Diversification Destinations: Technology Providers Offer Glimpse into Getting Started

OK, so we’ve identified three diversification outlets for dealers to consider, and you’ve probably read the main article detailing your fellow resellers and their journeys into offering mailing equipment, EV chargers and unified communications. But why stop there? The team at ENX Magazine can do a little more to pique your curiosity.

What follows is a breakdown of five leading providers to the dealer space, covering all three disciplines. We would’ve liked to add a second EV charger provider, but there’s only one household name currently addressing it at the office technology dealer level, and that’s ACDI Energy Services. We’re providing dealers who may be looking to diversify their 2024 product catalogs with a little insight into each provider, the considerations to keep in account for this offering and the extent/nature of reseller support provided by our panelists.

ACDI Energy Services
Electric vehicle (EV) chargers
Josh Lane,
President and CEO

Resist the urge to call ACDI the “PaperCut people” even though their name is often connected with the ubiquitous print management solution. There’s no pigeonholing this company, and over the past 24-30 months, it’s been carving out a niche with EV charging stations and associated components. The journey was all about finding a way to extend dealer partner value beyond the print/fleet/document management tools, according to Lane. ACDI has signed up a number of prominent dealers since the beginning of 2022.

Josh Lane, ACDI

As diversifications go, EV chargers, software, et al., have numerous elements in their favor. For one, there’s the market potential and the untapped nature of it. Experts have predicted that by 2030, electric vehicles will represent 40% of all new vehicle sales. Is there currently a corresponding number of EV charging stations to match that capacity need? Not by a longshot. Secondly, as upfront investments go, EV chargers/accessories pale in comparison to cybersecurity and managed services.

Lane approached, by design, a select core of major dealers with the proposition. This allowed dealer and provider to learn on the go, and from ACDI’s point of view, it enabled the company to better mesh the selling aspect of the hardware and software with the installation component. The approach Lane takes to the offering is unlike anything else in the ACDI stable.

It all begins with a commitment to innovation, followed by intensive training and ongoing sales support as well as technical training and support. ACDI asks each of its dealers to identify an internal “champion” who will quarterback the cause and motivate the dealer team. Add in marketing materials and special project guidance, and it equals a path forward into an offering that’s largely foreign to the dealer space.

“There’s quite a bit we package into the onboarding process,” Lane notes. “It’s pretty intensive early on because it’s so new and easy to generate momentum, awareness and activity.”

ACDI can enable a dealer to sell EV chargers almost on day one, but in order for them to be truly self-sufficient and rely on ACDI for tier two or tier three support, it’s generally a 30-60 day process. There are three manufacturers in ACDI’s catalog for dealers to choose from, two of which include the opportunity to sell residential charging stations—an awareness play that could be a gateway to large companies.

Given the anticipated capacity needs, Lane is bullish on the possibility of placements in the parking lots of health care, education, retail environments, event stadiums and multi-family properties (condos). These are the cream of the early adopter crop, and a majority of them have established sustainability initiatives. And the interest isn’t relegated to major metropolitan cities; the more rural geographies will have the need for an EV charging infrastructure.

“Over time, these stations will evolve from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘need to have’ as amenities for employees, customers, students and faculty,” Lane said. “It’s growing and changing, and our teams are constantly receiving information from different entities, electric companies, co-ops and so forth that may help drive sales in the regions that our resellers are playing.”

EV chargers also check off the recurring revenue box, and like its new neighbor, the MFP, offer refresh/renewal potential, acquisition potential and the service component. There are creative financing opportunities available—late last year, GreatAmerica Financial Services announced an EV program with a fixed monthly payment for end-users. Lane and ACDI will work closely with dealers to help them build a portfolio and brand around EV.

FP Mailing Solutions
Postal/mailing equipment
Michael Hannon,
Managing Director for North America

One of the beauties of doing business with Francotyp-Postalia is that there’s no guesswork when deciding whether its line of postage meters and other equipment (folders inserters, etc.) that serves the mailing community is a good fit for a given dealer, courtesy of the mailing quota index. This tells the manufacturer how many mailing machines are located in a ZIP code, which provides the dealers insight into what their markets can bear and whether it will provide a legitimate ROI. It also insulates FP Mailing from oversaturating a market with excessive resellers.

