Wednesday, September 22, 2010

MPS And The New Paradigm

I just signed an mps contract with the college mentioned in this post.

It has been 6 months since I started working with this school. Long sales cycles indeed...

The time that has elapsed from the first meeting to the signing of the contract which took place this morning was a bit frustrating and anxious at times, but shaking hands with a new customer and switching gears into building a relationship with the organization is well worth the wait.

I think what set me at ease for most of the process and what has helped me to deal with the long periods of time between the meetings, board meetings, phone calls, e-mails and correspondences with the IT manager from the school was the ability to focus on everything except the sale.

Maybe that sounds a little "anti-sales" in philosophy but I digress, thinking about the commission, the recognition or the smile that a contract would bring to my CEO's face was the last thing I thought about during the different phases of this project.

What I tried to focus on was the customers needs and getting to know some of the end users along the way, the simple pleasure of walking the grounds of the school while moving from building to building during the analysis as well as the times spent meeting with the schools IT manager, getting to know him better and understanding the needs of the school and its staff.

People are essentially what MPS is all about, at least that is what it should be about.

You may have a slick elevator pitch and all the chutzpah in the world and you may even get someone to ink a deal with you. However if all of that is the product of a focus bent on the acquiring of money, your gains will only lead to problems. Success, in the sense of building a long term relationship that will be profitable for you and for your business can and will only come from approaching the process with a spirit of passion and a drive to help other human beings.

You have to want your customers to succeed, to do better and to move forward. You have to provide them with a product and service that will help them to achieve said goals. You have to not only want this for the person who signs your contract but for everyone in their organization.

The ability to sell is no longer all that it takes to be a great salesman, not in this industry. This is managed print services and in this realm you have to be real, you have to be honest and as silly as it might sound you have to approach each and every prospect with love. I don't mean an outward pouring of sentimentality but rather an honest and true dedication and concern for every single person in the organizations that you deal with. You really have to care about how the end users are doing, what their opinions are, how they feel and sometimes what their hobbies, aspirations and life passions are. Some might look at this perspective as trivial and or useless however, these interactions are the division lines between being a corporate machine or a business composed of caring and organic human interaction. This interaction is just as important in regards to the end users and various staff members as it is in regards to the CEO, the CFO and the CIO.

Managed print services is not really about machines, document output, business process optimization, toner cartridges or anything else for that matter. It is about people and the promises we make to them. It is about being as good as our word and standing behind the principles that we project. It is about our actions and how they reflect our ability to take care of people in the way that we have promised that we will. It is about the fruit that our promises produce.

If you are going to make it in this industry you have you to be ready for long sales cycles...

You have to be open to getting to know the people, because once they sign that contract...

They are your people.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Medicinal Guerrilla Marketing?

While out on a sales call this past Friday I came across a curious looking vehicle parked in the back of a PC repair shop. At first glance It looked as if it was just another local hospital ambulance however, upon further inspection it was clear that I had stumbled across an awesome marketing ploy.

I like to think of myself as a
guerrilla marketing enthusiast for the technique of said art is one of my personal favorites in relation to my own marketing efforts. So I was only too excited to find that the vehicle before me was no ordinary ambulance but rather a brilliant example of guerrilla marketing. Once drawing closer I found that the ambulance was in fact an emergency vehicle...

For computers.

The PC Triage Center which happened to be the aforementioned PC repair shop actually did house calls with the old ambulance. The company logos and name being the only aspects revealing the true nature of the automobiles purpose.

And so to the creative minds at The PC Triage Center I say with great pleasure, Haza! Good Job!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Destroy Your Printer 2010 RECAP

In the above photo you will see "Destroy Your Printer Contest 2" winner Matt Soper of Matt Soper Marketing (right) and Dennis McCurdy
(left), owner of The McCurdy Group in Sturbridge, MA. Matt Soper won this years contest with this over the top destruction of a copier as seen here:

Matt decided to give his prize of two free toner cartridges to Dennis who is a mutual customer of both Matt Soper Marketing and Expert Laser Services. Matt also chose
"calling all crows" as his charity of choice for the $100 donation that was part of this years prize.

