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Marketing print in a changing world

Mike Anderson, Head of Marketing at Brother UK considers the print IT sector’s evolving approach to marketing strategy as businesses shift from transactional to contractual models

It’s no exaggeration to say that the last decade has been completely transformational for the print IT sector.

The proliferation of managed services and hardware-as-a-service (HaaS) models has given the industry a fantastic opportunity to create added value for end-users. Plus, vendor-reseller partnerships have made excellent ground in the last few years to bring customer relationships under contract, providing a multitude of benefits to IT leads and certainty of revenue to suppliers.

Yet the sector mustn’t rest on its success. Hybrid ways of working are creating new challenges and opportunities for managed print services providers. Meanwhile, there remains a significant opportunity in the large number of businesses that remain on transactional relationships.

This changing landscape demands print IT marketers to be as savvy as ever with their playbooks. A joined-up, collaborative approach between vendors and the channel will be key, while it’s important for marketing to be central to businesses’ overall strategy.

A different approach
Low price points and sales discount tactics used to be the mainstay of the sector’s marketing strategy. But price isn’t always the main factor for customers or resellers, as the industry pivots to services over transactional sales.

The channel must cater to the needs of a longer and more sophisticated buying journey that is typical of a customer committing to a service provider.

Procuring an MPS system, for example, can take the average customer six to eight months, which is typically longer than it might take a business to buy new printers on a transactional basis.

Targeted campaigns need to be delivered that provide content that helps businesses to understand the benefits of using MPS, or other print-as-a-service platforms, at each stage of the buying journey. This is a strategy that really benefits from a joined-up reseller-vendor approach.

Brother Mini-17 printer in home office setting
Brother Mini-17 printer in home office setting

Relationships and resources
The onus is on vendors to nurture meaningful relationships with their channel partners to provide the marketing support they need.

At Brother UK, we approach this challenge like a marketing agency. We get under the bonnet of resellers’ existing marketing capabilities and support them in tailoring their approach to current and prospective customers.

We create campaigns alongside partners, which comprise research, white papers, video content and case studies that outline how other businesses have benefitted. Resellers can also access resources like technical information and marketing assets on the latest product launches online via the BrotherZone portal.

Through collaboration and pooling resources, we have the best means of helping customers through the buying journey.

At the heart of business strategy
Putting marketing first in business strategy can really help to drive vendor-partner success. Our Managing Director Phil Jones has certainly been a big advocate of this.

Marketing sits at the heart of our business plan, and in recent years, we’ve invested to bring in specialists in digital, content, long-term communications and demand generation, so our offer really stands out from the competition.

We’ve done this because it’s clear that the industry can’t solely rely on the same price driven marketing tactics that it’s employed over the last decade. Instead, we must understand and embrace the customer buying journey, and provide meaningful, informative and relevant content at every stage.

In the months ahead, the print IT sector faces a great opportunity to help guide customers in their transition to new ways of working, and to help future-proof their ability to perform.

We have services and solutions, designed with flexibility, reliability and security in mind. And we’re ready to help partners to take on the challenge of marketing this strong proposition to customers.