Michael Hannon,
FP Mailing Solutions

Another feather in the OEMs’ cap is that the dealer network represents a lion’s share of the brand’s resellers. It will work with newly signed dealer partners to develop a business strategy and go-to-market approach, according to Hannon, and determine how much knowledge the reseller has with mailing equipment to craft a proper training regimen.

“On the postage meter side, we have to do some training from a technical and service standpoint; there’s the compliance area, because postage meters are considered currency printers,” Hannon offered. “If dealers have a stock of meters in their warehouse, they have to account for it. The initial training can get them to a point where they’re running comfortably. Mailing equipment tends to run well—it’s a straight path for an envelope. So there’s not a whole lot the dealer needs to do from a service standpoint.”

The folder inserters can be a bit more complicated from the service end, but for 80% of the FP Mailing equipment, the manufacturer can get dealers up to speed training-wise in about a week. This includes administrative training for the dealer’s staff, during which FP’s dealer support team walks admin through the use of the customer portal—order entry, install base info, invoicing and payments, calculating commissions, etc. FP Mailing can host classes or travel to the dealer if there’s a large class or demo equipment involved.

FP Mailing is always a call away with subject matter experts. While dealers can manage the vast majority of technical issues, the OEM’s regional assistance teams come in handy with questions about specific rates and presorting. With other mailing products the dealer may not be comfortable addressing, FP can provide installation and customer training (alongside the dealers, if they wish).

Still, even with some more esoteric equipment, Hannon estimates that 80% of dealers sell the full FP Mailing catalog. “A lot of dealers are pushing their reps to be more solutions oriented—they want to get as many products into the end-user as possible to be that full-service shop,” he said. “Some will stick to just the meters and folder inserters, but eventually most will come around to selling it all. They kind of have to.”

Other considerations dealers weigh include whether a dedicated or regular MFP rep is needed (it works both ways, so it largely depends on the dealer’s setup). As Hannon works with dealers on a business plan, it’s vital to ensure mailing suits their processes rather than forcing changes. The compensation structure for mailing gear is similar to printers, while the up-front investment is comparatively minor; Hannon called it a “small opening order.”

“If a dealer has a solid installed base and they’ve never sold mailing equipment, their techs still have visibility into what equipment clients have,” Hannon said. “That provides the groundwork for dealers to get accustomed to selling to existing customers. But also, a lot of dealers use mailing equipment to get in the [prospect’s] door because it’s a differentiator, and it’s a smaller ticket item. So it works for existing and net-new clients.”

Paitec USA
Pressure seal machines
Art Waganheim,
Vice President of Operations and CFO

In the world of mailing equipment, it doesn’t get more niche than pressure seal machines. These units can operate as a stand-alone or inline with printers to produce single-page self-mailers such as checks and tax statements by payroll companies, government agencies, universities and private enterprises. The models offered by Paitec utilize dry cohesive glue technology and are ideal for low-volume mailing jobs. A second variety, not offered by Paitec, is the spray glue (dots) employed most by advertising mailers.

Art Waganheim,
Paitec USA

Paitec has a trio of reseller personas, so to speak: dealers that specialize in business forms and related items, but don’t service the machines; office dealers that service what they sell; and internet dealers that also lack the service component. The first and third flavors of dealers rely on Paitec’s national network of dealers and third-party service agents.

One of the biggest selling points is the simplicity of the machines in both design and maintenance, according to Waganheim. The operating components consist of pulleys, gears, rollers and belts, so any dealer tech who has worked on an MFP, postage meters or folder inserters can be trained on the pressure sealers.

“We have video training for dealers so their techs can be familiar with how our machines look with the covers off,” Waganheim explained. “For others, we can talk to them by phone, or they can read our service manual and parts list, and they’re good to go.”

While the mechanics aren’t that sophisticated, Waganheim finds the biggest challenge is teaching dealers the concept of pressure seal technology. Most dealers are familiar with the folder inserter machines, so they need to understand how to qualify (and quantify) a prospect. Dealers have tripped over somewhat obvious volume minimums; a machine that can handle 10,000 forms a month isn’t going to crank out that many in a day, particularly when its feed table holds just 50 forms at a time. Also, a payroll company with multiple clients will have great volatility in its batch counts—50, 75, 300—whereas a university may have just one batch of 5,000. Paitec has nine unit SKUs to choose from.

