VARs Should Make The Case For MFPs
End users often don't understand all the benefits of multifunctional products (MFPs). Education by VARs can open up new markets.
Look at a nationwide fast-food chain. All of the restaurants are nearly identical and so is the management structure in each one. Each restaurant probably has a PC, a printer, a desktop copier, and a fax machine housed in a small manager's office. Certainly, there is an opportunity for VARs to sell multifunctional products (MFP) into this environment. These devices combine copying, faxing, printing, and scanning capabilities to varying degrees. In the case of a fast-food chain, an MFP would increase useable office space and give a VAR a chance to make multiple sales throughout a region. According to two vendors of MFPs, chain stores are not the only market for MFPs that VARs can exploit. SOHO (small office home office) is a traditional market for MFPs. And, corporate environments are increasingly considering MFPs to replace current devices.
Education Leads To Sales
In addition to offering increased functionality, MFPs can usually be attached to a network and process digital information. Because of this, Tony Venice, senior product manager at Toshiba, says many users are replacing outdated analog machines with MFPs. "It doesn't matter whether it is a Fortune 500 company or a small firm. When analog machines break or leases expire, companies are looking to replace them with digital devices," says Venice. "End users may use them as stand-alone devices or attach the devices to a network. They like that flexibility." Toshiba's U.S. headquarters is in Irvine, CA. The electronic imaging division, responsible for MFPs, has about 200 employees.
When end users need to replace an analog fax machine, they do not always consider an MFP. "End users don't always know what an MFP can do for them. If an end user is replacing an analog fax machine, VARs should point out that the rolls of fax paper are expensive and the paper tends to curl up," comments Jim Upham, vice president of product development at Okidata. "VARs need to educate end users on the capabilities of MFPs because this market segment is not well known." Okidata was founded in 1973 and its U.S. headquarters is located in Mount Laurel, NJ. The company has about 750 employees in North America.
Making The Pitch For MFPs
While MFPs should be considered to replace outdated analog machines, there are additional opportunities for VARs. VARs can pitch an MFP as a single point of contact product. In the past, a client may have had to work with several resellers to support fax machines, copiers, scanners, and printers. "In addition to an MFP's benefits, resellers can sell themselves as a total solution provider. Most end users are trying to reduce the number of vendors and resellers they are doing business with," says Venice.
If an MFP does not quite fit in a corporation, Jim Upham says VARs should not abandon the sale. Some companies have an increasing number of employees who take work home or work on the weekends. A company may dismiss the idea of MFPs in its building, but may be open to providing MFPs for employees who work at home. "A law firm might have partners and associates that would all need an MFP for home use. VARs have a chance to head off retail sales by selling MFPs directly to law firm employees," says Upham. In addition to law firms, Upham says VARs should approach companies with outside salespeople (insurance companies, for example).