By Alain Patenaude June 28, 2005 -- Some things have to be seen to be appreciated. Creatively applying that precept helped my company to achieve 26 percent annual revenue growth in 2004. It also earned us two awards, including the 2004 best of show award in the Printing Innovation with Xerox Imaging awards, which has its 2005 entry deadline July 15th. (See the accompanying sidebar for information about entering the 2005 awards program.) My company is Impressions Numéricart, Inc. of Laval, Quebec. We specialize in digital color, monochrome and wide-format printing. We have more than 200 customers, including leading brand marketers such as Liz Claiborne Inc.; the Montreal Canadians hockey team; Molson, Inc.; and electronics retailer Groupe Dumoulin Inc.--as well as many traditional commercial printers. We print high-quality pieces on our digital printers and presses that even some of our digital print services rivals cannot believe we can produce on digital equipment. One reason is that our company has a deeper understanding of the technology than most. Prior to establishing Impressions Numéricart, I spent 10 years as a digital printer operator and department manager, where I learned methods for optimizing digital print quality and running novel substrates that are beyond the scope of most service representatives. PIXI Awards Entry Deadline Extended The deadline for submitting entries to the Printing Innovation with Xerox Imaging Awards program for North and South America has been extended to midnight July 15. Entering is free, and multiple entries are allowed, but all submissions must be produced on Xerox digital printing equipment. Top creative-printer-client teams in each category can receive up to $5,000 each in travel certificates. The winners will be announced at Print '05 in Chicago this September. Judging is by independent graphic arts industry authorities based upon aesthetics, business effectiveness, use of digital technology and degree of innovation. Gold, silver and bronze awards are given in four categories; Variable Data / 1:1 Marketing Communications; Digital Books & Manuals; Monochrome and Highlight Color; and Short Run Digital Color. Two additional awards are an overall "Best of Show" award and a special Supplies award, recognizing innovative use of Xerox digital media. To enter on line and to learn more, visit www.xerox.com/pixi. We continue this work at Impressions Numéricart--by meeting the most difficult printing challenges of our customers and by continuing to test substrates and equipment to develop high-quality applications that few competitors can match. This gives us a competitive advantage that has helped us maintain 20 percent or more annual revenue growth since our founding in 1999. It also presents a challenge. Many of these applications are difficult to explain in conversation. For example, one new application produces a three-dimensional, hologram-like effect. It truly has to be seen to be believed. Show and Tell To show applications like these, our sales representatives were constantly pulling together samples. Often they visited the client to get job specifications, went back to the office to get samples, then returned to the client. Those client consultations are critical to our business, but holding multiple visits hurt our reps' productivity and diminished the benefit of print on demand's fast turnarounds. Our solution was to create a binder containing application samples that demonstrate the full range and power of our digital printing work, including color, monochrome and wide-format printing on a full range of substrates. It wasn't cheap--or easy. Each binder cost about $300 to produce, and we made about 200, for a total cost of $60,000--and the project took two years. But now, our reps use the binders on sales calls, eliminating the need for making multiple trips to client sites. And about 100 of our customers have binders at their offices to reference when initiating jobs. We can direct them to a particular sample while we are on the phone, and they see exactly what we have in mind. It's like having a sales rep at their site. Use of the binder contributed to our strong sales performance in 2004, helping us land many new customers and repeat orders, while generating savings of between $10,000 and $20,000 on sales calls. That savings has helped us to fund the salary of an additional sales representative, enabling the sales team to reach even more customers. Our binder won "Best of Show" in the 2004 Printing Innovation with Xerox Imaging Awards from among more than 200 submissions. It also won an IAPHC (International Association of Printing House Craftsmen) Best of the Best award in the "Best Synthetic Sheet Printing" category from among more than 3,000 total entries. On its Web site showcasing the award winners, the IAPHC notes, "The winning entry, is a tour de force of digital printing, using the Xerox DocuColor 2045 to print on a veritable smorgasbord of synthetic stocks." Our plan is to continually update the binder to reflect our most current innovations, because, in our case, seeing is not only believing--it's a revenue generator!