The managed print services (MPS) renaissance of 2022 rolls on, and it got me thinking: What’s the difference between then and now?
Let’s compare, shall we?
2007 – That Was Then
OEMs – Believe it or not, few OEMs had viable MPS practices, departments, or divisions. If an idea did not perpetuate or drag copier devices with the sale, it was not considered.
Supplies – This sector asserted to have been in managed print services for 20 years, which of course was impossible. This claim was an indicator of how the industry was going to equate MPS with selling supplies.
Dealers – Resellers were dubious and at times hostile to the concept of managed print services. The first rule of MPS was “reduce the cost of print,” which quickly translated into lower revenue. More importantly, MPS negatively impacted the golden goose – service revenue. A sales mantra was, “We can reduce the costs associated with your print by 30%.” Who in their right mind would knowingly reduce revenue by 30%?
Other ideals of MPS include “right-sizing,” managing leases, enforcing SLAs and matching devices to real requirements instead of overselling. For decades, profit was in the mystery of these details. MPS came along, swept away the clouds of ambiguity and exposed certain duplicitous practices. Some in the industry were not amused.
Software/Data Collection Agents – At the time, software solutions were unproven, unreliable, and a scattered patchwork of homegrown code. DCAs would magically cease operation and devices would fall off the network for no apparent reason.
“Integration” with a billing system meant manually entering meter reads that often required an on-site visit from the technician to collect.
VARs – Value-added resellers despised printers and hated photocopiers. They held little respect for “copier people.” Our connected devices were still evolving and were often blamed for network outages – IT people did not like fishing out a jammed piece of paper. All this negativity didn’t stop them from selling toner cartridges by the pallet typically at 4 or 5 points above their cost.
Customers – In MPS, there are two foundational areas of cost savings: machine and process. Prospects did not know the true costs associated with printed and copied documents and were unaware of the inefficiencies related to paper-based processes. Unfortunately, some, if not most, providers concentrated on the hard cost savings of 30% (device, service and supplies), ignoring the benefits of workflow and business process automation. Customers at the time were less informed, and could access basic information only through a sales rep.
Salespeople — The cycle was simple: make the introduction, get the meeting, do an assessment, propose, close, install, move on. Most MPS proprietors forced MPS into the same selling model as copiers and few, if any, were considering managing their clients’ computers, networks, or IT infrastructure.
In 2007, salespeople were trained under the “kill it, then grill it” mentality. Hunting for prospects, twisting the pain, pitching more for less, closing before the end of the month – and repeat.
We didn’t solve problems as often as we collected big commissions on big, bad machines.
As months faded into years, pricing and profit margins fell. Every OEM had a program and MPS hit the mainstream.
Suddenly, everyone was selling managed print services.
And then it went quiet. The slow march to obsolescence continued but shows and conferences dedicated to the practice dried up. “Managed print services” headlines slipped off landing pages, finding a place under a pull-down menu. Industry players provided MPS, but the practice became a staple, if not some sort of commodity – the world of copiers and toner slowly spun.
2022 – This Is Now
OEMs – The manufacturers have backed off managed print services, or at least segmented the smaller deals to the dealers, with the Fortune 100 to 1000 MPS programs going direct. Most OEMs’ programs are myopic, concentrating on supporting only their logos or looking to rip out the incumbent and replace with their devices while reducing costs. Still, OEM programs are leverage points for more hardware placements and to be fair, enterprise-level accounts should promote as few output vendors as possible.
In the old days, exposing an OEMs inability to support multiple brands was a selling technique. Today it is an advantage for large accounts and installs.
Supplies – Not much to report on here in terms of change, except for supply chain issues, lawsuits or personal protective equipment (PPE). The battle between third-party toner and original OEM supplies rages on. China figures more prominently in supply chain issues as well as consolidation. It seems that all the big guys are suing everybody else – which is normal.
The one new, albeit fleeting, issue is the pivot into PPE. Quickly after COVID took over the world, our toner guys sourced KN95 masks and hand sanitizer.
The impact of COVID is yet to be determined, with long-term effects unpredictable – as print volumes fall off the cliff, how many cores will make it to the factory for refilling? Regardless, third-party toner suppliers continue to hold a primary position in the MPS constellation.
Dealers – The dealer channel has changed in one paramount way – there are fewer of them. To be more precise, the phrase “megadealer” has never been used as often as it has in the last 24 months. The large players, some fueled by outside private equity investment, have spread around the country digesting smaller dealers.
