The Most Important Person in a Digital Shop
When I sold digital and VDP, it was as a broker. The year was 1992. I’d find the applications, open the account and hand it over to Gary. Gary would contact my client’s technical people and talk with them about how to prepare the files in a format that he could understand. I was very lucky to have him. I didn’t know a thing about PDF files back in 1992.
Had Gary known how lucky his company was to have him, he probably could have renegotiated his salary. He was the most important person in the digital print shop.
Gradually, as time went on, I’d have less and less contact with my clients. The system Gary built between the plant and the customer ran itself—orders would come in, Gary would print out a proof (eventually just a formality), I’d deliver it, the client would sign off and the job would be run. Soon, I stopped delivering the proofs and, not long after that, there stopped being a need for one. It came to be that I’d sometimes find out about a job when the invoice would arrive and I had to mark it up and charge my client.
One day in January, I was at the plant and walked by Gary’s cubicle. As I waited for him to get off the phone, I scanned some recent pictures that were on his wall. There he was in a Santa hat, smiling and toasting...MY CUSTOMERS!!!! He was at their Christmas Party!
When I asked him about it, he lit up and told me all about what a great time he had and then asked, “Why weren’t YOU there?” The answer was simple: He was now their key contact. I was the guy doing the billing.
To be clear, I didn’t mind. Anytime you can make $25K a month for administrative work, take the gig. It doesn’t suck. But I learned a lot from that experience and came up with a term to describe Gary. He was my Technical Communicator.
Gary was technically sound, able to handle any and all of the major software programs my clients used. But he also had a rare gift for a Techie—he was also able to communicate that process to the client.
In the years that followed, I went on to write Xerox’ Marketing Partnership program as well as customer training curriculums for Indigo, Heidelberg and others. I visited a lot of print shops in those years and came to realize just what a rarity the skill set of technical expertise and ease of communication was. In presentations I’d proclaim, “If you don’t have this person on staff, don’t go digital!” and meant it.
Although I no longer sell direct, I’d imagine not much has changed in terms of files working properly. The client still needs to be trained. Sales reps are still as dumb as rocks when it comes to talking the talk. Help is still needed and “Gary” is still the answer. The formula for digital/VDP is still the same:
• Get yourself a great piece of equipmenty
• Identify the application, and
• Get a Gary.
And don’t go digital without him!