Written by Jeff Jacobson
President, Technology Business
I’ve been to 28 straight Graph Expo/Print graphic communications trade shows—it’s name changes from “Graph Expo” to “Print” every four years—but this year’s was my first as Xerox Technology Business President. Graphic communications is still a significant part of my portfolio, but it’s no longer my sole focus.
As usual, the show was something of a homecoming for me, meeting up with old friends, colleagues and customers, and perhaps taking away a nugget or two of fresh insight. And sure enough, this year I found fresh evidence supporting my view of why keeping a laser-like focus on your customer is so critical to success in business, particularly in today’s graphic communications industry.
Those who know me well know that this is not a new theme for me, but you may also know that over the years, my perspectives have changed.
At this year’s Graph Expo show, more than perspectives were changing. Signs of the industry’s dramatic shifts to digital communications were everywhere. The show’s footprint was as compact as I can remember, reflecting the move from big offset presses toward smaller digital presses and digital communications solutions. And despite travel challenges—a fire in a Federal Aviation Administration facility in Aurora, Ill. causing thousands of flight cancellations—attendance was down just eight percent from the last Graph Expo.
The new challenge that printers face was detailed in a new book that authors Dr. Joe Webb and Richard Romano were promoting at the show, “This Point Forward.” The challenge: to follow their marketing customers into the automated and analytic communications market. Print will still play a significant role in data-driven campaigns, but to win over the new generation of marketers, which embrace print alternatives, providers must promote the value print brings to campaigns, the authors state.
Many print providers are succeeding by doing just that. They use their customers as their compasses, building digital solutions that meet very specific customer needs in the automated, data-driven space Webb and Romano describe. If successful, they can then sell similar solutions to other customers and prospects, gradually transforming their businesses.
Graph Expo has evolved into a show that plays an important role in this process. Our customers gather to find out what is possible for meeting their customer needs. Booth conversations are more strategic, more solutions-oriented. And our booth theme, “Let’s Automate and Simplify,” focused attention on our FreeFlow and XMPie software, which can integrate production operations with the automated and analytic communications favored by today’s marketers.
Done well, this process creates a virtuous cycle—as print providers win more business and loyalty, they are able to invest further into building the expertise that makes them even more indispensible to their customers—and more alluring to prospects. It’s a cycle that can work in any industry, but is especially valued in transforming industries, where the needs of traditional customers are changing.
The graphic communications industry is full of opportunities, but you need to know where to look. And the first place to look is to your customers.
Written by Jeff Jacobson