Where are you coming from?

March 31, 2016

In this feature published in 2015, David Connett discusses how, as a publisher, you spend half your time tracking audience statistics and the other half of your time interpreting the statistics. Damn statistics…

David Connett's business cards

David Connett’s business cards

But here are some interesting statistics – on average 37 people a week sign up for The Recycler e-Newsletters. That is nearly 2,000 people in one year. Two people actually signed up on Christmas Day 2014, and in January 2015 over 2,200 visitors were new to [email protected]

But it is just not people that are new to the industry – so are companies – and in 2014 just over 600 new companies either subscribed to our magazine or registered for vouchers to visit [email protected], and in March 2015 while in Dubai, we made 171 new contacts in the Middle East and Africa region.

If you profile the new businesses, you will find that more than 70 percent have been started in the last two to three years. Do a similar profile of the last 100 people to sign up to the newsletters or visiting the shows, and you see an emerging profile:

37 percent are female, an increase of 12 percent on the same period five years ago

  • 10 percent are aged over 55
  • 23 percent are aged 45 to 55
  • 36 percent are aged 35 to 45
  • 25 percent are aged 25 to 35
  • Six percent are aged under 25

The 61 percent in the 25 to 45 age groups are interesting, and significantly higher than five years ago, when this age group represented around 45 percent of newsletter signups.

“But the industry isn’t getting bigger,” I hear you say, and you are sort of half right. People are leaving the industry, and businesses are stopping remanufacturing or closing, but not at the same rate as new entrants.

So what does that mean for you? Well, if you have been around the industry for five or more years, some of the people you knew then may well have left the industry, especially if they were over 50, and they have been replaced with one or two people who are younger, but not necessarily more junior. Last year a director of a large company retired at 63 to open a guest house.

Rather than hire a new director, his job was split between three other people, one of whom was a new hire, and the other two were promoted. If you were dealing with him, then he left, do you know which of the three that share his work you should be talking to?

I collect business cards and check them against our CRM (customer relationship management) system, and always enter or update their details, and I never throw them away, so after 20 years I have boxes of them. Here are some simple checks you can do to see if you are on top of your contacts:

Take any 10 business cards from three years ago from people you have not spoken to in the last six months, and call or email them. If seven or more are still there, that means your churn rate is good, i.e. low.

  1. If it is six or less, take another 10 cards and call or email them. If seven or more are still there, that is great.
  2. If it is six or less,  go back two years and repeat step 1. Again, if there are seven or more, you are doing OK; if it is six or less, your contact base is diminishing.
  3. Go back one year and repeat the exercise. Again, seven is the magic number.
  4. If you send emails to customers, check the out of office replies. When someone is out of the office for more than a few weeks, it is either maternity leave or they might be on gardening leave!
  5. Do the same with your soft and hard email bounces. A soft bounce usually means the inbox is full or the email address is no longer valid. A hard bounce usually indicates the web address is no more – perhaps indicating the business is closed?
  6. Check incoming emails – email addresses and contact information do change, and you should always update your CRM.

You should always look to find lost contacts and find out what they are doing now, and the best way to do that is to use LinkedIn. Find them and ask what they are doing now if it isn’t obvious, and then the most important question: “Who took over from you when you left?” With that gem of information you can probably find the new person on LinkedIn and start a dialogue. You can use Facebook as well, but I find I have more success with LinkedIn.

If you are new to the industry, then the challenge is different because you want to make contacts, and one of the best ways of doing that is to tell your customers and suppliers and the wider industry. Write a press release and send it out to everyone on the company’s email address list, and don’t forget the trade press…

A map showing newsletter sign-ups in one week

A map showing newsletter sign-ups in one week

Visiting trade shows

 I am biased, so I won’t tell you why you should go to a show, but I will share some information with you and use Frankfurt as an example, but it is the same for any show. 92 percent of visitors register in the eight weeks prior to the start of the show, and visitors typically stay two days, so arrive Saturday AM and leave Sunday PM, or arrive Sunday AM and leave Monday PM and the same for Monday and Tuesday. Some stay longer and a few stay shorter.

So if you are looking to engage with people at the show, you need to do your pre-show work in October and November – do your calls, find out if your contact will be at the show, and if they are not going, is someone else going; and make your appointments early. This helps you plan your visit and your programme.

Visitors usually have a meeting agenda: exhibitors to see, seminars to attend, side business with other visitors, and dinner with customers. You need to be on their agenda list long before they register, otherwise the connection doesn’t happen.

If you don’t know anyone, there are still ways to network and make contacts. Contact exhibitors, tell them you are new to the industry and that you are looking for X, Y or Z and they may be able to help, and use the trade associations to source contacts. You should register for the event as early as possible, and if there are any matchmaking or introduction services on offer, make use of them.

Keeping in touch is important; keeping up-to-date is a vital business intelligence activity. But doing nothing is commercial suicide. A five-year-old contact list will be at best 30 to 40 percent accurate, and a three-year-old contact list should be at least 60 percent up-to-date. Contact management should be a high priority, not just personally but throughout the business.

Oh, and while an average of 37 new signups a week is good, sadly 16 people a week either change their email address or exit the business or industry, and don’t tell anyone.

