Updated 3/31/2022. Originally Published 7/30/2020.
First, the pandemic, and then supply chain obstacles - it's no wonder companies are diversifying their offerings and looking to new and emerging ancillary solutions to add to their catalog. Many realize it’s not the right move to simply hold tight and weather the storm. Instead, by pivoting and finding new ways to meet both the immediate and long-term needs of their customers, companies are able to foster long-lasting, mutually-beneficial relationships.
As you, a solution provider with goals of evolving beyond print-focused offerings, head down the path of diversification, it’s important to ask yourself, “How can I protect the business I have, and continue to win new business?” As businesses continue to transition and define a new normal, we’ve seen new demands emerge. Solution providers will need to take new products and services offerings into consideration and prepare to compete with others inside and outside of their space in new ways. Many of these opportunities tie directly to the network itself.
Getting into the network game makes a lot of sense. After all, copiers and printers hang on the network. In fact, understanding and being able to talk intelligently about the network is now the ticket to entry on many of the solutions we’ll cover here today.
So what diversification opportunities should you consider? Let’s dig in.
Now more than ever, businesses understand what’s at stake when it comes to the security of their network. Not just larger organizations, but even SMBs now understand the high priority network security should hold. Everyone is vulnerable to a security breach and the repercussions can be debilitating for a business of any size. If you, as the solution provider, can help your customers maintain a secure environment, they will be willing to listen to the solutions you present.
With that said, the ability to protect the network and the desire of the ‘bad guy’ to get into the network, has never been higher. Keep in mind, network security is complex; there are companies out there that specialize in network security- it’s all they do. If you are considering going down this path, you have to know what you are doing. You’ll need to attain the proper certifications, resources, and expertise needed in order to understand how to protect both you and your customers’ interests. If a breach happens on your watch, that opens your business up to liabilities. That’s why we recommend either partnering with a third party who can guide or provide this service or limiting your new offering to a few specific niches. I’d be remiss if I didn’t point you to resources we have via our subsidiary, Collabrance, LLC, an outsourced IT provider in this space. If you want to learn more about getting into IT and security, the information available here may help.
Backup and Disaster Recovery
One niche of security we’ve seen our partners successfully enter is in the realm of Backup and Disaster Recovery (BDR). BDR is a combination of data backup and disaster recovery solutions that work together to safeguard a company’s business continuity. The nice thing about BDR devices is they are lower maintenance and allow for solid recurring revenue and exponential growth. Getting into network security through a niche like BDR allows office technology providers like you to deploy a simple strategy that attaches your business to the network and grow from the inside out.
Another aspect of security is physical security, meaning on-premise surveillance, access control systems, or monitoring systems that ensure the physical security of an environment is maintained. This space involves some risk. For instance, if you get into monitoring or access control systems and there is a failure, you could be at fault. This creates a need for liability insurance to address that risk should it occur. The world of physical security is vast, and we recommend finding a niche. As an example, we’ve seen some partners experience success in the surveillance side of this business.
The cloud has completely transformed the telecommunications game. Though there are still enterprises using the on-premise model, we are seeing more and more transitioning to a hybrid or fully cloud-hosted model. The cloud has made it easier for those who aren’t a specialist in the area of telecom to play there, creating some opportunity for you to gain traction.
When you hear the term Pro Audio Visual (AV) market, think conferencing technologies. There’s been no better time to sell digital monitors, cameras, conferencing systems and the software that supports all of these offerings. The recent entrance of Zoom into the AVaaS space with bundled video conferencing solutions, as well as several distributors and manufacturers moving in this direction, has only accelerated the AV industry’s move into financing and AVaaS offerings on other products. Overall, the AV space is still a traditional “cash” sale with very little maintenance or managed services to support the technology. Technology providers that can differentiate by selling monthly payments or “As-a-Service” offerings in the AV space would be very well positioned, especially in the current economic environment.
Conference Room As-A-Service
Video conferencing has never been more important than it is now. Many of us continue to work from home and we need to maintain face–to-face interaction. Pre-COVID-19, this market was already growing. We can only expect it to continue to pop even as some return to the office.
We’ve all become more comfortable with technology and we’ve seen notable growth in conference room as a service offerings as a result. Conference room as a service is a bundled rental solution that includes the necessary devices, software and ongoing service and support. If you’ve ever been late to a call or virtual presentation because you couldn’t get your technology to cooperate, then you can understand the demand that lies in ongoing conference room support. Customers are willing to pay for an ongoing lifeline to reduce inefficiencies of technical issues associated with conferencing offerings.
Software licensing has exploded. Considering how difficult it can be to go in and install equipment given the current environment, software offers a very clear benefit. With the ability to remote in, you reduce the IT resources needed for implementation.
You do have to understand and be knowledgeable in the software you sell, but if you find the right niche that provides the right solution to your customer, you can make good margins on it. This creates a nice pickup to help fill the gap on some print volume losses. Here are a few examples.
Citrix or VPN Licensing
Especially in our current environment, people need a secure way to access their organization’s network remotely. The ability to perform my job depends on this software and many dealers and MSPs have seen a lift in this area of their business, especially post-COVID-19.
Document Management Software
Document management, often referred to as Document Management Systems (DMS), is the use of a computer system and software to store, manage and track electronic documents and electronic images of paper-based information captured through the use of a document scanner. Document management software is crucial to help employees scan, save, and share documents digitally and securely with team members. Digital workflows have only accelerated in importance with today’s distributed workforce; you can help your customers remain efficient and effective with their business processes with a document management solution.
Printing from Home
Depending on what study you’ve read, it’s estimated that between 20-30% of the workforce may never return to the office space. How does that impact printing? Even when some do return to work, not everyone will. This means we can expect a drop in print volume.
Those that are working from home still have a need to print and will be tempted to plug in their home devices, introducing security risk to their employer’s network. That’s why organizations should consider implementing a print from home solution for their employees. While this is a fairly new offering, solution providers are looking at how they can package an at home solution which organizations purchase and disperse to their remote workforce.
There’s been lots of change over the last couple of years: The needs of your customers have changed, the way we do business has evolved, and new obstacles have formed. If you can continue to understand what your customers need and keep you finger to the pulse of what others inside and outside of your space are doing, you’ll identify opportunities beyond print that will help you evolve into the future.
[Webinar] Diversification Gone Wrong: Lessons Learned to Make It Right
Tuesday, April 5, 2022 | 1-2 PM CST
Many office technology dealers are motivated to add new and emerging ancillary solutions to their catalog of products and services, given the decreasing trends for print. As you scale or consider adding new offerings, it can be helpful to learn from what some of your peers have implemented. Tune into this webinar, moderated by Scott Cullen of the Cannata Report, to hear from a panel of dealers as they share insights for success and lessons learned!
Derek Meier is Vice President of Sales for the Office Equipment Group at GreatAmerica. He is responsible for the sales leadership and execution of the sales strategy for the East Coast sales teams. Derek started his career at GreatAmerica in 2008. Prior to GreatAmerica, he attended Coe College where he was active in athletics and volunteering. Derek spends his time with his daughter Hadley along with fishing and hunting.