For the record: Steven Schnoll

This month, I had the opportunity to chat with consultant and print industry veteran Steven Schnoll, of Schnoll Media Consulting. I asked him about the iPad, what advice he has for printers and what we’ll see looking forward to 2011. Read on!

What did you think of the recent Graph Expo show? What stood out to you and what kind of vibe did you feel on the show floor?

I think trade shows and conferences are critical to the success of any business. It’s all about the networking and exposure you get. No matter who is there, it’s a better opportunity than you will ever get sitting in your office. This doesn’t seem to resonate with a lot of people. Sure, it’s great to see equipment but you can research that on the Internet. It’s the networking and the peer interaction that is so valuable that you can’t get anywhere else.

In terms of the feeling on the show floor, I got split reviews. Some people thought it was very positive. Their expectations may not have been overwhelmingly big, but they thought things were good. They saw a fair amount of people coming around to their booth and they got good exposure, especially the big guys right at the front. On the other hand, some of the smaller companies in the way back had problems with traffic – people just weren’t getting back there.

In your Executive Outlook presentation, you said: “The iPad is a game-changer.” Who should go out and buy one? Printers? And how can they use it to help their business?

First, we need to look at not necessarily how it can help their business, but understand how the customer base is using a delivery vehicle like an iPad. Look at all the apps available – there are millions of them! Here’s an example: there are three key functions that I used to use hard paper for: newspapers, books and magazines. Now, I read those off my iPad. That pervasive game-change is going to continue. Look at all the companies with devices and tablets that are scheduled to come out before Christmas: Microsoft, HP, Toshiba, and so on. But what does that mean? It means people are going to depend more on tablets for receiving information than any other method.

Let me give you an example. I’m involved in the Printing Industries of America Converge Conference in November. We mailed the brochure out September 24. I just heard from somebody that they just got it in the mail today. We constantly hear about the value proposition of direct mail. Let me just say, I do think personalized direct mail has definite benefits. We could have the most dramatic and fantastic, innovative mail piece, but if the mail stream is not helping us meet our needs… what is it worth?

The Canadian and U.S. post offices are hurting – there is less and less in the mail stream. We live in a 24/7 world in which you can get any information you need, at any time, in any place. Delivering content is what’s important now. We have this iPad now, and it is creating an entirely new dimension.

You also said in your presentation at Graph Expo that data is king, and analyzing data is what companies like Netflix, Amazon and Vistaprint are doing so well. How can the average printer with limited resources begin to step into this arena?

It’s very simple. Partner with someone. One of the biggest things that blows my mind is this: let’s say you take the average printer. They might not do perfect binding. They might not do foil stamping and die cutting either. So what do they do? They outsource it. They’ve been doing this for years – the concept is not new. What’s the matter with creating a database? It seems so foreign for some reason. Outsource this and start to partner with someone to analyze the data. Some of the more sophisticated companies who “get it” have done this, and have even eventually turned around and bought the companies they partnered with!

What would your advice be for printers who are looking to make a capital investment decision? How can they position themselves for the future?

The most important thing any printer can do is educate themselves on the new world of content development. If they can’t get a concept in their mind of how they have to reposition their business, they’re not going to make it. They need to understand that the paradigm of putting ink on paper is no longer a growth opportunity. They need to understand that they have been fantastic in delivering content traditionally – but it has just been using one dimension. They now have to look at it in a cross-media world. The ones who understand that this content must be delivered in multiple channels are the ones who have a great business future. Print is a commodity and anyone can buy it at the lowest price. But when you look at content delivery and data, I always say “the barrier to exit becomes almost impossible.” Clients can’t just pull out of it easily.

How are people in print sales different today than they were a few decades ago? How have they had to change, and what can they do better?

One of the problems is the terminology. If a person calls themselves a “print salesperson” he or she will have a tough time changing. This is a mantra I keep hearing over and over again: “I’m a print salesperson, I don’t know this new technology!” That is very disconcerting for an owner of a company who realizes he or she needs to change the business. My advice is this: go out and hire some young guy or girl who knows nothing about print – zero – and then train them on the new feelings in the industry about content and data. You don’t need to know anything about print to be successful in selling content.

As 2010 is drawing to a close, what do you think is in store for 2011? What are some of the hot technologies that we will start to pay attention to more?

We will see more innovation and more change. Those are going to be two key words. The technology that is going to continue to surface is inkjet. Kodak, HP, Océ, Ricoh, Fujifilm, Screen, Riso and more, all have inkjet written all over them because that’s where the future lies. Not on toner-based equipment. Xerox is also playing into it and I think we’ll see a major breakthrough from them soon. At Graph Expo, I looked at the quality of inkjet devices like the Kodak Prosper. The quality is excellent…superb! It’s only going to get better.

Giclée is something that we’re seeing more and more of, too. This is the process of making fine art prints from a digital source using inkjet. On wide-format inkjet devices, you will see even up to 12 colours – the gamut is incredible. Artists can sell wonderful reprints and make money the same way they used to do with litho. But this new inkjet dimension is high quality. We’re not in a CMYK world anymore. This is CMYK plus, and it is extremely powerful.

Another thing we’re seeing more of is the web portal technology. Everything has to be integrated. We can’t just say, “we’re going to do inkjet” because what’s going to feed it is the data coming off of systems automatically.

You recently spoke to students at Ryerson University. This question is for other students and young professionals out there. Over your career you have done a number of presentations. What is your advice on overcoming nerves and being a better public speaker?

Be yourself. Would the typical person have a problem talking to their friend? No. The best way to face public speaking is to talk to them like they are a group of friends. Whether it is 10 people or 500, you are talking to your friends, not enemies. Be familiar and colloquial in everything you do.

Here’s an example: when I spoke at Ryerson in April, all the students sat in the back. Well, the speaker’s podium is at the front. So what did I do? I went to the back and spoke to them from there. I asked them their names and made them feel like they were friends, talking to them on their level.

Here’s my favourite question: when you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a social worker. I wanted to help people. My mother, of course, told me I had to be a lawyer or doctor. I actually went to law school and I have an MBA. I always say “I’m an overeducated printer.” I sold my printing company in 1998 and another software company shortly after that, but then I got totally bored. I wanted something to do. Consulting is a great thing to do because I can help people.

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