Categories : Special Report

UK Easter Bank Holiday

March 23, 2016

The Recycler’s UK office is closed from Friday 25 March to Monday 28 March for the Easter Bank Holiday weekend.easter-320206_960_720

The office will be open again on Tuesday 29 March, but in the meantime, should you have any news or editorial enquiries, email us at [email protected].

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Cartridge Website expands into Europe

March 1, 2016

The Recycler interviewed Duane Miller and Jemin Patel, creators of the CartridgeWebsite.com e-commerce platform, about the success of the technology since its launch, its use by remanufacturers and retailers looking to sell products online, and its expansion into Europe.

An example of Cartridge Website's custom-branded website framework

An example of Cartridge Website’s custom-branded website framework

What is CartridgeWebsite.com?

As a retailer or a wholesaler, you either have a website or not. Companies who do have an e-commerce site that provides the full shopping experience spend a lot of money hosting and maintaining the website. Additionally, a significant effort is required in keeping the e-commerce site up-to-date with all the model and part numbers and pricing from various brands and manufacturers. If accepting credit cards, additional effort is required in setup and configuration, along with signing up for a merchant account etcetera. Most companies are not geared for e-commerce due to the time and significant expense required to setup a fully featured shopping website.

CartridgeWebsite.com is an all-inclusive platform specifically geared towards the ink and toner cartridge merchants. The platform is designed specifically for the sale of ink and toner cartridges, and provides an easy-to-use search engine and visible links, allowing the website visitor to find the cartridge they’re looking for within one click.

CartridgeWebsite.com can be deployed as a standalone e-commerce platform for merchants who do not currently have a web presence, or it can be integrated with an existing website using a simple link such as an inkjet and toner product tab. The solution is designed specifically for the independent merchant that is in the ink and toner cartridge market. There is also a “Bill me” feature that allows customers with approved accounts to order online without using a credit card.

If you have an existing website, we can augment it with full capabilities, and provide the full-blown e-commerce experience. You can compete with larger companies within two days, and there’s a very low entry cost for the full product.

If you don’t have a website, it can be a challenge to do all of this on your own, and very expensive. We manage and host everything, so there’s no maintenance needed, but you’ll have your own e-commerce website, which is branded with your company’s logo and colour scheme accessible via your own URL.

How does the e-commerce platform work?

Out of the box, the platform comes with pre-loaded information for all major OEM and alternative ink and toner cartridges. There is no setup required or uploading of any products, images or pricing, and no complicated integration with supplier networks. Everything is pre-loaded, including retail pricing, so your e-commerce platform is up and running within two days. The platform is zero footprint – you don’t need to install anything, it’s all managed through an online browser. You can also create and edit the categories of the products on your platform to fit your product range or if you have another line of products, such as printers, that you want to sell through the platform.

Within 48 hours, you can have your own custom-designed e-commerce website with a comprehensive set of features. Your e-commerce website acts as your online store. The online store provides an online ordering facility for your existing customers, as well as new customers via the web. The CartridgeWebsite.com expert design team will create a custom look for your website, and your website will be designed with your logo and colour branding.

Optionally, the merchant has the ability to adjust the pricing of each product to suit their individual pricing mechanism. The CartridgeWebsite.com team is constantly updating the product list along with pricing so that the merchant does not have to worry about whether their website has all the latest OEM and alternative cartridges listed on their web platform. If you already have a website, you can create a “shopping” tab on your existing website to easily link to the CartridgeWebsite.com e-commerce platform, and offer a comprehensive shopping experience for your customers.

Duane Miller

Duane Miller

How much does the e-commerce platform cost?

The platform is online-based with a unique look for each customer’s site, and the platform costs $99 (€71) a month – one price, one tier, inclusive of all services. There are also no fixed costs, and we have a one-time initial set-up fee of $299 (€216). There is no contract required, you pay as you go on a monthly basis, and can cancel anytime.

What is unique about the CartridgeWebsite.com platform?

There are several e-commerce shopping platforms in the market, but what makes CartridgeWebsite.com stand out is the fact that it is specifically designed keeping the ink and toner cartridge market in mind. The solution has a built in payment platform for accepting credit cards and a “Bill Me” option to accommodate regular customers as well as commercial customers who require billing instead of an upfront payment. Individual branding provides uniqueness to each merchant’s storefront.

Some of the other key features of the platform include the ability to create your own category/sub-category of products (in case the merchant is engaged in selling other products); a simple pricing model that allows for unlimited products and usage; the ability to generate coupon codes that can be circulated to key customers for providing storewide discounts; and the ability to set shipping rates. The platform is fully-loaded with information that is constantly updated, and if the information isn’t on there, contact us and we can add it.

Choosing the price of products, as well as the products that you sell as a business from our preloaded list, allows for customisable sites, and you can choose not to have products listed. Maintaining information is difficult for some companies with e-commerce sites, and if you look at the current landscape, some other platforms offer a blank canvas on which you have to enter all the information. There are thousands of products in this industry, and you need images for each, and would have to load this all in, but with us the information is already there and ready out of the box.

