Embracing Channel Evolution and Emerging Markets to Come

It’s no secret that the business landscape has experienced rapid changes in recent years. Following the initial shock and disorientation from the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses and organizations from across all industries turned to new processes and initiatives to make the most of the distressing situation or even just stay afloat in some cases. Manufacturing, shipping, and communication are just some aspects of business that have undergone dramatic changes.

For managed service providers (MSPs) and copier dealers, this season of change provided an opportunity to fully embrace channel evolution and explore new opportunities to offer service and solutions to their customers. Those who remained flexible and open to new possibilities found exciting ways to diversify their portfolios and adopt additional revenue streams to maintain profitability while continuing to provide value during a time when it was needed most. While some pandemic protocols have subsided, the era of channel evolution is here to stay. As business needs evolve, MSPs and copier dealers that remain adaptable and embrace the change will be ready for the uncertain landscapes to come. At the same time, those who shy away from emerging markets may struggle to grow or maintain their current business output. 

Where MSPs and copier dealers have been

For many dealers, printing has always been the primary focus. From the earliest days of typewriters and the eventual evolution into coin-ops to the current landscape of multifunction printers and devices, print has remained at the forefront of nearly all services and solutions. However, digitization and data automation to streamline workflows continues to be the next wave of evolution, pushing printing and paper to the background for some organizations.

The future, however, is not about eliminating print services as a capability, but it might be time for some dealers and MSPs to find additional channels to explore that align with the changing needs of their customers. The keys for keeping up with your market lie in:

1. Knowing your customers

2. Being prepared for change

3. Getting outside your comfort zone with diversification

Knowing your customers

Knowing who you serve is as important as having hardware, solutions, and services to sell. As dealers and MSPs march on into an unknown future, one of the primary keys to success will be deeply understanding and following that which is known. What is most important to those in your target market? Which solutions would be most effective for their needs? How receptive to change are those leaders during this era of channel evolution? What issues are most relevant to specific groups of your customers? The more accurately dealers can answer those questions and apply solutions, the more effective they will be at maintaining their position as a trusted partner for their customers.

Companies that have withstood previous shifts and found new ways to thrive over the years were able to quickly adapt by remaining focused on the user experience. In order to successfully provide solutions, you must first understand the user, the problems they are facing, and ways that MSPs and copier dealers can fill those needs. Flexibility, diversification, and additional revenue streams will be the keys for those looking to reach new heights in the era of channel evolution. However, none of it is possible without keeping the user experience as a primary focus at all times. When users find a dealer they are satisfied with within one area of their business, they are much more likely to consider employing the provider for even more aspects of their print and technology environment.

Perhaps the greatest additional benefit of embracing the role as a services organization with evolving channels is the opportunity to make a deep and recognizable impact in the community where you live and work. Churches, schools, hospitals, and government agencies are just some of the many different organizations that can be helped by dealers who are forward-thinking and diversifying their offerings. After all, there’s no shortage of potential locations and opportunities to provide multiple solutions and services. Which organizations or initiatives are most important to you? Who are you passionate about serving in your community or business environment? By embracing channel evolution and emerging markets, MSPs and dealers will soon find a whole new world of opportunities to make a measurable difference and play a significant role in the success of their users.   

Being prepared for change

Taking it a step further, those who are able to predict and solve additional questions before they arise will be the ones looked at as industry leaders in the dynamic new world of channel evolution. As dealers continually ask questions about how they can help transform their customers’ businesses, it also helps slowly open doors to new opportunities before they become necessities.   

Product, service, and hardware diversification wasn’t a new concept to the channel in 2020, but the shift to it being necessary to succeed was one that felt jarring with the pandemic landscape at foot. Keeping your ear to what can be the next big option for finding new revenue streams starts with listening — to your customers, to your own process shortcomings, to government regulations and funding changes, to industry experts, and everything in between.

For years, we have been transitioning to a digital environment where paper takes a back seat to automation and digitization. With a focus on efficiencies, digital document management, and updates to laws that protect data, there were many indicators that software to help ease the transformation would become pivotal not only to the organizations starting the journey, but the dealers at their side to facilitate it. Document capture and workflow automation became a new staple that turned the MSP messaging from printing and print management to document management and digital workflows. They saw it coming and embraced the change.

Getting outside your comfort zone with diversification

While capture software may have felt like a natural 1-2 punch, true diversification might not be so comfortable. A prime example is the emerging market of electric vehicles (EV) and the charging stations that power them. On the surface, it may not seem like a natural progression for MSPs and dealers to jump into the EV charging space. However, those who are willing to get uncomfortable with diversification could soon find an untapped global market brimming with opportunities for growth and newfound success.

Although traditional vehicles will not be exiting the landscape overnight, up to 40% of new vehicle sales are expected to be electric by 2030 and MSPs present the quickest and most efficient path for the charging station infrastructure to be implemented. To reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote the adoption of EVs across the U.S, many states have legislated incentives including price reductions, rebates, and grants for transportation electrification.

Just as it has been with other forms of diversification, the key for dealers is to gain a deep understanding of the EV infrastructure market and how they can provide solutions and valuable revenue streams.

Even without getting away from the expertise of printing, the wide variety of new solutions to offer is easily apparent. What started as a local network of printers and copiers has expanded into cloud-based support and print management. Servers and desktops have been replaced by laptops and tablets connected to the cloud. This shift opened the door for other services, such as business analytics and document workflow automation. These emerging markets also bring increasing needs for cybersecurity, a key service that is driving change in business models for many MSPs and dealers with a focus on strategic thinking and a clear vision for the future. It’s clear for all to see; channel evolution is already upon us. Now is the time to embrace it and be ready to provide the next solution to help customers thrive.

Mark Hart

Mark Hart is Vice President of Business Development for ACDI.