By Larry Zusman, worldwide marketing manager at XMPie, A Xerox Company
Last week I had the pleasure of attending and participating in the Xerox Focus Forward event in Orlando. This is one of many that are being conducted around the country, and the audience is split between print and marketing service providers and those interested in enterprise managed print services. About 140 customers attended this event. The good news is that I came away feeling like I was NOT at a typical industry event. This is a different type of venue than I have seen in the past – and to be honest – it is a very refreshing change.
The day started out with a keynote from Bill Taylor, co-founder of Fast Company. Bill stood in front of the audience – all 140 people – and did not use ONE PowerPoint slide, ONE video, ONE picture. Nothing! It was just Bill, talking to folks about why originality, creativity and innovative thinking are what make the difference between great companies and not-so-great ones.
As is the case with every speech from the movers and shakers in the industry, there were a couple of phrases that carried the day, and stories that will resonate with me and others for a long time. One of those was that R & D, according to Bill, stands for “Rip-Off and Duplicate.” The point he made – namely that R & D must create new ideas, new ways of doing things, and that original thinking needs to be a fabric of the company, its employees, marketing, sales and, of course, branding – is an important lesson for an audience of print service providers looking for a way to differentiate themselves and gain competitive advantages.
To make the point, he told the story of DaVita, a company that started as a stodgy kidney dialysis company, like others, and reinvented itself into top condition (while significantly increasing its bottom line) – a vibrant, unique, customer-focused, employee-loving firm that truly embodied its new name that means in Italian “to give life.” When he finished, everyone got the point that the way to bring a shaky, less-than-well company to sustainable, good health, is with original, out-of-the-box thinking.
Once Bill was done, the audience was divided into the production and managed services tracks. I attended production, and it was in this session where I was introduced to a new way to liven up a day-long event. Since you are going to have various guests with different topics, and are planning on sprinkling in company commercials and videos from your guests, why not borrow The Tonight Show’s format? After all, there are guests, and each one comes with a video trailer for their movie or TV show. So that is exactly what Xerox did. And they did it with no PowerPoint slides of any kind. At first, it felt like some strange alien planet where the word Microsoft is unknown and the inhabitants actually engage in interactive dialogue. But after about five seconds, I got very used to it – and enjoyed every minute afterwards.
Industry experts provided their industry expertise (it’s what they do). Xerox partner companies talked about the importance of workflow (it’s a critical part of printing]. And well-thought-out customer panels with the folks that are realizing success were interspersed throughout the program, offering insights to print providers on how to effectively move from PSP to MSP, value price their offerings, and grow their business with new services like variable data print and one-to-one cross-media marketing. I was fortunate enough to be part of one of the liveliest panels of the day focusing on the newest applications. It included a demonstration of the power of printing digital photos with Xerox presses in personalized calendars and wide panoramic image books; how Web-to-print solutions specially designed for print providers can link Facebook pictures and other data with print; specialty media applications, such as personalized FunFlips™ and AccordianPix™, and how the new XMPie video personalization solution can literally be the “icing on the cake” in a multichannel campaign.
Also introduced on this panel was a short video, for those who could not get to drupa, of the new XMPie Circle™ Software as a Service solution. This interactive, digital storyboard for planning, building and reviewing a campaign is designed to help everyone sell, create and implement cross-media campaigns. For a moment (a very brief one), I felt like George Clooney introducing the trailer to his newest picture to Jay Leno.
The content sounds like a typical event, but with the talk show format where the very talented Brian Walsh plays a fun, engaging and appropriately self-deprecating host, it makes for an entertaining afternoon – which by the way is pretty darn educational, too. The only thing missing is Johnny Carson’s “Carnac,” who, if you’re old enough to remember, you will know really was the best host ever. The rest of the hosts are really into “R & D.”
However you want to define it, Focus Forward in Orlando was a day to move forward and focus on what matters most, namely business creativity, knowledge of the market, and making the right solution choices. And that means that you need to get to one of these as soon as you can, instead of holding up envelopes to your forehead for the right answers.