In turn, our dynamic search engine allows your website visitors to search for any model or part number from any major manufacturer. Customers quickly find the product they are looking for, turning it into a quick sale, and the issue for many companies is that there are so many different numbers that it can be confusing, and you can lose customers in seconds if you don’t have the right product information available. We have a dedicated team working constantly on data accuracy, organising the information and ensuring it’s correct – getting the correct data takes a lot of effort, and we’ve done it for customers as part of our service.Cartridge Website 300 x 150 March 2016

What made you decide to produce this platform for the cartridge aftermarket?

The company is a partnership between the two of us – we’re friends that decided, based on Duane’s experience of the industry, that there was a need for the product. Duane has worked in the ink and toner industry from the mid-1980s onwards in wholesale, and found that a problem for smaller businesses is that they can’t develop and launch a comprehensive e-commerce website – it is too cost prohibitive and they do not possess the knowledge. But in this modern world they need to be online if they are to compete and retain their existing customers.

The SMBs that we’re targeting don’t have the capability to do what we are offering to do for them. Most people won’t have done this because it is too cost prohibitive and requires a significant time commitment, our software is optimised for them and others in the industry. It is ready to go out-of-the-box with very little effort and minimum costs. And best of all, the price comes inclusive with all the support necessary to keep your e-commerce platform humming smoothly.

How has the platform been received since its launch in 2014?

Our clients have been successfully using the platform. They like the fact that we are constantly updating the platform with the latest data, including images, so that they do not have to worry about updating their online store. Also, how easy we have made their setup, and use of the administrative side of the site.

Jemin Patel

Jemin Patel

How has it changed, if at all? Are there any plans to change any elements?

We have enhanced the search feature and also added a “Bill Me” and “MPS” feature for customers who wish to be invoiced for their purchase. We will be introducing a mobile version of the software on iOS and Android in the later part of 2016.

What feedback have you had from the industry?

The solution provides the right amount of functionality for an ink and toner business to enable e-commerce for their customers. Also, companies are surprised at the number of new walk-in, or phone orders that they receive, because people can go online and see what products their company carries.

What are your plans for the future?

The service is currently available in North America and Europe. If the European version is received well enough, we hope to add various language capability.

You can view the company’s website at www.cartridgewebsite.com.

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iOS9 issues with The Recycler App

October 20, 2015

Our app is currently not working for some iOS9 users, but will be operational again soon.appstore

Some users have reported that The Recycler App is not working on their Apple devices after updating to iOS9 – we are currently looking into this and trying to sort the issue out, but it should be fixed soon – watch this space!

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Comments and suggestions about Pope Francis’ letter on the environment

September 21, 2015

 Pope Francis

Pope Francis

ARTI-Italia’s Giovanni Ravelli looks at the Pope’s recent encyclical letter on the environment – Laudato si’ of the Holy Father Francis on Care for our Common Home – and how it could have an impact on attitudes to recycling.

There are some reasons why this letter was published now; one being that the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD) took place on 13 to 16 July 2015, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The conference was held at the highest possible political level, including Heads of State or governments, relevant ministers – for finance, foreign affairs and development cooperation – and other special representatives

The second reason is the Sustainable Innovation Forum (SIF15); the largest business-focused side event held during the annual Conference of Parties (COP) will take place in 2015 on 7 to 8 December in the Le Bourget area of Paris, convening over 750 cross-sector participants from business, government, investors, the UN, NGOs and civil societies. Pope Francesco decided therefore to write this letter on the environment, and to invite us to take care of the “common home”, which is the earth we inhabit.

“LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us.

“Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs.

Praised be you, my Lord, with all your creatures, especially Sir Brother Sun, who is the day and through whom you give us light.  And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour; and bears a likeness of you, Most High. Praised be you, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars, in heaven you formed them clear and precious and beautiful. Praised be you, my Lord, through Brother Wind, and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather  through whom you give sustenance to your creatures. Praised be you, my Lord, through Sister Water, who is very useful and humble and precious and chaste. Praised be you, my Lord, through Brother Fire,  through whom you light the night,  and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.

This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.”

Francis helps us to see that an integral ecology calls for openness to categories which transcend the language of mathematics and biology, and take us to the heart of what it is to be human. Just as happens when we fall in love with someone, whenever he would gaze at the sun, the moon or the smallest of animals, he burst into song, drawing all other creatures into his praise. He communed with all creation, even preaching to the flowers, inviting them “to praise the Lord, just as if they were endowed with reason”.

Giovanni Ravelli

Giovanni Ravelli

Neil Thorns, Director of Advocacy and Communications and Chair of the Climate Coalition for the UK government, reminds us that for each nine people on earth, one hungers every day because lack of food.

He was a speaker at the presentation of the encyclical letter Laudato si at EXPO Milano, on June 30 2015, where I attended to report these comments. Moreover he told us that farmers have difficulties predicting weather and seasons because of climate changes.