The destroy your printer contest which is now an annual staple here at Expert Laser Services has really proved to be an amazing tool for generating new business as well as acting as a catalyst to generate sales with current customers. Dennis who already does business with us was kind enough to refer me to The Law Offices of George & George, a firm located next to his office. After speaking with the receptionist at said law office I left with the afterglow of a new prospect and the enjoyable experience of meeting a new person and hopefully the start of a new relationship between our business and theirs.

It is really incredible to me how our destroy your printer contest in conjunction with our other social media efforts is proving to be so valuable to us as a mechanism which allows us to connect with new prospects and further deepen current customer relationships.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Customers Story

I recently read a post over at {grow} which was part of the community this week guest post series by a man named George Cooper. The post was about the power of story telling in relating to customers, clients, fellow employees and more importantly other human beings.

I really enjoyed the post because I relate to the idea of using story telling to build relationships with other people. Within my job as a salesman telling my own stories and listening to potential customers stories makes fertile ground for the growth of a relationship. I find that all of the folks who have signed MPS contracts or bought equipment from me reacted with almost instant positive energy when I took an honest interest in their stories and who they are as human beings.

I earnestly enjoy learning about how my customers got into the industry they work in, what their families are like, the hobbies they enjoy and the other things in life they are passionate about. Often times (though not always) the sales pitch is nothing more than a short lived quasi-necessity that is bypassed in importance by the sharing of who we are as humans in the journey of life, when speaking with a new prospect.

For example, a few weeks back I spoke with an older woman in the IT department of a local college who is a new prospect. I left the school where she works at knowing that she loved dogs, grew up on a farm and had a degree in computer science and also learned about the different schools she attended while getting her degree. Before leaving her office she showed me pictures of her dogs and spoke with me about how much she really enjoys animals, as a dog lover myself we shared a short conversation about how great dogs really are.

Walking out of the building I knew that I was already not just another "indifferent professional" to her as to how she had told me about a tech from a competing company who when asked if he could sell her a new machine replied, "that's not my job, I don't deal with that" and the negativity she felt towards said response.

Wow... Talk about a lost opportunity to connect with a customer and have a relationship as opposed to another piece of data in your excel sheets. Can you say, epic fail?

Now just this week I signed a deal with a gentleman in CT, who owns his own insurance company. From talking to him and his wife I learned that he rebuilds and races porches, is classically trained on the trumpet, likes cigars and spent ten years or so in his industry before he set out on his own. He also chose to buy a machine from me instead of the other company who had already proposed a contract and leasing plan due to the fact that "I was around". He explained to me that the other salesman simply did not show nearly as much interest in him and his business as I had and did not come around much.

Now I can't say for sure the other guy was indifferent however, I think I won the deal because I showed a genuine interest in the customers story (well, that and I work for an excellent, local company) and really expressed an interest in knowing him and the needs of his staff (some of whom I had also gotten to know through their own stories about how they got involved with the company).

What it all boils down to is that businesses are people. People don't want to be sold to and they never have. They want to connect with other folks and they want to be able to trust the folks they connect with. A sure fire way to build those relationships is to take interest in those peoples stories. Knowing that "Bob" in accounting likes his coffee black and enjoys fishing on the weekends or that "Jess" in IT loves to blog about poetry may be the truly valuable data collected from the next visit to your customers/prospects office.

Get to know your people, get to know their stories.

Friday, September 10, 2010

HP's "Reman Myths" Questionable


"HP has released a set of what it calls myths about remanufactured toner, claiming that aftermarket cartridges “end up costing you more”

See the whole recycler article here.

In HP's set of what it calls "myths about remanufactured toner" the company states the following:

"Remanufactured cartridges do not save the consumer any money because of hidden costs. According to the OEM, the cartridges “may quit working, stranding toner in the cartridge”.

