You need to stand for something

Mark Ash, head of print at Samsung UK & Ireland, discusses why dealers must be clear about their proposition – and how it fits with today’s changing workplaces – if they are to succeed

“Products alone will not get you noticed in this age of attention drought; if you want to stand out you need to stand for something.” That was a quote I read in a book called Mission - How the best in business break through, written by Michael Hayman MBE and Nick Giles. I couldn’t agree more with them.

In the same book the authors go on to say, “If you can't answer the questions about why your proposition is different, what consumer or market it addresses or how you can attract customers, then it's time to pause and think again.” The education market is a great example. It’s vast. Figures from Edtech UK estimate the total education technology market will be worth £129bn by 2020. It’s a huge topic, but if you break it down into the needs of the recipient – be it a pupil in a primary school, a teacher in a secondary school or students in further and higher education – the needs become very different. Dealers need to focus on what their proposition stands for and why it’s different, otherwise it will be lost in a sea of the same messages. Too much of the wrong information is counter-productive.

Change needs to happen

Lord Jim Knight, the chief education adviser at TES, once said, “Why are we training children’s memory skills in a sports hall?” and he’s absolutely right. We talk about putting in technology for technology’s sake and for driving a process; a member of school staff might want a form, so they click 'print' and that form will come out, like they have done for years. What we should be focusing on is how we should be delivering technology that fits in with today’s world. Millennials, who will account for 50% of the workforce by 2020, are used to having advanced technology in the home. Unless a college or university, or business for that matter, can replicate that technology in the workplace they will struggle to recruit the best talent.

At Samsung, while it’s clear we’re working with dealers to install the relevant technology, by collaborating with organisations we’re actually developing solutions for and with them. Our work with Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) is a good example where we’re using the skills of students to develop solutions that go beyond print and revolutionise their education experience (see www.samsung.com/uk/business/insights/case-study/ for more).

Additionally, through Samsung’s Good Days at Work SMB campaign, we ran a competition at the university to find out how students use our technology and how they would like to use it in business, given the right tools – just as dealer clients will – or should – think about how they use their technology.

Working with the students as a mentor I shared an idea that one of our dealer partners had come up with for estate agents. They are used to printing brochures and floor plans but the dealer had the idea of bringing in additional technology to take the solution to the next level. They rolled out a solution where content could be produced on a tablet and mirrored on a big screen; they even brought in technology that allowed for a 360-degree tour of a house and a virtual walk-through. That dealer has enjoyed plenty of success.

Competitive advantage

In a primary school the budgets are limited and, typically, the buyers aren’t skilled IT professionals. One of the most common things we found is that people are moving away from paper to digital. Rather than seeing this as a threat, as traditional copier or office product dealers could do, we asked how we could support that process and looked to alternative, associated products such as interactive touchscreen E-Boards.

Traditionally our MFPs and copiers have been leased to schools and we’ve demonstrated how we can do creative things with the finance and bundle in E-Boards. All of a sudden you’ve got a print dealer who can deliver additional value, gain additional profit and revenue and lock out competitors who don’t do this. Additionally, we’ve enabled the E-Board to print, which generates an incremental revenue stream for the dealer and makes it easier for teachers to print – something, perhaps, they wouldn’t have before.

You’re not alone

The opportunities are there for dealers but it does require a shift in mindset and, for me, that’s the biggest single barrier dealers need to overcome. You must have a changed mindset or you won’t exist for much longer. Look at the companies that didn’t exist 10 years ago such as Airbnb and Uber. You should have momentum and move fast.

Dealers must remember that they don’t have to do it all themselves. Often when you’re asked to log on to a website you have the option to sign in using Facebook or Google passwords. That’s an API, created by the tech giants, which can be leveraged. The biggest profits dealers will make will happen when they have all the resources they need at their disposal and have a low cost-to-serve. If you don’t have that, it’s simple – you outsource what you can’t do. Can you bill a client? Can you finance it? Can you take a 'phone call if that technology has a fault? If the answer’s yes, you can sell that product. Can you install it and service it? Maybe not, but somebody can do that for you, so it’s about mindset and knowing what’s possible – which is more than you think.

If you don’t do it, you’re at risk from IT resellers coming down into your space. Those who have a positive mindset, embrace change and see digital conversion will survive. There’s no need to be confined by the paradigm in which we operate. Drop 'print' from 'managed print services' and you have a managed service! Retain your specialism, but don’t become blinkered about what you can offer, and dealers will thrive today, tomorrow and long into the future.

And remember; if you want to stand out, you must stand for something.

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Posted by Austin Clark (95)

Written on 22nd June 2017

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