WHAT IS HAPPENING TO OUR COMMON HOME

  1. The continued acceleration of changes affecting humanity and the planet is coupled today with a more intensified pace of life and work which might be called ‘rapidification’.
  2. Following a period of irrational confidence in progress and human abilities, some sectors of society are now adopting a more critical approach. We see increasing sensitivity to the environment and the need to protect nature, along with a growing concern, both genuine and distressing, for what is happening to our planet.”
  3. POLLUTION AND CLIMATE CHANGE
  4. Pollution, waste and the throwaway culture
  5. These problems are closely linked to a throwaway culture which affects the excluded just as it quickly reduces things to rubbish. To cite one example, most of the paper we produce is thrown away and not recycled…But our industrial system, at the end of its cycle of production and consumption, has not developed the capacity to absorb and reuse waste and by-products. We have not yet managed to adopt a circular model of production capable of preserving resources for present and future generations, while limiting as much as possible the use of non-renewable resources, moderating their consumption, maximising their efficient use, reusing and recycling them. A serious consideration of this issue would be one way of counteracting the throwaway culture which affects the entire planet, but it must be said that only limited progress has been made in this regard.”

Francesco invites us to “maximis[e] their efficient use, reusing and recycling them”. Please do it! Please look at what is happening to our common home!! Our industry is going the right way, please go ahead. We need support from governments and people to understand our jobs are to make profit, but also to reduce waste and take care of the environment.

Laura Pallanzani, Professor of biogiuridica and legal philosophers, at LUMSA, Rome and Vice President for the National Committee for Bioethics, discussed care ethics. The moral theory known as “the ethics of care” implies that there is moral significance in the fundamental elements of relationships and dependencies in human life. Most often defined as a practice or virtue rather than a theory as such, “care” involves maintaining the world of, and meeting the needs of, ourselves and others.

At the end of the day we have to do something to increase our efforts to change the choice of the people, so they recognise environmentally bad products and prefer good recycled goods.

My wish to all of you is to see flowers growing on the earth as Francesco suggested, so our Sister, Mother Earth, will stop crying

Categories : Special Report

10 steps to secure MFP printing

August 14, 2015

printer securityA recent report said that since “digital copiers are computers”, businesses need to include them in their information security policy.

GCN reported on the Federal Trade Commission’s study, “Copier Data Security: A Guide for Businesses”, which detailed 10 steps that agencies “must consider” in setting up adequate security measure, based on “common scenarios”. The first is to require user authentication, which “enables the auditing, reporting and tracking of user activity”, as well as other features.

Secondly, access ought to be restricted according to user authorisation, preventing users accessing resources on the network “that they normally do[n’t]”. The third step is to “centrally audit all network activity”, with most organisations being required to regularly review information system activity records by compliance security standards. These include “audit logs, access reports and security incident tracking reports”, and the report said that “centrally building an audit trail of all copy, print, scan, email and fax activity” for every networked MFP will ensure compliance.

Fourthly, users are advised to “encrypt data” coming and going from the MFP, which requires “all data[…] to be encrypted”, while government departments must “leverage encryption technology” to meet with specific security guidelines. Implementing pull printing is the fifth step, involving the printer user “authenticat[ing] at the device before documents are released”. Only documents associated with the authenticated user may be printed, and the print job “must not be stored on the device prior to printing”.

Sixthly, rules-based printing is recommended to control output by “analysing print jobs before release, based on a set of established rules, to determine how they are printed”. Examples are given of groups with “established print policies”, including the US Army Directive 2013-26 “Armywide Management of Printing and Copying Devices” and the General Services Administration’s PrintWise programme, who can enact these policies “with the implementation of rules-based printing functionality”.

The seventh step is to “enforce trusted destinations” by configuring devices to “properly prevent documents from being scanned or faxed to any destinations that may risk sensitive data exposure”. Networked MFPs configured for scan-to-email are “high risk”, as is outbound analogue faxing “without controls in place” for validating the email address of the recipient’s fax number.

Eighthly, monitoring and controlling personally identifiable information (PII) is encouraged, which most US government organisations already have a policy to protect. The Department of Homeland Security has issued a “Handbook for Safeguarding Sensitive Personally Identifiable Information”, which details guidelines that all employees must follow to protect PII within and external to the organisation. Similarly, the US Navy published a “Users Guide to PII” with compliance standards and protective measures for the Navy and Marine Corps.

The report advises agencies to “leverage software to systematically enforce the PII policies they have enacted”, and while there is no solution in place, “organizations must rely on employees manually following protocol, leaving no room for user error”. Standardising and integrating network scanning is the ninth point, as a “common problem” for traditional MFPs is that none of the devices have the same set up for document scanning. Typically, each MFP is “manually mapped to a network file share” and there is no standardised process for the organisation.

Unifying the set up methods into one technique allows administrators central control of the network folder scanning with a single configuration. Integration support is also needed “for all of the major commercial off-the-shelf document systems” so that direct and secure scanning can take place. The final step is to secure print processes, ensuring protection of “both the physical and electronic access points on their MFPs”.

The report points out that the costs in terms of penalties and settlements of failing to safeguard sensitive information are growing, while there are already too many “touch points that create risk” when sharing information. For the most point, these involve technologies that organisations rely on – in particular networked MFPs with copy, print, scan, fax and email functions.

