I’ve been in this industry for close to 20 years. I promise I’ve heard all the arguments from imaging service providers against selling software in addition to imaging services. But really. Can you afford to continue to put it off?
All indicators are that economic struggles will continue for companies that base the majority of their revenue on hardware and imaging services sales. Sluggish demand is a big problem for hardware sellers, but office equipment is also getting pinched by the worldwide supply chain challenges. When a customer actually does ink a purchase, it’s anyone’s guess whether you can provide the physical device or it’ll get stuck on a container ship somewhere waiting for unloading or inspection. Demand for imaging services is significantly slower and the rising interest in permanent remote and hybrid work arrangements will keep numbers down over the longer term. As the end of the pandemic continues to push into the future, new information habits become even further ingrained in office worker behavior and less likely to ever return to earlier levels.
It’s not only business smart, it’s also common sense. For your business to survive, you must follow where your customer is leading. You don’t want to be a video rental store still trying to make it work after Netflix took over the marketplace and the streaming wars began. But, if you’re considering branching out from imaging services for the first time, you may be a little overwhelmed. The following three technologies are easy to learn and easy to sell. Let’s take a look.
Cloud Continues to Dominate Technology Purchases
Cloud has been overtaking software sales for more than a decade as companies quickly realized the financial advantages of paying for technology month-to-month. With remote work likely to stick around, companies who’d lagged behind on moving critical systems into the cloud are now moving quickly to take advantage of the relative security and ease of access the cloud can offer. This is an easy revenue add-on for hardware and imaging sales in addition to representing a net-new revenue source going forward. Most hardware leases can be modified to include some online storage using a cloud-based enterprise content management (ECM) service, and cloud ECM is a convenient way to deliver electronic files after you’ve imaged their paper-based counterparts. It’s convenient for your customers to purchase information management this way, and it increases the size of your monthly payment from every customer. Best of all, since it’s cloud, you don’t have to learn new technical skills or hire new support staff to add cloud storage to your list of offerings, since cloud services are typically provided and supported entirely by the manufacturer.
Extend Capture Services to Meet Remote Work Needs
Many of you have already streamlined your capture processes, automated what you can, and have begun enhancing these offerings. So what new capture revenue is available? Bundled service offerings are attractive to business technology purchasers right now because they’re all trying to streamline their own processes too. Buying technology takes a significant amount of time as office workers meet with multiple potential suppliers, receive several demonstrations of various platforms and negotiate terms.
So, what should you bundle with your imaging services? As just discussed, online storage and retrieval is a natural fit, but consider these two options as well:
- Data Entry – Data extraction technologies have advanced to the point that almost no manual effort is needed, and the extraction is seamlessly integrated into the scanning process. You can use these tools to not only populate index values in the ECM, but also to send data to a wide variety of other business applications as well. You don’t have to add personnel or scanners to include data entry in your offerings.
- Digital Mailroom – It’s tough to manage mail distribution and timely responses when employees may be scattered in dozens, if not hundreds, of home offices across the globe. When you receive and digitize a company’s mail, loading it into an ECM for secure distribution becomes a valuable and desperately needed service—especially for time-sensitive documents like invoices.
Don’t Forget to Automate Processes
In the fall of 2019, well before the world began talking about the coronavirus, analysts from Gartner had dubbed the 2020s the decade of “hyperautomation.” Thinking in terms of automation rather than document management or imaging aligns your language more closely to that of your customers and prospects, since business people rarely, if ever, set out to buy document management. Rather, they will buy ECM as a tool that enables accounts payable automation or streamlines customer service. At every sales conversation, you should ask prospects what processes will be most impacted by their digitization efforts and what results they’re hoping to attain. It’ll help you relate to prospects more effectively and make you more likely to close sales.
Talking automation in marketing materials will help you more clearly target potential buyers. Focused messages and materials lead to higher conversion rates and more leads for your sales folks. In many cases, it is just the difference-maker you’ll need for more efficient ad spend and better overall revenue impact from marketing activities.
Start 2022 With Your Eyes Wide Open
Don’t let 2021 growth figures fool you into thinking the overall decline in print volumes has ended. In most cases, analysts present year-over-year numbers and don’t provide a longer-term view. Since 2020 saw the single largest drop in print volumes in at least the last 40 years, almost anything will look good by comparison, so be sure to put these numbers in context. The longer-term downtrend remains firmly in place, and will ultimately bring fewer customers to your doors—unless you change your business model and expand your product offerings. Cloud, extended imaging services like data entry and digital mailroom, and process automation are natural product add-ons that are easy to learn and easy to sell. It’s time!