CA$H In On Color Printing
Increased use of color ink-jet printing in the home has raised the awareness of this technology. Now, offices are looking to follow this trend with color laser printers.
The future is looking bright for VARs who sell and service high-end printers. With color laser technology improving and decreasing in price, VARs can expect increased demand for printers.
Gary Bailer, assistant general manager at Panasonic Communications & Systems Company (Secaucus, NJ), says businesses are following the trend toward color printers because of the increased use of color printers in the home. Panasonic Communications & Systems Company is composed of 815 employees. Focuses are on providing color laser printers, digital color imaging systems, digital and analog copiers, facsimile machines, production scanners, monitors and optical storage products. The company focuses on serving the marketplace for document imaging in the VAR, dealer and systems integrator markets.
"Typically, technology shifts happen in corporate America and migrate down into the home," Bailer explains. "However, in the printing market, the opposite is occurring. What is driving the business market is the fact that people are more aware of color." Ink-jet printers have made color documents an affordable addition to the family computer. So, if color can be an option for a child's book report, why can't it be done easily in the office?
Ink-Jet Printers Aren't Enough For The Office
According to Bailer, the ink-jet technology found in affordable home printers isn't suitable in the corporate world. "The ink-jet printers aren't reliable enough and don't have enough ink and paper capacity." Enter the color laser printer. According to Richard Bowles, vice president of marketing at QMS (Mobile, AL), color laser printers allow capabilities for businesses that color ink-jet printers could not provide. QMS, a 21-year-old business with 430 employees at its Alabama site, earned $125 million in 1997. "The color laser printers that are being offered have additional features like networking and 11x17-inch support," says Bowles. "As color becomes more widely adopted, companies will have to use a color laser printer so their documents look as good as everyone else's."
The three things that kept color printers from being widely adopted in corporations until now, according to Bowles, were acquisition cost, cost per page and ease-of-use. "Printers are being manufactured, for less than $3,500, that are fully networkable with post script and PCL, the most standard printing languages," says Bowles. The newest generation of printers are bringing cost per page to a level Bowles calls affordable for offices. "In our latest generation of printers, a page with 20% color coverage costs about 11 cents per page, which is a lot of color," he explains. Finally, with the latest generation of color laser printers, ease-of-use has improved by reducing the number of consumables. "We have improved features and durability of consumables (like toner cartridges) so not only are they easier to get to within the printer," says Bowles, "but you don't have to replace them as often."
The Color Market Is Growing
Both Bailer and Bowles agree VARs need to take advantage of color laser printer growth while it is still in its early stages. With the Year 2000 problem, says Bailer, many companies are upgrading their existing systems. Color printers are a natural step. "As people are looking at new systems," says Bailer, "they are considering network printing, where previously it was mostly stand-alone printing. Now, companies are considering color, along with networking."
Don't Walk Away From The Sale
As prices come down on hardware, says Bailer, so do the actual profit-margin dollars for the reseller. As a result, VARs must learn from the other sales channels in the office setting and learn how to sell supplies as an ongoing revenue source. "There's more money to be made in selling color laser printing supplies than in selling the printer," says Bailer. "VARs need to support customers to make sure they get revenue from the supplies, instead of giving it up to another supplier."
"Don't walk away from the sale," says Bowles. "The initial hardware sale just gets the VAR in front of the customer. VARs build constant revenue through continued sales of consumables to the customer. Now, when it is time to replace the printer, the VAR has an opportunity to keep the customer for life. Forgetting about consumables is a huge mistake."
Color Has A Strong Future
Look for technology that will allow for less-expensive system administration within office printing networks, as well as the easy-to-replace consumables. Also, according to Bailer, look for VARs to hire, or become, color specialists. "As VARs try to sell to end-user sites, the tactics and strategies used to support traditional networks are no longer valid. VARs need to go beyond what they know now to understand color printing, as well as applications and solutions. Hiring a color specialist on a VAR's staff to support the traditional sales reps going into the corporate world seems to be a very successful business practice."