PrintIT Reseller caught up with UTAX (UK) MD Shaun Wilkinson at the opening of its new Technology Suite at One Olympic Way, Wembley, London. The new showroom, modelled on existing facilities in Swindon and Manchester, has been established to help the company’s dealers in London and the South-East attract new business.
PITR: This is an interesting development. Is it something that your dealers have been asking for?
Shaun Wilkinson (SW): “We’ve actually been looking for a suitable location for about two years, partly because existing dealers have requested it, but also because it will help us to attract newer partners, particularly in North London.
“With managed print services, people want to come and have a look at the solutions and see what they are getting. Whereas fie years ago, a machine was a machine – ‘There’s a brochure. How many do you want?’ – today, you have to have a technology suite; you have to be able to sit people down and go through exactly what it is they are trying to achieve with their business and demonstrate how your software is going to help them do that.
“And we are trying to establish a local presence. We have had something in Manchester for about four years, which has worked really well. That gets used about 60% of the time. It’s important we get out to where the customers are. London will be a big focus for us over the next few years.”
PITR: Do you have plans to open any other technology suites?
SW: “Not yet. It would be nice to do something in Birmingham in a few years’ time when we’ve got this one bedded in. Birmingham is the next logical step, because it’s slap bang in the middle of the country.”
PITR: Do dealers have to pay to use the facility?
SW: “No, it’s free. All they need to do is let us know if they want to use it through our booking portal or by phoning up. The keys are left here; they come in, use it and that’s it. We make it nice and easy, because the easier we make it, the more they’ll use it.”
PITR: Is it manned?
SW: “No. The way it works in Manchester is they tell us when they have a customer coming in and we make sure we have one of our solutions guys there to do the demonstration. Or, if they’ve got their own solutions people, they can bring them along.”
PITR: So, you will be showing machines and software…
SW: “Yes, it’s all here. We’re calling it a showroom, but it’s really a technology suite. An MFP is an MFP – it’s a box that prints and scans. What people really want to see is how the software is going to interact with their existing systems. That’s normally the first stage. Negotiations may have taken place; then they come in to get hands on. After that, you may go to proof of concept mode and put some software in for a month to see how it works. That’s normally the precursor to signing a deal.”
PITR: You said that you were weak in North London…
SW: “We’ve had a lot of success in London and we’ve got some good dealers in North London. But to help strengthen their presence we felt this was needed. Dealers tell us that because they can piggy-back on our direct service and solutions team, they are now talking to bigger customers and going after bigger deals with more professional purchasing practices. They want to see exactly what they are getting, and this centre gives them that comfort factor.”
PITR: How many dealers make use of your direct services and solutions team?
SW: “Most of our partners use our direct services in some way, shape or form, because it allows them to do deals all over the country, which they couldn’t do before. You may have the scenario where a dealer in Scotland does all his own
servicing locally, but we look after everything in this neck of the woods. At the other end of the scale, we have dealers who use our direct servicing for everything. They see it as a USP, because when they go and see a customer they explain that the servicing is done by the manufacturer. With a lot of big dealers, engineers need to service machines from five manufacturers. They can’t be specialists, because there’s too much to learn, whereas our guys have all the parts on board, so the first time fi is quick. It works very well.”
PITR: Are you aiming to recruit more dealers?
SW: “We are, but we are also getting more involved with the IT channel and the stationery channel. Over the last couple of years these guys have started to get into managed print, but they have done so by partnering with dealers and losing the customer. Effectively, they are handing the customer over. They get a profit share, but there’s no on-going benefit. We have a different approach. If you are an IT VAR and your customer says ‘You are doing a great job looking after our IT. Do you want to extend it to print devices?’, instead of handing that customer over and risking the relationship, use us as a contracted partner. We can go in and do it all for you; we handle the billing and everything else, but you retain the customer. That’s really, really important.”
PITR: Is there any upper limit to the number of resellers you would take on?
SW: “No, but we want the right type of partner. We want partners that share our business ethos, that share the way we want to go to market. We don’t want to have hundreds and hundreds of dealers flooding the market. We want good selected partners that we can work with and where we can add value to their business and they can add value to ours.”
PITR: Did you have a good 2015?
SW: “Our financial year finishes at the end of March. We are currently on track to get double-digit growth again, for the sixth consecutive year. In key market areas, like A3 colour MFPs, we’ve doubled our market share in the last two years. That’s proof of the quality of the product and the quality of the partners we are attracting. “We’ve got lots of new and exciting products coming out in the next 6-9 months and some really, really exciting stuff coming through in March. A3 colour MFPs is where the market is at right now, but the rest of the market is moving from printers to A4 colour MFPs. What customers want now are finishing options on those machines and solutions to fit in with their managed print, and we will have a full complement within a couple of months.”
PITR: What proportion of your dealers are now active in managed print services?
SW: “Our fastest growing partner is heavily into MPS – and has been for many years. Those that are into MPS are seeing better growth than those that aren’t. Some people still don’t quite get it. It does lengthen the sales cycle and that’s a hurdle we have to help them get over. But the quality of customer you end up with is better.”
PITR: Your double digit growth is happening even as the print market declines. To what do you attribute your success?
SW: “I think it’s because of what we offer as a business. We are not just saying buy some kit from us and this is what it will cost. We are saying let us engage with you in a partnership and help you win business. Our partners are winning bigger and bigger contracts that three or four years ago they probably couldn’t have entertained. Before, they could offer a nationwide service, but they would have to engage other dealers to do it for them, so they would lose an element of
control. We take all that pain away from them – for a fixed cost, so there’s no risk.”
PITR: How is Triumph Adler doing?
SW: “Triumph Adler is doing very well, actually. It’s a small part of our business and our focus is still on dealers and the IT channel, but it’s had some good wins in the last 12 months in the medium to large enterprise segment. We keep channel integrity. We’ve always been very open about the fact that should one of our dealers be in a deal against TA we will backout and support the dealer, and that has happened.”
PITR: Do you expect to achieve double digit growth again in 2016?
SW: “Yes, I see no reason to stop, because we are getting more dealers, more business. We are going into the IT channel, where I believe there is a big gap in the market and where we won’t be treading on traditional dealers’ toes. We are 2.8% of the total UK market, so we’ve got 97.2% to go after.”
PITR: What do you see as some of the big challenges you will face this year?
SW: “As we grow, we have to make sure we do so in a controlled way, which is why we are not opening a showroom in Birmingham yet. You can do too much, too soon and make a mess of things – it’s about making sure we do things properly and don’t take on too much. And, as it always has been, the challenge is to get the message across to dealers that with our help and support we can both grow.”
PITR: Do you have many more software solutions coming out this year?
SW: “Yes, we have a launch event in March for the new hardware, and we will be announcing some new products then. We don’t want to be jack of all trades. We could have 100 different software products, none of which we could support very well. We’d rather have 10 key products we know we can support properly. We’ve also got some unique fiance products coming out including partnerships with a finance company that will enable us to sell on the back of our devices’ tiered billing capability.”
PITR: Was that not possible before?
SW: “No, it’s a first in the market. At the moment, there is no mechanism on a managed print plan to differentiate between Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 colour. You can sell mono prints and colour prints, but you can’t divide the colour prints up. We’ve now got a facility where we can do that. It’s another differentiator that will open up more doors. Tiered billing is a great differentiator anyway, but we couldn’t incorporate it into a leasing document properly – you could put the machine on, but not the service, so you had a half-way house. This completes the loop so that we can now produce a complete managed print document.”