Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Managed Print Services, Spiral Out

The above video is an
exposé on how the Fibonacci sequence is present in the composition of the song "lateralus" by the band Tool.

Tool has had a profound effect on me personally, primarily in regards to the music from the album "lateralus".

Much of the lyrical content from this album speaks to the idea of self discovery, embracing the unknown and learning from experiences that reside outside of what is considered common, ordinary or mundane.

These ideas while easy to understand in the context of rock and roll are more complex when considered as guides for behavior in more conservative rolls such as the position of a professional in the corporate world.

While not always easy or acceptable I often try to apply these very ideas to my role as a managed print services professional.

(I like to pride myself on using both rock and roll and said ideas to promote printer repair.)

I wanted to share some of the ideas that I had for my own company that were accepted as well as some ideas which were not accepted as viable options for our brand of MPS in hopes that they provide inspiration to others in the industry. Essentially I am proposing for these ideas to spread laterally or to "spiral out".

Lets take a look at some of the lyrics from the song mentioned above...

"Over thinking, over analyzing,
separates the body from the mind.
Withering my intuition, leaving
opportunities behind.

One reason that we don't see innovation and creativity expand exponentially as a widespread phenomena in all industries all of the time rests within the fact that many businesses and corporations choose to rest on their laurels. That is to say that they choose to use a system of thought that while useful to build and sustain their organization, lacks the dynamic of evolution.

Over thinking and over analyzing leads to shutting the doors on risk and creativity, leading the decision makers to choose an outdated system and re-branding it with a new name to provide themselves with the illusion that they are a forward thinking organization when really they are simply doing the same things they have always done.

This kind of behavior robs the organization of what possibilities and opportunities rest outside of the box which they both sustain and refuse to admit working within the boundaries of...

So what are some ways in which an organization can escape the box and tap into the creative powers that be?

1. Tapping Your Employee Base

In so many business there are untapped resources of brilliance laying dormant in said organization's employees. While most corporations will try to brain storm new ideas with the c-level professionals in their business, it is uncommon to tap the mind of the custodian or perhaps the production crew for ideas in relation to corporate growth, marketing and or sales simply because they don't have the "expertise" necessary to make said decisions.

Tapping into your employee base and asking for feedback on what they think may be good ideas to help grow the company can be an invaluable resource for creative growth. Chances are their is someone in your company who while proficient at the mundane tasks they have be given, have ideas that could send your business into a new level of prosperity.

If your CEO was to ask around and dig into this idea, they may be surprised to find it is the man or woman who has no college education that has the next great idea that your company needs.

I can say this with a certain level of certainty because I have no college degree and built my own career within marketing by asking for it. Due to the fact that the owner and president of my company have not been afraid to take major risks in both creative and "out of the box" ideas, I have had opportunities many folks would love to have but have been denied.

2. Go Further

While I have been able to do some wild stuff here at Expert Laser Services that are ideas no one else in the company would have ever suggested and proved them to be profitable, there are some ideas which have been shot down.

I would like to present my ideas about moving forward in managed print services here but first, let's take a quick look at another set of lyrics from that same song...

"Feed my will to feel this moment, urging me to cross the line.
Reaching out to embrace the random.
Reaching out to embrace whatever may come."

"And following our will and wind,

we may just go where no one's been.
We'll ride the spiral to the end and may just go where no one's been.
Spiral out. Keep going.
Spiral out. Keep going.
Spiral out. Keep going.
Spiral out. Keep going."

Here are my thoughts on what should be "next" in managed print services...

Augmented Reality Analysis

What is augmented reality? Wikipedia has this to say...

"Augmented reality
(AR) is a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. It is related to a more general concept called mediated reality, in which a view of reality is modified (possibly even diminished rather than augmented) by a computer. As a result, the technology functions by enhancing one’s current perception of reality."

I propose that augmented reality applications via smart phones could be used in conjunction with video, panoramic photography and the current USB network scanning technology to supplement the physical walk around of a traditional printer fleet analysis.

My argument includes using this piece of equipment to make a three dimensional map of a managed print services customer's business.

While I do not posses all the technical prowess to synchronize each of these technologies to create the application of which I envision, I know there are people who could make this happen.

My boss, while amused with this idea did not decide to look into making this a reality.

While I understand that the budget needed to make this technology available most likely exceeds what funds we have, I know that if I at least present the idea perhaps there are other people who have the funds and other tools necessary to manifest said application.

Some of you who realize the potential of said vision are probably thinking it foolish to share this idea here with the possibility of another organization capitalizing on the concept.

To which my response would be, "go ahead". While I would love to make some form of profit from this idea I would rather see it come to pass by the hands of another in hopes that managed print services as a whole is benefited as I would hope said benefit would be passed on to the customers.

I contend that these separate technologies could be synchronized with services like PrintFleet to allow a virtual collection of data post physical analysis to streamline and improve the continued data collection process as needed in any true comprehensive managed print services/document output management plan.

So if anyone out there can do this and shares my enthusiasm...

Have at it.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Take A Second To End Huntington's Disease

Above you will see a picture of a friend of mine. Her name is Faith Degenhardt. I met Faith via her brother Lee who is a close friend, a man who used to do sound for my band Jabooda in the early years of our live performances.

Faith suffers from Huntington's Disease and her ability to speak and walk varies due to the complications from this disease.