 

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10 smart reasons digital marketing can help remanufacturers to grow

July 21, 2015

Uninet Imaging’s Zoltan Matyas gives 10 different reasons why digital marketing can help you grow your company, and why the industry needs to focus on it to improve its market share.

When I was getting my ideas together to write this post, one thing was clear from the beginning: I will have to combine my 15 years of experience in the cartridge remanufacturing industry with my fresh academic studies on Digital Marketing and Social Media at the University of Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona. I had the title for weeks…

I’m not a professional writer. More than anything I’m a salesman. Starting an article was a lot more difficult for me than picking up the phone and making a call about toner. That’s easy. I have a lot to say but I really needed inspiration.

So there I was looking at the empty screen, going through my notes, looking at other blogs on digital marketing etcetera, and all of a sudden an old quote came to my mind which I read the other day on Twitter. It got me inspired instantly. It’s from one of the greatest, and sums up pretty much everything I want to tell you: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives but the most adaptable” – Charles Darwin

My every day job at Uninet is basically to talk about business, listen, identify needs and provide answers to as many remanufacturers as I can at any given day. Those being said, believe me I heard and thought many hours about you, your business and your problems.

At the same time I’m studying Digital Marketing, and recently everything just clicked in my head. Let’s mix the two. Having a good, well-defined and executed digital marketing strategy can give immediate answers to problems remanufacturers face in 2015.

zoltan1I mean problems such as: branding, trust, delivering value propositions to the new type of buyer, positioning and many more. Let’s talk about problems a bit. The financial crisis hit all of us hard and it’s far from over. It lowered demand, pricing and profits. We are dealing with the price destructor, low-quality clones by mainly following their pricing, and as a result good quality raw material suppliers either starve or are going out of business. It’s a fact that the whole supply chain is in a bad shape and we keep losing added value.

If that’s not enough, now we have the dollar getting more expensive, pulling sooner or later everything else with it… and I’m really sure you could easily come up with more factors hurting us and our businesses. I hear them every day. I do realise that merely thinking about all this gives a good reason to be grumpy on your way to work every morning (and being unreceptive to a guy who calls you to sell expensive toner!).

But let’s stop for a second. HP recently raised prices, and I’m about to give you 10 great reasons why digital marketing is exactly what the remanufacturing industry needs to get a second chance and reposition itself. We just need to get it right this time. I’m not saying it will be neither simple nor easy. Far from it, but I truly believe it can make your morning ride to the office motivating, and as you gradually put a well-designed digital and social media strategy in action, your coffee whilst looking at sales will taste a lot better.

I’m from Hungary and I have been taught in school that blaming others to justify bad results is for cowards. I’m sorry to be blunt, but blaming the Chinese, the crisis, the school holidays the weather the politicians and policy makers and most recently the dollar exchange is just plain boring and very unproductive. I’m not saying that everything is great either, but one thing I do mean: it’s time to realise that the world is changing, and rolling up sleeves and getting to work is always a better option than crying or waiting.

The financial crisis is far from being resolved, and arguably demand for printing will not increase any time soon (we can discuss mobile printing in another post…). I can say the same about clones too. I do not see a huge change on that front anytime soon, regardless of the numerous ongoing lawsuits, court cases and half-done policy plans. Cheap clones will continue to find their way into our markets.

The dollar being strong makes everything a remanufacturer uses to produce cartridges more expensive, and again it looks to stay that way for a while. Raw material for toner production is in most of cases paid for in dollars, as well as the aluminium to make drums, and the list is endless. Transport is paid in dollars and suppliers’ stockpiles are not endless.

There is a positive side of this though. It hugely affects clone importers as well as OEMs, so at least we are not the only ones with the problem. But this is again a good topic for another post dedicated to the art of pricing. You need to charge what you deserve for the value you propose to your consumer. Yes – I mean we need to increase pricing – but there are different ways… first they need to listen and understand you, and I don’t think we are there yet.

At the university we work on real or fictional cases, and consulting projects. Whilst doing that I came to the following conclusion: “The toner and inkjet cartridge remanufacturing industry is light years behind in leveraging the opportunities the digital revolution offers.”

In fact it is pretty normal in Europe and it is good news for us! There is a study saying that the average percentage of the marketing budget an SME assigns to digital marketing in the USA is 55 percent; in the UK it is 27 percent, and in the rest of the Europe it’s six percent. Competition is low, and standing out in the crowd if you start early enough is always easy and more rewarding.

It’s simple. What we remanufacturers do is sell cartridges to people and companies who print. Guess what? All of them are on social media. And please don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean they want to see your cartridge prices on their Facebook walls (I definitely wouldn’t), but you can’t ignore the fact that their attention is there. That’s exactly why we have to be very smart about our digital marketing strategy.

So let’s see what we have. Sorry but needed to pick a big one. MSE (@MSETONER) has 337 Twitter followers (I did not find Clover) versus HP (@HPPrint) having a massive 52,400, and that is only their print division. Looking at the leading suppliers of remanufacturers, Static Control Components has 44 Twitter followers and Uninet has 57. That is when I said to myself… hang on a minute. This is more than strange – I could be wrong here.modern_communication_technology_flat_illustration_by_cursorch-d72tm9f

Although Twitter is clearly the preferred social media network for B2B content and to obtain a targeted audience (what we need) but still… Facebook is the elephant, so let’s see. Running the same exercise (did not find Clover either), I found two Facebook pages who claim to be official distributors of MSE – no official MSE company page though. One had 83 page likes and the other one had 1,029. Interestingly both of them from Latin America! HP’s official Facebook page has more than 3.6 million likes.

