Dealers in the production print market will tell you that it’s very different from selling copiers and printers. One of the reasons is that the customer is different with needs and expectations that are unique to production print. That holds true even if a dealer is selling production print into a company where it already has a copier account.
Production print customers generally fall into one of two categories: in-plant print shops or print-for-pay (P4P) operations–in other words, commercial printers. (See ENX’s February feature article, “Production Print Growth Drivers: Why Some Dealers Are Cashing In,” for more information on in-plant vs. P4P.)
Most of the opportunity for dealers is selling small- to mid-range production systems to the in plant market. P4P customers buy smaller units, too, but they also buy more high-volume inkjet systems, usually through the OEM direct sales organization. “The P4P market always had a reputation for being low margin and very time consuming from the service side,” said Hunter McCarty, COO at RJ Young, a Canon and Ricoh dealer. Other dealers report that print service bureaus sometimes have trouble getting equipment financing. Nonetheless, all the dealers we spoke with have sold digital production systems to P4P providers.
RJ Young saw the opportunity to grow its business with production print, but understood the challenges on the customer side. “Today in our industry you’ve got to grow by getting additional product, moving upstream, or getting more territory,” said McCarty. “For us, [production print] is a natural transition. We just take on the rest of the product line and move up. We did so willingly and knowingly that we were going to have to learn a lot of things that we didn’t know. It’s a new clientele.”
“About 30 to 40 of the existing customer base were people who could have been prospects,” said McCarty. “So 60 to 70 percent were clients that we had never been able to tap into. Most of what we did [with production print] initially was net new.” Some of that new business resulted in additional sales of copiers, sometimes with P4P vendors who needed devices for walk-up copy services.
John Fulena, vice president of Ricoh’s Production Print Business Group, said that Ricoh’s total production print sales are split about 50/50 between P4P and in plant, but sales through the dealer channel are skewed toward in plant. “Dealers have long-standing relationships in many corporations, which helps them. They may have the fleet business for copiers or printers, and adding the production equipment is a good incremental place to find volumes and machine placements,” he said.
Dealers and OEMs report that production print sales are strong with both existing and new customers. The latter is more highly valued, however. Lucia Perez, marketing manager, in-plant for Xerox Corporation, said that while Xerox’s channel partners have success with existing customers, “The focus is to grow revenue and drive new business by selling to new customers.”
Whether in-plant or P4P, the decision makers for buying production print systems are under pressure to ensure that whatever they purchase delivers minimal down-time and low operating costs. In both cases, they are serving their own customers, whether it’s an in-house department or an outside paying client. Focusing on helping in-plant or P4P client deliver on their customers’ needs is key to making the sale.