Ramblings from the Road --SherburneOctober 2008
After recovering from Drupa, I was off again to Las Vegas for EFI Connect. Frankly, Las Vegas is not one of my favorite destinations, but I suppose if you must go, the Wynn is the place to stay. It is a lovely venue and a great place to hold meetings.
The big news out of Connect was EFI's acquisition of PACE Systems Group and the restructuring of its print MIS portfolio. EFI has bundled a number of solutions, including PrintFlow dynamic scheduling and Auto-Count direct machine interface, with Hagen OA as modular offerings and has renamed the package Monarch. This is EFI's high-end MIS solution for larger printers.
The company then announced that following the next release for PSI and Logic, those products would go into maintenance mode and the newly acquired ePACE system would be the preferred mid-market offering. Rounding out EFI's MIS portfolio is entry-level PrintSmith.
This created quite a stir, as you can imagine, among Logic and PSI customers, as well as on the ePACE side. Between Logic and PSI, EFI has some 1,400 active installs worldwide. ePACE has about 500. In North America, the next largest provider is Avanti with 325. Avanti and others are looking at this as a terrific opportunity to include 1,400 new prospects in their sales cycles.
Here's what EFI CEO Guy Gecht had to say to yours truly:
"We always assume that customers are not locked into EFI and that they are looking around. At some point, we had to rationalize our product road map, not just for our sake, but for the benefit of our customers, as well. Most people speculated we would do this through internal development and, in fact, we were doing that.
"Had we brought a new, internally developed solution to market, it would have resulted in the same situation, with some users going on maintenance only, and some wanting more functionality who might migrate to other suppliers or other EFI offerings." Gecht continues.
"The proof will now be in how well we execute, keeping PSI and Logic at a high quality level. Clearly, some customers will look at other options, but how is that different from convincing them on an ongoing basis to stay with EFI?"
If you haven't yet taken my advice, and that of most--if not all--of my consulting colleagues, now is definitely the time to look at print MIS. My guess is that the market will be quite active as things settle out. Graph Expo 2008 is a good place to see it all.
From Las Vegas to NYC
Next up was the TransPromo Summit in New York City. While Manhattan can be as crazy as Las Vegas, it is more my kind of crazy.
This was the second annual TransPromo Summit put on by research firm InfoTrends, which had just completed a major, multi-client study on the subject. TransPromo, which uses digital color printing to print promotional and educational messages on the face of transactional documents, such as statements and notices, is generating a lot of industry buzz.
It can be argued that billers and issuers of other transaction documents have been doing TransPromo for decades, in the form of inserts and those perfed return envelope extensions that you have to tear off before sealing the envelope and mailing your check--presumably at least glancing at them before throwing them away.
TransPromo provides a new marketing platform that allows marketers to do even more targeting of messages than they could do with inserts. Companies are also looking at this platform as a great way to enhance the customer experience, bring more unity to customer communications, and educate customers about important things such as how to leverage the company Website for more information and services, as well as selling additional products from the company and/or its partners. Not only can this generate incremental revenue, but it can result in savings due to reduction in the volume and duration of calls to call centers, among other things.
So far, the focus has primarily been on large service bureaus providing services to large companies. But an interesting finding from the InfoTrends research is that 54.4 percent of their transaction document owner respondents indicate that they produce 100,000 or fewer statements per month. At the same time, there are a number of software offerings in the marketplace from companies such as Elixir, Prinova, Printable and RSA that make the production of TransPromo campaigns simpler and more affordable.
This adds up to a tremendous opportunity, bringing TransPromo to the 2.6 million mid-market companies in the United States. Selling TransPromo into a large organization is extremely complex. It involves lots of people and departments--many of whom are not used to working together and have different agendas--and with the high volumes they produce, cost of entry for the print service provider is prohibitive for the smaller printer.
Not so with the mid-market. The sales cycle is less complex, and the volumes are manageable.
There is one more important reason you may want to consider adding TransPromo for the mid-market to your portfolio of offerings. InfoTrends projects that TransPromo will grow by a compound annual growth rate of 68 percent between now and 2012. But beware: This growth will not be additive to the market!
Yes, by including messages, coupons and other things on transaction documents, those documents are likely to be longer, and this can add some page volume growth to the transaction document market, which has been flat for some time. Its success is more likely to come at the expense of direct mail and inserts. Companies are already looking at how they can eliminate direct mail campaigns directed at existing customers (about half of direct mail volume) by printing messages on transaction documents that are going to be printed and mailed anyway, and that are more likely to be opened and read than direct mail.
All of this adds up to what could be a growth opportunity for your business, especially if you depend on the direct mail or inserts that are likely to come under fire.
My last stop on the summer circuit was in beautiful Meredith, NH, on the shores of Lake Winnipesauke. EFI VUTEk held a press briefing to talk about their business as a whole, and more specifically to introduce the VUTEk DS Series to the press. There was a non-operational version of this digital screen printer at Drupa but, this time, we got to see it in action. An amazing device.
If you attend Graph Expo, take a few minutes to take a look. EFI will be front and almost center on the show floor, right next to Heidelberg.
Next month, I will be sharing my thoughts on the business opportunities offered by digital wide-format printing, especially in the grand- or superwide-format area. But for now, I am out of space. PI
About the Author
Cary Sherburne is a well-known journalist, author and strategic marketing consultant working primarily with the printing and publishing industry. She is a frequent speaker at industry events, a regular contributor to printing industry publications and has written three books, which are available for purchase through the Bookstore section on Printing Impressions' Website (www.piworld.com). Sherburne can be contacted at Cary@SherburneAssociates.com.