This past November, Toshiba America Business Solutions (TABS) held LEAD 2012, a conference for dealers in Las Vegas. While I was expecting a traditional dealer show, I was surprised to find that this was actually more of an educational conference focused on three key areas:
1. MPS Implementation & Execution
2. Expanding Business Through New Services & Channels
3. Managed IT Services
When I arrived, I was a bit surprised by the agenda and conference details. Toshiba traditionally puts on one of the best “spare-no-expense” dealer shows in the industry and compared to past shows, this was a bit of a letdown in that respect. However, after I spoke to some executives like Mark Mathews and Sally Anderson, I had a much clearer understanding about this show. This was not a wine-and-dine show thanking the dealers for carrying Toshiba over the years, but rather, this was an educational show, designed to inform dealer personnel about Toshiba programs, selling strategies and more.
This was also a selling show, and dealers and branches brought about 170 customers. According to Mark, Toshiba brought more than twice the number of customers to this show as they did last year and they were looking to close a lot of business on the second day (when customers were invited to attend).
I may not have understood what this show was about prior to my arrival but the dealers did. LEAD 2012 had over 700 attendees – about twice as many as the dealer show last year in 2011. Dealers brought a lot of staff to this show in order to have them sit through the educational sessions and from the dealers I spoke with, this type of show was a refreshing change. While they love the traditional dealer shows where they get a bit spoiled with entertainment, great food and a dealer awards ceremony, this educational show allowed them to bring some of their sales and service teams into the Toshiba world, providing them with information relevant to their roles within their dealership.
The first day began with a brief welcome from President Mark Mathews. Mark provided a small company update:
l TABS will finish 2012 up on Revenue and Profitability
l MPS Sales Grew 19%
l Thermal Bar Code Sales Grew 27%
One of the bigger announcements at this show was that Toshiba is now in the digital signage business, finally leveraging their display technology with the dealer channel.
Mark finished his comments and introduced Jun Kawasaki, Chairman of Toshiba America Business Solutions and then sent us on our way to the first round of sessions and to the product fair.
There were tons of sessions, most of which I didn’t have time to attend. Here’s a list of what they were providing for dealers:
l Sales/Management Track for VP of Sales, Sales Management and Presidents
l Encompass 2013
l Help Customers Print Smarter While Still Growing Your Revenue
l Why Selling ECM and BPM Solutions are More Important Than Ever!
l How to Expand Your Business Selling Barcode Printers
l Establishing a Healthcare IT Presence In Your Marketplace
l Selling to the GSA
Technical/Consulting Track for VP of Service, Service Management and Presidents
l Technical / Consulting Track
l The 24/7 Office: Always Connected – Anywhere, Anytime
l Best Practices For Building A Lucrative Professional Services Business
l 7 Steps to Managed IT Services Success
l MPS Implementation and Execution
l Becoming a Trusted IT Security Advisor
The following day’s end-user conference had a lot of sessions geared towards them such as solutions discussions, MFP/printer security and even helping them implement a print-less strategy, which given the industry response to the less-than-popular “no print day” was a bit of a roll-of-the dice in my opinion, but personally, I think a good sales person needs to be on top of helping their customer manage prints, even when that means some of them are going away. Other sessions included mobile printing, digital signage and an entire vertical market discussion track.
The product fair was pretty interesting in that it was extremely light on imaging products. The first thing you noticed when you walked in was a massive digital signage display right in the middle of the room. One of the two things that really grabbed my attention in this fair was the digital signage display table from Toshiba.
It’s a touch screen/computer that allows you to move documents and photos, edit them, share them and more. The product manager took a picture of us, docked the camera and in seconds the photo was on the screen. She was able to manipulate it, share it to social media sites, annotate and edit it, etc. It’s a great application for a car dealership looking to allow a customer to design a car and leave with a customized brochure. I could also see a larger wall-mounted version of this being used in educational environments.
The other really interesting product I saw was a copier that’s out in Japan already. Nicknamed The Green Machine (by me), the Toshiba eSTUDIO 306LP is a 30-PPM monochrome (sort of) MFP that uses a special toner that can be removed from the paper. I have no idea if this product will catch on or even be offered over here, and neither do the dealers. However, we all agreed, it was very cool!
The device prints its output in this pretty terrible looking purplish color (think mimeographs but without that awesome smell). Toshiba is considering other toner colors. It was explained to me that Toshiba did not want to offer this in true black because customers wouldn’t be able to determine the difference between prints from a typical printer and prints that could be erased. Once the customer no longer needs their print, the document is taken to an eraser device, loaded into the feeder and the toner is somehow stripped off, leaving a blank page. This process can be done 5x, allowing customers to reduce paper consumption by 500%. Not a bad angle in this green age we live in. Contact us to see a video of the process at email@example.com
I also spent an hour with President Mark Mathews chatting about the industry. We agreed that there would probably be more industry consolidation, although he was adamant in stating that Toshiba is not actively being sold (I made sure to ask). Mark was excited by the opportunity the thermal barcode products offer and especially from the Toshiba digital signage program they’re launching. Mark’s a good guy and always makes time for us analysts, never rushing us, answering everything we ask, etc. He has a great staff that’s been with him for years and it’s easy to cheer for these guys. They have a nice story going on with a good balance of dealers and branches, decent products and a strong MPS strategy. But mostly, they’re just plain nice people and the dealers really love that about them. It’s one of the few dealer shows I attend where dealers don’t come up to me telling me all the different ways they’ve been “screwed” by their vendor.
While this was not the traditional dealer show I was expecting when I arrived, I was surprised and I have to say, it was a nice change. Great job to Toshiba and thanks for the hospitality! I’m curious to hear how much business they closed on that second day.