Top Ten Takeaways from Print 17

A successful Print 17 is in the history books, and all the activity surrounding the event has now been assigned the status of “memory.” To help keep those memories alive, here are my Top 10 takeaways, reflections, and observations of Print 17, which ran from September 10-14, 2017 in the south hall of Chicago’s McCormick Place.

#1: The show’s footprint is much smaller.

One of my very first experiences as an exhibitor was “way back when” at Print 01. That show filled up both sides of McCormick Place. Of course, that show was overshadowed by the events of the original 9/11, so there’s no way at all to make a fair “then” and “now” comparison. However, excluding the events of 9/11, it’s easy to see that the current version of the show is much different than it was back in 2001. The footprint of today’s show doesn’t fill both halls, it fills just two-thirds of one of the halls. Things change. For the Print show, that’s not necessarily better or worse, it’s just different.

Don’t ever count on today being the same as yesterday. Be prepared to adapt to a changing environment and an unknown future.

#2: Chicago-style pizza tastes best in Chicago!

It’s a lot of fun being in Chicago. As the Marketing Ideas For Printers team started to gather on the eve of Print 17 we enjoyed a deep-dish Chicago-style pizza pie. Sure, you can get deep-dish pizzas in other places, but it just tastes better and is more enjoyable in Chicago!

Enjoy the world around you, wherever you are.

#3: Every Uber driver has a story.

Uber drivers are always a source of interesting conversations. From Dowan, I learned that he was already familiar with our hometown of Fargo, North Dakota because several years ago he had spent time on the Air Force base in Grand Forks (about 80 miles north of here). Talking about Fargo is always a fun conversation! I also learned that he quit his full-time job so he could use the flexibility offered by Uber to help take care of his wife as she fought her cancer battle. (She’s cancer-free now, but still working back to full-strength.)

I was also very thankful that he was willing to help bring some last-minute boxes up to the show floor for me on set-up day. There was no way I could have done it on my own. Dowan, if you’re reading this, thank you for your part in helping make our experience at Print 17 a success!

Everyone has a story. Take time to discover it.

#4: Everyone needs a secret weapon.

Our company’s secret weapon has a name: Rachel. Her official title is Content Manager, but she does so much more than that. She coordinates so many behind-the-scenes details: travel arrangements, hotel reservations, coordination with show planners and vendors, the list goes on. Honestly, without her, I’d probably throw my hands up in the air and say, “No way! We’re not going to the show, it’s too much work!”

Rachel Nies at Print 17

Rachel in her “secret weapon” pose at Print 17

She’s fiercely loyal to Marketing Ideas For Printers, and I’m so thankful for that!

A secret weapon like Rachel allows you to accomplish big things that would be impossible to accomplish on your own.

#5: There are fewer Mom-and-Pop shops.

This is a trend continuing from past shows, and it was again reinforced at Print 17. This industry trend is no surprise, of course, it’s been a subject of conversation for years now. Many of yesterday’s printers are retiring, selling their business, or closing up shop. I find myself feeling a little nostalgic when I think of that, because that friendly mom-and-pop environment was where I learned about printing when I got my start in the industry way back in 1992.

But yesterday’s printers are making way for the printers of today and tomorrow, and it’s exciting to see a whole new generation of print entrepreneurs continue to breath life into an industry that’s mature, yet always changing and evolving! It’s an exciting time to be a printer, Johannes Gutenberg would be proud.

It’s an exciting time to be a printer, and if you’re in the twilight of your career, you can get energy from the next generation.

#6: Printer or Marketing Service Provider?

“Are you a printer or a marketing service provider?” The answer? “Yes! Both!”

It used to be that your print-buying customers were ordering an end product that stood on its own. Not so much anymore. Now, print is often one part of a bigger project that could involve traditional media, social media, and websites. Many of the printers visiting our booth wear a “printer” hat one moment, and swap it out for a “marketing expert” hat in the very next moment, depending on the needs of the customer they are serving.

Sometimes the customer is seeking a print solution, and sometimes the customer is seeking a solution in which print was just part of the total solution. Successful printers today need to know when to be a printer, and when to be a marketing service provider.

