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Is it time to step up a gear?

Quocirca’s Global Print 2025 report reveals that print manufacturers are set to lose their influence on customer relationships in favour of IT service providers that deliver print services as part of a broader offering

The study found that typically, SMBs do not typically look to traditional print channel partners or print vendors as a source of innovative services beyond print. They are more likely to turn to existing IT service providers focused on business outcomes, rather than speeds and feeds.

PrintIT Reseller asks this month’s panel to comment on how they are changing their go-to-market approach to build IT services credibility and reputation

Phil Jones, Managing Director, Brother UK

Phil Jones, MBE, Managing Director, Brother UK
Phil Jones, MBE, Managing Director, Brother UK

“We’re seeing a strong trend towards solutions and services being the primary topic of conversation with SMBs. It’s no longer a question of ‘What do you do?’ but ‘What value can you add?

“In larger SMBs, there’s a movement towards fewer suppliers and strategic partnerships, so it’s key vendors are in the mix here either as a trusted advisor or as a partner to a reseller who is front ending an end to end IT solution. We’ve been re-designing our portfolio for some years and now have over twenty four services, distinct from hardware, which our partners can offer – including estate management and optimisation, PRINCE2 project management and advanced reporting within their wider offer.

“We’ve already been successful in winning major pieces of business – in conjunction with key partners – where Brother fulfils just the print part of a wider IT services agreement being secured.”

James Pittick, Director of B2B indirect

James Pittick
James Pittick

“At Canon, our go-to-market approach is based on end-user preferences as well as staying on top of key trends such as digital transformation and print as a service. To keep up with customer need, we have an increased focus on indirect routes to market, providing continued support to our traditional partners, but also leveraging and expanding relationships with IT resellers, systems integrators and ISVs, to ensure customers have access to our market leading portfolio through an omni-channel approach.

“As the needs and requirements of customers develop, we apply our insights to provide practical tools to help partners develop their businesses for the future. Canon has been supporting print channel partners in the ‘shift to add services’ for many years now and our transformation programme offers partners business planning, pre-sales support and demand generation advice.

“The SMB market is an area with huge growth potential and we will continue to support partners, so they can evolve their offerings to meet customer demand in a fast moving marketplace. Print partners should not only be about ‘speeds and feeds’ they can use their expertise to support customers through various IT challenges and pitfalls.”

Lars Hargaard, Marketing Director, OKI Europe (UK & Ireland)

Lars Hargaard
Lars Hargaard

“OKI has been evolving over the past five years or so, putting a greater focus on document management and supporting its reseller partners in their move to a more consultative business model rather maintaining a product-centric approach.

“Because of this emphasis on document management and smart computers, we have been moving away from ‘speeds and feeds’ selling for a good while now, encouraging channel partners to align their sales to a prospect’s business goals.

“We have recently brought together our entire EMEA sales operation under the one umbrella, strengthening and simplifying our structure to help continue this evolution, believing that will enable the agility and the closer relationships with the channel that the digital future will demand.

“Having said this, some of our channel partners report they are winning business from IT consultants who don’t have the knowledge of printers or their support, so I think there is an opportunity here to work in partnership to devise a total – rather than – piecemeal solution.”

Jeremy Spencer, Marketing Director, Toshiba TEC

Jeremy Spencer
Jeremy Spencer

“The market continues to be challenging with the need to deliver a compelling and competitive customer experience is paramount.

“Research undertaken by Keypoint Intelligence last year found that the top business priorities are document security, digital transformation, mobile solutions and enhancing green credentials, and importantly the study identified solutions and services as key to growth.

“SMBs provide the largest opportunity, yet, the user group is behind enterprises in the digital transformation path. The good news is that suppliers can learn from adoption processes around digital transformation within enterprises and adapt these for SMBs.

“Optional print will sustain print volume for a few years to come, revenue streams are shifting rapidly to electronic forms and as an industry we all need to be ready, if we aren’t having the conversations with SMBs around IT services and solutions, then we should!

“Offerings can easily be adjusted for all customers and at Toshiba and we’re working with our dealer channel to support them in serving the SMB market, delivering appropriate solutions and services.”

Nigel Allen, Marketing Director, KYOCERA Document Solutions UK

Nigel Allen
Nigel Allen

“Quocirca’s findings aren’t particularly surprising, and mirror what we’ve been hearing from discussions with partners and customers.

“Innovation and print don’t tend to be mentioned in the same sentence, and that’s a pretty damning indictment of the industry over the years. Innovation has, in reality, been a driving force in the shift away from print towards document management and, more recently, towards digitisation of the workplace. KYOCERA has a history of innovation in ceramics stretching back almost 60 years and our competitors boast innovations of their own, so the idea that we’re unable to solve today’s business problems is just not true.

“We’ve been changing our business over the past few years to counter this perception that our industry is all about speeds and feeds. Our acquisition of Annodata last year gives us the platform to extend our reach beyond managed print to IT services. But to capitalise on the potential this gives us, we’ve also needed to change our mindset to move away from talking about specific solutions and find our relevance within the bigger picture by asking what SMBs are trying to achieve. Whether it’s mobility, digitisation or enhanced security we’re innovating, either internally or alongside partners, to ensure that KYOCERA can help SMBs to achieve this.

