“Waves of Change” was a fitting theme for the 2016 ITEX National Conference and Expo, as it also served as my first experience with the Office Technology & Services industry as a whole. As the theme of this year’s convention suggested, with waves of change come oceans of opportunity. As my perspective on the industry changed, it became apparent that a changing industry provides great opportunity for growth.
For those who have never attended an ITEX conference before, the conference is built on the foundation of providing an informative educational conference to attendees to help them stay ahead of the curve in an evolving industry. Each day of the conference was full of educational sessions led by industry leaders covering the areas of Print & Managed Services, Workflow & Solutions, Sales & Marketing and Data-Driven Business. At the same time, the ITEX team put together a phenomenal Expo Hall full of vendors from every channel of the Office Technology & Services industry, giving attendees the chance to network and connect.
Much like my colleague David Brown’s experiences at the MWAi Executive Connection Summit, the changing landscape of the marketplace was the big topic of conversation. Some of my most significant takeaways were:
The Most Successful will Balance Operation and Innovation Initiatives.
Jeff Hayes, Managing Director of Infotrends kicked off Tuesday with a keynote address on the state of the industry review of market trends and the office technology channel. One of the key points from the keynote was that as value shifts from a hardware focus to a software and service centric approach, companies need to find the right mix of operation and innovation initiatives to thrive. As business models shift, and new skills are required to remain relevant, those who fail to adapt in areas such as Technology, Sales & Marketing and Business Processes risk exposing themselves to competitors.
The Millennial Eye View: Proof you should prepare for the future.
Have you ever seen a millennial be put on the spot for being the only millennial in an educational session before? Well I have, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Diversifying your workforce to prepare for the future of the industry was another hot topic at this year's ITEX conference. While I wasn’t the only millennial at the conference, feeling like I was made it easy to relate to a fantastic keynote led by Laura Blackmer, Sr. Vice President of Sales for Sharp. As businesses prepare for the future, it is imperative to consider the massive shift facing the workforce in 2016 and beyond. With baby boomers retiring and more women than men graduating from college as just two examples of a shifting workforce, it is now more than ever important to prepare for the future.
Laura Blackmer posed the question “Why should we care?” during the beginning of her keynote, a question easily answered by one statistic: by 2020, 60% of the workforce will be composed of those of the millennial generation. This may be a daunting statistic to some, but keep in mind that with change comes opportunity. Did you know that gender diverse companies are 15% more likely to financially outperform their competition, while companies that are ethnically diverse are 35% more likely to outperform the competition? As the demographics of the workforce continue to shift, it is important to examine the strengths and weaknesses of your corporate culture and prepare for changes.
With younger generations quickly becoming the majority of the workforce, it goes without saying that your buyer has also begun to evolve and change. As technology and sociological factors have changed how younger generations work and expect to work, it has also changed how customers are engaging in the buying process. The characteristics of this new generation of buyer, or Buyer 2.0, are:
- Online at all times
- Time Constrained
- Extensively research products online
One of the statistics that stuck with me was that today’s buyers are 57% through the traditional buying cycle before ever engaging with a sales rep. In a changing marketplace, how do you take advantage of the opportunities that come with change? To start, I’d suggest taking a look at your website, and ensure that it is mobile friendly. There are 6 billion mobile devices throughout the world (and only 4.8 billion toothbrushes to put that statistic into perspective!). In a technology-focused world, your customers are using their mobile devices for everything, and your website should be optimized for mobile devices. You may be asking yourself why mobile optimization is important, and the answer is simple: 61% of people who use their mobile device to visit a website that is not optimized for mobile will visit the website of a competitor. This new generation of buyer looks to educate themselves before talking to your sales reps, so optimizing your website can play a vital role in getting those prospects through the front door of your digital space.
If that’s not enough to get you checking your company website on your mobile phone while you read this, the announcement of an upcoming change to Google’s ranking algorithm might do the trick. Mobile friendly websites are about to become a vital component to any digital strategy, so take a few minutes to check if your website is ready for the future. You can find Google’s mobile friendly test here.
Gap Analysis: The Key to Planning for the Future.
I’ve always had an eye for business strategy during my educational career, so I may be a bit biased when I say the session I enjoyed the most during ITEX was “Analyzing the Sales & Operations MPS Performance Gap” led by Sarah Henderson of Clover Imaging Group and Kevin DeYoung of Qualpath. For those who don't know, gap analysis is a technique that businesses use to determine what steps need to be taken in order to move a current state to its desired, future state. Developing a strategy for the future requires you to examine the current state of your business, and where your future desired state is. Once the two ends of the spectrum have been identified, it's time to identify deficiencies in your operations that prevent you from achieving the desired outcome and make an action plan to overcome these deficiencies.
Circling back to the beginning of my experience at ITEX, my perspective of the industry has changed and evolved, much like the current evolution of the marketplace. At this point in the game, we're all aware that the way we do business in continuously changing at a rapid pace, and it can be daunting to face the multitude of pressures and challenges facing our industry. If there's one key takeaway I can leave you with out of all of the concepts and strategies I learned during ITEX, it's that when facing down the waves of change, taking the time to develop a strategy for the future is imperative.
If you are interested in hearing more about some of the great information I learned at ITEX, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be more than happy to discuss my findings and help you grow your MPS program!