SMBs Ripe For Desktop Printers
Bar coding is not going
away anytime soon, especially in the SMB space, so be ready with
solutions and services using desktop bar code printers.
Before you close any deals, make sure you’re selling a printer that is right for your customers’ needs. One of the first criteria you should examine for a potential customer is volume, according to Bruce Glenn, general manager of printer manufacturer Argox. “Ask your customer how many labels it needs to print a day. Desktop printers are able to handle 2,500 to 5,000 labels per day [of the normal one-inch variety],” he says. “Related to volume is how mission critical the printing application is. If a printer goes down, what losses does your customer face? If it’s hundreds of thousands of dollars, that customer needs a higher-end printer — desktop printers won’t cut it. Conversely, it makes little sense to sell a high-performance $4,000 printer for an application that requires only a few hundred labels per day to be printed, when a $500 desktop printer can do the job.”
Additionally, ask your customers about the durability needed from a printed label. Will the label be applied to a disposable item? Or does the label need to be readable for an extended period of time? Also consider the temperatures the labels will be stored in. All of these points will affect the type of label used, and thus the type of printer media you’ll need to sell. “If a label needs to last or be in a harsh environment, it needs to be a thermal transfer label,” says Glenn. “If the label will be short-lived or used in a retail application, direct thermal is the way to go and is about 10% cheaper.”
Environment Dictates Type Of Bar Code Printer
You should also perform an environmental survey of your customers’ sites. “Look at the temperatures the printers will be working in,” says Kelly Jamison, director of sales for printer vendor Cognitive Solutions, Inc. “Desktop printers might need to be used in refrigerated areas or in warehouses in July. Make sure the products you offer can withstand drastic temperature situations.” Jamison also points to external factors that can cause premature failure or degrade media quality, such as the dust, dirt, and grease prevalent in manufacturing environments. “Some desktop printers won’t stand up in those situations,” he says. “Durability is the most controllable factor in a successful bar code implementation. Excessive failure rates can negatively impact customers’ production and therefore negatively impact their opinion of your service. Make sure you understand your products’ capabilities.” To help protect yourself, understand the IP (ingress protection) ratings of the printers you sell, and ask the manufacturers about warranties and postsale service deals you can extend to your customers.
Increase Your Margins With Additional Services
The prices of desktop bar code printers are falling, but beware of how low prices can hurt you. “Customers are expecting faster, more reliable printers for less money than they would have paid in the past,” says David Lundeen, VP of marketing for printer manufacturer TSC America, Inc. “VARs have to meet these needs while maintaining a comfortable profit margin.” Luckily, good VARs can turn a profit margin by offering services that justify an increased price. SMBs don’t have sophisticated IT departments — if they have them at all — and they’ll rely on VARs to help with choosing, installing, and maintaining printing solutions. You can step in and offer service contracts, software integration, and customization. Keep in mind that your customers can easily check the prices of products online, so be sure you can back up the value-added services you’re providing. “The most common mistake VARs can make is lack of follow-up for after-sales service and support,” says Lundeen. “You need to be a solutions seller, rather than a box mover.”
Need For Bar Code Printing Won’t Fade In Face
Selling bar code printers means you’re likely to get questions about RFID. The hype surrounding this auto ID technology most likely has your customers in a dither about the possibilities of the technology — possibilities that may be theoretical, or that are the outcome of a tremendous up-front investment by Fortune 100 companies. “Customers who think they may be interested in RFID need to understand where the technology is today, where it is heading, and what the cost of an RFID investment is compared with a bar coding solution,” says Lundeen.
The responsibility to talk your customers down, so to speak, from the RFID roof lies on your shoulders. Explain to them the costs associated with RFID; the media costs are declining, but still aren’t low enough for smaller businesses to absorb the costs and make a profit, or even break even. In fact, according to Jamison of Cognitive, “RFID labels are still seven to eight times more expensive than bar code labels.”
If your customers make the argument for RFID based on the fact that RFID can include more data, you can still offer a bar code solution, says Robin Pierce, director of marketing for printer manufacturer Citizen Systems America Corp. “If more information is critical to your customer, offer 2-D bar codes.” Don’t let your customers’ allure for RFID lead them down the wrong path. You may have a sale up front, but you’ll very likely have dissatisfied customers in the end.
This does not mean that every sale opportunity will be a battle to talk customers out of RFID and into bar codes. Quite the opposite; you’ll have plenty of opportunities with customers who wouldn’t think of an RFID solution. SMB customers in the healthcare vertical, such as private-practice doctors’ offices and local pharmacies, have abundant needs for bar codes. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) requires that medications must be tracked by bar codes, so you can be kept busy providing solutions for SMBs needing to comply.
SMBs needing standard, human-readable printed labels, perhaps not as much as bar-coded labels, won’t be talking RFID either. You can find many SMBs like this in the food service vertical. “Look at pizza delivery stores,” says Jamison. “It sounds like a niche market, which it is, but it’s also very lucrative. These businesses need to print labels with addresses, prices, and orders; the printers need to be linked with stores’ order-taking systems.” Other food service businesses that deliver — Chinese restaurants, for example, and even manufacturers of prepared drinks — can benefit from desktop printers. “Regardless of the hype around RFID, 99% of the revenue from printer manufacturers comes from bar coding,” says Jamison.