I could go on and on and looking into LinkedIn, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest etcetera, but I honestly don’t think you need an industry-wide social media presence analysis to clearly get my point. It is very simple. We are not there. Our industry is practically inexistent on the social media map, whilst our audience is there everyday, and the time they spend there with smartphones is increasing exponentially.

Then there is something else to face. Let’s say I’m a very forgetful but dedicated entrepreneur running a small business (so no secretary), and I’m on a mission to close a deal tomorrow with a potential customer. I’m working hard on a short deadline, and need to print a report for my tomorrow meeting but my printer is out of toner. Well no problem – we are in 2015, so local next-day delivery is not an issue, and all I need to do is turn to Mr. Google. As I said, I’m a small business so I have an HP LaserJet Pro P1102 on my desk.

Mr. Google will kindly return me 2,860,000 websites within 0.61 seconds to pick my cartridge from. How do I decide? Positioning! Job done – order placed within two minutes. As statistics and clever internet buying behaviour analysts say, I will choose any of the first five websites offered and get back working on my meeting tomorrow, since this is what is really important for me.

This obviously shows that the industry does try to leverage the internet. Yes there are many websites, but at the moment we are only using websites as extremely expensive business cards. Someone not long ago told me when we discussed about SEM and SEO (geeky words for the importance of positioning with search engines) that: listen Zoltan, if you really want to keep a secret, just make sure it’s on the second page of Google.

I’m sure again you all get where I’m going with this. If you honestly think how many times have you clicked on a website listed on the second page of Google, you know exactly what I mean.

If that was not enough to convince you that you need a good digital marketing strategy and you are still reading, then now I’m ready to deliver on what I promised in my headline.

Here are your 10 reasons digital marketing can help you to grow. They are not in any particular order of importance. Consider them as you feel best for your business, but please do yourself a favour and do not ignore them. Most likely some of your competitors won’t.

  1. Digital marketing will boost your brand

Remanufacturing as a whole needs a brand refurbishing, and digital marketing is the perfect tool for that. If you deliver what you promised and a bit more, a satisfied customer will share with others. Social media has been invented to facilitate just that. There is nothing better than a free-of-charge brand ambassador recommending your cartridges to friends and their businesses.

  1. Digital marketing creates trust

This is a key factor in our case. I have said in all of my presentations I have given in the last few years that one of the main reasons for the low market share of aftermarket versus OEM is due to consumer trust issues. Who doesn’t read Amazon reviews? Not to mention actual customer reviews on booking.com or Tripadvisor before booking a hotel or a holiday? Digital marketing gives you the ability to leverage on REAL testimonials.

According to a Nielsen Global online customer survey, 90 percent of respondents claimed they would trust information about a particular brand or product or service if the data comes from people they know.

  1. Digital marketing is cheaper than the traditional one

You don’t need to pay the designer, nor have to have a department or print flyers and direct mail cartridge catalogues. You are good with a well-designed social media and digital marketing plan executed by a creative community manager or an external consulting firm. Strategy, creativity, tactics and a bit of automation are all you need.

  1. Digital marketing puts you on the same level with any of your competitors

On the digital marketing playground, size does not matter: targeted audience and relevant value proposition does. Regardless of how many cartridges you make or how deep your pocket is today, a small remanufacturer has the same tools and resources as a huge one to perform great digital marketing, lead generating and sales processes.

  1. Digital marketing will give a better return on your investmentnetworks

The key is to find the way to generate continuously growing traffic of highly-targeted audience. You can do this by consistently providing relevant value content. This traffic will yield more leads and more sales. You are widening your sales funnel. It’s a simple rule of numbers. The more your digital strategy generates this kind of traffic, the faster you will get the return on your investment.

  1. Digital marketing delivers conversion you can measure

It’s measurable. Yes, with numbers in Excel. Digital marketing gives you things like CPC (cost per click), CPM (cost per thousand impressions) and CPL (cost per lead) percentage rate of incoming traffic converted to leads, and sales, click-through and bounce rates, number of new subscribers and exact time spent on your site, etcetera. This means SALES. You can go as deep as segmenting your key measurements based on the demographics of your audience.

  1. Digital marketing helps generate better revenues

According to a recent statistic published by Google, companies using digital marketing strategies have 2.8 times better revenue growth expectancy.

  1. Digital marketing allows you to talk to YOUR customers

The internet is an interactive thing. Good tactics in a well-executed plan will give you valuable insights as to what is it that your customers want, so you can focus on optimising your sales funnel to deliver on exactly what they need. You can also answer them. I just tweeted Linkedin that I don’t like their mobile interface, and they got back to me and we had a conversation (I was right J).