Years ago when when the band had just started out I often remember Faith acompanying Lee to our performances. She was always very quiet, a very gentle soul and kind person and at the time there was no inclination she would someday have serious issues with mobility and speaking.

This disease has robbed Faith of simple activities that many of us take for granted. Her ability to go for a walk, play sports, dance and speak is challenged by this disease.

Currently she is bound to a wheel chair much of the time but does have days where can she walk short distances.

I can't imagine how frustrating it must be to deal with this on a daily basis. Not only is this clearly a hard reality to face for a young woman but even speaking about the issue itself is challenge for her on some days due to how the disease makes talking a challenge.

I am telling her story here today because I wish to ask you a simple favor.

Please go to this website and click "vote"
by doing so you may very well help to fund the study for a cure to this debilitating disease and provide much needed medication to thousands of people like Faith.

It will literally take you one second and cost you no money.

I thank you for your time in advance.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Good Customer Service Still Exists

As someone who tries to embody good customer service, I have come to realize a few things...

It is apparent that in this day and age good customer service is a dying breed. That being said, it is also apparent that it is alive and well in some places scattered throughout my travels.

Above you will notice a picture of the Pilot Travel Center located just off of I-84 exit 1 in Sturbridge, Massachusetts.

As a big fan of the "Rockstar 2x" energy drinks, I often find myself here to purchase that very beverage. Energy drinks, food and gas here at Pilot are more expensive than many of the local gas stations I visit from time to time (most likely due to its location).

However I often choose to stop in for my caffeine fix here versus some of the other local gas stations because the customer service here is always very good and often times superior to other local gas stations.

All of the cashiers have been very kind to me and one in particular (Louise Vrabel) always greets me with a "good morning, how are you today?" accompanied by a smile and a compliment on the weather or recent events in addition to offering me savings on my purchase if there happens to be any good deals in relation to them.

This simple kindness and projection of positive energy and interest in customers well-being is something which I find lacking in many peoples approach to customer service these days.

The old saying "I may not remember your name but I will never forget how you make me feel" rings true in regards to all transactions from the gas station purchase to the signing and execution of a major managed print services contract.

This may sound trivial to you but I can assure you, a cashier who makes it a point to smile, take note of their return customers and make their short visit enjoyable is not always present in many similar establishments I have visited.

Another local gas station of whom I will not name has a couple similar employees...

They also have a gentleman who does his job well but simply does not poses a spirit of service towards the clientele. On numerous occasions one of his contemporaries has stopped me to ask if I would like to take advantage of "the buy one get one" deal on my preferred brand of energy drinks while this gentleman never even mentions the possibility.

It is only recently that he has made it a habit of saying "thanks" or "have a nice day" upon my exit, words of which it seems he has to struggle to get out.

While I hold nothing against this gentleman his demeanor is one reason I do at times choose to purchase my morning beverage from the Pilot store instead of the one at which he works. While the higher prices are enough to have me choose otherwise at times, I will often times choose to spend more for same product from a business who projects better customer service and positive energy.

Louise and the other cashiers quality of customer service at Pilot make the extra dollars worth it.

So if your ever in Sturbridge near I-84 stop by the Pilot Travel Center, the customer service alone is worth a visit.

Monday, November 21, 2011

When The Student Is Ready...

Mark Schaefer and I at "CLINK" Boston, MA.

Here is an excerpt from my new book

Music, Mischief And Marketing: A Guerrillas Guide For The Creative Protagonist

From chapter 9:
When The Student Is Ready, The Teacher Will Appear

"The title of this chapter is an old Buddhist proverb that speaks volumes about my own experiences in Marketing. When I started out in my position as Expert Laser Services “Chief Social Media Marketing Engineer” (as I have been dubbed by management) I had no credentials, no budget and a mere six months to show some ROI.

What on earth was I to do?

Not only was thinking outside of the box my only option, it was the only thing that made sense at that point in time. As an autodidact, I leapt headlong into educating myself about social media, B2B Marketing, the state of our industry and how to combine and utilize knowledge from each of those resources.

In addition to studying marketing and mps industry blogs I worked hard at developing my own perspective, a unique voice within an industry that already had its fair share of experts spread over the blogosphere.

Being true to your self is key in a position such as this. Listening to my own intuition and trying to think as a consumer within my market space, I created content that I would want to see coming from a vendor such as my own company.

With the internet still pulsing with free knowledge I simply soaked up everything I could from all other marketing experts and industry pundits that I could while simultaneously presenting my own variants of opinions and information via the company blog, Facebook page, LinkedIn page and Twitter account.

To be an “expert” you simply have to be at least two steps ahead of those who view you as a thought leader and always learning more, day in and day out.

While using this same process in becoming a thought leader in my own industry, I formulated the first installment of the “Destroy Your Printer Contest”.

On October 19th of 2009 I (the student) had apparently become ready for exposure on Mark Scheafer’s (the teacher) “Grow” marketing blog. Mark who is a legend in his own right as author of one of the top marketing blogs on the net, Professor of social media at Rutgers University and author of the book “The Tao of Twitter” was the first person to break the story of my now infamous and annual destruction contest.

I truly feel that his post about my work is the seed that has sprouted into a cornucopia of media surrounding my work which includes coverage from countless blogs in both the marketing and MPS industries as well as the New York Times, Recycler Magazine, and multiple books.

