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How’s Your Approach? Are You a Bag of Chocolates or a Chocolatier?

4 Feb, 2011 By: Gregg Mader, Printer Essentials imageSource

How’s Your Approach? Are You a Bag of Chocolates or a Chocolatier?

I find it interesting and also predictable to see those in our industry who
are successful and those who struggle or fail completely in delivering a
valuable solution to their clients as it relates to managed document services. 

Although I am not a connoisseur of sweets by any stretch of the imagination,
I  recently had the opportunity to try some magnificent one-of-a-kind chocolates
from a specialty Chocolatier in Dallas, Texas and it triggered thoughts about
the organizations in our business that are truly successful versus those who
just get by.

I began the correlation that the specialty chocolate shop has the most unique
selections and creative combination's I have ever experienced. They only use the
highest quality ingredients, and what is truly unique is that they approach each
batch as a customized combination of those ingredients. This results in a
product that is not an off the shelf, mediocre product but rather a dedicated
one-of-a-kind product that meets the individual tastes of their clientele who
can pick and choose what they want. There is a distinct difference in the mass
quality from a run of the mill supermarket versus a specialty store, and
thankfully, this “specialized approach” to better suit a client’s taste applies
not only to confectioners but to other products and industries as well.

Creative Opportunities

Like specialty store Chocolatiers, the most successful managed service providers
take the same type of concentrated approach to supporting their clients. There
are those service providers that take the time to build a program that is
tailored to the client, based on what they know about the client, combined with
expertise and creativity. The service provider must deliver the highest quality
solutions and services to each client.

This is what primarily differentiates them from the struggling reseller that
doesn’t invest the time needed to approach each client with a clean slate in
order to build a program that’s truly tailored to meet their needs.

There are still those in our industry who believe they can simply see a list
of devices in a potential client’s fleet and from that simple list, believe they
can provide a quote and call it a managed document “solution.”  Taking this
approach without understanding how the devices are being used, where they are
actually located, what is driving the volume or the volume of text on the page,
understanding the document workflow, the document retention needs, the
regulatory requirements the client must adhere to, the total cost of ownership
and, importantly, the clients expected outcome, will most certainly deliver
little or no value to the client, and minimal margin opportunities for the

Whether in the copier business, printer repair business, office supply
business, or IT services business, you have to invest in the client if you are
going to truly be a value driven organization.  That is not to say that you have
to, or necessarily should, give these services away at no charge.  It all
depends on your approach.  If you are in fact gathering all this information for
purposes of developing a proposal, it makes it difficult in many cases to charge
the client.  But I am of the opinion that in many cases, you can charge for the
investigative actions and development of suggested improvements and, if the
client chooses to move forward with your solution, you could waive the fees for
those services.  If, however, you are taking a truly consultative approach to
your client and are taking these actions to provide your client with a
management tool and guidance, it is perfectly appropriate to charge for this
intellectual capital in every case.

Depending on the size of the organization, the amount of time it takes to
create a valuable, thoughtful, meaningful solution will vary greatly.  If you
are looking at a large organization with multiple locations, often it is
appropriate to do a proof of concept. For instance; you and your client would
identify a division or building of the organization that would be representative
of the enterprise in order to provide the client with a sampling of the impact
your approach would have on the organization. That would then be followed by a
phased approach to completing the process for the remainder of the enterprise. 

One-of-a Kind Value

The most important ingredients to cultivating value for the client are being
creative in your approach by developing a one-of-a-kind solution and using the
customer’s current cost factors. When you take a creative approach to a client
with actions such as consolidation, optimization, refresh, digital workflow
solutions and other services, whether software or physical services, it is
absolutely what drives value.  I could provide example after example of how to
get creative, citing real world opportunities and solutions that this creative
approach delivered for both the client & the reseller, showing the results of a
long term healthy business relationship where all parties benefited.

By using client cost factors and the system driven data, you are in a
position to exclusively provide the facts as it relates to that customer, with
quantifiable results from your suggested actions, eliminating any opportunity
for the client to argue with your findings or the associated financial impact. 
I am absolutely opposed to resellers, OEM’s or distributors who suggest that it
is accurate or appropriate to use any expense assumptions or “industry
standards” when developing the client’s current total cost of ownership. Taking
that approach can only result in two outcomes: one, it puts the reseller in the
uncomfortable position of having to debate the findings and approach with the
client; and two, it opens the reseller to overstating, and in some cases,
understating the client’s current financial situation, and can force the client
to investigate the reseller’s findings.  If in fact the findings provided by the
reseller are inaccurate and the reseller is found to have been using something
other than client driven facts, the reseller will immediately lose credibility
with the client on the entire process.

How Sweet It Is

To frame the difference that “value” affords the client and the reseller,
let’s go back to that comparative chocolate specialty store analogy.  Since
experiencing their fine products, I have been raving about and referring my
friends ever since. And even though the Chocolatier charges substantially more
than one would expect to pay, their customized products are nearly sold out due
to the demand of returning clientele who want their incredible product along
with the exceptional quality of services provided. How sweet it is - product,
value, service, retention; it’s all there.

Now think of your approach to Managed Print / Document Services, whether
cultivating more solutions driven opportunities with existing clients, or
approaching net new business opportunities. Is your MPS offering wrapped around
what you wish to sell and is nearly the same for every client (bag of
chocolates) - or is it uniquely tailored to a client’s needs to provide real
value, suiting them (and you) - much like the Chocolatier?  

Gregg Mader is Vice President, Managed Print Solutions, Printer
Essentials. The company is an industry leading direct importer and wholesaler of
more than 2000 compatible imaging and power supply products. Visit

or email

gmader@printeressentials.com for more info.

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