The gambling capital of the world was a fitting venue for Toshiba America Business Solutions (TABS) and Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions (TGCS) to host their sixth annual LEAD (Learn, Engage, Act and Deliver) Conference in September, for the venerable manufacturer did not hedge its bets in the least.
Welcoming upwards of 1,700 guests, primarily dealers and end users, the event served as a perfect backdrop for Toshiba to engage attendees on “Empowering the Art of Business.”
The motto was apropos, for Toshiba rolled out a bevy of new technologies that can act as a canvas for its dealers and end users to not only stretch the bounds of their imagination, but challenge their creativity in finding new solutions to age-old problems. In the process, the OEM introduced dozens of A3 e-STUDIO refreshes, branded A4 offerings and a surprise relationship reveal with Brother International to expand upon its existing partnerships with HP and Lexmark. From digital signage to barcode applications and its Elevate user interface platform, the LEAD Conference gave attendees strong insight into the tools and services that are paving the manufacturer’s path toward 2019 and beyond.
For those who were not fortunate enough to have a front-row seat at the Bellagio Hotel, we took a few minutes to chat with Bill Melo, chief marketing executive, to gain some insight into Toshiba’s various initiatives and its plans to parlay its successes into a prosperous 2019 and beyond.
Tell us about your career path leading up to current position at Toshiba.
Melo: I served for three years as vice president of worldwide marketing for Hitachi Koki Imaging Solutions and nine years in a variety of marketing and business development positions for Ricoh Corporation. I worked for several years in the music industry prior to the job at Ricoh.
I joined Toshiba in 2002 after working with them on remote monitoring technologies during my tenure at Imaging Portals (now MWA Intelligence). I developed the Encompass application and Managed Print Services practice, and later became vice president of services and solutions in charge of our marketing and operations of our Enterprise business. I began the Toshiba Managed Business Solutions business and acted as its general manager concurrent with my role of vice president of marketing and solutions. Finally, I was named chief marketing executive of Toshiba America Business Solutions in 2014 and assumed the same position for Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions in 2015.
What were you looking to accomplish with the 2018 LEAD conference?
Melo: There are two principle audiences at LEAD: resellers (both independent dealers and direct, Toshiba Business Solutions) and end-user customers. The first day is focused exclusively on resellers. Our goals are to introduce new hardware, solutions and sales enablement tools to our resellers, and to educate current and prospective end users on the benefits of Toshiba document and digital signage solutions. Our approach has always been to listen to customer’s needs, and to deliver products and services that meet those needs in ways that we can deliver effectively and profitably.
What kind of feedback have you received from dealer attendees? Was there anything in particular that they focused upon?
Melo: By all accounts, this was our biggest and most successful LEAD ever. Dealer reaction has been very positive, especially by those who invited end users to attend. The new Elevate-enabled multifunction printers (MFPs) were the highlight of the show for dealers.
Toshiba’s refresh of 26 new machines comes on the heels of an 8 percent rise in MFP sales. What is enabling your company to gain more market penetration? Also, what does Brother add to the portfolio?
Melo: Toshiba continues to focus on the office printing and light-production markets, and has leveraged the strength of our retail operation to gain major wins with national retailers. We are taking market share from competitors who may not have the deep relationships in retail or are otherwise distracted.
Toshiba has always advocated a brand-agnostic approach to managed print, which has led us to offer both HP and Lexmark A4 MFPs and single-function printers to our channel partners. The Brother Workhorse product line adds a new price/performance point for our resellers.
President and CEO Scott Maccabe talked about Toshiba’s continued success with MPS and digital signage. What has enabled the company to become industry leaders in both disciplines?
Melo: We were first to market in the MPS space and have developed a robust tool kit, deep expertise, expert project management and go-to-market strategy (including Toshiba’s e-STUDIO A3 line, brand agnostic A4 sales and service) that continues to resonate with customers.
We’ve done well in digital signage in industries where we’ve had established relationships and an engaged sales channel—retail, hospitality and sports and entertainment venues. MFP resellers need to gain comfort selling a digital signage solution that is not output related at all and not tied to MFP sales. To date, virtually everything that an office product reseller offers is somehow related to hardcopy documents.
Maccabe also recounted Toshiba’s success in bar code systems with heavy hitters like Home Depot? Is this an area of growth potential for dealers?
Melo: We have a great portfolio of label printers that are a great solution for retailers, as well as distribution, manufacturing and logistics centers. Dealers clearly have an opportunity to participate in the sales of Toshiba’s entire portfolio to enterprise accounts.
Toshiba and its dealers are high on the potential of Elevate. Talk about its value as a point of differentiation.
Melo: We know that no two business operate the same way. Each has different requirements for its MFPs—different workflows, connect to different business applications. They have a unique language and brand. The Elevate platform allows resellers to craft a user interface that is uniquely tailored to each customer. The new Elevate Composer is a cloud-based tool that really simplifies this process and makes the power of Elevate available to every end user.
Why buy a commodity when you can have something built just for you? That’s the value proposition.
What can Toshiba do to build upon what it accomplished with this year’s LEAD conference?
Melo: The challenge after any LEAD event is to execute at the field level. Our resellers and end users are excited about the new products, including Elevate and our latest MFP line-up. We will be busy educating our resellers on how to best execute.
What changes in the BTA space are influencing your go-to-market strategy, and what influences will play a role in your strategy going forward? What will you look to accomplish in 2019?
Melo: Changes in end user behavior are compelling resellers to deliver value beyond the printed page. We are enabling our resellers to be more solutions focused and capable by offering intuitive solutions like the Elevate UI and the Elevate suite of industry workflow solutions.
Toshiba has ambitious plans to continue growing both in the document imaging and workflow business and digital signage. By the end of this year, we will have launched 26 new MFPs, a host of new solutions, Elevate Composer and several important upgrades to our Encompass platform. The 2019 focus will be about leveraging those assets to increase market share, revenue and profitability.