By Olivia Cahoon
Part 1 of 2
Peer affinity groups allow consumers and vendors to connect and network in a mutually beneficial relationship. Many of these groups exist within the print production space. Some are vendor-sponsored while others are vendor agnostic.
“The purpose of a peer affinity group is for people with similar interests, roles, purposes, and goals to band together as a community and learn, share, and promote ideas and innovations that can positively affect their world,” says Ken Mead, director of Americas, Dscoop.
Mike Herold, director, global marketing, inkjet solutions, Ricoh, adds to this sentiment, comparing the absence of learning from peers to driving at night without lights or GPS. “You can only see what’s directly in front of you, while those who participate in peer groups have the lay of the land and can see the bumps in the road others have encountered before, and they know how to steer around them.”
In part one of this two-part series, we discuss peer affinity groups Dscoop, Interact, PROKOM, and thINK, which are offered for HP, Inc., Ricoh, Konica Minolta, and Canon users, respectively.
Founded in 2005, Dscoop is an HP graphic user affinity group. Its vision is to “innovate print.”
The group’s goal is to deliver the promises of digital print and create tomorrow’s customers today in a community environment. Dscoop promises innovation achieved through collaborative groups; insight grained through best practice and lead generation and increased revenue earned through partnerships and relationships.
Dscoop has over 5,000 active individual members with access to a variety of benefits, including the Dscoop annual conference, the Dscoop website, and Dscoop University.
Mead describes the Dscoop annual conference as the “preeminent event” in the digital printing industry for learning the newest trends, hearing the latest educational topics, and connecting with fellow HP Graphic technology users.
“The expertise and ideas shared by a print peer affinity group extends to new ideas and solutions for creative professionals, brands, and agencies. Affinity group engagement opens a wider, more inclusive dialog and promotes great proliferation of world changing innovation,” comments Mead.
Dscoop events are located in each of Dscoop’s three regions—Americas; Europe; the Middle East and Africa; and Asia-Pacific. Average attendance at the events is between 2,000 and 2,500. The full price for Dscoop conference attendance is $1,295.
Dscoop members are granted a listing in the Dscoop Print Directory, which connects print generators to qualified HP Indigo digital printers and peers.
Dscoop’s targeted members are owners of HP digital printing equipment and the community associated with those businesses. Membership is currently free to qualified participants.
Ricoh’s Interact affinity group was established in 2012 with the purpose of sharing information. The group emphasizes user education and promotes education between members.
“From one another they hear about pain points they share and how they’ve been overcome,” says Herold. The attitude is that no one should have the same struggle someone already had because their lessons can be shared and learned from.
In addition to information sharing and networking, Interact promotes knowledge building and feedback on Ricoh products, solutions, and strategies.
Interact includes an annual event that offers networking, panels, and speakers. Average attendance is over 100. Attendance fees are $350 for the continuous feed inkjet track and $450 for the software track. There is currently no fee for Interact membership for qualified participants.
Launched in June 2016, PROKOM is a Konica Minolta user community run by members, for the members. The group has 700 members and targets Konica Minolta production print users.
“It helps give shape to customers’ ideas, to provide them with a forum where they can express their views, share experiences, learn, and profit,” says J. Chris Bowen, CTO, Cohber. The company is a graphics communication service in Rochester, NY, Konica Minolta customer, and PROKOM member.
PROKOM is managed jointly by staff and a voluntary advisory board. Bowen is currently a member of the PROKOM board. “It enables me to give something back to the community by sharing my knowledge. I am proud to belong to PROKOM. Konica Minolta, as the sponsor, continues to give fantastic support to both PROKOM and our business,” says Bowen.
The group offers business support for four types of customer job roles—management, assessment tools, sales marketing, and operators. PROKOM’s web portal offers newsletters, webinars, white board videos, tutorial videos, and e-learning in five languages.
Bowen says the group also provides customized consultancy services, access to forums, networking opportunities, and attends local trade shows. PROKOM is part of the Konica Minolta booth at Print 17, where it will run workshops and roadshows.
Bowen attended the inaugural PROKOM conference held in Vienna and says that it gave him the chance to share the positive experiences of the Konica Minolta AccurioJet KM-1 UV inkjet sheet press. “We compared other technologies that have been on the market for years and see the KM-1 as the best long-term decision and growth platform for our future.”
PROKOM membership includes two levels, Blue and Elite. Blue has no membership fee while Elite is $500. The attendance free for PROKOM’s annual user event, Power of PROKOM Conference, is $400.
Established in 2015, thINK is a community of Canon Solutions America production print customers. The group is designed to assist businesses in achieving accelerated growth and productivity.
“Led by some of the most successful inkjet service providers in the country, this dynamic collaborative community provides a forum to network with peers, share best practices, and learn from industry leaders and solutions partners,” says Victor Bohnert, executive director, thINK.
thINK membership is free but exclusive to Canon Solutions America production print customers. Members have access to resources on the thINK forum, which include case studies, educational presentations, industry research, marketing tools, media catalogs and profiles, resource guides, and vertical market industry kits.
Bohnert believes peer groups enable members to learn and benefit from the community’s collective experience and that those who forego the opportunity get left behind. “The fact that it is peer based ensures that the information shared is unbiased and based on real world experiences,” he says.
All thINK members are invited to the annual thINK conference for a rate of $995 including airfare, hotel, and conference access. Average attendance is over 450 attendees.
According to Bohnert, non-vendor organizations benefit from user groups in a general sense. “Independent, non-vendor organizations enable a non-partisan view of the enabling technologies and full end-to-end solutions, resulting in frank discussions and open dialogue with solution providers that serve to benefit the greater community.”
Company-supported organizations engage in product dialogue about business challenges faced by members and future tactics. Bohnert believes vendor-specific organizations give OEMs a direct, two-way engagement opportunity for the entire ecosystem.
Peer affinity groups connect print providers with consumers for a mutually beneficial engagement. Non-vendor specific groups allow members to discuss general topics and challenges experienced by most print providers while vendor-specific groups target specific challenges and trends that print providers face. Dscoop, Interact, PROKOM, and thINK are examples of groups that offer members annual conferences to facilitate relationships.
In part two of this article series, we offer perspective from a user-group member.
July2017, DPS Magazine