  1. Digital marketing caters to the mobile customer

I don’t want to talk to you about the smartphone revolution now. It’s everywhere. Are you Android or iPhone? Do you have a smart sexy app that facilitates ordering for your repeat or contract customers? Not to mention reminding them when is best to do it so it eases your stocks? Or a game with rewards?

  1. Digital marketing allows you to tell your customers clearly what you want them to do

As discussed before, your goal is to widen your sales funnel, convert traffic to leads and sales etcetera, and conversion is made through a “call to action”. It means basically clearly directing your audience to do something you want them to do. It can be: sign up, like, download, call, share, buy etcetera.

There you go. I managed to get to 10, and I hope you find them good enough to consider. My aim was to provoke some thoughts in you. Feel free to get in touch and share your views on this. I’d love to hear from you, and I’m happy to answer any questions or personally discuss anything mentioned above.

Based on your feedback I’m also considering to regularly write about what I think how remanufacturers should do this. Please don’t be shy to let me know if you liked what you read, and don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly. You can easily find me on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn – just type in my name…

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Dead end ahead

July 16, 2015

Volker Kappius, COO of Delacamp, discusses the decline in quality he sees in the industry, and where this might cause the aftermarket to end up.Fire hand

I like to compare our industry to the car market, because this is a market most people understand and which us Germans have a tendency to be quite good at.

As a distributor of high quality products, it is sad to see the direction in which our industry is turning. The Chinese cartridges have changed the ball game from selling against the OEM on price and quality to selling against each other on price. Value propositions like being “green”, having quality compared to the OEM and a fair discount of around 30 percent off the OEM price have been replaced by just offering cheaper cartridges than other aftermarket competitors, leaving the large remaining OEM market share vitually untouched.

This is the same as if the whole car industry suddenly focused on low-priced compact cars, locking the mid-size and luxury cars out. The problem with this is that most people want to drive (and are prepared to pay for) mid-sized and/or luxury cars! The low-priced compact cars are like the cheap but barely-funtional cartridges. The mid-size and luxury cars are the OEMs and the high quality aftermarket mono and colour cartridges. If only cheap but barely functional cartridges are available as an alternative to OEM cartridges, then it should not come as a surprise to our industry that we cannot penetrate the remaining OEM cartridge market.

The answer is clear: the wrong products are being offered. The wrong target group has been selected. You cannot sell a low-priced compact car or cheap scooter to a customer currently driving an Audi, BMW or Mercedes-Benz. But you probably have a good chance to sell a high quality “pre-owned” and maybe even “souped-up” luxury car to such a customer. Unfortunately, in our industry less than a handful of remanufacturers – worldwide that is! – have such truly OEM alternative products available.

Sadly, this trend is refelected by most supplies manufacturers and distributors in the aftermarket. They offer what is being asked for: cheap, barely-functional products rather than quality products. In an ever-changing market environment in which even big players seem to be making U-turns, it is important to have a reliable partner with a straightforward quality strategy. That is true for us at Delacamp, currently maybe the only distributor of quality products left, as it is for remanufacturers.

If 99 percent of an industry is fighting on price for a small piece of the cake, and the supplying industry is lowering their standard to accommodate the price battle, then we have to accept that our industry is doomed. If our industry does not perform a reset and returns to its pre-new-build/compatible etcetera roots, then our future is very bleak. We at Delacamp are committed to support the remanufacturers that are willing to produce, offer and sell true alternatives to the OEM. We will not lower our standards, as most others do, to accelerate the downward price spiral for components and consumables in order to support suicidally-low cartridge prices that are only targeting price shoppers.

It is a known fact: there will always be someone who is in a position, through subsidies, low labour costs, lower quality raw materials, etcetera to offer even lower prices. Our industry is divided: over 99 percent of the so-called laser imaging aftermarket vendors are chasing the current 20 percent of non-OEM cartridges users in mono and five percent of non-OEM cartridges users in colour. Less than one percent are attacking the 80 percent of OEM cartridge users in mono and 95 percent of OEM cartridge users in colour. Delacamp is committed to supporting this one percent. We ask all remanufacturers who are capable and willing to join us. As Charles Darwin wrote, “Only the fittest survive” –not the cheapest.

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A growing business

July 7, 2015

Chris Brooks

Chris Brooks

Chris Brooks, Managing Director of Promax Imaging, talks exclusively to The Recycler about the new opportunities that are widening the portfolio of services that Promax Imaging is offering.

After more than 15 years in business, how do you see the market now? 

Since the early days of 2000, our core business has been supporting the inkjet remanufacturing community, but that industry is changing. There are fewer companies actively engaged in inkjet refilling, but the volumes of cartridges being refilled is increasing, which is the really good news.

How has that impacted on you?

That has been a challenge in recent years: as the amount of ink the OEM uses in a cartridge is reduced, it follows that the amount of ink needed in a refilled cartridge is reduced as well. So ink sales have remained flat, despite a growth in the number of cartridges refilled. At the same time there has been growth in other parts of our business like filling technology, clips, R&D etcetera, and it is these areas of the business that are growing domestically and internationally now.

How has the profile of your customers changed?

