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Interview

Kodak Shifts Trade Show Strategy: A Conversation with Kevin Joyce

Kodak Shifts Trade Show Strategy:

By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: April 17, 2007

Kodak Shifts Trade Show Strategy: A Conversation with Kevin Joyce By Cary Sherburne, Senior WTT Editor April 17, 2007 -- Kevin Joyce is the Managing Director of the United States & Canada Region for Kodak’s Graphic Communications Group. He took time out of busy preparations in the week preceding the On Demand Expo to speak with WhatTheyThink about Kodak’s new approach to trade shows, and to generally update us on the state of affairs at Kodak. Joyce also shares his perspective on the changing graphic communications industry. WTT: Kevin, we understand that Kodak is taking a new approach to trade shows, beginning with On Demand. Can you tell us what that is about? KJ: The approach we are taking falls in line with what we are seeing becoming more important to our customers in the marketplace. We are seeing less focus on the speeds and feeds of the box and more focus on business development and the business opportunities that a particular widget can introduce into their businesses. On a day-to-day basis, we are spending a lot more time talking about what applications their customers are interested in, what incremental value and additional margin they can get from using technology to deliver these applications, and how they can build stronger relationships with their customers. So we decided that we would introduce that into our show model, continuing this process of customer engagement rather than focusing on speeds and feeds. WTT: So how exactly are you doing that? KJ: Serious business people come to trade shows. Speeds and feeds are simply the table stakes. So while we do provide an opportunity for people to see products, we are bringing a lot less equipment to the show. For example, rather than bringing our successful Versamark high speed inkjet solutions, we will have a 3D rendering of the product that allows customers get a feel for the press and its characteristics. But more importantly, we are showing real examples of how our customers are using the equipment to grow their businesses, and the tools and services we wrap around the equipment that are designed to help them with business development. We are concentrating more on building a dialog with the owner that wants to grow his business than we are on demonstrating the equipment to the prepress manager or shop manager. WTT: Over the past several shows, Kodak has had a series of applications that demonstrate how its equipment works together to produce an end-to-end solution. How is this different? KJ: It is a continued evolution of the theme we have been on. We have not veered away from our Business Development programs and the MarketMover Network. It used to be that prepress managers, production managers and owners would come to shows to decide which widget they would buy from which vendor. They pretty much knew the basics of what the equipment did. But it is a much more complex decision today. With the plethora of choices, it is often not clear to the customer what each vendor’s box can do and how it can be applied to his or her business. Many of these businesses, whether they are creatives or print service providers, are in state of flux. They are scratching their heads and asking themselves what business they are going to be in in the future. The answer to that question is less clear, so purchase decisions are less clear. It is not the same as the old days—when a printer was going to by a third Heidelberg press, he could see a clear path to fill that capacity. But when buying a digital press, that path is far less evident to much of the marketplace. It is more important to show them how they can make money than to sell them a box that might just sit there. That is our objective in evolving our show strategy. WTT: Do you think this will start a new trend for shows? At Graph Expo, MAN Roland didn’t have any presses in their booth. Do you think this is a trend of the future? KJ: I hope so. Just like printers struggle with getting customers to shift the stereotype as they change their business models, the vendors, in my opinion, face the same thing. Our challenge as vendors is to get past the stereotype. This approach gives us a chance to become much more intimate with our customers and they are starting to see us as a credible source to help them grow their businesses. At On Demand, we are taking it up a notch. We are not bringing all the hardware; instead we are creating different opportunities for people to see equipment in other venues such as our demo centers. This allows us to spend more money working with customers and putting together programs that work for both the broad base and individual customers rather than spending the many millions of dollars it takes to set up a show for three days. You want people to be able to see the existing solutions, but in a different way. This is really the way the graphic communications industry is moving. We are not in the printing industry anymore. We are talking more about multimedia campaigns. Print is a cornerstone of that, but it is not the only core element anymore. WTT: As I told Yves Rogivue at Graph Expo, this is a bold move. It will be interesting to hear feedback from show attendees and to see if this does begin to change the texture of our shows. Let’s turn our attention to what is going on with Kodak’s Graphic Communications Group. When you were bringing the six companies together, there was much discussion about developing one face to the customer as these companies integrated. How is that going? KJ: For us, one face to the customer means one Kodak and not necessarily one person. We wanted to design a model that was customer centric and not Kodak centric. Too often when companies come together, they arbitrarily make the decision about who the new resource for the customer will be, and that often disrupts customer relationships. Our transition has gone well, and our approach