While the movement towards integration and better workflows will greatly benefit printers in the manufacturing process, the business development offerings mentioned at On Demand are truly unprecedented. They may not appear as exciting as new technology and ferreting out the bottlenecks, but that's only because business development is the part of the business most printers don't like anyway. I think that's even a better reason to be ecstatic. Because the vendors today are practically doing it for you. Of course the free business services only apply to digital printing, but the bottom line is that these steps MUST be taken to be successful. In fact, printing is one of very few large industries that survived for a long time without business plans, marketing activities and sales training. Kiss that party good-bye. Say hello to the first rule of competition-- have a better product, and definitely have better marketing.

What Xerox is Doing about Business Development
At On Demand I spoke with Gina Testa, Vice President, Customer Business Development, for the Xerox iGen3 and other color production products. Testa, a 13-year veteran in color within Xerox before taking on the iGen3, has a unique view for business development. She suggests that Xerox's product is really the digital page and that printers are not customers, but a distribution channel. "This changes the way you support, the tools, the relationship, PR strategy and co-marketing," she tells me, "Printers are going through the same transition with their customers." The shift for printers is from the business of print to that of "communications experts." Since "anyone can lowball on price," says Testa, "they need to be doing marketing programs for their customers." They need to be invested in effective communications.

Testa agrees that this represents a change in Xerox thinking. Instead of the manufacturing model and trying to sell "the box," Xerox is moving to the sale of solutions and services. Here is another parallel for the printer. Pointing to the 35 years of knowledge that Xerox has in digital printing and in sales training, Testa is confident that they can make the transition. Then it comes to packaging that knowledge, and here is how it's done. "We do not treat all customers equally," she tells me, and this is because customers are at different stages on the learning continuum. "It's a menu approach and we are trying to customize." Xerox has customers from the largest multibillion-dollar corporations to mom and pop shops, and Testa says, " Success belongs to the forward thinkers; it has nothing to do with the size of the business."

Customers first have to have a business plan and a marketing plan, because research (and Testa's own experience) indicates a high correlation between plans and success. "But making sure they have them turns out to be one of the biggest challenges," she points out, "because it is so easy for a printer to get caught up in emergencies." Training includes the Marketing Partnership Program, a series of courses on digital printing taught in the classroom to the printers' sales force. Testa explains," To Xerox this means 50,000 reps selling printed pages." There is consulting for the owners and sales managers on digital sales force compensation plans. The Business Development Kit, especially for the iGen3, has a multitude of programs. Some are purchased or co-sponsored, such as Designing for Digital, others are developed in-house such as Profiting Through Personalization and Color Volume Building. The value is between $1000 and $1500. In addition to education, there are tools that the printer can use for their own customers and not struggle to develop themselves. For instance, there is a portfolio of image samples that showcase the best of the device's qualities that come with source files. There are pitch books, presentations and materials for Open Houses.

"People Support" From Xerox
But what about real, live, people support? Testa offers," I have the best job in Xerox. I see customers 75% of the time asking what can I do to help your business?" In addition, the SmartPress Consultants, with experience in both technical and marketing, help customers get started. Testa claims the customer satisfaction ratings "are 100%" and the most discerning customers have said they bring value. Choosing the right people and training them can result in the ultimate compliment from a printer, "He/she knows more about this than I do." The SmartPress Consultants (several dozen), however, are currently unique to iGen3. If they are so successful, let's home there are more to come for other products. Also, supplementing the usual Pre Sales Analysts who help with applications, are now the dedicated Post Sales Analysts. Complementing these groups are the Solutions Engagement Managers (close to 20) who are very mature, tenured, technical, sales and marketing people. They are experts in specific applications, such as how to make digital books and 1 to 1 marketing. They come in as high-end consultants overlaying the salesperson and sometimes start prior to the sale. And the salespeople are considered an elite sales force.

I asked Testa is she has seen changes due to the economy and she tells me that there is a "new openness on the part of printers since GraphExpo." Attributing this to "the economy conspiring in our favor," she suggests that the change in corporate thinking about advertising and the desire to be able to measure results, such as with personalized direct mail, has been pushing printers. The bad economy has changed the printer's customers' way of thinking and ad agencies, in particular, are trying to bring added value. Regarding Xerox' chief rival in digital printing, Heidelberg, Testa says, "Heidelberg made a lot of commercial printers think twice, but they are not predisposed to buy from Heidelberg." She adds,"There is really more than enough business for all of us."

Heidelberg Announces Business Development at Press Conference
Meanwhile, at the Heidelberg Press Conference, one of the highlights was Business Development. Richard Sand, Director of Business Development Services, spoke of his team as the Ongoing Digital Coaches. Pointing out to printers that their business is no longer a "field of dreams" where "if you install, they will come," Heidelberg in supporting through partnership. In fact, although Heidelberg as a company may be new to digital (the Digital Coaches are not), Heidelberg history is deeply rooted in helping customers. They aim to do what it takes. Their view is that they want Heidelberg customers to size the digital opportunity and be in the "driver's seat" in terms of success.

The Business Development team, like Xerox, begins with a business plan and a marketing plan, educates the sales force, identifies key applications/markets and helps develop new services. For instance, Business Development supports the creation of databases for printer's customers, because they believe these are a "value added asset to the customer and the printer becomes an asset to the customer," according to Sand. "We are focused on helping our customers manage change better, ramp up faster, generate new revenues and increase volume by adding new services," he explains. The Digital coaches analyze the customer business, formulate a strategy and plan, and help to implement.

There are educational materials, such as an Owners Guide and Vertical Industry Marketing briefs specifying applications for 15 vertical markets. There are tools, such as sample portfolios and Powerpoint presentations, and both classroom and web training. Heidelberg also announced an expansion of their Professional Services Offerings called AIM. A team of engineers, product development managers and business development experts have a mission to help process integration so as to create higher value documents, such as versioned and variable hybrid jobs, and new business opportunities.

What More Could you Ask For?
Included in Business Development for both Xerox and Heidelberg are efforts to create a pull in the market for digital printing. Both companies are engaged in Road Shows and conferences across the country to stimulate understanding and interest.

I ask you, when was the last time you saw such an opportunity for the printer? Xerox obviously has many more "helpers" to contribute, but they also have many more digital customers than Heidelberg. Their base is also much more diverse requiring many different kinds of hand-holding. Both vendors are providing quality education, tools and support and are run by people who really "get it." I agree with Gina Testa that there is enough business for everyone. If I were a printer, I would jump on this opportunity like it was a new bull market. After all, you never know when it will end.