We’re living in the most disruptive era in the history of the document imaging industry. We frequently hear that digital alternatives have all but replaced the need for paper (but who are we kidding? Paper is not going anywhere anytime soon). However, ECM, business process automation, the cloud, the edge, smartphones and tablets, robotic process automation, AI, big data and analytics platforms, and just about any other trendy technology you can think of have completely transformed the way your customers do business. And whatever affects them also affects you.
But you don’t have to abandon your core business — you just have to reposition it to solve other existing or new problems that your customers face. Many dealers and resellers are adapting to the shifting marketplace by diversifying their offerings with new products and services.
Something We Can All Do
High-volume, low-cost print in the office has declined as more and more of your customers move toward paperless solutions. But some of your customers’ savings from their reduced reliance on high-volume, low-value prints to drive their business processes can be recycled back into lower volume, higher-value prints. For example, office workers demand bright, vibrant, professional-quality output for their sales pitches, presentations, company newsletters, marketing materials, and so on. And while your customers may have outsourced this type of work in the past — when cost and quality factors were much more prohibitive — they don’t have to anymore. Today’s digital front ends can complement your customers’ existing high-end devices, and help them bring more print jobs in-house.
Today’s digital front ends work with a number of modern models from popular manufacturers, which leaves dealers with a few interesting opportunities. First, it’s easy for them to walk into their existing client’s office and tell them how a digital front end can deliver high-quality output in-house without having to purchase new printers. Second, you could walk into your competitor’s client’s office and tell them the same thing. The only difference in the second example is that, eventually, you’ll also hope to outfit them with your devices and digital front end — not the competitor’s. In both scenarios, you can help existing and potential customers bring such print in-house, which reduces costs and provides them with a good deal of control over these processes.
Alternative Revenue Streams
Some future-thinking office equipment and copier dealers are starting to realize that there are some very lucrative revenue streams out there they can tap into to complement and grow their businesses. And plenty of folks have been very profitable offering managed services. But success down those avenues — particularly the managed IT route — isn’t for everyone. Selling and managing business software is an entirely different animal that requires an entirely different kind of knowledge base, and isn’t always the cheapest or easiest business to get off the ground.
But the managed services route isn’t the only other way to diversify your business with new revenue streams. I can think of one right now, and it’ll sound a lot like what you’re doing already: You could always sell bigger printers.
Wide-Format and Production Opportunities
One area where dealers have an excellent opportunity to diversify their offerings is in the production and commercial space. Selling wide-format and production devices isn’t necessarily a huge departure from copiers and MFPs — they just solve different problems than you’re used to. And thanks to falling device costs in those spaces, dealers don’t necessarily have to target new customers. Just as dealers can try to replace the revenue lost to digital disruption by selling digital front ends, you can also help customers eliminate cost and other problems with outsourcing signage, packaging, labeling or other print jobs.
Let’s think about this hypothetically for a moment.
Let’s say you have dozens of retail customers, and they’re spending an arm and a leg having their posters and in-store signage printed for them. Again, you can ask them about it, and undoubtedly hear some horror stories. They’ll tell you about that time the sign was creased or ripped during shipping, or maybe it got lost in delivery. You could mention how a low-cost, high-performance wide-format device can enable them to create and print bright and vibrant signs on demand, rather than having to rely on a third party.
You could even sell corrugated board, paper packaging, and display printers, or ceramic tile printers, or textile printers if you wanted to. The point is that you don’t have to venture down completely foreign roads to diversify your revenue streams. All you have to do is look at your existing customers, and start to think outside of the box in regard to what problems they need solving, and how you can bring your expertise and the bleeding edge in production print to solve it.
Dealers and resellers might not be able to make money the same way they did a decade ago. But they can still make a lot of money selling printers. You’ll have to take another look at your core business, and reconfigure your strategy to match today’s print needs. Your customers still have print-related pain points — it’s just that those aches are changing, and you have to look beyond the usual solutions. Maybe you won’t place as many devices, and you might see a decline in the volume of consumables you’re moving — but quantity isn’t everything. High-value, low-volume print can be just as profitable, if not more.
Some people think that digital disruption is making it impossible for print to be profitable. Those people need to take a closer look.
Frank Mallozzi, EFI
This article originally appeared in the December 2017 issue of The Imaging Channel