has allowed us to maintain relationships with customers while at the same time cross pollinating within our sales force. This results in minimum conflict within our own organization, and provides customers broader resources to leverage. It has been very successful. Customers definitely have seen that there is no longer a Creo guy or a NexPress person or a KPG person. They definitely see that Kodak approaches them as one Kodak with what we call Team Celling—a cell of resources supporting the account defined by who they have the best relationships with. Recently, this approach has been extremely helpful as we start to introduce our customers to new spaces like high speed inkjet systems. WTT: Although you made some reference to this, maybe you could be more specific about the key customer business problems that you are seeing in the marketplace that Kodak is solving in new and different ways. KJ: The simple answer to that is workflow. Whether it is applications for a digital print device and how they can use portal products and storefronts to integrate their customers with their businesses, or streamlining computer integrated manufacturing inside the bricks and mortar of their plant, the number one thing they are asking us to do is evolve their workflow. Every sales person in our company sells workflow because we believe the differentiation of an effective and profitable client lies in how well they manage their workflow. Workflow expertise is a Kodak differentiator, and it is what customers are asking for. WTT: What do you expect to get out of On Demand? KJ: As far as On Demand, I really want to see how fast the industry has moved to accept this whole discussion I have just had with you on workflow, and taking it one level deeper than that, data. I think about workflow as the management of data. If you look at the offerings that Kodak has—document imaging, digital print, etc. —at the core of all of that is data. The key to what our customers can bring to their customers lies in how well they can manage the data. I am interested to see how mature the industry has become relative to understanding the need to get our arms around the data, and the fact that workflow is where they need to make their investments. We also want to see the marketplace response, whether by our not having equipment there and by seeing that we are focused on solutions from scan through to output, attendees also recognize that it is all about the data. It raises the level of the conversation way above the somewhat mundane question about whether to buy an iGen, an Indigo or a NexPress. WTT: And what about Graph Expo and drupa? KJ: Far more are people talking about drupa in the beginning of 2007 than I have ever seen in previous drupa years. I think that comes right back to the anxiety that the marketplace has about what role they will play and what their business is going to look like moving forward. drupa carries a lot of weight and substance. People go there to see the wealth of applications being shown. I think drupa attendees will be pleasantly surprised to see increased emphasis on workflow at drupa, and hopefully that will build more of a sense of urgency in the marketplace that they have to jump in faster and accept these solutions of the future. I also think that when you are in the midst of a period of turmoil such as this industry is in, there is little benefit to make a big bang at a Graph Expo show when you know you will have the whole world show up at drupa because they are curious as to where their business is going to be going, and drupa is the place to find out. Suppliers will tease at Graph Expo and show it at drupa. WTT: Kevin, this has been very enlightening. Thanks for taking time to speak with us in the busy run-up to On Demand. Is there anything else you would care to add before we close? KJ: The last thing I would like your readers to take away from this conversation, though it might sound corny, is that Kodak’s focus really is on putting the customer first and foremost, whether it is our go-to-market strategy with one face to the customer, or our approach to expanding their businesses. That sounds like a cliché, but I have been involved in the last few technology revolutions or evolutions in the industry, and the “customer first” often gets pushed aside, and the feeding frenzy of the acquisition of the equipment becomes most important. But today, it is far more important that customers understand what business they are in and how they are going to make money at it. We want to support them in that rather than just selling the widget. Not only do vendors have the challenge of being seen in a different light, but there is also a stereotype about what the industry formerly known as printing can bring to its customers. Printers are very self-conscious about that and are often not comfortable moving past the traditional print buyers in their accounts, selling them a piece of print. When you start talking about selling applications, you see the anxiety in owners and sales people that they don’t know how to do that. This is a big issue that needs to be overcome in our industry. I often talk about my theory of forklifts, paperclips and fortune. Suppliers to our industry need to move past selling forklifts. Forklifts provide productivity as do presses, but very few people selling high technology want to be seen as selling forklifts. The challenge is to move past selling a knobby-tired four-gear forklift. And you could characterize print sales people of the past as glorified paperclip sales people. The real question is what fortune can the forklift and paperclip entities bring to their customers. At the heart of our application focus is helping our industry comprehend how they can present themselves in a different light so that they understand the true value to the client of what they are selling. We have to raise the whole threshold of talent and the approach our sales force takes with customers in order for the industry formerly known as print to stay vibrant into the future.

 

 

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