Lexmark international vice-president and general manager of worldwide SMB and printing solutions, Kevin Goffi net, caught up with MATTHEW SAINSBURY to discuss where the SMB printer market is at, what the pain points are for channel partners working in this space, and where the opportunities lie.
How will Lexmark approach the SMB market this year?
Kevin Goffinet (KG): At our inception in the early 1990s, we were focused on bigger enterprise accounts with a direct demand generation sales team, but always with our channel partners in mind for fulfilment. As we worked our way through, we were generating demand with these large account sales teams with our channel fulfillment, and realised there’s opportunity to work with our partners to help generate demand in the SMB space.
Fast forward to the economic situation of today, and having this balanced approach from both an enterprise and SMB perspective is the diversity that’s going to help us with the crisis we find ourselves in.
What are the key pain points partners face when dealing with SMBs?
KG: There are several levels. Business is in general slowing down, and partners are fi nding overall demand is declining as the economic impact is kicking in, but that’s a statement on IT industry in general.
Within the printer SMB space, we still see opportunities. There’s obviously some pricing pressure coming from customers who are very cost conscious, but now they’re looking for more than the bottom-line price – they’re after value. If a reseller is just fulfilling a box, it’s going to be difficult to maintain their business going forward. Transitioning to some type of value-add is how to build around output.
We see multiple ways to do that. There are solutions oriented towards adding value, such as the opportunity of moving up from a single function to multifunction device. The issue that brings up for resellers is to have the skill sets to move beyond just a print or MFP box sale, and start looking at the software or networking components.
Does Lexmark have any initiatives in place to help partners through these transitions?
KG: We have capabilities around solutions, and in regards to some of our MFPs, we offer interfaces that open the opportunity to develop customised applications for end users to access. We also have the mobility to train our partners to take advantage of that and deploy solutions at a customer level.
Environmental impact is a key consideration for organisations going forward. Is the SMB sector as well equipped as enterprise?
KG: From a corporate social responsibility perspective, most large enterprises will have a person or group that has a broad responsibility for areas such as environmental impact, so it’s easier in a large corporate environment to see that type of environmental drive. SMBs typically aren’t going to have that dedicated focus, so while you’ll see a lot of concern for environmental sustainability, you’re not going to see the unique focus you would see in larger corporations. If you can help the environment, and have not just a good sustainability message, but also prove that you’re creating IT in a sustainable way, and are able to offer a cost benefit in the process, then the intersection of those points will get you a good play with SMBs.
That’s the approach we’ve been working with for quite some time, and it’s really a program that started with our European subsidiaries. I will say that from my travels to the different countries, environmental aspects are more significant in Germany or France.
As a vendor we’ve developed a print less, save more value proposition that’s focused around reducing the amount of paper created. More than 80 per cent of the carbon effect of a workstation printer is devised from the paper consumed by that device, so capabilities that reduce the amount of paper used can have a big cost saving for the end user and give them the ability to tangibly track that back to a sustainability message.
Managed print services is an area generating a lot of interest. How is Lexmark involved with its partner in this space?
KG: We’re involved on a couple of levels, and it really depends on the maturity level of the partner. Some partners are more leading edge, and have already developed the capability to do managed print services. In that case, they’re not really looking at us for expertise – they are after a hardware and supply model that will fi t into the type of solutions they’re creating for end users. At a grander level, we will work with partners to help them understand the business – we have a managed print services offering that we do for very large enterprises and have been doing for a number of years. We believe we understand business well, and we will work with partners to educate them on it.
To what extent do you see managed print services penetrating into the SMB market over the next year?
KG: We see it as becoming significant, and it’s directly coupled with the economy. I see this as an opportunity for partners. If an SMB is looking to upgrade technology, in many cases they might put that decision off until they see how the economic situation pans out. I’m seeing great partners and customers moving more quickly when there’s a managed print services offering than a pure hardware acquisition.
Security in the SMB space around printing – is it much of an issue?
KG: It’s a similar discussion to environmental sustainability. The difference between an enterprise and an SMB is that typically an enterprise is going to have a strict security profi le that they implement through their IT department. SMBs, especially at the smaller end of town, may not have their own IT department or person looking after that. They will generally look to their IT reseller to help provide that. The desire is there, but the SMB’s ability to implement that is not going to be at the same level as an enterprise – and again that’s an area I see as an opportunity for our resellers\