Indeed, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear…"

In the picture above you will find both myself and Mark Schaefer striking a pose. In this shot we are sitting in the restaurant "CLINK" which resides in the beautiful Liberty Hotel in Boston Massachusetts. Mark and I finally had the chance to meet here in person after years of communication via the internet and a short phone call a while back.

Meeting Mark in person was more like reconnecting with an old friend than meeting a fellow human being in person for the first time.

Friendly, professional, humble and generous...

In addition to being a master of his craft, Mark is the epitome of the above terms.

If you ever have the chance to meet with Mark, I highly recommend jumping at the opportunity. A conversation with this man will likely result in your own bursts of inspiration. Truly a great person with a great mind, Mark is simply a joy to be around.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Power Of The Egregore

First off...

What is an egregore?

Wikipedia has this to say about the subject...

"Egregore (also egregor) is an occult concept representing a "thoughtform" or "collective group mind", an autonomous psychic entity made up of, and influencing, the thoughts of a group of people. The symbiotic relationship between an egregore and its group has been compared to the more recent, non-occult concepts of the corporation (as a legal entity) and the meme."

So, what does this concept have to do with anything regarding our industry?

Well to really understand the depth of this question, let us consider a few examples of well known egregores.

Santa Claus
Uncle Sam
Bugs Bunny

All three of these characters are egregores. None of them exist in reality, however they are very much so "real" to thousands if not millions of people as known personalities.

Santa Claus is actually considered by many (primarily children) to be a real, living and breathing magical human being who takes residence in the north pole. As such he is one of a select few if not the only person to posses a group of flying reindeer whom he employs to deliver toys to all the children of the world on Christmas eve.

The egregore that is Santa Claus is given and sustains its life as an artificial psychic entity by the countless children whom believe him to be real and by their parents who suggest and support his existence.

While Santa Claus is also a talisman of great power of which parents use from time to time as a way to have their children behave well on occasions where they become unruly, he is also a symbol of great love, peace, magic(k), myth and wonderment.

In addition he is used as a marketing tool to generate millions of dollars in sales in multiple industries every year.

Some would even suggest that he is the epitome of the demi-god...

I have illustrated these points to lead up to this part of the post where I will now remind you of the non-occult, egregorious concept of the corporation.

When a large corporation has a name, logo or other symbolic sign of power associated with said organization it is essentially an egregore.

Often times, due to the perceptions of those people who make up the group mind surrounding the egregores identity (perhaps the corporations logo or name for example) people tend to make assumptions about what that corporation and it's symbols mean.

Lets say you have a giant in the industry who is well known for producing laser printers, computers and or various other pieces of technology many of which revolve around the business/office side of the perceptions surrounding its brand...

Because said entity is so established as an "expert" or "thought leader" within one spectrum of the industry, it may be very easy for said entity to suggest to the public that upon entering the managed print services industry despite its gross lack of expertise, it is an expert in said industry simply because it claims to be one.

Now, because this corporation is in and of itself or has created an egregore in relation to its logo or brand, those in the public whose presumptions form the basis of the egregores identity via the group mind that exists because of their preconceived notions about what that corporation is, now also support the notion that this corporation is an expert in this field whether or not this is actually true.

So to clarify...

A well established business that is an expert in one relm of an industry can enter another realm of the same industry with no experience and still take a large share of the market away from smaller true industry experts, simply because they wield the psychological power to shift the perspectives of the public in favor of what they want you to believe.

Sound to crazy to be true?

If you think so, take a look the companies in the managed print services space who have the majority of the market share on contract and compare how long they have been in the industry to some of the smaller independent providers.

Do you honestly think that 5 years, 6 years or even 10 years is enough time for those larger companies to build the infrastructure, train their sales staff, service techs and other employees, sign multi-year contracts, and experience/learn from the dynamic atmosphere related to the execution of said contracts to really suggest they are experts?

Well fortunately for them, they have large marketing departments with talented professionals who are trained in the craft.

After all, if you have a global presence that must automatically make you an expert right?

Something to consider the next time a salesman walks through your door and asks to speak to your CFO or IT manager about managed print services...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Meditations On Losing A Relationship

I was originally going to title this post "Meditations On Losing A Sale".

I decided against this because to me, describing what happens when a customer purchases a machine or service plan from me as a "sale" is a bastardization of what it is really happening.

I know that with every sale made, a relationship begins.

I am not perfect but try very hard to go above and beyond for my customers. Because they are not just customers, they are human beings who have entrusted me to take care of them in regards to their office imaging needs...

I personally hate the term "salesman" because it dredges up all kinds of negative imagery and that happens for a reason.

Many salesmen are notoriously greedy, self servicing dark wizards bent on one thing...

Cold hard cash. Getting the next big "score".

I fully, with every ounce of my being hate the fact that there are so many sales professionals who who choose to embody this negative stereotype.

It is my personal mission to be the antithesis of this persona.

I put my customers first and keep my focus on their needs. I do all I can to provide a fair price for the best possible products and services, with my commission always being an afterthought and never front and center of my motivations.

So when I loose a sale to some one like this. It is painful. And while some of that pain is my own, it is not nearly as painful to my ego as it will be to the customers wallet.

Recently I proposed a copier to a customer who has been doing business with us for over 6 years.

While I fully expected them to get at least a second proposal for comparison to our own, I never imagined they would buy the same machine with both minimum and overage charges in addition to a higher regular rate.

What supposedly set off the decision maker in this company is the fact that we included a charge for scans at .0002 per scan...