“Certain non-HP cartridges are more likely to fail out of the box, fail after installation, and may leak into the printer”

“The generic toner and aftermarket replacement components can create charging issues that impact performance.”

“print quality degrades, resulting in pages that are not fit for use”

“In fact, 94 percent of remanufactured cartridges sold will ultimately be thrown away due to the remanufacturers’ preference to work with cartridges that have never been remanufactured and the unavailability of recycling for non-usable cartridges and replaced parts.”

First off I would like to explain the difference between bargain cartridges and remanufactured cartridges as pertaining to how we here at Expert Laser Services remanufacture our cartridges.

Some of you may remember the "Drill-n-Fill" debacle of the 90s. During that time period there was somewhat of a boom in the remanufacturing industry and (not unlike MPS) everyone and their cousin was doing it.

Those who wanted to get rich quick would quite literally drill a hole in an empty toner cartridge, refill it with toner, seal the hole and then re-sell the cartridge...

These cartridges always have been and will always be junk.

However a true remanufacturing company such as us use a highly sophisticated process of rebuilding the entire cartridge.

First the used cartridges are fully dismantled. Any and all moving parts are recycled and replaced with brand new OEM quality PCRs, mag roll sleeves, wiper blades, doctor blades, drums... everything is replaced with brand new parts.

The cartridge is then reassembled to OEM standards with new toner, tested multiple times and then repackaged for sale.

Below I am going to debunk these claims. (Granted you may think I am biased because we remanufacture toner cartridges here at Expert Laser Services. However if you want to challenge the integrity of our product or test HP's claim for your self, come buy a cartridge from us and if your not happy we will gladly refund your money)

"Remanufactured cartridges do not save the consumer any money because of hidden costs. According to the OEM, the cartridges “may quit working, stranding toner in the cartridge”.

HP fails to tell you that the same risk is inherent with their OEM cartridges as well. There is always a small possibility with OEMs and remans that you may get a non-working cartridge. To suggest that the issue stated above pertains only to remanufactured toner cartridges is misleading at best.

I would also go on to say that remanufactures like Expert Laser Services will make good by replacing any defective cartridge free of charge.

“Certain non-HP cartridges are more likely to fail out of the box, fail after installation, and may leak into the printer”

A simple self test will prove to any consumer the amount of truth present within the above statements. If you buy a remanufactured toner cartridge from Expert Laser Services (or multiple cartridges for that matter) and test them against the statements above you will in the very least discover that our products will not reflect those "certain non-HP cartridges" as mentioned above.

“The generic toner and aftermarket replacement components can create charging issues that impact performance.”

If one is to do a little homework and speak with their local remanufacturer they will generally find that the replacement parts are equal in quality to OEM specs. And if your local provider does not use said parts you can easily find a provider who does via the internet.

“Print quality degrades, resulting in pages that are not fit for use”

Expert Laser Services uses brand new toner powder equal to the quality you can expect from an OEM HP Toner Cartridge.

“In fact, 94 percent of remanufactured cartridges sold will ultimately be thrown away due to the remanufacturers’ preference to work with cartridges that have never been remanufactured and the unavailability of recycling for non-usable cartridges and replaced parts.”

Here at Expert Laser Services we have proven, time and again that we can remanufacture toner cartridges to OEM specs 7-8 times per cartridge. That means every one of our cartridges is able to be used from full to empty 7-8 times before the cartridge is broken down and its components are recycled.

Before you buy into the content of any press release, white paper or literature of such...

Do your homework. You may be surprised at what you find.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

MPS Interview #7: Jim Lyons

AIOI: What company do you work for?

Jim: I write a monthly column for the Hard Copy Observer, a publication of Lyra Research, and also cover many other news stories and analysis's for them, as a contract writer.

AIOI: How many employees does your company have?

Jim: Since I am a contractor, I am not privy to this company information (and I don’t ask).

AIOI: How long have you been involved with the printer industry?

