Does The Office Equipment Industry Need Saving?

This article by West McDonald was originally published here.

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Print Audit’s mission is to “save the office equipment industry.”  A pretty bold statement, right? Question is, does the office equipment channel really need saving? And if so, what kinds of things is Print Audit doing to make good on its mission statement?

Alrighty then, let’s have a look at some key factors affecting our space and see what they say about the state of our industry:

OEMs in disarray: I’m not going to name names here, but if you’ve been following the industry press for the last couple of years you know that the OEMs are struggling to define who they are and what their value proposition is.  Some have been crushed under financial pressure while others have done a great job of diversifying into more “services” specific initiatives.  The OEMs know that hardware alone isn’t going to bring back the good old days.  As dealerships and vendors, we’d best pay attention.

Page volumes per user are down: People are printing less than they used to.  And all of the major OEMs agree on this in the March 2017 issue of the Cannata Report.  There is a virtual panel series article called “Embracing Certain Change” which asks 8 manufacturer executives about their view on declining pages, and all of them agreed it’s happening.  Oh sure, there are some verticals that are growing volumes per user due to government regulations and other “niche” reasons, but these persistent pockets aren’t large enough to make a material difference to our growth.  The net of it all is that each account you have is going to produce fewer pages year after year.

Equipment costs are dropping:  Hardware quotas aren’t going down but the amount of revenue generated per asset is.  The cost of a 65 PPM multifunction device continues to drop every year.  New OEM entries into the A3 space are putting additional downward pressure on equipment pricing.

CPP rates are under extreme pressure:  Account renewals often come with reductions in CPP rates to keep competitors at bay.  By renewal number 3 we often have accounts that are generating very little profit.  Add to this the fact that CPP rates as a rule are in decline it means less revenue per account every year.

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Dealer consolidation:  Every time you turn around another dealer is being gobbled up by a larger dealer.  Growth these days is hardly organic.  Real growth is happening by buying up other dealers.  In some cases, we’re even seeing Equity Investment companies getting into the game as they look to build assets (and ready them for future sale?).  You may have fewer competitors but the ones you do have are bigger and more competitive than ever.

What exactly is Print Audit doing to save the office equipment industry?

If all of the above are true, then I think we can all agree that the office equipment industry could use a little saving.  At Print Audit we’re doing our part to make sure that our Premier members and others have everything they need to thrive in this new age.  Here is a list of the things we’ve been doing to help save the office equipment industry:

A stickier model: Print Audit doesn’t sell software, and we don’t expect our members to either.  The minute you sell something to a customer you give them complete ownership and control.  Recurring revenue models are far better.  The Print Audit model is all about subscription/as-a-service because we believe that dealers and customers can accomplish more if working in partnership.  Not to mention that margins for as-a-service models are higher and stickiness is much stronger.

Top 100:  We started the Top 100 Summit a few years ago to give dealers a “safe place” to discuss and take action on the things impacting the office equipment industry.  We’ve had 3 Top 100 gatherings and all of them produced content and strategies to strengthen dealers’ ability to thrive in the new economy.  We promised it wasn’t going to be a Print Audit sales pitch and we delivered.

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SBB Model & SBB Road Show:  Anybody that knows me knows I’m a huge proponent of alternate billing models for managed print.  If pages are in decline per user then it stands to reason that a CPP model has some limitations for growth in 2017.  Print Audit has spent years building an SBB (Seat Based Billing) alternative for managed print and we now have lots of dealers bringing it to the market.  The work we’ve done benefits the industry as a whole, not just Print Audit customers. The SBB Roadshow is open to ALL dealers to help them build out an SBB offering.  You’ll want to register for this before seats run out and can do so HERE.

Document Management Simplified:  Print Audit surprised the market by purchasing a document management company called NeoStream Technologies.  Why did we do this? We put our money where our mouth is. If pages are in decline it’s usually because they’re being replaced by a digital alternative.  In other words, documents aren’t disappearing, they are just being used in ways that don’t always require printing them.  The NeoStream acquisition means we’re looking to the future and ensuring our partners can monetize ALL documents, no matter what form they are taking.

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KAPOW! The 7 Deadly Sinners & The Avengettes:  What better way to save the office equipment industry than pulling together some superheroes?  Print Audit brought together some of the leading minds in the industry to share their thoughts on the state of the industry and to offer advice on navigating all the change.  We’ve produced e-guides and comic books designed to give dealers some solid advice on where to focus efforts for growth. You can access e-guides and much more by the Sinners and Avengettes by visiting our blog.

Convergence Radio Podcasts:  We started a podcast because people said they like to consume information in new ways.  Whether commuting to work in the car or working away at your desk, podcasts are excellent ways to stay informed while getting other things done.  For those that listen to the podcast, they know that they are filled with useful information about the office equipment channel.  These aren’t Print Audit ads: They are genuine interviews and programs designed to help the industry at large. You can check them out HERE.

At Print Audit we think that helping save the office equipment industry is important.  All of the items above are our way of doing that.  I think it’s safe to say that we’re doing our part.  Of course, it’s not completely altruistic: By saving the office equipment industry we also ensure our own long-term success!  We love being a vital part of this space and know that the seeds we plant today will bear fruit for all of us tomorrow.

Now it’s your turn!  Do you think the office equipment industry needs saving?  Or do you think it’s baloney?  What kinds of changes have you made to thrive?  Your voice matters so please leave your comments below.