And while the other vendor did not charge for scanning, their regular rates were both higher than ours. Further more, we did not charge overages or give them a minimum monthly output as this other vendor has.

Consequently, they are now spending more on their service plan with this other vendor than they would have with our plan even if we still charged them for scanning (which we offered to remove as sign of good faith in that we cherished them as a customer and would work with them to keep their business).

The real travesty here is the fact that even with our scanning charges our option would have been cheaper.

Now this is one copier sale...

For me, the commission from this sale would equate to perhaps, gas money for a few weeks. Financially, its not a major loss to me.

Emotionally it is frustrating because they have been hoodwinked by this other vendor...

I am not upset that I lost "another score" as some in the sales craft would put it.

I am upset about this because I lost a relationship with a customer to an individual who probably thinks of these people as another feather in their cap...

Another score... Another piece of meat.

I am upset about it because this other salesman, slicked his hair back, shot an elevator pitch and used the same age old techniques of coercive persuasion that is so prevalent in the craft of "pocket lining" it is virtually an accepted practice in the art of sales.

What I am trying to get at here is that whether you buy from me or from anyone else.

Don't be had. Do your homework and really look at the MATH.

It is so easy to be deceived by the language of a talented and experienced sales professional, especially if their intentions are focused on their commission versus your happiness and satisfaction.

Don't assume they are saving you anything by eliminating one cost when such "generosities" are accompanied by minimums and overage charges in the details.

I can honestly say that while I am always interested in new business, I will not sacrifice the value of a relationship with another human being for a larger financial return.

At the risk of being repetitive, I implore you...

Be awake. Be aware. Do your homework.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Intec Inspires Hope Through Consumables

Our new product line of graphic arts printers from Intec Printing Solutions offers the ability to give to those in need, simply by purchasing toner and other consumables for your printer.

From the Intec website:

"Every consumable purchased for your Intec printer will generate a donation to charity.

At Intec Printing Solutions we believe that we make a better world for everyone when we offer the gift of hope to those far less fortunate than ourselves. That is why we are proud to have supported an orphanage in southern Asia for several years. Every Intec consumable purchased generates a donation towards this excellent charity, which Intec supports by visiting in the field and ensuring that all proceeds actually go to those who really need the help.

Other projects supported in southern Asia over the last couple of years include building a church and community centre. These cater for up to 500 people and provide support and education to the rural poor in the tea growing highlands. Also a school has been built providing education to more than 50 children that would not otherwise receive an education.

Additionally, Intec supports a number of charitable organisations around the world.

Thank you for your partnership with us in this matter."

Monday, October 17, 2011

Amanda Rogerson Speaks On MPS

This is a guest post from PrintFleet MPS Advisor, Amanda Rogerson. I met Amanda within the past month or so through twitter. While she has been commenting about some of my blog posts via twitter and sharing my content, I wanted to give her the chance to speak out on MPS here. As you will find in this post, Amanda clearly understands what elements are necessary for greatness in this industry. For those of you just starting in MPS or finding yourselves struggling, this post will be a most useful guide for your consideration.

We have developed user groups, research firms, have done studies, best practice boards have been pulled together, and committees organized to define and shape this intangible idea; ‘the Holy Grail’ of the Imaging industry – Managed Print Services (aka MPS). In my opinion within a very short time we have matured this concept very quickly. More and more businesses are going to market with MPS programs; this is excellent and a sure sign that MPS is the wave of the future. I have had the pleasure in my short years in this industry to speak to over 500 different dealerships across the USA and CANADA about Managed Print Services. These dealers have been from all verticals, different buying groups, and different tenures within the market: all with ideals and ideas about what MPS is. Though I still find myself in a relative shock due to the number of people that I hear say, “of course we’re in MPS we bill on a CPP”.

It has been frustrating... Why? Well for starters MPS is so much more than just billing on CPP. An MPS program that is defined as being a CPP contract stripes the MPS concept of all it's value. This narrow definition is one of the main reasons why I see dealers flounder with their MPS program. In general they have not developed a complete program, they have just bundled everything together into a CPP contract program and taken it to market. They don’t do assessments, their sales force isn’t compensated on MPS deals, and they lack a compelling story for their program.

In discussions with both dealers that are doing well and that are struggling, I’ve picked up a thing or two about what helps drive the MPS engine forward. There seems to be some core fundamentals of business, that all these companies are ‘doing MPS’ and failing, seem to have forgotten.

As I see it, there are some of the basic questions to ask as you dive into the deep end of the MPS pool, or drink the Kool-Aid as some people view it:

1. Where does MPS fit in to your current business?

Determine where you want this new product offering to sit in your line-up. Is it your leading value proposition to your clients? Is it a way to generate more revenue in existing accounts? Is it a defensive tactic to lock out competition? Or is it a new sales approach to target larger prospects? If the top level of your company cannot define what you want to do in the MPS space, it’s difficult for your sales team to deliver the program to the market. If you’re just getting into MPS because “that’s what the cool kids are doing” and don’t have the structure or support for it internally you are setting yourself up for failure.

2. What is your MPS program?

Once you’ve figured out where MPS sits in your current business model, you have to decide what exactly you are going to offer as an MPS program. By definition MPS is a broad over-reaching offering that could contain many elements. From what I’ve seen, what you set out for as your goal with MPS will be moulded and shaped by your customers’ expectations. But having a clear framework for what you want to offer as your MPS value proposition will help you avoid deals that you aren’t structured internally to support. That’s not to say that as your program matures and you expand your knowledge on how to actually manage a fleet you won’t add more facets to your program as you grow. As you get more sophisticated your offering can. Consider carefully what it means to truly offer a Managed Print Program, and what your definition is of your MPS program.