Jim: While I joined HP in 1981, my first five years was spent on the storage side of the house. But beginning in 1986, I moved over to the LaserJet division, working there until 2005, when I jumped over to the “other side”, so next year will be my 25th anniversary of working in the printer industry.

AIOI: Which college(s) do you teach at?

Jim: I teach marketing and economics, graduate and undergrad, for the University of Phoenix, both in a local setting here at our Idaho campus, as well as in the online-only format.

AIOI: How do you personally define "Managed Print Services"?

Jim: I won’t try to compete with so many others who have come up with their own definitions, but I think that simpler is better, so the MPSA version is more than adequate (though I appreciate how your own Luke Carpentier put it, in his recent DOTC interview, about knowing what the “related business processes” thing meant!). This is not to minimize the importance of definitions and terminology -- I am a strong believer that if something can’t (or hasn’t) been defined and labeled appropriately, it won’t be going anywhere. Just the simple “MPS” moniker has gone a long way towards making the whole category real, in terms of a solidified part of the larger industry. I remember when we at HP started off with a “print-related services” idea in the late ‘90’s that suffered from its lack of clear definition.

AIOI: What do you think the future holds for the printer industry in regards to MPS?

Jim: As a participant and observer, I have mixed feelings, both about the current state and future of MPS. I have had the conviction for some time that MPS (in its “growth” stage at least) is a one-time thing, a consolidation effort that may be wringing much of the true innovation out of the business, for once and for all. All those personal printers that made their way into large organizations? Those printers were actually filling user needs, though granted at some expense. Getting (forcing) people to walk to a shared printer? Yes, that will reduce the amount of printing, but partly because it’s removed considerable end-user convenience from the equation. Printing (or anything else) flourishes when friction in the system is reduced.

I can certainly understand why vendors are scrambling to participate, and will continue to do so, but it really isn’t the type of trend where innovation flourishes, but in fact, mostly represents the contrary. The exception may be in how the actual printing of documents is being removed from the workflow, with online, electronic documents substituting for hard copy. Here’s where innovative products and services are shining, no doubt.

AIOI: Do you think MPS is being marketed effectively?

Jim: As characterized by any “land rush” trend, it is tempting by vendors and service providers to lump anything slightly related to enterprise printing and imaging under the “MPS” umbrella. Again, tempting, but it distorts what really is at the heart of the key players’ MPS initiatives. A great example are mobile and cloud-based printing solutions, an area I cover as well where I believe there is a great deal of innovation occurring. Yes, these initiatives provide value to the enterprise, involve printing, and have a services component, so, therefore, voila, they’re part of Managed Print Services! I shouldn’t be so skeptical, perhaps, but recently much of my reporting has been dis-aggregating press announcements, and separating the “wheat from the chaff” as we used to say, or “what’s truly MPS and what’s lumped in for hype value”?

I don’t want to come across as negative, and I think there are good things happening within the MPS space. It just is a mixed bag, with much of it, as previously stated, a reigning in/consolidation effort which will have a dampening effect on growth and innovation in this business I’ve been part of for 25 years.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

MPS Interview #6: Harry Hecht

AIOI: What company do you work for?

Harry: Buyers Laboratory Inc

AIOI: How many employees does your company have?

Harry: 55

AIOI: How do you personally define "Managed Print Services"?

Harry: Any outsourced program or service that measures and works to optimize costs associated with document creation, output and distribution on behalf of the user. I also agree totally with the MPSA definition

AIOI: How long have you been involved with Managed Print Services?

Harry: 7 years

AIOI: What benefits does your MPS program offer your customers?

Harry: I am an adviser to enterprise clients who are seeking to navigate the MPS waters. This includes: setting goals, identifying technologies, vendor selection, RFP creation, contract negotiation, implementation and ongoing fleet and program management.

AIOI: What are some of your major successes?

Harry: Many satisfied clients who engage BLI and look to us for unbiased guidance.

AIOI: Do you offer your own MPS program?

Harry: We do not actually provide, sell or implement MPS services. We are independent and work 100% on behalf of the client.