A majority of resellers have a managed print services practice and sell installations of 25 or more devices. Most managed print services agreements are standalone separate from copiers and managed IT.
The sales processes is condensed, yet the same: assess, analyze, create proposal, propose, close, implement and periodically review.
Software/Data Collection Agents – Today, the MPS software realm is steady, if not stagnant. Data collection is more reliable, CRMs interface directly, algorithms assist in automatic toner fulfillment, and assessment software is proven and used when appropriate.
VARs – VARs are now MSPs and they still loath output devices. Unlike 2007, the copier niche has made inroads into the IT industry, yet IT companies have not encroached into the imaging world. This makes sense, as the copier selling model is more assertive than the typical IT approach – we do cold calls and utilize closing techniques. The IT world attracts prospects more than we do.
Managed IT services is a natural extension of managed print services; both should be presented as a singular offering and today, unlike 2007, it is more possible to do so.
Customers – The main difference in customers from the year 2007 is that they are smarter – well, at least more informed. They don’t need you to tell them about machines, speeds, feeds, or color versus monochrome. They get it. You get it.
Companies WANT to reduce dependence on paper processes. Twenty-four months away from a copier with increased employee productivity reveals the irrelevancy of these devices. Remember two of the foundational MPS cost-saving values – fewer machines and fewer paper processes. Today’s customer is at the intersection of both principles. They know it. Don’t fight it, MPS is implemented to assist customers in reducing costs and moving to less paper. Help them reduce and pivot.
Salespeople — I think the thing that has changed the most in MPS since 2007 is the salesperson.
Smarter, more visionary, more resourceful, comfortable with, if not dependent on, all technologies, this generation of salespeople has no comparison to the old ways.
Because today’s sales professional is more sophisticated, managed print services should be the lead effort into every account. It is a simple talk track to understand because you start off talking about something everyone knows and has an opinion about: the printed document. More important is how easily the conversation is expanded into document management, IT services, workflow software and the internet of things.
Heck, there may even be a way to tie TikTok into the discussion. Just kidding.
Speaking of TikTok, back in 2007 I was on MySpace creating funny page banners. My LinkedIn membership was a year away and flip phones were viable. Today, social, and remote selling are taken for granted. In the MPS realm, this is almost nirvana. Instead of two meetings and one assessment a day, via remote, the MPS representative can touch twice as many people. Four or more business reviews can be knocked out in one day – with full staff.
Meetings in 2007 look like the stone age from here.
In the Year 2022
Studies estimate as many as 60%-75% of devices in the field are under an MPS agreement of some sort. The move into IT services has proven to be either profitable, possibly life-saving, or a fool’s errand; many practices have been launched and failed.
Customers and prospects are more knowledgeable about copiers, pricing, usage, document management, paperless offices, digital signatures and squeezing paper out of manual processes to achieve more productivity.
In the old days, we had to convince users to examine their existing environment to find cost savings. It was challenging at times, to obtain invoices, walk-throughs and DCA installations. Today, that argument is not as difficult to sell. Companies understand the expense of maintaining print/IT infrastructure and are more likely to admit they do not have a handle on costs. So, they look for logical, fact-based recommendations. Once the proof is presented and the math works, they are good to go.
Also, it was an uphill battle to lead a customer into paperless document management and business processes. Today, everybody is looking to remove friction from the customer experience and eliminating paper from a transaction is one way to exceed expectations. For instance, when two companies provide identical products, the paper-based order entry is not a smooth customer experience as compared to an online or remote transaction. The more advanced company will gain the business. Managed print services has always played well in the transition from paper to less paper.
Finally, today’s B2B selling landscape encourages prospects to research their unique problems and determine a solution. In a phrase, prospects self-qualify and shorten the sales journey. Engagement with you occurs AFTER a level of interest reaches a point of deeper investigation.
The selling professional is in the “solving” stage earlier. For example, when a business wishes to reduce costs and gets wind of “managed print services,” they query the internet before talking to you. Sure, you may be able to stir up interest on a cold call, but as soon as you’re off the phone or out of the lobby, they head to the search engines and if you’re lucky enough to secure an appointment, they probably know your entire approach.
This is good, your online managed print services reputation. Something that wasn’t around in the year 2007 has earned you a seat at the table.
So here you have it, the differences between 2007 and 2022.
We are: more informed, more cost-aware, able to make quicker decisions, willing to embrace technology. We are both digital newbies and natives.
In our little niche, in the year 2022, managed print services is familiar, necessary and fading.
It’s classic. Sell on!