The continuing evaporation of customer excitement concerning copy and print is further driving its commoditization. Some in the “The Imaging Channel” will continue justifying a declining market in the same way other industries in decline do. They question the skill sets of their sales department, they question the new generation’s skills at management, and some will question their manufacturer's pricing, support, and strategies. Independent dealers must focus now more than ever on their own survival and stop believing that their manufacturers will protect them against a collapsing market. It seems many still take directions and believe their manufacturers are as loyal as they once were. Remember this; a manufacturer who sells direct, or through dealers will always put the needs of the Manufacturing plant before the needs of the sales engine, and yes that is backwards. Any loyalty they appear to have will not survive their desperation. Ask the Ricoh, or Lanier, dealers who were not invited to the Ricoh Direct going out of business sale.
The disaster at Ricoh should alarm other manufacturers and those large dealer organizations who continue buying print bases. Ricoh proved you can’t buy customers in a declining market “without a plan to reinvent your relevance”. Ricoh believed their continued relevance would be a by-product of winning every deal at all cost, regardless of cost, and this approach cost them dearly. Ricoh taught us all a powerful lesson, and now their future is questionable. They’ve gone from the largest direct distribution manufacturer, back to distribution through dealers, of which most are muti-line. Ricoh gave up control to survive. The sad part is Ricoh used to thrive.
Today’s progressive dealers are selling Managed IT Services, Managed Communication Services, and Managed Security Services. Progressive dealers will continue to reinvent themselves as they understand the importance of replacing the declining profit and revenue of print. Sadly we see dealers, manufacturers, leasing companies, and some support software companies refusing to acknowledge there’s even a problem. When those in the industry can visualize themselves not dependent on print, by default they will be thinking innovatively. Innovative organizations will collaborate with those unrecognizable to those remaining status quo.
Today many in the Imaging Channel are growing based on acquisitions. No industry can buy itself relevancy when its customers are determined to use and value their products less and less. Kmart did not help Sears. If you were a taxi company would you buy another taxi company, or would you purchase a software, or app development company? Customers only want outcomes the means to achieve them will never win over the outcome. Imagine the taxi organization who bought up all the medallions in NYC. He was the biggest, he was the richest, and he had the most assets. He also lost the most when UBER was born. Customers only want outcomes. So if your goal is buying customers, you better have a plan when your industry’s UBER is born.
The imaging Channel must face the reality that large customer bases will not save them from obsolescence. As the industry goes through the transition the dealers, the manufacturers, the leasing partners, the consultants, and the analysts must change their thinking. Instead of looking for deliverables which complement print, look for deliverables void of print, and I am not talking about water.
The good news for the truly innovative actors, most won’t do this, giving those who do a great advantage. Sadly most legacy organizations who refuse to innovate, perish during disruptions. When was the last time you shopped at Sears? If you hurry you can make their liquidation sale? Imaging Channel! Don't be Sears. Imaging Channel don’t be the taxi company holding the most Medallion’s.
In-Closing: it’s not about the world going paperless, it’s about the customers declining value of print, and manufactures lowering the cost of equipment and simplifying the services. These two facts will not allow the survival of the current circumstances.
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