With modern technology, we can be connected to our work 24/7, 365 days of the year.
Does that mean we should be?
What I love about “live events” the kind that force you to leave your business behind and physically “show up” in another place is that forced separation from our daily work lives. When you have your head down in your business for too long, you start to lose perspective. Diving into the details is often necessary; but during these tumultuous market conditions, your attention to the big picture direction of where your print business needs to go couldn’t be more critical.
Showing up to a live event isn’t enough because we all know you can physically be somewhere and mentally be back in your office. If you can’t leave your business for a planned day or two without constant communication and remote management it says a lot about how much you’re working in your business vs. on your business. I see it all the time, hundreds of people fly in from thousands of miles away, to all be in the same room looking at their mobile devices together! What a wasted opportunity.
As Dscoop last year my favorite part was a small corner of the show floor where we did a series called “collaboration station”, it wasn’t a lecture, it wasn’t a lame panel discussion, it was a lively conversation moderated between printers and software experts. These sessions were scheduled for thirty minutes; we could have had each topic go for hours – that’s how lively the conversation got. It was true collaboration, printers describing challenges, a group of experts not on a stage, not behind a lectern, just out amongst the audience in active dialog. We had no idea how these sessions would go and it was the best exchange of value I’ve experienced at a live event in years. I really believe the intimacy of the setting encouraged active engagement vs. half the audience drifting off into their digital lives.
Maybe we’re losing our ability to relate face to face because we always have the option to drop our attention out of our current surroundings and into our digital lives where there is always something to look at even if it’s totally unrelated and unimportant. When we gather face to face it’s an incredible opportunity to build a relationship with the people who are on the other end of the email, text, and voice calls. So many printers complain endlessly about the responsiveness of their vendors via customer service, yet I go to the vendor user conferences and those same printers are on the phone with their plant or buried in their email inboxes when the entire product team of the vendor is standing nearby.
A live event like Graph Expo, Drupa, Dscoop, EFI Connect, etc. is an opportunity for you to dive in and get to know your partners (stop thinking of them as vendors). Remember their success is completely dependent on YOU. Go beyond your sales representative and seek out the people who make the decisions about the products you use. Here’s the most important piece of advice and I know this will be a shocker to many of you. Think of what you can do for them before you start asking for things that benefit you! (Can you believe she just said that?)
Yes, I know you are the customer. Yes, I know you paid them a lot of money. Yes, I know you pay them maintenance that you feel you get nothing for. Yes, I know you are frustrated that you didn’t get exactly what you thought you were sold during the sales process. Yes, I know your people are always complaining about not getting the help they need. And, I’m still telling you the best way to approach building a relationship is to give first and ask later. No matter what the relationship structure “customer – vendor” both sides of this relationship involves HUMANS and humans react best when they see from the very beginning what’s in it for THEM.
What is the best thing to give people at the vendor? Start with telling them one thing that you really like about the product. This will floor them and differentiate you. Everyone else in their orbit is complaining and you walk up and sincerely describe a part of the solution that you really like – something that they potentially worked very hard on. Now you have their attention. Now they see a reason to remember you, it’s time to give them another bonus. Tell them about a business challenge you have right now that you would like their software to someday solve. This is a very important sentence. I didn’t say, describe a feature. I said describe a business challenge.
What software people want is for you to describe the challenge you are having because then they can think through the problem and based on their extensive context over their software product come up with an innovative solution. Conversely when you describe a feature you are trying to tell them how you think it should be fixed, yet you don’t have full context over the solution, the product roadmap, the integration points etc. When you describe a feature to a product manager, they start thinking of reasons why it won’t work. When you describe a business challenge (the “why?”) do you need to solve this problem, they start looking for innovative solutions. Some of those solutions might not involve new coding at all. Sometimes the solution is a configurable option in the current release of the software.
Live events are critical to building separation between you and your business, getting a bigger picture perspective, and building relationships with the humans at your vendor. The final advantage, not to be overlooked is to build relationships with peers. The best resource for optimizing your use of print software is to collaborate with other printers who use that same software. Go to live events, really show up, it’s worth it.