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View from the channel – John Ison, Managing Director, Midrepro

Q: What are your customers most interested in?
A: I am sure we are not alone in finding that our clients are interested in the bottom line. However adding value to our proposition is very important in gaining new clients and retaining our existing ones. We try and stay out of the ‘race to the bottom’ and really try and engage our customers in how other solutions such as scanning and retrieval, document workflow, authentication and follow me printing can enhance their business processes. If we can prove the cost savings and show improved business processes, the cheapest cost per copy rate becomes less important.

Q: Do clients have the same understanding of industry terms, such as BYOD, MPS or MDS, as we do?
A: I would suspect not. Our market place is predominantly SME so we make a conscious effort not to confuse our end-users with TLAs (three letter abbreviations). Conveying the concepts of what our products and services offer is more important and pointing out the benefits to their business is more aligned to our target space.

Q: Where are you seeing most traction at the moment, are there any verticals that are particularly strong?
A: It’s difficult to pick out a vertical, however in general, clients in all areas of the market are moving to wanting a seamless and simplistic relationship with us as a service provider. We strive to employ the latest technology to ensure we offer the very best in service, from pre-empting repairs to consumable delivery. Conveying this message to our overall market is more important to us than targeting specific verticals.

Q: When selling MFPs, what are the most popular software solutions you provide and why?
A: Print management still leads the way. Authentication and print roaming with the benefits of centralised reporting make this an easy sell to organisations with several machines.

Document scanning and retrieval run a close second. Having our own in-house developed solutions gives us a clear advantage. We are able to offer low cost simplistic systems that fulfil the needs of many of our clients without the need to provide fully blown document management suites that often come with a hefty price tag.

The ability to provide bespoke functionality helps us target areas within our clients that we can help them with. These tailor-made solutions often ensure long-term relationships are retained.

Q: Where do you get information on the latest products and solutions, and do you feel that the OEMs are doing enough to educate their channel partners?
A: We would like to think we are ahead of the game when it comes to solutions and we are very self-sufficient. The OEMs we work with offer portfolios of products that are common in our space. I think they have a difficult job given the wide range and levels of technical awareness and capability within their channel partners.

Q: Is your patch particularly competitive – is it national or local competition that you face?
A: Yes always. I guess the ‘genre’ of competition is driven by the size of the opportunity. We know we excel in the SME marketplace. We have found though that our approach is now showing results in the larger opportunities. We have several nationally based customers who didn’t want to work directly with the mainstream manufactures any more. I guess the flexibility we can offer gives us an edge.

Q: How do you spend your week – time on phone, face to face meetings with customers etc.?
A: I wish I had more time to spend in front of our key clients. Unfortunately, the level of business we are currently achieving defines my week, which mostly is spent with the phone glued to my ear. I try and maintain an active role in all areas of the business which as we have grown becomes more of a challenge. I’m lucky in that we have managed to build a great team that can look after our larger accounts whilst also keeping in touch with our hundreds of smaller ones.

Q: What would make your job easier?
A: The competitiveness of this marketplace has driven the cost per copy down in recent years and so it would be great to have a ‘national minimum charge’ within the industry.

However I guess we are not doing so bad … and it’s always fun and a challenge to see how we can maintain our levels of profitability whilst remaining competitive.