With a low initial investment, simplified servicing and a wide vertical opportunity, single-page mailers are more economical than their multi-part brethren and represent an easy sell to clients who mail. “The only things dealers really need to consider are who’s backing the equipment and how supportive they can be. My business partner Peter [Nguyen] and I were equipment dealers for 20 years before we started this company. We know what a good dealer needs from a good vendor. And we’ve worked hard to exceed what we expected from our own vendors back in the day. Our dealers tell us that we’re responsive and easy to work with.”

Unified communications
Noel O’Dwyer,
Manager, Strategic Alliances

If one were to poise EV chargers against unified communications and ask which one offers the best diversification opportunity, the answer isn’t as simple as you may think. We haven’t begun to see the heights to which EV chargers will scale, and judging by all available studies, demand will be greatly outpacing supply. On the other hand, every business uses a phone system, so that market is as close to 100% penetration as one can get. How much business can one glean just by flipping clients from one system to another (the musical chairs game that is the consumer market notwithstanding)?

Noel O’Dwyer,

Not so fast, says O’Dwyer. Unified communications (UCaaS) is a massively growing market driven by two factors: the ongoing transition to the cloud and the hybrid workforce. It’s fun that we speak of phones when the focus is on software and services as opposed to the actual handsets and bases. But what are we really talking about? For Intermedia, it’s all about UCaaS—voice, video, contact center, chat, secure file sharing—and gaining a slice of the $79 billion market growing at an annual clip of about 30%. O’Dwyer feels this is a massive opportunity for office equipment dealers.

When it comes to UCaaS, it’s all about embracing the model that’s most lucrative for a dealer’s ROI standards. The agent model is an easy sell that yields a commission, but the client is turned over to the provider (including invoicing and ongoing customer management) and you lose out on top-line revenue. Perhaps more preferable is the full reseller capability that retains both the customer and that revenue. This model closely resembles that of copier dealers.

Intermedia offers each model, and some dealers take advantage of both. “There may be some relatively small customers that need 24/7 support, and you don’t want to deal with them,” O’Dwyer noted. “With others, you may want that full reseller capability. The big challenge for dealers that move into a reseller model is dealing with the complicated taxes.”

That headache has been removed courtesy of Intermedia’s partner portal, where dealers can manage their accounts—quoting, support and invoicing—and Intermedia can also calculate the taxes. The sophisticated portal also provides sales and technical training along with marketing collateral.

Once dealers have signed on to represent Intermedia, they receive a full partner experience that includes training as well as sales and marketing plan development that will enable them to embark on a first engagement in a very short time. Dealers are assigned a sales executive partner and solutions analyst by Intermedia to help with initial customer engagements, follow-ups and demos. White label phone and email support add a nice bow to an offering that’s been recognized by JD Power seven years in a row.

O’Dwyer believes any dealer that has customers with on premises phone systems is an ideal candidate for UCaaS. “If your dealership isn’t talking to them about moving to the cloud, then someone else is,” he said.

Unified communications
Chuck Goodwin,
Sales Engineer

White glove support is the calling card for RingByName: 24/7 dealer support for pre- and post-sales, customer demos, troubleshooting and customer onboarding. One of the best elements of RingByName’s support function is that it can be engaged to whatever degree the dealer partner craves, be it thorough hand-holding or limited interaction.

Chuck Goodwin,

“We have some dealers that want us to just support them and leave their customers alone, and we have others who want us to help their customers directly,” Goodwin noted. “We’re versatile and can abide by whatever the dealer’s comfort level is.”

A new dealer’s time to market when partnering with RingByName is rather brief, and Goodwin credits the company’s developers with making the interface and admin screen as user-friendly as possible. Any aspect of the customer’s instance configuration can be modified or edited within three clicks, and even the most technically challenged will find the interface to be easy sledding.

As far as service delivery goes, there are other considerations to take into account. “The only concern I have is if a business is located in an older building that might have legacy wiring or legacy network gears,” Goodwin added. “In that case, they will need to update the Ethernet wiring, add wireless access points or update the equipment. If not addressed properly, the customer’s experience will be sub-optimal. That will lead to dissatisfied customers and will burn up a lot of support time.”

Fortunately, one aspect that makes RingByName successful in partnering with dealers is because it helps certify that the customer’s network and Internet is capable of supporting VoIP.

Erik Cagle
About the Author
Erik Cagle is the editorial director of ENX Magazine. He is an author, writer and editor who spent 18 years covering the commercial printing industry.