Where Would You Rather Go for a Product Demo: A Corporate Demo Center or a Customer Site?

Jim Hamilton
Oct 22, 2013

Kodak is leveraging Charlotte, NC-based ImageMark as a customer demonstration center

If you were looking to purchase a production digital printing device, a platesetter, or workflow software, where would you rather see it? I think it’s clear that if possible you’d like to see it in action at a customer site. At a customer site, you could see an actual implementation and ask real-world users all the questions you want about the product: Does it do all they say it can? What problems have you had? Is it upgradeable? Can it handle the types of jobs that I want to run on it? What are the service and consumable costs associated with this product? Of course this type of dialog is ideal, but how many sites would be willing to put up with this on a regular basis? Recently, I got a chance to see how this might work at an innovative print service provider called ImageMark Business Services in Gastonia, North Carolina (just outside Charlotte), which is embarking upon a partnership with Kodak.

ImageMark owns a wide variety of Kodak production digital print products, including a NexPress 3000, a NexPress 3900, and a Digimaster E125. ImageMark also has a Magnum 400 platesetter and uses Kodak’s Prinergy workflow and Sonora plates for offset printing on its six-color Komori Lithrone 28. With such a selection of products, it is not surprising that Kodak sales reps in the Southeast wanted to use the site as a reference account, and in fact, had done so informally for many years. Last week, Kodak formalized the relationship with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at ImageMark. Kodak said that ImageMark would serve as a customer demonstration center for prospects that might prefer to visit its new 130,000 square foot production facility instead of traveling to Kodak’s corporate demonstration center* in Rochester, New York.

*Kodak’s Manitou Road, Rochester demonstration center, which was built as part of the Kodak-Heidelberg NexPress joint venture and served primarily as a venue for Digimaster, NexPress, and Prinergy, has been closed. A new Rochester demonstration center has been created for these products at the Kodak Research Labs complex on Lake Avenue. Kodak’s demonstration center in Dayton serves prospects interested in Prosper printing and imprinting systems.

Walter Payne, President of ImageMark, speaks on camera at the ribbon-cutting event

You might ask: “What’s in it for ImageMark?” In short, while it’s true that they will benefit from this close relationship with Kodak, there are other reasons for partnering. For example, Kodak prospects who are new to digital print may be looking for an outsourced partner while they consider such a purchase. ImageMark could fill that need. In addition, and perhaps most importantly, ImageMark’s partnership with Kodak speaks to the company’s value-based business philosophy as well as its focus on the capabilities that digital print provides. ImageMark Business Services was founded in 1924 and was purchased by the current ownership in 1996. Since then it has grown from three employees to a total of sixty-five (fifty-five full-time and ten part-time). In July the company moved into a new building, at which point it added a NexPress 3900 to the NexPress 3000 it already owned (ImageMark bought its first NexPress, a 2100, ten years ago). ImageMark notes that at least 60% of its volume is digital with a significant component being personalized color.

This NexPress 3000 at ImageMark printed 10.2 million impressions in 2012, nearly 900,000 per month

In addition to the Kodak digital print equipment at ImageMark the company also has wide format equipment from Roland, monochrome Ricoh Aficio printers, an HP Indigo 7600, and a Xanté Ilumina. ImageMark has a large web-to- print presence, handling more than 50% of its work that way. ImageMark also does a lot of kitting and fulfillment work, much of which has a variable component.

ImageMark customers come from vertical markets like healthcare, non-profits, colleges & universities, and automotive. Attendees at the ribbon cutting included two ImageMark customers with fascinating projects; the executive producer of the movie “Letters to God” and the co-author of the book “Hope’s Wish: How One Girl’s Dream Made Others’ Come True.” After visiting ImageMark my assessment is that this is a dynamic company with a solutions focus and a can-do attitude that is rare among companies of any type. ImageMark is an ideal partner for this Kodak initiative.

There are certainly prospects that will prefer a visit to ImageMark (particularly in the winter) to a trip to Rochester. Kodak, which has said that ImageMark is the only such site currently in the United States, also noted that it may be looking to open a similar center with another customer on the west coast. This would be a good idea. An on-site center allows customers to see a true production site in action and ask operational questions about service, substrate, and costs. A corporate demonstration center is a necessity for ongoing visits and production of test samples. Having a customer demonstration center in addition to corporate demo centers provides the best of both worlds. And when the customer demonstration center is of the caliber of a company like ImageMark, that’s even better.

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