3. What is my differentiator?

On the heels of the last point, what makes you any different than any of the other thousand MPS providers in North America? Why are you so special? If you lead with just a CPP contract program you might find that you still play the price game, where you are haggled to the tiniest fraction of a penny. But if you lead with a cost analysis assessment of their current fleet, you’re still likely proposing a CPP pricing model at the end of the assessment – but rather than just tossing a number out and hoping it sticks will get exposure and visibility to their environment. You'll be able to act more like a trusted consultant rather than just another product vendor. Do a SWOT analysis of your immediate competitors, and while you’re at it don’t forget the big boys, because whether you like it or not, they are moving into your space.

4. What are my Goals?

And if you simply answer – make more money, you’re not thinking big enough. If you’re a copier dealer think about how many MIF’s you have, do you realize that studies show for every 1 copier there are 4-10 printers (depending on the study you read). If you think about that then your goal should be to take complete ownership of every device in every account you have equipment placed in. How many net new accounts do you want to see by the end of the year? Net new pages? Net new revenue can be in there but set a goal for it specific to your MPS program. Declare “we want 100k in new MPS contract business” and then figure out how you’re going to get it and go for it. Once again, be sure your back end processes are in place and you can handle it.

5. How am I going to drive my program?

Multiple additional questions sprout from this one. Do you hire a SME otherwise known as the MPS specialist? Do you enlist your whole sales force to jump on the MPS band wagon? There really is no cookie cutter answer. You will have to evaluate your current business model –see point 1, determine what your program is going to be –see point 2, decide how you’re going to deliver it – see point 3 and determine where you want your program to go – see point 4. Based on what you’ve already explored you’ll be able to determine the best course of action. A key factor in driving the rep activity is going to relate to my next question…

6. How am I going to incent my program?

This is really not as complicated as people seem to make it. There is no magic formula for compensating on an MPS program. The key is that the commission structure that is driving the reps behavior is going to be huge in delivering a successful program. Your traditional equipment rep will not be in love with the idea of 30-60 day assessments unless they see something that will validate the time they will need to spend on the deal. Once they start to see the potential revenues they will jump on board, it’s just getting them to that point. Look at your existing commission structure and consider how you can tweak it, without over complicating things to add drivers for your MPS program.

7. How am I going to implement this program?

There will be changes that you need to make internally as you wrap your arms around your offering. Internal resources will be re-allocated or in some cases have additional tasks added to their daily routine. Once you start to propose something that isn’t a SKU to your customer you’ll need to figure out how to change their way of interacting with you. An MPS deal changes the type and level of interaction and may also require some re-training of how the customer handles their printer needs. These changes will need to be implemented properly to successful both internally, and at your customer sites.

8. Can I do this alone, or do I need a partner?

Once you have wrapped your head around what you want to deliver, and what the demand is for an MPS program you may need to bring partnering companies in to help you support your program. Possible partnerships would fill in any gaps that you have, and provide you with the tools and methodologies that would strengthen your program.

I could keep going but these are the core questions that should be asked at the start of ANY new product offering that your company is going to engage in. If you are a business who is new to this ‘MPS thing’ don’t necessarily try to re-invent the wheel there is a wealth of knowledge and everyone, to a certain extent, is willing to share. Turn to your peers, read everything you can get your hands on and attend the MPS conferences. It amazes me that for such a competitive space everyone is willing to collaborate when it involves the MPS offering.

If you’ve been offering MPS for a while and struggling, go back and look at how you’ve executed it. Did you consider everything fully, or did you miss components, determine why you’re struggling and make changes. You could possibly even enlist the aid of one of the many business consulting firms that specialize in managed services.

If you’re in MPS and doing well and just like reading these blogs to keep up on what everyone else is doing there probably isn’t anything new in here. I don’t claim to be a guru or an expert; I haven’t earned a leopard bandana, yet. I’m just someone who’s been watching this MPS thing as it’s grown from the early adopter stage into where it is at now.

I am excited about the opportunities that MPS providers can bring to businesses and I think that over the next couple of years we will see that MPS, MDS, MES whatever pseudonym we give it will substantially change the way that users operate and interact with the printing environment.

Why I do declare… I think this MPS thing might even be bigger than colour print – and yes I’m Canadian…colour is spelt with a U.


Friday, October 7, 2011

On Improvisation

Here is an excerpt from my new book

Music, Mischief And Marketing: A Guerrillas Guide For The Creative Protagonist

(currently being written)

From chapter 8:
The Risks And Rewards Of Improvisation

The key to my own success has been rooted in improvisation. As a “jamband” when performing with Jabooda, it is customary to move through the composed portions of our songs and eventually trail off into a “jam” or improvisational section of the piece. At this point the song has endless possibilities.

We may choose to simply groove on the main theme and experiment with different melodies and rhythmic devices or we may move into a theme completely different from the current song, segueing into a different composition or letting the improvisation carry us into a climax or resolution of which is determined by multiple factors including but not limited to; the direction sometimes being steered by and individual or the collective conscious of the band as a whole.

