• I LOVE not getting out of my seat, so I get over it them passing my hot dog

Throw the Hot Dog Guy Out

What if you had a mobile app that allowed you to sit in your seat key in your section and seat number and order whatever you want and it will be delivered to you right where you sit?  Payment is automatic, including the tip and posted to your account. No fuss no muss.

You don’t have to wait for a vendor to come by to remind you that you need another beverage or that your daughter wants cotton candy.

Would you download such an app? Well it’s currently being tested at Yankee Stadium in New York in Section 130 and is also being used in stadiums in Ireland and Australia. It seems just a matter of time to invade the US sports scene unless fans reject it …. which we should.  Click here to check out the whole story

Enough is Enough!

I know I said I hated to get up and stand in line but that is why they have the hot dog and beer vendors. These folks are going to lose their job. And what about the cotton candy guy making me look like a hero when she says “Daddy can I have some cotton candy, pleeeeaaaasseee” and she gives me a kiss on the cheek.

What are the owners thinking? How would I know I needed that second beverage, that bag of peanuts or a second hotdog if those wonderful vendors did not remind.

In my mind they are making a mistake and are going to lose money.  Am I going to download the app? I don’t think so. Are you?

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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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Are We There Yet? We will see at #Print13

One of the buzzwords or phrases that has made the rounds the last several years is “multi-channel marketing”.  I have watched dozens of  presentations on the subject, spoken about it and have debated it’s attributes.

What is Multi-Channel Marketing?

According to our friends at Wikipedia – Multichannel marketing is marketing using many different marketing channels to reach a customer.[1] In this sense, a channel might be a retail store, a web site, a mail order catalogue, or direct personal communications by letter, email or text message. The objective of the companies doing the marketing is to make it easy for a consumer to buy from them in whatever way is most appropriate.

Does Multi-Channel Marketing Equate To Effective Marketing?

My favorite definition of relevant communications is “the right message, to the right person at the right time …. using the right media.  Is multi-channel communications the same thing as effective marketing? Sometimes, maybe but not always. 

When I was looking at what type of programming Xplor was going to do at Print13 I decided it was time to address the issue. I wanted to have a forum where several companies who had implemented multi-channel communications speak openly about their successes and failures. I wanted someone to ask the tough questions, who knows the industry.

Are We There Yet: A 2013 Multi-Channel Communications Industry Perspective 

InfoTrends_A_Questex_Company_LogoPrint 13 is the perfect backdrop for Xplor’s breakfast keynote session moderated by industry expert Matt Swain of InfoTrends. Matt’s panel of leading print service providers will talk about their challenges, the things they would do different and the things that worked.

It is a don’t miss 90 minutes at Print13.

The breakfast panel is taking place September 10th from 8:30 am to 10:00 am. The cost, complimentary thanks to our sponsors CompartCrawford Technologies and Solimar Systems.

Join us for breakfast, a great educational session and also receive a complimentary exhibit hall pass simply by registering to attend.

The session is going to be conveniently located at McCormick Place South in Room 101 a few short steps from the shuttle bus drop off area.

Register here ASAP as attendance is limited to 200. 

See you in Chicago …. Are We There Yet?

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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

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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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.