Should You Be Selling Desktop ID Card Printers?
High demand for security solutions continues to push sales of desktop ID card printers, making these devices a likely choice for add-on sales.
The ID card technology market continues to grow as more companies seek to improve and upgrade security. Most recently, the biggest interest has come from smaller companies, some with a need for fewer than 100 cards. Consequently, inexpensive, small footprint printers have been catapulted into the limelight. This trend should send up a red flag to all sorts of VARs: your customers want to buy a technology that you can easily sell to them.
According to Mads Peterson, executive VP at ID card printer vendor CIM USA, Inc. (Miami), VARs that could easily add ID card printing technologies to their linecard include those specializing in:
- office equipment
- time and attendance solutions
- casino equipment
- mailing equipment
- point of sale (POS) systems
- security solutions.
Learn The Basics Of Consumables
Desktop ID card printers are unlike their larger counterparts. Large ID card printers can be the size of a copy machine, print thousands of cards, and require VARs to have specific technical expertise. On the other hand, desktop ID card printers are designed for ease of use and require little maintenance.
Both sizes of printers, however, require consumables like printer ribbons and cards. "ID card printing consumables are pretty straightforward," Peterson says. "There is not a lot of technical expertise needed to use these products, especially in some of the all-in-one, cartridge-based machines. When it comes to lamination, there is a bit more involved, such as knowing which card stock to use and how to actually apply the materials. However, it is still not very technical or complicated."
Despite how simple these consumables may be to use, Deborah Olsen, sales manager at Ultra Electronics Card Systems, Inc. (Redmond, WA), stresses that choosing the wrong ribbon can ruin an application. "Not all dye films (i.e. ribbons) are the same from one manufacturer to another, similar to ink jet cartridges," Olsen explains. "Because of the complexity of dye sublimation printing technology, it is very important to use only the manufacturer-recommended dye films. Clone dye films may be cheaper, but oftentimes are not compatible with a particular printer. This can result in degraded image quality, and in some cases, the dyes and/or UV overcoats fade away quickly."
Stephen Johnson, director of marketing for ID products vendor CIPI (Burlington, MA), adds that VARs should be aware of the different compositions of ID cards. He agrees that printer ribbons, their reproduction properties, and the basics of troubleshooting are fairly simple to understand.
Which Features To Look For
If you're going to sell these printers, you should know which features customers want from these devices. It shouldn't come as a surprise that everyone wants these units to be easy to operate and easy to maintain. Beyond that, many customers today are looking for features such as magnetic stripe and smart card encoding. (Peterson says many consumers are even concerned about the aesthetics of a desktop printer.)
"Magnetic-stripe encoding is common in loyalty cards, although smart cards appear to be the next phase," states Johnson. "Proximity encoding, holograms, 2-D bar codes, and smart card encoding are the most requested features for corporate identity programs."
Educate About The Importance Of Security
An ID card is really a security tool that provides access and validation. As such, these pieces of plastic have become very valuable, making unauthorized card duplication a concern. "Schools, government facilities, hospitals, and airports are all requiring anti-counterfeiting technologies (e.g. holograms, biometrics) to be incorporated into employee badges and access cards," explains Olsen. "After all, the mag-stripe or bar code of a stolen card can be copied, thereby transforming the ID badge into an entrance key for the bad guy. Educate your customers on the security technologies available."
The Margins Aren't Bad
Although some ID card printers may be in demand and easy for VARs to learn to sell, if the margins aren't there, then why bother? According to Johnson, the following are the margins VARs should expect from ID card technologies:
- hardware - 25% to 50%
- software - 30% to 50% (does not include training and support margins)
- consumables - 20% to 30%
- badge attachments - 45% to 55%
Adding desktop ID card printers to the list of products you offer may seem like a stretch. However, these products are in demand and - after some minor technical education pertaining most to the consumables - relatively simple to master. Couldn't you use some add-on sales?