Really anything is possible…

I try to approach many aspects of my life in this way and marketing and sales are probably the two most prevalent arts and sciences in which I do this (other than music).

I would say that improvisation (like avaunt-garde jazz or heavy metal) is not for everyone. There is a certain level of risk, rule bending (or breaking) necessary to be successful in improvisation. Taking said risks also will inevitably lead to some (if not multiple) failures.

So why take the risk?

Because improvisation is one of the best ways to “chase the magic”. Improvisation leads you into situations and territories that only improvisation can manifest. In my own improvisational work, I find that improvisation breeds synchronicity when practiced regularly. I find this to be true in art, music, business and literally all other facets of my life.

This is important because what this really translates to is the manifestations of opportunities.

By improvising within the traditional framework of the expectations associated with a common task or responsibility, in a way that achieves a goal by taking alternate or unexpected routes, one may find a level of success surpassing that of the statuesque approach.

One reason that innovation and success is not an omnipresent experience for all organizations and businesses is largely due in part to the fact that many organizations choose to stay grounded upon a single set of ideas or philosophies that while working to some extent, do not achieve the full potential possible within said organization. Reaching this potential would occur more often if those within said organization had more freedom to infuse more of their passions and perspectives into their work.

The improvisational approach as mentioned above is an excellent way to infuse more of yourself into all of your responsibilities, both within your job and virtually every other element of your life.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Believe It Or Not, MPS Is Hip...

As I have watched the MPS industry over the past five years I have noticed a peculiar (and much to my enjoyment) interesting fact.

The MPS industry is ripe with subtle hipsters...

While I am not suggesting that you will find a group of us hanging out in an incense-smoke filled room, drinking absinthe and endlessly discussing the Grateful Dead as a metaphor for MPS, I would note the following...

1. The Death Of The Copier Blog, clearly the most well know and infamous blog in the industry is a veritable pantheon of liberal and even counter-culturally bent perspectives on what many would consider a drab, boring and very much so "un-sexy" corporate industry.

2. Just this week Adventures In Office Imaging fan and guest post author, Amanda Rogerson writes to me in an e-mail "As I see it, here are some of the basic questions to ask as you dive into the deep end of the MPS pool, or drink the Kool-Aid."

3. In a true showing of synchronicity, both myself and Rob Sethre unknowingly wrote articles expounding upon fractals as metaphorical devices to explain various dynamics of the managed print services ecosystem (within a few days of each other none the less).

4. The managed print services association actually has a Karma rating for its users and even Ken Stewart has commented on the actual presence of Karma within managed print services itself.

In the end all I can say is that the managed print services industry has some very creative and "colorful" minds within it's ranks and I am proud to consider myself one of the "in-crowd" in this respect.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Value of Prospect Created Content

Whether your marketing managed print services or candy bars, B2C or B2B. The simple fact remains...

Content is king.

And when it comes to content, there may be no content more valuable than that of which is made by your own clients or prospects in reaction to a video contest.

The above video is one of six submissions we received for our "Destroy Your Printer Contest 3". The video is a perfect example of "prospect created content". Not only is this video creative, humorous and totally over the top, but also an excellent advertisement. One of which was made not by our marketing department, but by a passionate prospect.

This is important because it acts as a catalyst for connecting with other prospects due to the simple fact that the user gave us a plug by noting our website and company name at the beginning of the video.

Now whenever someone watches this video we are able to capitalize on the interest generated by the video and not as an entity marketing to an audience, but as a third party who came up with this wild idea for a contest in which the creator of the video obviously went to great lengths to win.

This is one reason that video contests are so valuable in the world of content.

In reaction to this kind of promotional device, your prospects and or customers alike will create viral content for you and your brand. Plus, they will do it with a level of passion that you simply won't find in relation to other marketing endeavors.

By generating a video contest that taps into your customers pain points and providing products and services that aid in the relief of said pain points, you will effectively generate a working alchemy within your marketing efforts.

This kind of promotional event also allows you to use fun and creativity to market your products and services regardless of whether your products and services are devoid of both. Thus infusing your brand image with a positively charged emotional reaction from your customers and prospects alike.

So, the next time you find your self at a loss for your next marketing endeavor...

Consider the video contest.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Destroy Your Printer Contest 3, Winner!

Voting has ended, the public has spoken...

This years destroy your printer video contest winner is Eric Morse of Sturbridge, Massachusetts.

Eric took things to a new level of printer destruction with this bold and humorous car jump. While needing a second attempt as seen in the video, the later launch drove the defunct copier into an airborne trajectory resulting in one of the most over the top entries this contest series has ever seen.

Eric has chosen to donate his winnings (both the $100 and the two toner cartridges) to a local non-profit close to the heart of many folks in our area.

The Center of Hope, a charitable foundation which helps people with various disabilities will receive this years winnings.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Music, Art And... Managed Print Services?

This past Saturday marked an interesting point in both my career as a musician and a managed print services consultant and marketing specialist.

I graced the main stage of the 2011 Open Road Music And Arts Festival with my band Jabooda on what many would consider one of the nicest days of the year, sunlight spreading over the grounds complimenting the cool September air. The scent of gourmet foods and southern specialties wafting from the food vendors and a general sense of delight made the already picturesque scene even more enjoyable.

After a half hour set of music with my band, I moved my gear off stage and quickly took my place at the Expert Laser Services table. I would spend the rest of the day vending with a slew of other local business owners.

The festivals vendor strip boasted the usual fair of food, hemp products, clothing, jewelry, art and music...