Our customers are primarily ink remanufacturers who refill office ink cartridges, but they also provide a wide variety of other ink related services. Wide-format, speciality inks, edible inks etcetera, and we have adapted our offering to their needs. Simple really,:give the customers what they want, when they want it. The challenge is to stay ahead of the curve.

You are no longer the exclusive distributor for OCP – how will that affect you?

We have had a long and productive relationship with OCP, and we will continue to supply their ink to the UK market. Today we are looking at a different business landscape, and our business has grown and developed in the UK and internationally as our customer needs have changed and developed. But more so today we need the widest range of supply partners that enable us to meet our customers’ tough demands and high expectations.

What changes will your customers see?

Not much really – the same people, the same service, but a wider offering of products and services, and all backed by Promax Imaging and its reputation for product excellence.

What other plans are there for Promax Imaging in the future?

We have recently become involved in the supply of dyes and pigment dispersions to the cosmetics industry. Our wealth of knowledge and experience of inks has made this a logical step for us. There are stringent RoHS and health and safety requirements for cosmetics, and this is a premium growth area for our business. We also have a range of food dyes, suitable for use in printers to make cake decorations and similar products, and a good market in sublimation inks and wide-format solvent and aqueous printer inks are now being developed.

What is your outlook for the industry?

The industry follows the OEMs, and we follow the industry, though hopefully we sit just ahead of the industry so that we can bring products and services to the market in a timely manner. The traditional retail ink shop concept is changing – there are more online offerings now, but there is always a demand for quality products and increasingly in niche areas that are new and emerging for ink remanufacturers.

Andy and the Promax Imaging team  can be contacted at +44 (0) 1538 722 121 – visit the website at www.promaximaging.com.

 

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Is Canon missing a trick?

March 19, 2015

RG picRebecca Griffiths discusses how Canon might be missing a trick when it comes to cartridge remanufacturing, and suggests how the OEM could remedy this by taking action.

As we well know, sales of printer cartridges are a vital source of profit for printing companies. Canon, in particular, is well aware of this and works tirelessly to prevent the sale of cheaper remanufactured versions of its cartridges – primarily through excessive patenting.

Unfortunately, as we also know, the remanufacturing industry is a vital contributor to sustaining our environment, and an important way of keeping costs of essential printing equipment for companies and individuals, to a minimum. For these reasons, it is vital that we work out a way to stop excessive patenting and encourage remanufacturing.

Somewhat surprisingly, Canon recognises the value in remanufacturing its printers, stating on its website: “This program reflects the company’s commitment to limit its impact on the environment by extending product life and conserving natural resources through reliable, high-quality remanufactured office equipment.”

So why doesn’t Canon follow this mantra when it comes to remanufacturing its cartridges? Well, the cartridge remanufacturing process requires extra in-house resources and is expensive to maintain; it’s much easier, and cheaper, to ship the products offsite for recycling. In addition, research suggests that when the original manufacturer sells remanufactured products, the perceived value of new products in that industry can be reduced by up to eight percent.

Despite this revelation, I can’t help thinking Canon is missing a trick.

Many other companies have recognised the value in remanufacturing, and are selling remanufactured versions of popular brands of printer cartridges for undercut prices. Additionally, despite the often ‘bad press’ associated with using perceived lower quality remanufactured products, they have developed a loyal market of customers and healthy profit margins by doing so. The reason? Price. If people can get a product for half the price with only a minor risk of lower quality, many will take that risk.

So what can be done?

Well, research also suggests that remanufactured products sold by another seller can increase the perceived value of new products by up to seven percent. This could be for various reasons. Perhaps the customer perceives the industry more favourably given its positive impact on the environment, or perhaps increased product choice for the customer creates higher perceived quality of more expensive products in the range. Either way, remanufactured products in the industry can have a positive impact on sales.Canon

So, is Canon missing a trick? Could Canon support the remanufacturers and develop a remanufacturing arm to its business?

Ian Chai, franchisee and Owner of Cartridge World Slough, thinks it’s possible: “If the OEM brands would certify and supply high quality and reliable remanufacturers with products to remanufacture cartridges, then all of us could be winners.”

However, Canon could go one step further.

By developing remanufactured versions of their cartridges and selling them under an alias brand, but under the Canon umbrella, Canon could increase their customer base and improve sales.

This is nothing new; companies across the globe have different brand names operating under the parent brand and effectively manage to receive sales for both products – clever marketing can take care of that. If Canon took over the remanufacturing market, in time, they could offer all round similar prices for both OEM and remanufactured products. The consumer would have more choice, and both parties would benefit.

Of course, to continue making a profit on OEM cartridges, Canon would likely want to be careful about the brand image it chose for remanufactured versions because this could affect sales of more expensive options. However, there is always a market for premium and lower priced goods, so it is likely they would develop a loyal customer base for both brands.

Perhaps it’s time Canon rethinks its strategy in ink cartridge production and considers how it could use the remanufacturing industry to its benefit. If Canon gets on board with remanufacturing and find ways to make it profitable for their business, they could develop an improved and diversified brand. Perhaps it’s time for Canon to shift their perspective and start thinking green.

Rebecca Griffiths is Director of Rebecca Griffiths Consultants – www.rebeccagriffithsconsultants.com

 

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