It wasn’t so long ago that technologies like managed print and enterprise content management were considered cutting edge — of interest to early adopters of business technology, but not on the radar for the rest. But many of those technologies have now matured, and costs have come down. The adoption cycle is now around the top of the curve, progressing through the early majority to the late majority phase. A wave of adoption is coming where much of the growth will be concentrated in small- and medium-sized business (SMB) markets — a largely untapped revenue source for many dealers.
MPS, ECM and cybersecurity are no longer exclusive to the needs of your larger customers and prospects, as the rapid adoption of technologies has lowered the threshold of entry for SMBs and offers imaging dealers a new channel of revenue growth. But as with most investment decisions, a company’s financial wherewithal often limits their ability to take advantage of new solutions even as prices for those new technologies fall, limiting the dealer’s ability to maximize the SMB growth opportunity.
Meeting market needs versus the financial ability to do so
Companies with lower revenues typically feel the impact of economic cycles, such as peaks and valleys in revenues and unexpected expenses, more than your larger prospects. As a result, SMBs are often caught between the increasing demand for solutions like MPS and ECM and a budget that severely limits their ability to meet the needs of the market.
All of which begs the question: How can imaging dealers solve this problem, make greater inroads into SMB markets, and tap into this unrealized revenue opportunity?
The answer lies with one of your oldest and best friends in your business development efforts — your finance program. Solving the issue of SMB budget limitations for investing in new technologies might be as simple as consulting that old friend.
Eight benefits of leveraging your finance program to drive new SMB revenues
While it’s clear that a quality customer finance program will be key to establishing and maintaining a leading presence as SMBs begin adopting maturing technologies like MPS and ECM, many of the most important benefits may not be so obvious. Here are eight key benefits of leveraging your finance program to grow SMB revenue, support strong growth in SMB technology adoption, and maximize overall performance.
1. ECM, MPS and your newest solutions made affordable
Affordable monthly payments enable an easier path to revenue growth. Your finance program avoids the depletion of already limited cash reserves and fits the investment into budget parameters more easily. Additionally, the program should include soft costs like delivery, installation and taxes. It also supports solution selling and objection handling when an affordable all-in payment is rolled into the solution from the start.
2. Solution billing is easier to sell than transactional billing
Success in selling MPS, ECM and other offerings depends on positioning them as integrated solutions rather than as collections of interchangeable parts which, among other issues, introduce unnecessary pricing pressure. But billing for these solutions is often so fragmented among various components and vendors that the focus on solutions — that salespeople work so hard to maintain — is lost. Customers don’t appreciate receiving multiple monthly invoices for a solution that’s positioned as integrated, and imaging dealers shouldn’t have to accept that kind of billing and bookkeeping complexity. Fortunately, some finance companies offer integrated billing that makes the process seamless for the customer and handles all the back-end allocation of funds.
3. Be a sales center of excellence and an employer of choice
Offering sales professionals additional opportunities to succeed in the long term creates a more stable, well-paid and satisfied sales team. By offering a finance program that extends beyond the imaging device and into new technologies and services, dealers offer their sales teams an easier way to sell all their solutions rather than only part of them. Since an affordable monthly payment is generally always easier to sell (especially to SMBs), dealers can also create a certain differentiated offering in the market around ECM and MPS. In addition to making your current sales team more productive and happier with their results, it also becomes easier to recruit the best talent in a highly competitive market.
4. Enhance your brand in the marketplace
Strong relationships are key to solution selling, especially in “as-a-service” situations. Imaging dealers go to great lengths to integrate all the various parts of a solution and present it to the customer under their own brand to support the relationship. And branding, done right, should be consistent throughout the solution lifecycle, start to finish and back again, without interruption. But it can be hard to maintain brand continuity when the financial details of the transaction are handled by a third-party finance provider. Branded financing offers an effective alternative that keeps customers focused on you. As far as the dealer is concerned, all the details of the financing process are taken care of just as before. And from the customer’s perspective, it’s all an integrated, dealer-branded part of the same overall solution — application, approval, documentation, billing and beyond. Brand experiences are continuous, and relationships stay strong, supporting greater sales ROI and increased customer lifetime value.
5. Roll out the SMB competency with marketing support
What if your finance program could do more than just the financing? What if they could help you promote your new SMB effort and even offer the working capital for the up-front expense of those efforts? Before you can leverage new opportunities in the SMB market, your customers need to be aware of what you offer. But that can be costly in terms of money and personnel. Some finance providers who know the SMB market well have stepped in to help with marketing support. This can include anything from customizable flyers and brochures to full-blown campaigns with email, social media posts, direct mail and more — all professionally produced by people with years of experience marketing to SMB customers and all seamlessly branded to keep customers focused on you. But when your finance program partner is also willing to offer the working capital funding needed to support the effort, that’s a next level differentiator for a dealer.
6. Easily offer project financing
IT investments are often far from transactional plug and play experiences. They’re projects. From the new office expansion or relocation to the acquisition integration, offering your solutions to coincide with project phases to meet cash flow and budget requirements with a customized payment option can provide better pacing between project costs and revenue generation. It can also support your reputation as a consultative seller as you work with the customer from the earliest stages of the project to logically define phases, deliverables, ROI and other details.
7. Maximize the value of your dealership
With all the recent M&A in the industry, dealer principals should always be looking for new and innovative ways to differentiate from the competition and maximize the value of their company. By leveraging your finance program to create a higher volume of monthly recurring revenues with the expansion of SMB accounts into ECM, MPS and other value-added solutions, dealers can have a more consistent revenue stream, enhanced EBITDA performance and, accordingly, stronger valuations of operation when the time comes. It doesn’t matter whether a potential buyer is strategic or financial, cash flow and “lumpy” revenue streams make for less fortunate outcomes when seeking ownership transition alternatives.
8. Leveraging SMB expertise
Look for a finance provider with a strong track record of working with SMB clients and designing solutions tailored to meet their unique financial and operational needs. Work with them to make sure you understand the financial needs of the SMBs and develop your go-to-market strategies accordingly. At the same time, make sure the company isn’t just about working with smaller clients. The right partner should understand larger businesses and enterprises too, as well as have the resources to serve all your markets in a capable, cohesive way that supports your approach to business and your brand as your operation continues to grow and the market continues to evolve.
Thanks in part to the maturation of key technologies, small and mid-sized businesses stand to deliver a bigger impact to an imaging business’s bottom line than ever. But while demand is growing rapidly, many potential customers in these markets face budget challenges that can put out of reach the very technologies that grow revenues and pave the way to an improved competitive standing and solid long-term growth.
The imaging dealers who are positioned to help SMBs meet these challenges will see the greatest success in these markets. And a big part of that positioning will involve spending time with an old friend — a quality customer finance partner with a deep understanding of the imaging industry and its SMB customers, as well as the resources to help drive growth across the enterprise.
LEAF Managing Director Nick Capparelli has been with the company since its beginning in 2011. He has also held leadership positions at LFC, Fidelity Leasing, Tokai Financial Services, and Master Lease. An industry veteran and thought leader with more than 25 years of experience, Capparelli is a graduate of Northeastern University.