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Lexmark places renewed focus on the channel.

PrintIT Reseller spoke to Thomas Valjak, EMEA Channel VP at Lexmark about the launch of the company’s new worldwide channel programme and how Lexmark is looking to work more closely with its resellers and partners in 2020

Since joining Lexmark, Valjak has been focussed on implementing new channel strategies and working to help its resellers and partners find a way to differentiate themselves and their services from competition. This work has culminated in the launch of a new worldwide channel programme – Lexmark Connect.

The new programme has been 12 months in planning and has been developed after close collaboration with channel partners worldwide. The programme is underpinned by three pillars – the first is about enabling partners to deliver secure, reliable and sustainable devices. “This product-centric pillar is really supported by the careful design, development and manufacturing of devices that provide enterprise-class security across the entire portfolio from the smallest printer to the largest device, which is a benefit for partners and also for end customers,” Valjak explained. “Reliability is another important factor that comes into play here. Lexmark designs devices that last for years to come. This also translates to sustainability and reduced environmental impact. Lexmark works to ensure its devices are in use for as long as possible, consumables and other replacement parts are manufactured using recycled materials, and we also operate a recycling programme for toner cartridges,” he added.

Helping partners to differentiate
The second pillar is built on the premise that Lexmark is committed to offering a range of solutions and approaches that can help partners, dependent on their capabilities, to differentiate. Examples include MPS Core, an evolution of its legacy MPS Express programme and Lexmark Industry Advantage, a recent offering that equips Lexmark partners with the vertical industry expertise needed to better serve their customers and grow their business. Lexmark is an established provider to some of the world’s largest organisations in industries including government, education, healthcare, financial services, manufacturing and retail. The Lexmark Industry Advantage programme is designed to share that valuable knowledge with partners.

“Lexmark has more than a million devices that are directly managed globally. We utilise cloud-based software technologies to manage remote usage monitoring, pre-emptive service, etc. We can make that available to channel partners, as well as all of the insight we have gained from historic customer engagement across sectors such as financial services, healthcare, logistics and others,” Valjak said.

The third pillar is helping partners to drive growth. “Despite analysts stating that the market is shrinking in terms of unit growth, Lexmark is bucking the trend. In 2019, in most markets, Lexmark enjoyed strong positive growth in terms of unit placements and we want to help our channel partners to capitalise on that growth opportunity,” he added.

Sales programmes
Valjak acknowledges that equipping partners with the right skills, knowledge about solutions, products and training is relatively standard across the industry. “All of that is still needed, however, what we are doing in addition is to put sales programmes in place to manage the channel in a more structured way,” he explained.

This new initiative will extend across enterprise, large accounts and SMB business. “We are putting structures in place to make it much easier for partners to engage with us across all of the three pillars mentioned above, that is the driving force behind the new partner programme,” Valjak added.

Last year, Lexmark launched the GO Line series, designed for small and medium-sized businesses, the range delivers enterprise-level durability, reliability, security and features in a smaller, lighter, lower cost device.

“Over the last three quarters, we have looked carefully at customers’ buying behaviour and specifically where SMB customers make their purchases,” said Valjak. Lexmark printers continue to be for business use and across EMEA, devices are procured through IT resellers, retail outlets and e-tailers.

“We are now launching a volume channel programme, specific to GO Line to extend our reach into these channels. We will be investing to support the channel to secure strong margin, as well as in providing marketing development funds to help them drive awareness and create demand with the Lexmark offering,” he added.

MPS Core
The introduction of MPS Core is a key component of Lexmark’s renewed channel focus. The legacy solution has been fine tuned to make it easier to deploy and thus enable broader adoption by channel partners.

“The programme is aimed at SMB customers, specifically mid-size to large SMB customers with print fleets of anything between around 50 to 200 devices,” Valjak said, adding: “The partner owns the end customer relationship, while Lexmark can provide the infrastructure to remotely manage the fleet, leveraging the same technology we use to manage print fleets for direct MPS customers globally.”

MPS Core will, according to Valjak provide an opportunity for a new breed of reseller to partner with Lexmark. “MPS Core will be attractive to IT resellers for example who don’t have the same capabilities that dedicated print dealers have. By providing them with the ability to manage printer fleets, avoid downtime through proactive maintenance, removing the requirement to send engineers out for a minor issue such as a paper tray that wasn’t closed properly, to manage consumables replenishment etc. that’s what we mean when we say we can help partners to differentiate. They can offer MPS without having to invest in developing the technical and service capabilities themselves.”

He continued: “We believed that this will be a very interesting offer for many IT resellers. It’s a very straightforward programme, it is very easy to use the tools for managing the print fleet, and it is based on an extremely reliable infrastructure, as it is the exact same thing that Lexmark is using globally.”

Specific to the EMEA market and to ensure compliance with GDPR, Lexmark has put in place an infrastructure that ensures that data for Europe is hosted in Europe.

2020 and beyond
Continued business growth is naturally a key objective for Lexmark in 2020 and beyond, and the company has its sights firmly set on the channel to drive this growth.

In addition to launching the new Lexmark Connect channel programme, it has also updated its successful Business Solutions Dealer programme, which helps channel partners provide solutionsfocused offerings for their customers via fully managed print services and workflow-enhancing solutions, software and dedicated support.

“I have engaged with many of our channel partners over the past year and the evolution of both the BSD programme and launch of Lexmark Connect have both been driven in response to their feedback,” Valjak explained. “This coming year, I’m looking forward to continuing those conversations to see what else we can do to further optimise these, because the needs of the channel are ever evolving.”

The distribution channel has also fallen under Valjak’s scrutiny. Following meetings with all of its distribution partners, Lexmark is also focused on making it easier for this channel to work with Lexmark and to respond to some to some of the topics that were set forward.

“This is a first step,” Valjak said, adding: “I am not saying that we have already solved all of the topics brought to our attention. It’s the beginning of a journey. We are increasing our investment into the distribution channel, specifically around creating awareness. Lexmark has a great portfolio with very competitive features, but we need to really step up and raise awareness for that. We are now starting to structurally invest marketing development funds with our distributors to support that goal. We have also put a bonus structure for distributors in place as well as incentives that will see distributors benefit from helping us to engage with more IT resellers.”

In closing, Valjak said that Lexmark has a great opportunity to significantly extend its market share. “Our goal is to continue building share, we are looking to achieve double-digit growth but in a sound way, and the channel will play a key role in us realising our goal.”

Lexmark Connect: in brief

Lexmark Connect provides all types of partners access to innovative imaging solutions and technologies, as well as tools, resources and benefits that help them win more business opportunities and improve their bottom line.

Lexmark Connect provides partners unique insight and custom solutions, from training and education to beyond-the-box capabilities that can help partners to further differentiate their offering.

Key benefits and enhancements to the channel programs for 2020 include:

*More customised business model tracks, so partners’ experience is tailored to their specific needs and objectives.

*A tiered program structure that allows resellers to gain as they grow.

*New training and education opportunities to build knowledge and expertise.

*Sales support and rewarding programs and promotions to strengthen sales efforts.

*Convenient, one-stop access to PartnerNet, the Lexmark partner portal.

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