We have developed user groups, research firms, have done studies, best practice boards have been pulled together, and committees organized to define and shape this intangible idea; ‘the Holy Grail’ of the Imaging industry – Managed Print Services (aka MPS). In my opinion within a very short time we have matured this concept very quickly. More and more businesses are going to market with MPS programs; this is excellent and a sure sign that MPS is the wave of the future. I have had the pleasure in my short years in this industry to speak to over 500 different dealerships across the USA and CANADA about Managed Print Services. These dealers have been from all verticals, different buying groups, and different tenures within the market: all with ideals and ideas about what MPS is. Though I still find myself in a relative shock due to the number of people that I hear say, “of course we’re in MPS we bill on a CPP”.
It has been frustrating... Why? Well for starters MPS is so much more than just billing on CPP. An MPS program that is defined as being a CPP contract stripes the MPS concept of all it's value. This narrow definition is one of the main reasons why I see dealers flounder with their MPS program. In general they have not developed a complete program, they have just bundled everything together into a CPP contract program and taken it to market. They don’t do assessments, their sales force isn’t compensated on MPS deals, and they lack a compelling story for their program.
In discussions with both dealers that are doing well and that are struggling, I’ve picked up a thing or two about what helps drive the MPS engine forward. There seems to be some core fundamentals of business, that all these companies are ‘doing MPS’ and failing, seem to have forgotten.
As I see it, there are some of the basic questions to ask as you dive into the deep end of the MPS pool, or drink the Kool-Aid as some people view it:
1. Where does MPS fit in to your current business?
Determine where you want this new product offering to sit in your line-up. Is it your leading value proposition to your clients? Is it a way to generate more revenue in existing accounts? Is it a defensive tactic to lock out competition? Or is it a new sales approach to target larger prospects? If the top level of your company cannot define what you want to do in the MPS space, it’s difficult for your sales team to deliver the program to the market. If you’re just getting into MPS because “that’s what the cool kids are doing” and don’t have the structure or support for it internally you are setting yourself up for failure.
2. What is your MPS program?
Once you’ve figured out where MPS sits in your current business model, you have to decide what exactly you are going to offer as an MPS program. By definition MPS is a broad over-reaching offering that could contain many elements. From what I’ve seen, what you set out for as your goal with MPS will be moulded and shaped by your customers’ expectations. But having a clear framework for what you want to offer as your MPS value proposition will help you avoid deals that you aren’t structured internally to support. That’s not to say that as your program matures and you expand your knowledge on how to actually manage a fleet you won’t add more facets to your program as you grow. As you get more sophisticated your offering can. Consider carefully what it means to truly offer a Managed Print Program, and what your definition is of your MPS program.
3. What is my differentiator?
On the heels of the last point, what makes you any different than any of the other thousand MPS providers in North America? Why are you so special? If you lead with just a CPP contract program you might find that you still play the price game, where you are haggled to the tiniest fraction of a penny. But if you lead with a cost analysis assessment of their current fleet, you’re still likely proposing a CPP pricing model at the end of the assessment – but rather than just tossing a number out and hoping it sticks will get exposure and visibility to their environment. You'll be able to act more like a trusted consultant rather than just another product vendor. Do a SWOT analysis of your immediate competitors, and while you’re at it don’t forget the big boys, because whether you like it or not, they are moving into your space.
4. What are my Goals?
And if you simply answer – make more money, you’re not thinking big enough. If you’re a copier dealer think about how many MIF’s you have, do you realize that studies show for every 1 copier there are 4-10 printers (depending on the study you read). If you think about that then your goal should be to take complete ownership of every device in every account you have equipment placed in. How many net new accounts do you want to see by the end of the year? Net new pages? Net new revenue can be in there but set a goal for it specific to your MPS program. Declare “we want 100k in new MPS contract business” and then figure out how you’re going to get it and go for it. Once again, be sure your back end processes are in place and you can handle it.
5. How am I going to drive my program?
Multiple additional questions sprout from this one. Do you hire a SME otherwise known as the MPS specialist? Do you enlist your whole sales force to jump on the MPS band wagon? There really is no cookie cutter answer. You will have to evaluate your current business model –see point 1, determine what your program is going to be –see point 2, decide how you’re going to deliver it – see point 3 and determine where you want your program to go – see point 4. Based on what you’ve already explored you’ll be able to determine the best course of action. A key factor in driving the rep activity is going to relate to my next question…
6. How am I going to incent my program?
This is really not as complicated as people seem to make it. There is no magic formula for compensating on an MPS program. The key is that the commission structure that is driving the reps behavior is going to be huge in delivering a successful program. Your traditional equipment rep will not be in love with the idea of 30-60 day assessments unless they see something that will validate the time they will need to spend on the deal. Once they start to see the potential revenues they will jump on board, it’s just getting them to that point. Look at your existing commission structure and consider how you can tweak it, without over complicating things to add drivers for your MPS program.
7. How am I going to implement this program?
There will be changes that you need to make internally as you wrap your arms around your offering. Internal resources will be re-allocated or in some cases have additional tasks added to their daily routine. Once you start to propose something that isn’t a SKU to your customer you’ll need to figure out how to change their way of interacting with you. An MPS deal changes the type and level of interaction and may also require some re-training of how the customer handles their printer needs. These changes will need to be implemented properly to successful both internally, and at your customer sites.
8. Can I do this alone, or do I need a partner?
Once you have wrapped your head around what you want to deliver, and what the demand is for an MPS program you may need to bring partnering companies in to help you support your program. Possible partnerships would fill in any gaps that you have, and provide you with the tools and methodologies that would strengthen your program.
I could keep going but these are the core questions that should be asked at the start of ANY new product offering that your company is going to engage in. If you are a business who is new to this ‘MPS thing’ don’t necessarily try to re-invent the wheel there is a wealth of knowledge and everyone, to a certain extent, is willing to share. Turn to your peers, read everything you can get your hands on and attend the MPS conferences. It amazes me that for such a competitive space everyone is willing to collaborate when it involves the MPS offering.
If you’ve been offering MPS for a while and struggling, go back and look at how you’ve executed it. Did you consider everything fully, or did you miss components, determine why you’re struggling and make changes. You could possibly even enlist the aid of one of the many business consulting firms that specialize in managed services.
If you’re in MPS and doing well and just like reading these blogs to keep up on what everyone else is doing there probably isn’t anything new in here. I don’t claim to be a guru or an expert; I haven’t earned a leopard bandana, yet. I’m just someone who’s been watching this MPS thing as it’s grown from the early adopter stage into where it is at now.
I am excited about the opportunities that MPS providers can bring to businesses and I think that over the next couple of years we will see that MPS, MDS, MES whatever pseudonym we give it will substantially change the way that users operate and interact with the printing environment.
Why I do declare… I think this MPS thing might even be bigger than colour print – and yes I’m Canadian…colour is spelt with a U.