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Amy Weissby Amy Weiss   

It’s been a little while since we teased you with Lexmark’s big announcements from its roadshow series earlier this year, so if you want to take a moment to refresh yourself on our collection of photo highlights from the Las Vegas and Orlando events, go ahead. We’ll wait.

You remember now, right? Race cars and alligators and Tommy Boy. But there were also some things we weren’t allowed to talk about — and those things were the real heart of the event. Now, Lexmark has officially announced the A4 color and large workgroup monochrome printers and multifunction products (MFPs) specifically for its business solutions dealer (BSD) program — the M5255, M5270, XM5365, XM7355 and XM7370 A4 monochrome devices for large workgroups and C2240, XC2235 and XC4240 MFPs A4 color printers and MFPs for small/medium workgroups. They join the midrange monochrome devices launched in April; the M1200 and XM1200 series and the M3200 and XM3200 (M and C denote single-function printers, the X indicates MFPs). The 3250 devices replace the 3150s, while the 1200 series replace the 1145s. The 1242s are new to the lineup.

Lexmark hardware  CX625ade Lexmark

Left: The midrange monochrome devices we were allowed to take pictures of in May; right, the XC4240 that was still top-secret.

With the new devices, the same user interface can be found across the entire platform. They sport increased horsepower, some with quad-core processors; single-pass scanners in segments that didn’t previously have them; increased paper handling; and an overall expanded range of models, giving dealers more opportunities. They are also more eco-friendly; Boatman noted that more and more customers are asking for a carbon footprint analysis. “They want to know what their impact on the environment is and how you can help them,” he said. They also have fewer screws — something that makes for good jokes and faster servicing.  

Lexmark, wisely, is also touting the security strengths in its lineup, noting some of those features have been available for a long time — whitelisting and encrypted hard drives with overwrite capabilities, for example, have been available since 2005. It is a critical selling point in today’s extremely security-conscious market.

It’s important to note that these devices are all very specific to Lexmark’s dealer channel — it released similar devices for the enterprise channel, but Lexmark is very definitely differentiating between the two markets. According to Clark Bugg, director, North American sales, 2007 was the first year Lexmark began to introduce dealer-specific models into the channel. He explained how Lexmark had some success with smart MFPs being sold into the channel, and gradually a team came together that included Phil Boatman, who along with Bugg led the roadshow circuit this spring. “We were like a garage band, trying to get a No. 1 hit,” recalled Bugg. “We had to listen to our partners, understand how to meet their needs around service, around CPP, to be able to be in the position to win.” And winning with its channel partners “is our No. 1 goal,” said Bugg.

The BSD program seems to be paying off for Lexmark, which saw its greatest hardware growth in more than a decade in 2017. Overall year-over-year growth from 2016 to 2017 was 10 percent, with an impressive 31 percent year-over-year growth from a worldwide channel perspective, leaving Lexmark heading into 2018 with a growing install base and strong momentum. Additionally, for the first time in 2017 the channel business was bigger than the enterprise business — in 2016 the split was 55-45 in favor of enterprise; in 2017 it had shifted to 47-53. “Owning our own technology is a key differentiator in the marketplace,” said Bugg.

Our take

Lexmark has been making a strong push into the traditional copier space with its A4 devices for a few years now, and the roadshow series showcased its strides along its path toward that market. Its success speaks for itself; tipping the scales in favor of the channel business was a huge milestone for a traditional printer company.

The obstacle Lexmark has always needed to overcome when making a play for the channel is the one marked “A3.” So far, it seems to be handling it well. The Lexmark dealers I spoke to at the roadshow seemed unconcerned, noting that they could fill in the blanks with other vendors when they needed to, but they didn’t need to that often. Boatman alluded to this as well — noting 2 percent of worldwide paper sales is 11x17, and that reps should ask prospects how often they print on jumbo (A3) sized paper. “Then go open that [A3] drawer and wipe the dust out.”

Empirical evidence seems to speak for itself. At its 2016 dealer meeting, Lexmark introduced what it called “the game changer” in A4 devices. “Is A4 finally the homecoming king?” we asked after that meeting — as an answer, see the aforementioned shift weighing in favor of Lexmark’s channel business in 2017. Something seems to have worked.

Of course, there is more to channel enablement than hardware; Lexmark has historically pulled from its strong software partnerships. And while the ownership landscape for Lexmark has changed since 2016, it has found new partnerships to leverage and maintains its strengths in that area as well. We’ll cover more about that vertical alignment in an upcoming blog; in the meantime, let’s just say that Lexmark appears to be following through on its plans to become a channel player.