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Exclusive Review: DICE 2006 Launches New Multi-Platform Conference

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Press release from the issuing company

November 21, 2006 -- (WhatTheyThink.com exclusive by Senior WTT Editor Cary Sherburne) -- The first Digital Customer Imaging Exchange (DICE) meeting was held in Las Vegas November 17th and 18th. The organization has been around for more than a decade, but transitioned last year from its Indigo Customer Exchange (ICE) moniker subsequent to HP abandoning sponsorship of the established Indigo users’ group in favor of its own, more tightly controlled, DSCOOP. Despite the lack of HP presence, attendees approached the meeting with significant enthusiasm. And in line with its new name, this is the first time members owning Kodak NexPress and Xerox digital color devices were in attendance. In fact, the new Board of Directors now has representation from owners of these devices. Jim Rosenthal of Digital Color Graphics (NexPress owner), Joe Metzger of Metzgers Printing + Mailing (Xerox owner) and Alin Jacobs of DME (iGen and Xeikon owner) were elected to the Board for two-year terms. Waleed Ashoo of Lithexcel is the Board’s new President. The focus of the conference was on users sharing their successes and experiences, particularly in the area of solutions selling strategies, database management and data mining, and web to print, making this truly a digital imaging customer exchange. In October, DICE announced that it had surpassed the 300 member mark, making it one of the larger user groups in our industry. This year, the conference was attended by 182 people, including 63 vendors, 111 users from 68 companies (representing over 20% of membership), and 5 trade press/consultants/guests. Last year, the conference had record attendance with about 150 users from just over 80 companies. Even though attendance was down a bit, enthusiasm was certainly up during this very positive event. And having representation from owners of multiple platforms added a new dimension to the discussions that offered insight into the growth path this organization has the potential of pursuing as it strives to become the leading forum for producers of digital output. The conference consisted of general sessions and marketing/technical breakouts, and the event had a record 31 sponsors, including Platinum sponsors Xerox and Kodak. Equipment manufacturers Canon, Heidelberg (represented by its Prepress division) and Xeikon were first-time sponsors this year, joined by repeat sponsor Presstek. Finishing vendors also turned out in force, represented by Morgana, Unibind, TPS, and Rollem. Of course, there were a wide range of software vendors representing variable data, web to print and workflow. List suppliers USA DATA and AccuData played a role in the conference as well, both as exhibitors and as panel participants, contributing important insight into how attendees can improve their value proposition by helping customers refine and augment customer and prospect lists for use in direct marketing campaigns. As a testament to the changing dynamics of our market, the conference kicked off with a general session on Solutions Selling Best Practices, and was followed by a sales training seminar in the afternoon for the sales/marketing track, titled Decommoditizing the Print Sale, presented by Peter Winters and David Tashji of Winters Group & Associates. Both Xerox and Kodak presented in the morning session, and their focus was on future technologies. Kodak chose to focus on inkjet and micro/nanotechnologies, front-ended by an overview of their current product set and their new Market Mover Network. Kodak’s Cheryl Nelan also provided a good market overview of how and why printers should implement variable data printing, from the end customer’s perspective, supported by good data about how print is being used in multichannel campaigns and what marketers are looking for in terms of a return on their investment. The Xerox session was presented by Peter Crean, Senior Fellow, Xerox Research, with interesting information about the future imaging technology Xerox is working on, including color, how it is perceived by the human eye and how that translates to delivering color fidelity in printed materials, as well as intelligent automated document layout using what Xerox calls Genetic Problem Solving, and advances in security printing. These two forward-looking sessions reflected the high level of interest in these topics by DICE members who visited both Kodak and Xerox earlier this year in Rochester NY. Crean pointed out that for a long time, Xerox tried to emulate offset, but now the company is more focused on taking advantage of digital benefits. HP was notable in its absence. Saturday’s sessions were focused on data mining and management as well as web to print. During the data session, AccuData pointed out that not only is data good for acquiring or resuscitating customers in conventional direct marketing, but by acquiring data BEFORE the sale, a solution selling approach can be more effective. AccuData’s Ralph Williams used the example of calling on a wine store owner, being able to tell him how many people within a five mile radius have an interest in wine or purchase wine, based on their subscriptions to such things as Food and Wine Magazine and other factors, and by the way, showing him an example of a postcard developed for him that could be in the mail in a couple days. How could a prospect say no to a presentation like that? List vendors such as USADATA and AccuData can be an excellent consulting source to ensure that you are able to acquire the best possible data for the customer need. Print service providers can partner with these suppliers and leverage their expertise, even to the extent of involving them with calls on customers to solicit their data requirements first hand. This is a level of service most people probably are not aware is available to them. So head out to that local wine store and make a pitch. And while you are there, buy a nice bottle of wine for a special dinner, but also buy that bottle of champagne to pop open when you are ready to celebrate your new success with selling data-based services! In the web-to-print panel, the focus was on the ability to leverage these tools for more efficient workflow enabling the profitable handling of a larger number of smaller jobs—definitely a trend most providers are having to deal with. One recommendation for successful implementation was to launch web-to-print to CSRs first. They will become the biggest advocates of the system when they realize how much time it will save both them and the customer. Another highlight of the conference is always the DICE awards. This year, there were five categories of entries: Best Personalized Customer Acquisition, Best Personalized Customer Retention, Outstanding Self-Promotion, Best Use of Digital Printing, and Excellence in Digital Printing. Based on the ranking of the judges, a VDP Extraordinaire award was also given to the “best-of-show” single entry that best represented the sophistication and power of one-to-one marketing—regardless of the purpose. While we don’t have room here to describe all of the entries, images of the winning entries can be viewed here. The awards process represents a critical part of the conference, both from the perspective of recognizing outstanding use of digital imaging technologies and from its role in helping attendees share best practices with each other. This year’s VDP Extraordinaire award was captured by Arizona’s R&R Images for a marketing program conducted on behalf of Taser by the company. Under self-promotion, Seattle’s Revolution, Inc., entered a very creative board game that is customized for each customer and includes their specific business challenges, represented both in the game and in the game pieces, which often represent their key competitors. The process starts with a letter to the customer, is followed up by sending the game to them—minus the board. And when the sales person calls on them in person, he or she brings the board to complete the process. This unique application won first place for self-promotion. The VDP Retention first place was captured by Progress Solutions for a human resources communications package developed for Intuit, while the VDP Acquisition first place was taken by Montage Graphics for Cow Pie Bingo, a promotional campaign for a fund raising activity. Although some of the sponsors I spoke with indicated they might not be back next year, most feel that the event is a good venue for them, and relatively cost-effective. With some dedicated effort this year toward marketing the organization to owners of Xerox and Kodak devices, and perhaps even Xeikon and Canon owners, DICE has the potential of growing its membership base substantially and playing an increasingly important role in our industry as we continue to make the analog to digital transition. Hopefully those sponsors who are reconsidering participation will give it one more year to see how this plays out.




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