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The case for MPS Business Planning

5 Jun, 2010 By: Jennie Fisher imageSource

The case for MPS Business Planning

I had a dealer tell me at a recent trade show that he is
in Managed Print Services (MPS) overload. He went on to share that his email
inbox is bombarded with new MPS consultants, companies and solutions daily.
After coming to the show to find clarification, he vented that several education
speakers offered him various, sometimes conflicting information to the point of
frustration. He asked the universal questions that many of you have today… how
do I sort through all of my options to start with MPS?

I know that this dealer is not alone in his confusion. As
an industry, we are unable to agree on a common definition of what exactly MPS
is. Leaving that to the MPSA and the expert bloggers, I will instead focus on
why dealers need to stop, take a step back, evaluate and plan their MPS program.
In the fall of 2009, 38% of dealers indicated they “have implemented an MPS
strategy for their business.”  (GreatAmerica Annual Dealer Study), yet too many
in this dealer base are only experiencing limited to mixed success booking MPS
contracts. On the other hand, our organization also works closely with many
dealers who have been very successful with their MPS programs.

So we asked, what was the difference between those dealers
who experience success vs. those who struggle? The answer may seem simple, but
at the same time is complex; those successful dealers formed and implemented an
effective plan.

Interviews with these dealers yielded some solid benefits
of planning that include:

  • A formal plan helps you set expectations, establish
    and measure benchmarks and define specific actions and resources.
  • A formal plan helps you decide when to change tactics.
  • A formal plan helps keep you focused on the
  • A planning process helps you understand the required
    investment, profitability and ROI going into the program.

False Starts

Without a formal business plan, many dealers stumble out of
the gate when starting their MPS programs. Implementation setbacks have included
ineffective business modeling and operational structure, lack of sales focus,
fragmented resources including implementation and account management tools. 

There is a real cost to these false starts. 

We had a dealer who shared that their sales staff was doing a great job
installing data collection agents (DCAs) at customer and prospect sites, but was
unable to move that information into a sales proposal or process. Paying a sales
rep to just place DCAs is a pretty expensive venture. Another dealer informed us
that within the first six months of their MPS program they had turned over their
entire sales force because they had failed to put the right compensation plan in
place prior to the roll out.  Dealers tell us stories of increased employee
turnover and new hires for MPS sales who fail to succeed due to lack of focus
and support from senior management. Others experienced delayed sales due to a
lack of a MPS sales process or structure. In addition, without a defined
marketing plan, many dealers have confused their own employees, customer base
and prospects as to their actual program offering.

If you are a dealer who currently finds yourself with a
struggling MPS program, now is the time to take a step back to form a
comprehensive plan. And if you are a dealer who has not yet started to implement
MPS, learn from others and start with your planning process first.

Choose Your Own

Most dealers I know have been exposed to some type of MPS
training, seminar or expert presentation through an industry association, trade
show or an OEM event.  These events serve a purpose to build the case for why
you should enter MPS, give high level overviews of effective programs and
models, introduce you to many essential tools and resources and provide training
for sales reps on a variety of strategies. The GreatAmerica team and I have been
a part of many of these events and will continue to lead in educating dealers at
these venues.  The limitation of these events is that often the owner or
senior manager comes back to the day-to-day grind of the dealership and loses
focus or hands it off to another staff member to implement. This lack of
commitment or organizational alignment will result in the false starts already
mentioned. In addition, many training seminars will present you one person’s
perspective or one companies program to consider. While all good information to
assist your dealership, this may not bring the focus and disciplined planning
your organization needs. 

Your MPS program may need to be a combination of these
perspectives, and remember this is a process, not an event. You may also need to
select a variety of resources to build your MPS infrastructure that may not all
be at one conference or seminar. And above all, how do you sort and disseminate
through all your options? It is important to take the time to evaluate the best
of show resources to determine what is a best fit for the program you will build
for your business.

From Intent to

Most office equipment dealers and resellers have the best
of intentions for their MPS program. However, to move from intent to successful
implementation will take planning and discipline. At a minimum I recommend a
dealer develop the following as part of their plan:

  • A business model and operational structure
  • Select and build a solid MPS infrastructure
  • Develop a brand and marketing strategy
  • Build a sales force engagement strategy and
    compensation plan
  • Pre-plan your go-to-market strategy with set goals and
  • Train and implement a proven sales process
  • Plan and staff for proactive account management after
    the sale

This planning should be driven by your executive team
including the owner or president, sales manager and service director at a
minimum. You will also want to include the CFO, additional executive, sales or
operational managers. Key to your success will be assignment of accountability
and setting goals with deadlines.

Find Direction

Like the dealer I met at the trade show, you may require
further direction to launch a successful MPS program. I know from experience
that you can be successful with MPS if you are disciplined with your business
plan. The business case is clear that MPS is not a fad that will go away or that
you can simply ignore.

The competitive environment requires you to respond with
your own solution. Every major printer/MFP manufacturer and toner remanufacturer
has launched or is planning to launch an MPS initiative in every segment of the
marketplace including small & medium sized businesses and mid-market to
enterprise. Major direct response resellers, distributors and box stores
including CDW, Ingram Micro, SYNNEX, Staples and Office Depot have or are
planning to launch MPS initiatives. Many independent BTA dealers, VAR channel
resellers and aftermarket suppliers have or are planning to launch their own MPS
programs. All of these competitors are clamoring for the same pages in the same
accounts. Your existing revenues stemming from printer/MFP supplies sales are at
risk. Existing machines in field populations are at future risk of being
replaced by the successful MPS vendor.

I recognize the planning, launching and implementing an MPS
initiative is no small endeavor. Choose key industry partners who will be
available over the long haul to work with you on problem solving, capturing best
practices, and examining results to improve and scale your MPS initiative. The
results will not only be the confidence to move forward down the MPS path, but
with the direction and tools you need to help you find your way. And remember
one of my favorite sayings: “If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably
doesn’t lead anywhere.”

Jennie Fisher is  Senior Vice President & General
Manager of the Office Equipment Group at GreatAmerica Leasing.  GreatAmerica is
committed to helping their dealers & resellers plan, develop, sell, manage &
grow their Managed Print Service initiative; have developed the MPS Navigator
program to help dealers craft their MPS plan to reach program goals.

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