California Vendor Sizes up New Strategies
Dramatic Workplace Transformation Driving New Customer Needs
John Parker is navigating the current business climate for new opportunities in the office equipment ecosystem and not just carrying on as usual.
“If you’re in a defend and protect mentality, that’s going to take mindshare away from pushing forward and defining your digital strategy,” said Parker, an account manager at California-based Image 2000.
|Image 2000’s John Parker|
While Parker acknowledges he doesn’t have all the answers, he has come up with a few ideas. And he plans to keep watching the market and its incredible digital transformation as buyers flock to digital channels for B2B purchasing.
“I’m watching,” he said. “I’ve got my ears open, and I’m tuning into the vibration of the industry to lead what is next. The buyer’s journey has changed forever.”
The biggest change he’s observed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic is a shift to remote working that has left many workplaces with empty offices and no one (or a “skeleton crew”) to use equipment like printers and MFPs.
“Parking lots are empty, millions of square feet are dark, leases are not being renewed,” he said. “All that managed print services business has just been shredded. If your business is based on clicks right now, you’re eating rice and soup.”
While the pandemic may have forced people to work from home (and ongoing school closures are also playing a role), he believes gains in productivity (collaboration tools) paired with lower costs will see a continued distributed workforce, even once the threat is gone. (New Keypoint Intelligence research backs this up, at least for nearly 60% of new at-home workers.)
“Why do I need to pay thousands of dollars for an office, for this partner in a law firm, when they’re working remotely, and they’re still generating their 2,100 hours a year?” he asked.
An immediate opportunity for dealerships is drawing up new contracts that are more aligned to customer needs, even if it means less revenue over the long term.
“To help with the change in equipment utilization, we won’t give them a bill for 90 days, and then the customer will have a new lower payment,” Parker said. “However, they will now only pay for the prints they make. There will be no more base charges.”
Parker is looking for other ways to meet customers where they are at. For example, while working from home, they are more likely to need A4 devices. With many bypassing dealers and heading straight toward Amazon (also supported by the new Keypoint Intelligence survey), he’s investigating ways that he or his dealership could leverage Amazon Seller Central or partner with other online services.
“If we can get to Amazon quicker, and if we can capture that A4 market, it would be part of a solution for the distributed workforce,” Parker said. “That would be ideal.”
Parker noted his dealership does provide IT services and that an A4 device could lead to setting up in home mesh networks. However, he also conceded that A4 devices tend to be more “plug and play” in nature. Just as well, there is a growing need to respond. “Home networking for your distributed workforce will make sure they don’t have any latency,” he said. “One, it’s an add on service, and maybe you could talk about their MFP or their output device. “
Other opportunities exist in helping workplaces switch up their mix of print devices (e.g., more desktop and A4 devices to help limit the spread of COVID-19), catering to offices that no longer have assigned desks due to people working remotely two or three days a week, and a shift in marketing communications.
Per the last point, Parker has noticed that many in the industry are still focusing their customer messaging on product features, for example. He pulled up an example from his LinkedIn feed that highlighted a new device’s ease of use, high print speed, and exceptional print quality.
“It doesn’t resonate right now,” he said. “How do you connect with an office that’s been changed forever?”
A better message is how enterprises can better utilize their current investment, or make sense of the paradigm shift we’re currently seeing. The key to the future is about being honest and developing scenarios with customers for the recovery and renew phases, once restrictions are lifted. Customers are concerned about their continuity and resiliency at this time.
“I strive to be a trusted resource for businesses, and that means always be listening and learning,” he said.
Are you also an office equipment vendor with an eye toward the future? Feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your insight.