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  • What You Missed

    By Noel Ward, Editor@Large


    If you have medium- to large-size Ricoh presses and printers and didn’t go—and you probably did get an invitation—you missed an opportunity to learn how to make your operation more efficient and profitable.

    I’m talking about Ricoh Interact 2019, held June 5th and 6th in Denver, the second full-scale version of the company’s customer-oriented event that was all about making one’s business work better and not about prying money out of customers’ checkbooks.

    I’ve been to a lot of these events over the years, always go in expecting a sales pitch, and am usually not disappointed. Sales is all many vendors seem interested in talking about. But at Ricoh’s event in Denver, just as at Xeikon’s a month ago in Chicago, the conversations were about how to makes customers’ business work better. Sure, some parts of this had examples of how Ricoh offerings in software, inkjet, toner and wide format could help, but the real topics were about how to grow business, develop customer relationships, benefit from market trends, and more.

    What was telling to me, having been in some of their shops, was the range of customer comments I heard offline. Business owners who were there for the first time came alone and plan to return next year with a couple of key people in tow, much as several who came to the 2018 event brought some of their team to this years’ event. All agreed that the modest spend to be here provided a knowledge and networking ROI that was worth every penny.

    Four tracks spanned Business Development, Print Solutions, Operational Excellence, and Ricoh ProcessDirector. Not being a software guy, the latter got way under the covers and was well above my capacity to comprehend, but the content would make your resident geeks smile all day long. The first three tracks, though, presented a constant “which should I attend?” problem, so I totally understood why some business owners come with a couple of their department heads in hopes of covering as much ground as possible. Let me give you a couple of examples.

    Got 5 Colors?
    Alysha Burch and Chris “Sharky” Siarkiewicz and from Square Root Creative in New York City did a presentation that what a fifth color can bring to the party. No, this is not just adding eyeball-searing neon yellow or neon pink to a design. It can be that, but in the case of the Ricoh Pro C7200 it is more about extending the gamut of a press to make customers keep coming back. Which, of course, is the whole idea. The examples they showed used software from Ricoh partner ColorLogic along with some selected substrates that showed how owners of the C7200 owners could use a 5th color station to deliver a variety of metallic effects to postcards, direct mail and more, all common jobs that can be turned into truly compelling pieces. There’s no question that getting the most out of this device and the software requires the right substrate along with practice and a familiarity with the use of layers in Photoshop and Illustrator. Still, any designer on your payroll should be able to learn how to use these new tools in a few hours. Following the session with Alysha and Sharky I talked with Mark Geeves, one of the founders of ColorLogic to see how the software works. The closer you get to this stuff the better, because you get to see what is involved in getting some amazing results. I know enough about Photoshop to be dangerous, but even I could see how ColorLogic worked and that learning it would more interesting than difficult. And if it’s something I could figure out, then any design pro should have this tool in their arsenal of graphic design tools.

    Account-based Marketing
    I’ve spent many days in plants where inkjet presses are the machines that make the world go round, but you still have to sell the pages, so I made a point of catching Mike Herold’s and Roger Serrette’s presentation on account-based marketing. Mike began by asking “how many people here intended to get into print? In a room of 45 people, no hands went up. Yeah, copy that.

    But once you’re in this business you realize that it abounds with some pretty cool technology and that success comes from aligning what you have on the shop floor with what your customers need. Getting there is a continuous journey that requires your marketing activities to be customized to each customer or at least each type of customer. This typically means marketing to smaller audiences while asking some of the same questions: Where are you today? Where do you want to go? And importantly, how can you be different along the way?

    Mike and Roger emphasized that you cannot lead or teach everyone in the same way, and that it is very important that you make a point of learning from your customers. This helps you better understand their needs, so you can tailor your marketing to fit what they are trying to do.

    Partners
    There were about 30 partner companies at Interact, offering a host of software, substrate and hardware that could meet some of attendees’ needs. All were open and free with advice, wanted to hear about the issues and challenges Ricoh customers faced and were interested in helping attendees address their business challenges. Most importantly, though, it was incidental that Ricoh was the lead vendor for the conference. In my opinion, this is how these vendor-sponsored events should be. Knowledge is the key. And by helping educate business owners helps raise the bar for everyone attending the conference.

    Next year this event may be have to scheduled differently as it will bump up against drupa. But I’ll be there, even if it means a getting flight from Dusseldorf to Denver to reach Interact 2020. It’s worth it.
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