Use Scanning Software To Drive MFP Sales
By embedding homegrown scanning software with the MFPs (multifunction peripherals) it carries, this $32 million copier dealer has increased sales more than 20%.
On the surface, there isn't a whole lot of disparity when it comes to copier or MFP equipment. Sure, a certain technological advancement may be made by one manufacturer that gives its products an advantage over competing copiers for a short window of time. However, competitors are quick to develop their own versions of these innovations, making the features and functionalities of copy machines and MFPs remarkably similar from manufacturer to manufacturer. If customers have difficulty distinguishing one copier or MFP from another, then how will you as a copier dealer differentiate yourself from competitors and grow financially if you rely solely on the attributes of the hardware to make a sale?
The feature and price wars that copier manufacturers have engaged in over the past few years have already taken a major toll on the margins that office equipment dealers can expect to make on hardware sales. Most progressive-thinking dealers realize that they need to rely not on the hardware they carry, but on the software and services they offer in conjunction with that hardware, to set themselves apart. Some of these dealers have begun to focus on providing software and services that will enable the MFPs they resell to become vital components of their customers' electronic document management initiatives. However, inherent weaknesses in the imaging capabilities (i.e. no image enhancement or image processing) of MFPs have prevented some dealers from being successful with this strategy. What if this obstacle were removed? What if the image enhancement and image processing capabilities available on today's dedicated document scanners were already embedded in the MFPs you sell? DocuTeam, a $32 million office equipment dealer, has made this 'what if' a reality and is reaping the benefits.
Overcome The Perceived Imaging Weaknesses Of MFPs
Back in 2005, Jim McCarter, president of DocuTeam, sat on Sharp's dealer advisory council. During this time, Sharp executives made the announcement that the company would be embedding an open systems architecture (OSA) platform on each of its new MFP models. The OSA allows the MFPs to be customized and interface easily with other software packages to provide additional functionality.
"The OSA is a great tool, but it really offers little value unless you have some software to integrate with it," says McCarter. "I felt the OSA provided DocuTeam with a great opportunity to develop a document imaging suite for Sharp MFPs that would address some of the scanning weaknesses commonly associated with these devices."
In response, DocuTeam worked with a software development partner out of Germany to develop Drivve | Image. At the core of Drivve | Image is a suite of scanning tools that enhance the scanner feature set of the Sharp MFP and include document and image processing capabilities. These tools include:
Blank Page Separators — allows users to separate scanned documents with a blank page, creating distinct files for each document
Blank Page Deletion — allows blank sides of a document to be automatically deleted when the MFP is set to duplex (two-sided) mode
Bates Stamping — allows pages to be annotated and paginated at the point of scan
Image Cleaning — eliminates hole punches, lines, and automatically deskews and despeckles document images
Scanner Manager — enables users to customize indexing from the point of scan and create multiple MFP scan-to destinations using the MFP interface
File Format Conversion — allows users to convert images to any standard industry format using the MFP interface
File Name Generation — allows users to define their indexing and file name conventions in advance of implementing a full-blown document management system.
Ensure Your Sales Staff Understands The Benefits Of Scanning Software
It took nearly one year for DocuTeam to develop Drivve | Image, and development costs were in the low six figures. Once developed, DocuTeam realized it would have to provide its sales team with extensive training and certification courses on the software before it could begin selling the product.
"Many of our salespeople were hardware focused and had little experience selling software technology of this kind," says McCarter. "Our goal was not to have them become technical experts on the software, but to be able to comfortably communicate and demonstrate the capabilities and benefits of the software to clients. This process had to be executed well because many of our clients wouldn't necessarily be considering the scanning aspects of their MFP investment. Our salespeople had to be able to convince them of the value of the added imaging capabilities we were providing."
It took DocuTeam 30 days to certify its entire sales force on Drivve | Image using a combination of group classes and hands-on, one-to-one training sessions. Once all employees were certified, DocuTeam unveiled the software to a select group of the company's existing clients and hot prospects. These customers were provided with a special invitation to a VIP lunch-and-learn at DocuTeam headquarters, where they were provided a live demo of the Drivve | Image technology.
After receiving a positive response from customers at the lunch-and-learn, DocuTeam began actively selling the software to new and existing customers. McCarter finds the most favorable response to the software comes from IT professionals (e.g. CIOs, IT directors). "Even if the company we're pitching doesn't have immediate document imaging needs, an IT professional can usually appreciate the potential future impact the scanning features can have on their work environment," he says. "Furthermore, they are intrigued by the control the software's customization options provide them with."
Enhance Hardware Margins, Document Management Credibility
Today, DocuTeam bundles Drivve | Image with just about every Sharp MFP it sells. The company also references the software's benefits in an effort to convince its existing customers to upgrade their current systems with new Drivve-powered Sharp devices. DocuTeam has only been offering its Drivve | Image software since the beginning of 2007, but the results are already measurable.
"Drivve | Image had a direct positive effect on 10% to 15% percent of the sales we made in 2007 and contributed greatly to our 21% revenue growth for that year," says McCarter. "More importantly, Drivve scanning software helped us maintain profit margins of 43% on MFP hardware in 2007. This is impressive, considering most dealers in our industry struggle to meet the standard hardware margin goal of 30% to 35%."
Much of the added margin DocuTeam enjoys comes from the added professional services revenue the Drivve has opened the dealer up to. For example, Drivve | Image makes an MFP a viable front end capture solution for an electronic document management system. DocuTeam has earned substantial revenue integrating its Drivve-powered Sharp MFPs with various back end document management software packages.
However, to McCarter, the biggest advantage of Drivve | Image is how it helps differentiate the dealer from its competitors. "Drivve | Image helps us separate ourselves from the pack in an industry where there isn't much separation," he says. "The software provides us with a product attribute that most other dealers can't present, and that added value allows us to compete on more than just price. In fact, we've won deals where we were in direct competition with a copier manufacturer simply because of the added value our software provides. The software has helped us win deals we wouldn't have been able to win otherwise and provides us added credibility in the realm of document management." DocuTeam now aims to provide other regional dealers with this same competitive advantage, while growing its own software sales, by making Drivve| Image available for sale through the channel.