Today’s successful printer needs to not only be a printer, but also a marketing expert.

#7: We have a great team.

The staff in our booth was always willing to share our story of how we help printers sell more printing. I already told you about Rachel, my secret weapon. As our Content Manager, she’s incredibly qualified to share how the direct mail and social media content services we offer help printers sell more printing.

Marketing Ideas For Printers staff at Print 17

Cindy, Rachel, Don, and John preparing for the Print 17 “opening bell”

Cindy is our all-purpose expert. She’s not a salesperson as much as she is a solutions expert. She has a heart for helping printers discover the solutions that will work best for them. She’s never pushy, and always helpful.

Don was there, too. He’s the lead developer of Odyssey, and his insight was so valuable for those that wanted to dig deep into the details of what makes Odyssey such a compelling new Print MIS. Don makes his home in Los Angeles, and I often joke that when I’m in Fargo looking towards the west and see a glow in the horizon, it’s not a sunset. Instead, it’s the glow of Don’s brain at work.

Devin, our customer care team leader, was a welcome addition, too. She joined us to help wrap up the show and make sure everything we brought to Chicago made it back safely to Fargo.

John Henry at Print 17

John Henry sharing his success stories with visitors to the Marketing Ideas For Printers booth at Print 17

And what a treat it was to have John Henry join us in our booth! He’s one of our customers, and shared his first-hand experience about how his website from Marketing Ideas For Printers helps him grow sales in his day-t0-day printing business.

Don’t try to do it all on your own. You can’t. There’s power in a team!

#8: Excitement for Odyssey and DesignEdit 2.

I approached this year’s show with a combination of excitement and nervous energy. We had two big things to show, how would they be received?

DesignEdit 2, our all-new online design tool, was on display and a big hit to everyone that saw it. It has a brand-new engine, powered by CHILI Publisher, and a collection of over 20,000 ready-to-use templates that website visitors / print buyers can use to create production-ready design online. DesignEdit 2 is an affordable solution for printers that want to offer high-end online design tools.

And then there’s Odyssey, our new Print MIS.  Last year at this time we were previewing Odyssey at GraphExpo 2016. This year, Odyssey is ready to show! It was good to step back and take a look at Odyssey through the lens of someone experiencing Odyssey for the very first time. Visitors to our booth were excited to see how Odyssey creates the missing connection between a website and a Print MIS, and they were excited to see how the marketing tools in Odyssey will expand the scope of Print MIS to do things Print MIS has never done before.

Odyssey and DesignEdit 2 will help printers sell more printing.

#9: Booth visitors loved our guy with the silly green hair.

I mean, really … who wouldn’t? Just watch this 33-second video:

Want your own green-hair guy? Just ask and we’ll send him your way!

On a related note, there’s a lot less swag on the show floor these days. In general, printers and exhibitors would rather just get down to business.

Never underestimate the power of a smile!

#10:  I have yet to ride the “L.”

My Dad told me stories about the times when he rode the “L” when he attended seminary in Chicago in the 1940s. Retracing those footsteps is just one of those bucket-list things I need to do one of these days.

Maybe next year at Graph Expo 2018.

Bonus Takeaway: Digital is good, but face-to-face is better.

It’s a super-rewarding experience to make a real, face-to-face connection with people that I’ve otherwise met only online. Some of the connections that stand out are Deborah Corn (@PrintPros), Maya Staels (@MayaStaels) and Paul Bobnack (@PaulBobnak).

All talk of the printing industry aside, I was especially looking forward to my visit with Paul because of our mutual admiration of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. Paul is from Philly, so he has front-row seat to watch the development of Carson’s professional career. Carson is a North Dakota native that played at Fargo’s North Dakota State University, and he’s a totally authentic stand-up guy, a great role-model, and easy to cheer for!

There’s a real person behind every online connection.

Wrapping it up

It’s a lot of work to make a trade show happen. It takes a lot of preparation to get there, it takes a lot of energy to exhibit, and it takes a lot of endurance to follow up with all the loose ends. And it’s worth it.

See you next year at Graph Expo 2018!


Dave Hultin

David Hultin
President, Marketing Ideas For Printers