Above: Mark Mathews during the General Session of Epson America’s Ink Boldly virtual partner meeting.
If I’ve learned anything during the pandemic, it’s that there is no limit to the creativity of companies and organizations who are reimagining their live conferences and meetings by turning them into virtual events. Case in point, Epson’s recent virtual partner meeting, Ink Boldly, on Thursday, November 5.
The company did a terrific job of hosting a virtual event that combined a mix of prerecorded video presentations with a live Q&A, followed by four breakout sessions where attendees could learn about Epson’s products and services and how to drive more sales opportunities. There was also a virtual exhibit hall broken up into 17 different areas. If you were interested in looking at the products, you could click on a product area and access videos, literature, and additional information. The event had more than 600 registered attendees, including sales reps, service managers, service technicians, and IT and operations staff.
The event kicked off with opening remarks from Keith Kratzberg, president & CEO and Mr. Ogawa, global CEO, followed by presentations from Mark Mathews, vice president and Joe Contreras, commercial marketing executive, office solutions. After a five-minute break, attendees had an opportunity to query Kratzberg, Mathews, and Contreras as well as Patty O’Brien, director of commercial sales for business inkjet, during a live and lively Q&A.
The event covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time. In our opinion, these were the 12 most notable revelations.
- If you can’t stand the heat, go with Epson’s PrecisionCore heat-free technology. The company has been putting a full-court press on the independent dealer channel educating them about the value proposition of inkjet technology. The name of the game for Epson is its PrecisionCore heat-free technology. It comes up in every conversation about the company’s imaging products and why shouldn’t it? It’s a big differentiator. If inkjet takes off in the channel as Epson hopes it will, a big reason will be PrecisionCore heat-free technology.
- Epson is not slowing down its investments in office printing around its heat-free PrecisionCore technology. “We think the advantages of PrecisionCore, lower maintenance, better cost of ownership, high performance, low energy consumption, we think those benefits play just as well if not better than they ever did before,” said Kratzberg.
- Epson is still rocking the reliability message. It is a message that Epson’s executive team has shared with The Cannata Report in numerous briefings. If anything, their messaging is consistent. An example of this reliability is that the company’s new WorkForce Enterprise light production machine is rated for 160,000 mean copies between visits, according to data from Nexera. Compare that to toner-based devices in comparable speed ranges that are rated for 30,000 to 50,000 mean copies between visits.
- Under distribution rules. Mathews made a great point when he asked “Do you want to sell a product that is over distributed or under distributed? You can’t get much more under distributed than inkjet A3 and inkjet A4. Again, this is about differentiation, and for dealers who climb aboard the inkjet train early, there is a big advantage to selling an under distributed product. Not to mention, Epson does not sell direct, so that’s another benefit for dealers who partner with Epson.
- Epson did not lay off or furlough anyone during the pandemic. That is something a lot of other OEMs can’t say.
- Since April, Epson’s sales have steadily improved. According to Kratzberg, work from home drove tremendous demand for Epson’s A4 printers during this time. With curbside delivery on the rise, demand was also high for Epson’s POS printers.
- Epson has upped its game in engaging with dealers and customers virtually. Since the pandemic began, the company has been successfully engaging with dealers virtually. During this time the company has presented more than 60 webinars all with new content. According to Contreras, thousands of dealers have attended these webinars. Meanwhile, Epson’s field marketing team has been engaging with dealers to help them with social media, zoom meetings, and how to present remotely.
- It’s Showtime! A key addition to its new headquarters in Los Alamitos, CA, is broadcast quality remote demoing capabilities. Epson now has multiple remote broadcasting facilities in its new headquarters and one in its Carson, CA facility. From those locations it can demo business inkjet, wide format, industrial products, pretty much anything that Epson sells.
- Epson Platinum Dealers can now buy directly from Epson. In response to its Platinum Dealers’ requests to source product directly from Epson, Kratzberg reported that Platinum Dealers can now purchase the WorkForce Enterprise as well as RIPS (Replace Ink Pack Systems) printers directly from the company.
- When the pandemic hit, Epson pivoted to A4. Yes, everybody else pivoted, but what Epson did was devoted most of its resources to selling A4 product for the work and work-from-home paradigm, reported Mathews. “Our desktop business exploded overnight. We went from selling dozens to customers to selling hundreds and thousands of printers at a time to our customers.”
- Introducing the Epson National Service Network. This is designed to provide service by authorized dealers outside an Epson dealer’s normal service area. This is a wise move for an OEM building out its distribution in the channel and focused on meeting the needs of dealers big in national accounts and with wide geographic footprints who may not have the necessary technical and service resources in all the markets they serve. In addition to this initiative, Epson offers virtual hands-on service training for its WorkForce Enterprise line, which Contreras described as an industry first for this class of product. An
- An enhanced WorkForce Enterprise line is ready for prime time. The line now includes models that output at 60, 75, and 100 ppm and include enhanced features and new finishing options. According to Epson, these products can compete head to head with similar speed products, as well as down-segment devices, providing dealers with an opportunity to knock out slower speed products. Key target markets, particularly in the light production space for the higher speed device, include education and print and mail service providers.
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