“We strongly believe that this approach, alongside our long established heritage of innovation, quality and sustainability are helping to build credibility and reputation as a provider of IT services.”

Chas Moloney, Marketing Director, Ricoh UK & Ireland

Chas Moloney
Chas Moloney

“In order for SMBs to thrive in today’s marketplace, they must be agile and flexible. The smallest change to their workforce or technology will have a large impact on their bottom line. SMB business leaders recognise this and want a partner that is able to advise on what technology they should invest in and how to enable their employees to work faster and smarter, thus making their business more agile.

“At Ricoh, we’re thinking far beyond managed print services and embracing technological innovation to deliver enhanced value for our clients and customers. As a business, we’ve become more services-led and diversifed into complementary areas to better support people in the workplace.

“We’re now in a position to support and advise businesses of all sizes in transforming their workplaces into a digital environment that supports collaboration and knowledge-sharing to enhance productivity and creativity. This includes optimising business processes, from how information is stored and managed, through to what IT infrastructure a business has in place.”

John Hawes, Director, NCS Group

Southern Director John Hawes
Southern Director John Hawes

“I think that it depends on the type of channel partner/vendor you are and how you have evolved. We started life as a traditional photocopier dealer concentrating on the feeds and speeds, but recognised a while ago that with convergence in the print market between printers and MFDs there was a change occurring in the market place from supplying a single source product-based solution to a wider base complete solution supplier to included unified communications, mobile and IT services.

“In terms of customers and who they turn to for other solutions, our experience is that customers who have a trusted partnership with their supplier are more likely to turn to them for other additional parallel services or solutions rather than make the decision based on the exact service you supply. The feedback from our customers is that IT suppliers more often than not are viewed as service brokers rather than solution providers as the majority of services they supply are outsourced with no real ownership of any issues or service levels.”

Kevin Thomas, Group Sales Director, Pinnacle Complete Office Solutions

Kevin Thomas
Kevin Thomas

“As a result of the meteoric rise of electronic documents, we have developed a value proposition that incorporates both workflow automation and app development.

We have these capabilities in-house and customers are now starting to regard us as trusted advisors in these areas. In addition we have also developed a D-a-a-S proposition (Device as a Service) which enables us to utilise our IT hardware skills and continue to develop our capabilities as an IT services provider.

“Customers already value our technical know-how when it comes to electronic documents. It’s a small step to extend that expertise to mobile devices and solutions with a flexible subscription-based payment model.”

Mark Smyth, Chief Operating Officer, Vision

Mark Smyth
Mark Smyth

“Vision has been delivering a form of IT Services for some years as part of and in addition to its core offering of Managed Printing and Managed Document Services, and this is more prevalent where we have a trusted client partnership.

“We are seeing clients with a strong desire to move towards a streamlined supplier model and preferred partner model and it’s all about building client trust, backed up with the capabilities to deliver and competitiveness. Once you demonstrate these key components as part of the trust model, clients willingly engage with and rely on our wider services offering and these extend to some hardware, software solutions and cloud based services and audio visual.

“Another valuable lesson learned, is knowing when to say no, and that’s about setting some clear boundaries around what you can and cannot deliver and having the right vendors and supply chain where you may be relying on their support services. Get this wrong and it can potentially create risk with your client partnership and also commercial risks too!”

David Lees, CSR & Marketing Director, ABS

“Over the last four years, ABS has embarked on a three-pronged go-to-market approach:

The acquisition of IT support providers and print/document solution providers;

The internal growth of print/document solutions as portfolio products;

The gradual expansion of the ABS solution portfolio into, for example, GDPR (security and document storage for example) in response to customer need.

“Over the next 12 months you will see an acceleration of the acquisition programme and continued expansion of our portfolio to meet the needs of our customers and SMBs who look for total solution providers.”

Toni Gibiino, Marketing Director, ABC Managed Business Solutions

Toni Gibiino
Toni Gibiino

“We fully concur with the findings of Quocirca’s report. The study is absolutely accurate in terms of the SME mindset. Today, pure copier resellers don’t have the integrity with the business, it’s a legacy issue in many instances.

“At ABC, we have long recognised changing buyers’ requirements and as a result have completely changed our go to market approach to address this. We know that tech people want to speak to tech people – not sales people that have a single focus. It’s more than simply shifting towards a consultative-led sales approach – moving away from talking feeds and speeds and the headline cost – it’s about talking the IT managers’ language, understanding their business problems and having the ability to propose and deliver a solution that ticks all of their boxes.

“We have up-skilled and augmented our team, employing specialists in different markets ensuring we have the skill set to deliver solutions that meet customers’ needs today and tomorrow.

“When we engage with prospects – we don’t talk print. As a managed service provider we believe our role is to deliver solutions that address all of our clients’ technology needs – providing them with a value-add, one-stop service and, choice.

“We have completely refreshed our offer, adding to our traditional portfolio of printing devices and associated software solutions. We recently launched ABC Connect, a new suite of IT services packages designed to enable businesses to enhance their printer, MFD and copier functionality beyond the click and copy function. This unique offer gives clients the value-add they need and want, and it’s all packaged in a transparent way.

“And, ABC is just about to acquire an IT service company bringing the skills/knowledge and process in house. This will heighten our ability to go to market and intelligently speak to prospects and clients about their requirements beyond the box.”

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