Virtual Finishing Equipment


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Virtual Finishing Equipment
A complete, touch-free experience

By Noel Ward, Editor@Large

Many car dealers these days make it possible for you to drop a big chunk of change on a car or truck without laying hands on the beast until it lands in your driveway. This may work for automobiles and it’s probably okay for computers and some software but can it work for the machines on which your business depends?

The answer for Standard Finishing Systems is a resounding “Yes!”

It’s not hard to explain machines that trim, die-cut, fold, staple, and bind to someone standing next to you in a demo room or on a trade show floor but it can be a bit more challenging when the person is a couple time-zones way. A global pandemic makes it even more daunting. Basic Zoom calls and PowerPoint presentations are only useful only up to a certain point, thought Don Dubuque, Director of Marketing at Standard Finishing. He believed it was time to make his company’s product demos a bit more virtual. Live video to the rescue!

A Touch-Free Experience
I’ve shot several hundred hours of video in the print industry so when I heard Standard was doing virtual demos I had to hear the details. To get the full story I talked with Dubuque and Director of Business Development, Bob Flinn. Standard is the sales, marketing and support organization representing Horizon International and Hunkeler AG in North America. Dubuque and Flinn knew a hands-on experience with finishing systems is normally a critical part of the purchase process, so they created a touch-free way for customers and prospects to see how its machines work. “We had a goal of providing an experience as close as possible to what they’d have in our National Demonstration Center,” says Dubuque.

That only sounds easy. We are in a time when many people think they are video pros because the shaky, semi-focused, invariably vertical, two-minute clip they shot on their phone went viral. But 45- to 120-minute-long live demonstrations of machines costing six-figure sums are a tad more complicated than an unscripted video that garners a few minutes of You Tube fame. Everything has to be right: the video captured, the material being used, the sound, the lighting, and the talk track all have to be tailored to the people watching the video because it can drive a purchase decision that will have a direct impact on a company’s business. Thorough planning of every aspect of the “shoot” and demo is essential for success. It all begins, as do all good consultative sales approaches, with the customer.

Making it Real
To make the virtual experience as real as possible Dubuque, Flinn or a sales manager query prospective buyers in advance about their needs and tailor the virtual demos to fit their expectations. For instance, if a customer or prospect is interested in a machine that performs a certain task, the device is shown doing specifically what the client is looking for, often running printed product the client provided ahead of time. Combined with shipping finished samples back to the client for a hands-on inspection, the only better way to show what Horizon and Hunkeler equipment could do would be having the prospective buyer on site.

“We tried different cameras and microphone systems, finally settling on a mix of iPhone 11 smartphones, DSLR cameras, and aftermarket microphones. Because the virtual demos are all done live with the client (and often his/her team) watching, we have to be sure there is sufficient bandwidth in all parts of our demo center and that everyone watching also has a good connection,” explains Flinn. “This is important because Zoom allows people in multiple locations to participate in the virtual demo, including customers, our own people, partners, and dealers.”

Questions Asked and Answered
As you’d expect, every demo provokes questions, which can be asked both during and after the demo. “Except for the distance involved it’s not much different than a live demo,” says Dubuque.

Customers I reached out to agree. “This was our first virtual demo so we weren’t sure what to expect,” said one, “but It was as good as being there in person. We were impressed with the quality of the video and how we were able to ask questions and get answers during the demo.”

Standard uses the virtual demo process across both Horizon and Hunkeler product lines, partnering with Horizon in Japan and Hunkeler in Switzerland for any machines Standard might not have in its demo center. Moreover, Dubuque and Flinn expect to continue using the technique even after the coronavirus pandemic is a thing of the past. “It makes a lot of sense for people west of the Mississippi to save the travel time and cost and still be able to get a complete demo of machines they are considering,” notes Flinn.

“It’s a new way of connecting with customers and a new way of doing business,” says Dubuque. “It takes a lot of preparation to make it as valuable and as real as possible, but we know it works and that it’s worthwhile. Just last week a west coast customer who avoided a trip east bought three machines based on seeing the virtual demo and sharing the recording of the demo with his team.”


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