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  • How Canon Users thINK

    By Noel Ward, Editor@Large

    Early fall is a fine time to go to south Florida. Hurricanes are (maybe) a bit less likely to disrupt travel plans, the temps have dropped out of the nineties and although the humidity is still there, the lower end of the Sunshine State is not a bad place to be, especially when the venue is the tony Boca Raton Resort and the reason for being there is Canon thINK 2017. This third iteration of Canon’s customer-driven conference brought in more than 400 people from around North America and other nations. Most were current Canon customers while others were in decision mode about which press to buy.

    As its name indicates, thINK is inkjet-driven and is intended to promote Canon’s line of inkjet presses and support the customers who use them. Between the “partner pavilion” where some 38 companies showed off their offerings, 70 speakers, more than 30 interactive sessions, and tours at Canon’s nearby Customer Engagement Center, there was constant activity and always the opportunity to gain practical knowledge and value.

    What Inkjet brings to the party
    Owners of Canon inkjet presses heard from numerous successful print providers that have seen their businesses grow after bringing in Canon inkjet technology. A common theme among these players was the ability to produce full color documents faster, more easily, and at a lower cost than with toner devices. Some talked about how they have sidelined some high-end toner machines in favor of inkjet, with some even saying they saw no need to use toner printers at all. Others said color inkjet eased the transition from black-only to full color for both print providers and customers. Experienced shops noted that the uptime for their inkjet machines was far better than for their toner printers, reducing production tensions and the cost of unexpected down time. All cited the color management capabilities that let them produce the colors customers needed on a variety of substrates and documents. The overall message was how Canon inkjet systems had been a positive addition to their businesses.

    The insights were not lost on attendees getting ready to pull the trigger on an inkjet press. I had lunch one day with some people I know who own a transactional service bureau. Their present cut-sheet toner machines come from a supplier that does not yet have a cut-sheet inkjet offering, but is offering compelling deals on some existing roll-fed inkjet systems. They were at thINK to learn more about Canon options, particularly the i200 and i300 machines. I don’t know what they will ultimately decide, but they recognized the strategic advantage cut-sheet inkjet could bring to their business and appreciated the value of thINK as an ongoing resource of knowledge and support.

    An info-rich environment
    A key advantage of thINK was the presentations and panel sessions that highlighted key areas of interest to print providers. One of the better ones I sat in on was “Planning for Vertical Market Success,” which offered up techniques and strategies for penetrating markets such as healthcare, insurance, travel or financial services. In trying to reach potential customers in verticals, two mistakes many print providers make are not listening to customers to get a complete understanding of needs and objectives, and second, not getting out of the office to attend seminars and conferences. Such events stimulate thinking and open the way to new approaches. Which, maybe, is why so many successful print providers showed up at thINK.

    Another valuable session covered five direct mail marketing strategies: Prepare the data, “wow” the recipient with a compelling mailpiece, use more than one media channel, use personalization beyond basic name and address, and finally, analyze the results and offer an actionable response. There is a way to measure everything, said one panelist. Find it.

    Compelling keynotes
    Two of the best keynote presentations (there were several) came from Captain John Kelly, a former Navy test pilot and commander of the space shuttle Endeavor, and Marco Boer of IT Strategies. Kelly reminded attendees that smart, hard work gets one to where they want to go. There is no substitute for these, he said, encouraging attendees to chart a course that would challenge them to always do better. Kelly noted, “How good you are today is no indication of how good you can be tomorrow.”

    Marco Boer talked about the promise of inkjet and how its rapid growth offers nearly unlimited opportunities. Moving to inkjet from toner or offset is a change that some printers are uncomfortable with, but it’s important to embrace the technology and use it to transform your business. “Because if you don’t like change,” he concluded, “you’ll hate irrelevance.”

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