As the managed print services business model matures, I often hear from dealers that MPS programs have become more about offering the lowest cost per page (CPP) rather than about selling solutions. While many providers focus on the benefits and value proposition of MPS, there is a range of providers and competitors who may be willing to quote a lower CPP.
This dilemma results in frustration for sales managers struggling with close ratios or reps asking for margin concessions. For owners, MPS may feel like a thorn in their sides as MPS programs are not performing at acceptable margins. Sales reps may struggle to sell on the value of their MPS program versus the competition.
While dealers may be tempted to back away from MPS, research firm InfoTrends projects MPS will continue to grow into 2020, and so instead of abandoning their MPS programs, dealers should instead reevaluate and invest in their programs. A major part of overcoming the challenges dealers face with MPS can be addressed via more effective marketing and training sales teams. Effective positioning for MPS solutions will help improve close ratios via differentiation within local markets and improve margins by selling value versus price.
While graphics and logos are important, I would encourage dealers to focus on the drivers of effective MPS marketing. These drivers are key in developing tactics for MPS program positioning and the affiliated marketing outcomes.
1. Get vertical
While a basic MPS value proposition can be an attention getter, you don’t want to be stating the same message as your competition. Instead, take time to look at your local market and understand the major industries and evaluate how to become a vertical market expert. Focus on verticals where you have had some success or feel you have a sizeable prospect pool. If you need, buy some data or lists to help you focus.
Look at your current customer base and find accounts to develop vertical specific case studies. Even consider sections of a vertical market to understand and market; for example, instead of the general category of “health care,” look at independent doctor’s offices or dental clinics rather than major hospital locations.
Once you pick your areas of focus you will need to develop call scripts, e-blasts (email marketing), a flyer or mailer print collateral, and affiliated materials to support your team. Roll these out and train your sales team on how to use them. Role play in a sales meeting and even invite customers to share their expertise with a site visit. You may also consider placing videos or other content within your website or developing a microsite that is vertical-branded to help you penetrate these markets better.
2. Market different decision-makers
While I frequently train dealers who call on the CIO or CFO of an organization, this is still an often-overlooked area of the sales process. Who is marketed to within an organization is key in getting the right decision maker to take the call from a sales rep. Develop marketing pieces with the “who” in mind. If it is a CFO, MPS is not just a cost-reduction message, but an integrated campaign that clearly articulates that you understand the pressures of their position (and vertical market noted above). I highly recommend reading publications like CFO magazine. In addition, subscribe to local financial publications or business journals. These are more targeted publications to direct marketing and also identify different decision makers.
This is also true for IT professionals. If a local market has peer groups or professional organizations for IT professionals, get your dealership’s IT director involved in order to peer market. A professional organization’s dues are often less expensive than a print ad and can drive better results.
Develop subject matter experts who can serve as content creators within LinkedIn.com posts or groups and as guest speakers at professional organizations in your region or state. These should be the dealership’s business leaders or titled subject matter expert rather than a sales rep. Remember, this is you teaching an audience as a marketing tool, not making a sales pitch.
3. The environmental message
I work with dealers who tell me their buyers are not environmentally driven. While this may not be the key area in buyers’ final selection of a partner, including sustainability as a selling point to your prospective customer can be a key differentiator and never lost anyone business. Develop an “environmental highlights” marketing package that can be integrated into your overall message. Target organizations that have green initiatives or teams highlighted in annual reports or on their website. Corporate marketing officers are generally excited to have additional “good news” to promote internally and externally.
Key environmental messages within your MPS program can include recycling and sustainability reports, sustainability product messages, and power consumption. For example, Clover Imaging Group partnered with Print Releaf to provide resellers a platform to offset paper consumption via tree planting worldwide.
4. Business process optimization
At the heart and soul of MPS is the premise of business process optimization. How a dealer conducts analysis and implements this within a client base is essential to program marketing. While this may seem to be a difficult concept to capture as asassessments or analyses are often proprietary, it is very important. Focus on the outcomes and key benefits — what makes a program offering different? Most likely an end user has already had a print assessment done, so position the process differently.
A very powerful way to demonstrate this is via the “hidden factory” concept that is part of LEAN/Six Sigma analysis. The “hidden factory” clearly demonstrates the costs of a business process that are not critical functions for the business to drive revenue. By capturing the real dollars wasted by a peer organization, you can cut through the clutter and get a prospect’s attention. This concept or similar examples within your program marketing can stand alone or can be used as part of client case studies, and are some of the most powerful messages you can offer, especially when backed by process outcomes and client testimonials.
5. Be a consultant
A dealer study presented at the ITEX show in March clearly demonstrated that dealers who focus on MPS and invest in development of salespeople who can sell solutions are growing and more profitable. The best creative concept and marketing campaign can be wasted if the sales team is not delivering the same message and delivering what you promise. In addition, your sales team is in charge of the personal delivery of marketing to your clients and prospective clients daily. The advertising has to match the customer experience, the e-blast call to action resulting in the steps to a sale, and the dealership culture must align to provide the customer experience that is promised.
From a marketing perspective dealers need to consider the titles of personnel, and train staff to utilize the e-blast, scripts and other materials properly within the sales process for maximum results. But managers must verify sales teams are trained and can deliver a consultative sales process, because selling beyond price means personnel who believe in the program and can sell value. This consultative approach is essential. This may drive changes within a dealership’s sales team structure by having an MPS subject matter expert support your other sales personnel or a much-needed relaunch for the entire team.
Consider how to get the sales team actively engaged and even incentivize them to identify case study clients to drive MPS program marketing. Sales managers should utilize sales meetings for role plays, best practices for calls on key decision makers, and training on new vertically driven marketing. Consider investing in additional and ongoing training to connect the marketing to sales more.
Finally, if dealers are not sure where to focus first, consider conducting a GAP analysis of the MPS program sales and operations, and then marketing, to align the messages with key program goals. This will help drive focus and the implementation plan.
This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of The Imaging Channel.