With the conclusion of an utterly-exhausting 2017 calendar year that followed an equally game-changing 2016, Lexmark took an hour to compose itself and provide a BSD channel perspective update via webinar for journalists and analysts on Dec. 11.
In terms of breaking news, Lexmark was simply spent. After all, the manufacturer had been quite active the previous 18 months, ushering in new ownership (Apex Technology), a new president and CEO (Rich Geruson) and the sale of its Enterprise Software business (to Thoma Bravo). Check out the January issue of ENX Magazine for a one-on-one with Greg Chavers, vice president, North America Channel Sales, which details all of the company’s headline-grabbing exploits.
The webinar briefing was spearheaded by Phil Boatman, manager alliances, North American Business Dealer Channel, with presentations by Clark Bugg, director of the North American Business Dealer Channel, and Cassandra Johnson, manager of partner development, North American Business Channels. Chavers dropped in remotely toward the end of the presentation to handle the Q&A session.
Focusing on Strengths
The sale of the Enterprise Software division underscores Lexmark’s commitment to focusing on its core competencies in areas where it feels it has demonstrated industry leadership, namely the A4 space, full spectrum security and MPS, the latter count bolstered by its focus on analytics and predictive maintenance.
“We have the best A4 platform in the industry, bar none, and our strategy is designed to help our dealers succeed despite some of the headwinds out there in terms of declining pages and declining sales of A3 devices,” Boatman offered. “We want to help our dealers exploit some of the fastest-growing segments.”
Although Lexmark sold its Enterprise Software division, the manufacturer still maintains a focus in this area by leveraging partnerships with providers such as ACDI, Y Soft, Nuance and Ringdale, among others, to “integrate our technology at the edge of customer environments. This allows Lexmark to be really more dynamic in the channel,” Boatman said.
Boatman also pointed to an assortment of awards garnered by Lexmark in 2017, highlighted by four Buyers Laboratory wins (two PaceSetter awards, color printer/MFP line of the year and an editor’s pick), a Frank Award (its fifth) by the Cannata Report, its designation as a Military Friendly company and a Corporate Equality Index award for workplace equality.
Bugg noted that Lexmark celebrated the tenth anniversary of its BSD program by continuing to invest in its partner relationships. This was evidenced by Lexmark’s investment in 16 sporting events, which drew 75 partners and more than 250 participants. He believes it has provided a salutary impact on sales, with a year-to-date unit increase of 16 percent and a 14 percent rise for color machines.
“The goal we have in our organization is to ensure we are the highest-growth OEM for our dealers,” he remarked. “We want to be that growth partner for dealers; we’re rolling up our sleeves and working alongside them to find creative ways to win new business together. We know it doesn’t make sense for dealers to just look for share shift…true growth is the goal we have for our entire team.”
Bugg credits much of Lexmark’s success to the valuable input it receives from its advisory board. This provides guidance and insight as to potential dealer growth areas with Lexmark, along with feedback as to how the OEM can improve its approach. A customer survey question on growth opportunities indicated that the top three driving forces centered on MPS, software solutions and A4 product offerings, which Lexmark feels it is well positioned to address.
Technology leadership is another quality in which Lexmark feels it takes a leadership role. “By owning our A4 technology, we’re able to work hand-in-hand with our dealers to address those mission-critical areas within key vertical markets and really be a consultant to them and help grow new business,” Bugg added. “To that end, we’re offering boot camps to some of our top dealers, both here in Lexington and also in the field within our dealers. This gives them the chance to sit down with our key stakeholders, both within the BSD program as well as our industry consultants who spend their time in the field at the end-user level. Our dealer reps can come in and learn directly from consultants about new ways we can grow new business in the field together.”
On the Road Again
Lexmark has a tentatively scheduled another series of roadshows for this year that will likely be held in concert with future product releases. The common theme is to bring a collaborative approach to the challenges and changes to dealer business that will help position those customers for more wins.
Johnson wrapped up the presentation with a look at the importance of Lexmark Fleet Intelligence (LFI). Launched in 2017, LFI is a fleet assessment tool that enables dealer partners to present customized data-based proposals to their customers in an effort to optimize printing fleets and improve return on investment.
“The key to successful MPS engagement is going to begin with a really good assessment,” she said. “Many of our partners have strong assessment processes in place, and while most would probably say that while they’re very good at it, an assessment is time-consuming. What LFI does is offload a lot of the burden from our dealers and enable them to leverage Lexmark’s back-end infrastructure, processes and decades of performing thousands of assessments. This allows them to work more closely with their customers and not miss out on opportunities because they didn’t have the bandwidth to perform the number crunching, presentation building and data analysis.
“When you look at the many offerings that can really help meet some of the needs voiced in our dealer survey—where MPS was a clear focus—LFI will help them to leverage Lexmark’s expertise and win more opportunities.”
In short, Lexmark seeks to take advantage of its close relationships with the dealer channel to bring to market technologies that fall within the OEM’s wheelhouse. As to new product announcements, stay tuned for more information throughout the year.