In an age where most printer hardware manufacturers are spinning their wheels in a mature market challenged by decreasing margins, competitive pressure and a flat to shrinking market, most have turned to software and solutions companies for potential growth.
I’m at the EFI Connect User Conference in Las Vegas where I see a solutions vendor bucking the trend by acquiring hardware companies while also turning in record earnings on their way to becoming a billion dollar company. I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, I’m talking about a vendor that has figured out how to turn their competitors into partners.
Once again, EFI has raised the bar on their Connect conference, bringing over 1,500 customers and prospects (a record for them) from across the globe to hear the EFI story and to learn about their products, programs and strategies. There were 70+ analysts from 17 countries here as well. This was kind of a big deal.
Attendees were treated to three solid days of sessions, product demonstrations and overviews, socializing and a couple of excellent Fireside Chats hosted by EFI’s charismatic CEO Guy Gecht. The first was with RR Donnelley’s CEO Tom Quinlan III and the second was with 3D Systems’ CEO Avi Reichental.
While TQ3’s chat was excellent, Avi’s was mind-blowing. “It’s not a question of if every house will have a 3D printer someday, it’s a question of where will you put it.”
EFI is such an interesting company. They’re really into just about anything that has to do with print. They’re printing wraps for cars. They’re printing onto corrugated cardboard and labels for packaging. They’re printing on bubble wrap for heaven’s sake! Someday they’ll be printing fabrics and even maybe clothing. And of course, they’re still printing traditional graphics and production print applications.
I have to say, Guy Gecht is one of the happiest CEO’s I’ve met before. He’s approachable and just always has a smile on his face. Everyone that works for EFI seems to love him and you can almost feel a positive vibe coming from him.
There was so much going on at this conference it’s difficult to write it up. Some key takeaways, both from EFI and their partners/presenters include:
- The commercial print industry is continuing to improve from the bottoming out, actually showing increasing growth over the last 3 years
- EFI views the entire world as a potential canvas for their inks
- EFI stays on the cutting edge by putting about 20% of their annual revenue back into the company
Most of you reading this are probably saying to yourselves, “OK, this is cool and interesting but why should I care?” Here’s why. EFI has firmly entrenched themselves as one of the most prominent names in print – not just documents and commercial printing, but in just about all areas. Look around you.
Unless you’re in a dark room you are surrounded by it and EFI is working hard to ensure that they have products that can help in the production of all of it. The patterns on your floor and bathroom tiles, the fabric print wall-paper, the labels on your soda and water bottle and on and on.
There are some print companies that you want to work with because they have incredible brand recognition. There are others that may be less well known by the masses but offer great capability and help you provide products/services to your customers that others can’t. EFI does both.
[Tweet “Printed UV wrap for my new Tesla”]
You know them for graphic arts and production. It’s time to look at some of their other products and services and to think about how you can integrate them into your current portfolio.
In my opinion, entry-level VUTEk printers are the next step to broadening your relationship with EFI. There are very few companies out there that have products that do what these things do. The companies currently selling them often measure service response time in days – not hours.
You have the infrastructure to support these products. It’s no different than 3D, which many of you reading this are contemplating as a potential growth area for your company.
EFI has a growing portfolio and you probably sell a fraction of it. While you’ll likely never sell most of it, there are several lines that are worthy of consideration. You have probably worked with them before in one capacity or another through the printer brands that you carry.
One thing you may have noticed when you sell EFI products are the margins are better. Why is that? Because it’s a product the customer needs and it carries a premium and they understand that. Did you ever say to yourself, “I don’t care what that costs, I need it, I want it and will pay anything for it?” That’s what a lot of EFI products are like. Margins, margins, margins.
Do yourself a favor and look at what else this partner of yours has on their shelves that you can use to differentiate yourself from your competitors. I have a feeling if you hitch your wagon to the EFI gravy train you will be in for an exciting and very profitable ride.
Here are some videos from a few booths I visited…