I however, was pedaling information about recycled toner cartridges and managed print services.

To my surprise I actually received about ten to fifteen leads. I must admit I was not sure how my "products" would be perceived. Granted the festival had an emphasis on recycling however, it is not to often you see a vendor attempting to market or sell a B2B service at a music festival.

That being said, I did manage to garner the attention of college students, local municipalities, business men and curious passerby's.

I will say that those stopping by probably had their initial interest peaked by this photo on my table...

If nothing else, this one flyer raised many an eyebrow and provided a steady stream of laughs throughout the day.

In the end, I did speak with a few prospects who truly could benefit from a managed print services program based upon the descriptions of their printer fleets and organizations.

I certainly look forward to the prospect of signing a managed print services contract whose origins begin at rock concert.

Will it happen? Only time will tell...

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Is Marketing, Magick?

While using the Google+ Sparks function a few days ago in search of articles using the keyword “esoteric” I stumbled upon a most peculiar and enlightening blog post…

“The esoteric art of non-coercive persuasion — sometimes called advertising — evolved long before there was a Manhattan avenue named after our fourth president. Even the Scriptures tell of blind and elderly Isaac being persuaded, through gentle deception, to yield his older son’s birthright.”

The headline to this article written by Stanley M. Aronson, M.D. hit me like a ton of bricks in the “when the student is ready the teacher will appear” kind of way.

As an open minded young man I have a deep thirst for knowledge in regards to both the exoteric and esoteric dynamics of well, pretty much everything. I generally develop a deep interest in whatever topics that resonate with me.

As a human being who has found himself in a rather successful career as a marketing and sales professional I have often asked my self…

Is Marketing, Magick?

There are no words written else ware in the world however, that have spurned such a question for me personally more than the following paragraph also from the article mentioned above.

“Inducing people to choose paths or to purchase things that had not initially been on their shopping lists requires a special virtuosity that combines a malign knowledge of motivation with skills in inveiglement, witless repetition and selective button-pushing. Sometimes the promises accompanying the advertisements exceed realities (a gentle euphemism for fraud). And if the product offered somehow does not approach the promised expectations, there is always yet another product to promote.”

By now you are probably wondering two things. What is Magick and or who cares if Marketing is a form of said art?

Magick by definition is "the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will." - Aleister Crowley

In plain English this means forcing your will whether good or ill on the world and it’s inhabitants.

I cannot help but to assume that this same goal is at the heart of many marketing departments.

This aim is not in and of itself wrong or dare I say evil…

That being said, what I mean to point out here in this post however is that marketing whether related to said art or not has a similar aim and it bothers me that so many products such as cigarettes (to name the most obvious) have been so easily implanted into the minds and bodies of the American public as a “good” thing and what’s worse is that even those consumers who know that product is killing them, often times choose to continue in their consumption of said products due to how their minds have been molded to think.

(I am not judging I smoked cigarettes for about 5-6 years)

I suppose what I am really trying to get at here is that everyone has an agenda and there are many folks in powerful places who utilize tools such as marketing to implant ideas into the minds of those who they wish to manifest some kind of control via their will.

Whether their aim is to get you to buy soda or to vote for a political candidate, be warned..

You are bombarded with subtle messages every day for all years of your life to make choices that serve an others agenda and or will.

Be aware and be awake.

Ask why do I need this product? Do your homework and find out about the things you put in your mind and your body and question the message from who it comes from.

As a marketing professional myself I can assure you, if you want to know anything about the products and services I sell for my company or for my own gain I will answer what ever questions you have.

I simply suggest that you do the same with everyone else.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Cigars As A Symbol Of Solution

AVO Robusto, my cigar of choice...

Some you may be aware of the fact that I am an avid cigar enthusiast.

For me, cigars have become a symbol of success both for myself and for my clients. I usually only smoke as a reward for implementing a solution for my clients whether it be a piece of hardware, a managed print services plan, software or so on and so forth.

While I am sure that I am not the only sales professional to use cigars in this fashion, I believe that I may be one of the few who approach the reward with the psychology that I do.

I don't give myself the pleasure of a cigar simply because I have made a big score financially. In fact the only element of my enjoyment of cigars as it relates to financial gain is in reference to the cost of the cigar itself.

As far as the ritual of smoking a cigar, for me it is a form of mediation and a time of relaxation. During these times I like to go over what I have achieved in reference to bettering my customers business through the solution I have provided them.

Often times each puff is accompanied by thoughts of how I have helped a client reduce their cost of printing, streamline their business processes and or provided them with useful equipment, software or content of which makes their professional and business lives better.

I like to go over the intricacies of the benefits I have given a client as the cigar burns closer to its finish. As the cigar burns, I reflect on elements such as the cost per click of a clients new machine, the ways in which our managed print services program is now saving them time and money and how I have been able to make a clients document management endeavors more profitable and efficient for their organization.

As I enjoy my cigar with wisps of smoke curling around my immediate space, I often ponder how to improve their business, the office or industrial culture around them, their company and or their organization.

In fact I try to use all of those things which I enjoy or find pleasurable (at least to some extent) as a catalyst to help others. Whether it be my clients, friends, family or even passerby's and strangers, I try to make consistent and focused conscious efforts in all that I do to help others.

It is in this kind of psycho-spiritual awareness that I attempt to keep my daily mindfulness, focused on the well being of other human beings.

