Above: Epson America’s President & CEO Keith Kratzberg.
CJ and I were invited to the Epson InkBoldly dealer meeting in Huntington Beach, California, February 6-7. It was ironic that the last meeting we attended before the pandemic shut us down was an Epson meeting in March 2020. On our flight home, which had many open seats, I had a conversation with one of the attendants, noting that it was eerily similar to the flight we took less than a week after 9/11/2001.
An Opportunity for Dealers to InkBoldly
Above: Epson’s Mark Mathews as he kicked off the InkBoldly partner conference.
The InkBoldly meeting was upbeat and was a first-class event. Mark Mathews, vice president North America commercial sales and marketing, served as our master of ceremonies. In his opening remarks, Mathews referred to the prior meeting and addressed the pandemic. The company did not lay anyone off and invested heavily in building a complete office product line that a dealer would be happy to offer their customers.
The 2020 meeting was more of an introduction to Epson’s inkjet line. That meeting was a little light in terms of filling the spaces for A3 and A4, but the company made clear that there was much more to come. The theme of that meeting was “Hot is Bad but Cold is Good.”
Above: The inkjet opportunity is growing, according to one of the presentations.
This time Epson announced 19 new models. All will be available by the end of February. The new offerings covered all the bases plus a wide format line that was broad, along with a color label offering that was more than interesting. The message was simple and labeled, “Simple, Smart, and Clean.”
Above: Epson America’s Junkichi Yoshida, COO, printing solutions division.
Throughout the various presentations, including commercials featuring basketball Hall of Famer and Epson spokesperson Shaquille O’Neal, it was drilled home that inkjet technology requires less energy and fewer parts. Salespeople can focus on areas such as ink capacity. Epson offers machines with ink capacities for up to 5,000 pages. That is a considerable advantage over competitive models. For the higher speed machines, Epson offers finishing, including hole punching, staple finisher, inner finisher, and a booklet maker.
Sales reps can close their pitch by informing the client that the product requires 65% less energy than competitive toner products. That is not a bad close, especially on an MPS bid and particularly for an education bid. Another appealing message is that Epson inkjet does not require an investment in a substantial parts inventory.
Above: A key point of differentiation of the Epson inkjet products is PrecisionCore technology.
This is a product line that covers everything from a desktop printer at a very low cost, to machines that address everything from low to mid-range (40-, 50-, 60-ppm), to 75-100 ppm models with finishing. Think in terms of renewing bids that were written before the pandemic. Many of those workers who are working from home may require uniform printers.
In the wide format area, the prime selling points were the ability to print on a wide range of media along with faster processing. The three models discussed offered widths of 24”, 36”, and 44”.
In what appears to be a lead product, the C-5000, offers all the inkjet advantages over toner and a competitive quality resolution of 600-2400 DPI.
Add that all together and according to Epson, you can offer the customer the following:
- Low waste
- Low consumption of energy
- Least amount of floor space
That’s the sales pitch from Epson. Can we believe the message? We have known Mark Matthews for over 20 years and Joe Contreras, head of sales channel marketing, for a lesser period. Both worked for Toshiba, with Mathews starting as director of marketing. He replaced Rick Taylor as president when Taylor left to join Konica Minolta. Contreras was the product manager and knows and understands what dealers are looking for from Epson. Of greater importance is why. I always found Mathews and Contreras to be two industry executives with a high degree of credibility, and nothing we experienced in California caused me to change my mind.
Above: Epson’s Joe Contreras with CJ Cannata take a break at the end of the day after participating in and listening to the day’s presentations.
On that basis, we buy the Epson message. That said, the reality is no dealer we know is going to drop a line to take on Epson. We should not say any dealer but rather the average dealer. According to our most recent surveys, the average dealer carries two A3 lines and two A4 lines. Where there may be a fit is with those dealers who are dedicated to single lines in both A3 and A4.
In our 37th Annual Dealer Survey, 40% of the 380-dealer universe claimed to be dedicated to a single A3 line. For A4, it was 32%. In terms of dedication for both, there were 102 (26.8%) dealers that carried a single line for A3 and A4.
Our suggested approach with Epson, providing you agree with their value proposition statements, is to take it on for selling to net new customers only. Use it as a weapon against your competitors.
Dealers will have an excellent sales story to tell and based on the pricing structure of machines and ink, you can figure out whether or not there is a competitive advantage. Do the math and determine how much of a wedge you have. It makes sense to evaluate it.
One other thing that is important is Epson’s wide format and label printers. Should you find the MFPs to your liking, take a hard look at those two products. The object of the exercise is to sell more net new customers and build that MIF in areas you are not currently engaged. Diversification is the key to sustainability. This is a game where the survivors take home all the marbles. We are referring to the 13 dealers who reported revenues of $100 million plus that represented 45% of all the revenue in our 37th Annual Dealer Survey.
More InkBoldly Observations
When the time came to give out awards during the Epson InkBoldly meeting, we did not recognize many dealers who received the awards. It seems they are into different areas, such as IT, or those who sell some of the other Epson products that have nothing to do with print.
One of the dealers we recognized was Phil Houser, president of DSI in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He was president of SDG when CJ and I did an OEM panel last year. Another was Michael Nash of Duplicator Sales & Service in Louisville, Kentucky. Michael’s Dad Harry became a subscriber of ours in 1996. How is that for customer loyalty? Yet another was Tim Renegar of Kelly Office Solutions in Winston Salem, North Carolina, the former National President of BTA.
What CJ and I got from Epson’s InkBoldly meeting was the fact that a manufacturer as successful as Epson continues to earn 70% of its revenue from print and that it continues to make R&D investments in four product areas:
- Desktop Printers
- Label Printers
- Production Print
We will continue to follow Epson’s progress and would be interested in talking to any dealer who takes them on. Most important, we will shortly be sending out our 38th Annual Dealer Survey. Please take the Survey. We have quite a few sponsors who are providing an incentive for participating in the Survey. They are Epson, Kyocera, Ricoh, Sharp, Toshiba, and US Bank.