by Jessica Makrinos, marketing manager, Inkcups

In a time when travel is banned, face-to-face contact is limited and the world is put on hold, businesses are working harder than ever to ensure they are positively progressing. For many companies, especially those that manufacture and sell industrial printing equipment and supplies, connecting with customers is key. Many of these companies rely on in-person visits and tradeshows to present their new products and solutions. Simply buying online is sometimes not an option. For this reason, many companies are looking for innovative ways to accomplish this goal without the risk of exposure.

During this time, companies have reevaluated their operations and have taken the obvious route: going digital. Going digital refers to moving from in-person contact to online. Service calls have moved from in-person visits to video conferencing technology via Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Machine sales and demos also have moved to online media, as well as virtual tradeshows, where companies have guest speakers in combination with machine demonstrations.

Aside from real-time interaction, video in general has boomed. Showcasing more detailed product videos, rather than generalized media is, proving to be especially important during this time.

Social media have continued to show a strong presence, as companies typically use these connections to keep the customer informed on business updates or events advertising.

The challenges and benefits of going digital

Of course, there are many risks with virtual interaction, but there also are many benefits. To start with the obvious, there is always a risk of connection issues. Whether it is on the company’s side or the customer’s side, frustration does arise when the connection is not crisp and clean. During a live webinar, this is detrimental. Spending so much time planning, working on presentations and videos, and having this happen is a marketer’s nightmare – especially because there is little that can be done about it.

Another obvious risk is being hacked (everyone has heard about the debacle with public Zoom meetings).

This leads into another point, which surrounds the learning curve around this technology. It is not so much a risk, as it is the difficulty in working on some of these platforms right away – especially for individuals who are not the most technology-savvy. In this case, having a professional take over the duties is the best and fastest way to success.

Finally, there is an art to finding the perfect mix of video vs. discussion, short webinar vs. a longer webinar. It is always great to get feedback from the audience. Bonus: This is also an excellent way to get material for the next webinar.

As for the benefits, companies can get in front of a customer at any time, anywhere. Instead of having to jump on a plane or drive hours, simply log into a meeting with a customer and easily chat, show the machine and discuss necessary topics – all from the safety of the office. While this does not completely replace the much-needed face-to-face contact, more and more people are becoming accustomed to this way of business. This more modernized approach is the future of this industry and will continue to be a huge asset.

How to get started

To start out, going with what you know is the best route. Since companies needed to adjust so quickly, not many had time to search for the perfect video conferencing software or the best way to connect. While the technology used may not be the most customizable software out there, having something is better than nothing.

For example, there are out-of-the-box solutions, such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams, that can easily allow individuals to connect with a small learning curve. Once it becomes necessary to customize screens and add more functionalities, things may start to get a bit complex.

Next, it is important to get ideas from other companies. Whether it be from friends, families or even customers, knowledge is power, and the more questions asked, the more ideas will start flowing. Referrals are the best way to narrow down the decision.

Finally, always evaluate. After every online session, not only should companies evaluate how many visitors and the overall content of the presentation, they should also note connection drops and improvements to the way in which the presentation was conducted. This also goes for digital service calls. For example, if the camera constantly needed to be readjusted, there are possibly other ways to perform the service call. Perhaps having someone else hold the camera or having a head camera would benefit this situation. All in all, always strive for improvement.

Adjustment to the next normal

Some companies, like Inkcups, have seen much success with video conferencing for machine demonstrations and service calls. The customers appreciate the fact that these technicians are willing to spend all day with them to answer any questions they have about their machine. There is emphasis on their machine because there is a greater difference between hands-on training in a training facility vs. a customer using what they have currently in production. The customer is solely responsible for the next step. There is no tech there to take over, which improves learning. In addition to this learning experience, having clear documentation for each machine is key.

Companies also are bettering their capabilities for machine demos for new customers. For example, technicians can receive the customer’s sample in-house, along with the provided artwork and will print the product in real-time. The customer gets to observe their product being printed and then will be shipped the product once it is done.

Finally, companies are gearing up to provide an inside look into their machines. For instance, starting with a Tagless Virtual Trade Show, Inkcups will provide a basic overview of the industry, demonstrations of the most popular Tagless printers and then dive deeper into the benefits of Tagless printing.

The future of connection

While COVID limitations will not be around forever, the way companies do business now and into the future has changed. Pushing companies to have to adjust to this “next normal” will benefit everyone in the long run. Just because more people will feel comfortable traveling and tradeshows will commence does not mean that businesses will stop connecting digitally. If the customer is comfortable with traveling, but their schedule is packed for the next few weeks, a salesperson can jump on a video conferencing call and have a meeting. Although this situation altered every single company, it also has better prepared every company for the uncertainty that could arise at any time.

Jessica-MakrinosInkcups is a leading supplier and manufacturer of digital inkjet equipment, pad printing equipment, laser plate-makers and corresponding supplies, with direct sales, technical support and warehouse locations in the US, Canada, Mexico, Germany, Hong Kong and other global locations. Inkcups manufactures high-quality industrial machines for a wide range of industries including apparel, drinkware, promotional, electronic, medical, sporting goods and automotive markets. For more information, visit www.inkcups.com.