In this way I would like to think that I am a living conduit of positive energy. So whether I am smoking a cigar, writing a blog post or doing virtually any other activity I try to do it with a spirit of love and service towards others.

In this way I believe that I am accomplishing what a human is meant to do. Indeed I hope that this very post has inspired you to do the same or in the very least has had some positive effect on you.

I suppose in some respects this is how I try to manifest the concept of "agape" in my own life and also in the lives of those people whom I meet during my existence on planet earth.

Monday, August 15, 2011

ELS Joins Intec’s U.S. Expansion

I don't normally post press releases here but as a member of the both the sales and marketing department I must say that I am very excited about these Intec printers. They really are quite robust and produce some pretty stunning graphics on everything from regular paper up to stocks with a thickness of 512 gsm.

See the press release below...

Expert Laser Services signed on today as the newest American dealer for Intec Printing Solutions. The agreement makes Expert Laser the exclusive reseller of Intec printers in southern New England. Intec, based in the United Kingdom, produces digital color printing equipment and has partners in over 70 countries. Intec’s United States headquarters opened in Tampa this spring.

Expert Laser founder Luke Carpentier called it a strong move for his company...

“As the exclusive Intec dealer in our market, Expert Laser can deliver top-of-the-line digital production systems in configurations and with capabilities no one else can offer. The Intec line enables printers to produce top quality, full color output in short runs on an incredible range of media.”

“We are very pleased to align ourselves with Intec.”

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Social Media Minus The Bovine Feces

Alright, I know there are a lot of you in the managed print services industry out there who are not yet utilizing social media to market your brand or generate sales.

This ends today...

I present to you the book both you and your CEO need to read if your on the fence or not considering social media at all as part of your marketing plan.

"No Bullshit Social Media" by Jason Falls and Erik Deckers will show you the proof about the ROI inherent in social media and provide the kick in the pants needed to get you on the social web. It will also give you the tools and resources needed to succeed in said space.

The book is describe by Jason below...

"Erik and I walk readers through what social media marketing can do for business, how to decide what you want it to do for yours and how to plan, activate and measure what you do. This book is not about Facebook and Twitter. It’s about using social media marketing as a business driver. It’s no-nonsense, no smoke-and-mirrors … No Bullshit. It will reinforce what you know, give you more ideas and help those you work with see social media marketing as a viable mechanism to reach, involve and persuade consumers to do more than “Like” or follow."

Like it or not folks social media is here to stay and like I have said in the past, if your not involved yet your running late.

No Bullshit Social Media is a surefire way to start or improve your social media program. Whether your a recent adherent to the social realm or just getting started, this book is a tool that you must have in your arsenal for social media success.

Read more about the book here.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Why Sales Should Be Social

At this point in my career I believe that I have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that social media can be most profitable, even if you are given no budget to work with.

While I manage social media for my company I am also a member of the sales team and all of the sales generated by social media within my company have (thus far) come from my clients, several of whom I garnered through or in conjunction with social media efforts.

So it is with true gusto that on this day I do declare...

Everyone in your sales department should be involved in social media.

Is there a learning curve? Yes, but really its not rocket science and the skills needed to be a great sales professional parallel many of the skills necessary for any social media pro.

Many dynamics of the sales culture (networking, after hours gatherings, schmoozing, building trust) can be taken to new levels when social media is applied to said culture.

Most of the information needed to become a successful social media professional can be found for free on the internet. With some time dedicated to self education any individual who is already a sales professional can easily become proficient in the realm of social media.

If nothing else starting with the "big 4" a blog, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn one can generate sales and buzz within a years time (I know, I have done it).

Reading other marketing and sales professional's blogs as well as spending a few pennies on educational sites such as lynda.com can launch an already successful salesman or woman into new heights.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

MPS Contract Via Social Media

I believe that I have accomplished a unique acheivement this week.

Yesterday I signed a managed print services contract that was garnered through social media.

Let me explain...

A few months ago David Morrow (a friend of mine which I had not seen in over 10 years) reconnected with me through Facebook after stumbling across my profile. In addition to listening to some music I had posted to my wall, he also took the time to check out my company's Facebook page and read a couple of blog posts I had shared there.

I guess he liked what he read.

Dave works at a company called Tech Cavalry as part of a team of IT professionals who offer services ranging from computer installations and repair to network design and implementation.

I guess you could say that they love computers and technology. Printers on the other hand, well...

Let's just say that said hardware is not their cup of tea. That being said, printers are not only our cup of tea but the very foundation of our company.

Dave felt that we are a company who share the same kind of passion for quality customer service that Tech Cavalry has and since he and his boss Michael had been looking to find a company with said qualities who would be able to take the reigns in regards to their customers printer needs, I was asked to come and meet with Michael to speak about the possibility of doing business together.

While my conversation with Michael spanned everything from cigars and coffee to VARs and MSPs and every dynamic in between, the conversation ended with a referral.

I was given information about a company not far from where I worked.

Thanks to that information I was able to perform an analysis, present an MPS solution and sign a contract for said solution with the aforementioned company in record timing.

Had I not been actively involved in social media, this opportunity would most likely not have occurred and even if it had, the lack of a reference to the gentleman I was able to get the referral from would have almost certainly made the process move much slower.

The point I would like make here is that if your working in a B2B environment and your not involved in social media then you are falling behind.

Social media is here to stay and chances are, your competitors are already ahead of the game.