I’m departing from my standard “New to Copier Sales” column to write about something near and dear to my heart – managed print services. I know what you’re thinking: “MPS is near and dear to you? What a nerd.”
Yeah, I get it, but hear me out.
I was part of what I call the second iteration of managed print services (MPS) back in 2006-ish when I was part of a team building an MPS practice inside a value-added reseller (VAR). The principal argument for MPS was to “reduce the costs associated with copy and print.”
Managed print services prevented customers from paying too much for devices, service, and supplies and reduced the number of machines in the field. After decades of over-purchasing copiers, companies were paying much more than they should. Paramount to the MPS process was the assessment and every assessment, if performed honestly, found devices well under recommended usage.
The MPS movement was perceived by some as anti-copier, anti-output volume and thereby, anti-industry. As a practitioner and a champion of “30% cost reduction,” I was a pariah to “peers” and a contrarian to prospects. It was a great time.
As part of a minority movement, we had little control over the definition of managed print. Indeed, prospects, dealers, software houses and OEMs created MPS in their likeness – which is fine – but each version was supported by an agenda and narrative: “sell more devices, toner, and software packages.” Instead of fighting the system, I pronounced the death of managed print services with hopes of a resurrection in the future.
Because I cut my teeth building an MPS practice inside a value-added reseller, I evangelized MPS as the leverage point into the information technology realm. This was back in 2007-ish when copier guys were simple wrench turners, and the machines were big and clumsy, and would sometimes crash networks.
The IT guys hated us.
Today, I’m surprised to hear more dealers engaging managed print services agreements. Didn’t COVID kill MPS once and for all? Isn’t there a team of anti-MPS-ers out here pontificating the evils of managed print and empty promises? “Methinks the lady doth protest too much.”
Truth be told, managed print services is enjoying a bump, maybe a surge – at least in interest if not business.
And why not? Pent-up demand, even slight, is still demand. Dealer consolidation and retirement have thinned the herd of competitors. IT departments are less populated and more interested in supporting the “remote worker” than feeding printers – less competition on both fronts.
So, what now? I say grab every single print you can, right now and pivot into new services with these MPS clients. Key here is PIVOT, and by pivot, I mean establish great relationships through a comprehensive MPS program geared to move into adjacent opportunities.
Let’s look deeper, shall we? Three situational influences make this a good time to look for MPS deals:
- Reduced IT staff
- Work from anywhere
Reduced IT staff
Post-COVID is also the “age of resignation.” You know the stats — Gartner found “only 16% of IT workers between the age of 19 and 29 plan to stay put, versus 48 percent for the 50- to 70-year-old bracket.” Think about your pre-COVID prospects who decided to self-manage the fleet with their in-house IT staff instead of you. Or the leads that decided to go with an outside MSP to handle toner and service calls.
There is a void you can now fill.
The remaining IT staff are now supporting remote workers, which brings a stack of new technologies and support issues. The priorities have changed and shifted away from print and copiers. End users are ordering A4 like crazy right now. They may not be printing that much; indeed, they are not. But this brings more and different opportunities; company portals, pre-configured work from anywhere packages or even work from home as a service.
Couple fewer IT staff with realigned priorities are an opening you can take advantage of now and not tomorrow.
This is old school – use the phone and call up all your non-MPS customers, especially the ones who turned you down. Remember, the IT staff is stressed now to support remote technologies, but managers and end users still need support on output devices.
Reach out to existing copier customers who have printers but never pulled the trigger on MPS. Call prospects who turned you down. Especially those who let their IT department make the decision not to move forward.
Conduct assessments, write agreements and get the remaining clicks. Also, widen your assessments to make note of what happens before and after the device, in general. Don’t get bogged down in details but get a view of how your client is doing business. This comes back to business acumen for selling.
Something new – there are stronger MPS tools today than just 24 months ago. Cloud-based, new assessment tools, and automatic supplies order and e-commerce solutions are everywhere.
Work from anywhere
Aside from the shift in IT support, there is a bounce in A4 sales; it just does not have the accompanying volume. Printers are populating dens, kitchens, and home offices.
Regardless, as corporate America standardizes work from anywhere, home office technology and you should be part of the new norm.
This may sound counterintuitive, but if you are thinking about selling to a larger concern, now is a good time. It doesn’t matter if your volume and revenue have gone down over the past 24 months – everybody has suffered. But you’re still standing.
Investors are looking for a solid customer base, a great managerial team, strong financials, and a plan for the future. If you have an MPS practice, put together a plan to expand into managed services. If you haven’t created an MPS practice, create a business plan around creating a managed services practice with embedded MPS.
Investors want to see a plan that makes sense. You will benefit without making the financial investment or taking on the risk involved when developing a new division.
Do it now
The MPS window is closing.
It may take months or even years before that last printer prints – if ever.
The entire business landscape is shifting. Ours does not move quickly, but the clock is winding down – there is too much pressure on the office and paper-centric processes. It isn’t about cost, convenience, features, speeds, or anything on the specification sheet.
It’s the same old story: provide services your prospects want today and change direction when they do in the future.
Right now, managed print services are in the “twilight of such day” — get it while it lasts.