Friday, July 26, 2013

Imaging 411 Targets VARs, Offering Higher Margins on Service

Following is an excerpt from an article entitled, "Imaging 411 Pumps Life into Hardware Service Market" that appeared in our July 19, 2013 premium edition of DIR.

There are several components to a document imaging sale. We typically talk a lot about the hardware, software, and professional services associated with a deal, because those items typically produce the big upfront price tag. (Unless of course it’s a SaaS or MPS driven deal—but, while gaining momentum, those are still exceptions rather than the norms in our market.) But, there is also typically recurring revenue that can be earned through software maintenance and hardware service contracts.

One difference between these recurring revenue sales and the upfront sales, however, is that while any number of vendors may be competing for the upfront sales, the number of options for maintenance and service is typically limited. Software maintenance, for example, because of the nature of the beast, is usually offered only by the ISV who developed the software. As a result, the ISV typically gets to set the terms with no questions asked.

Hardware service has historically been somewhat more flexible, and at one time many resellers were actually certified to service scanners, which enabled them to control their own pricing. However, while some scanner vendors like Canon still certify VARs, other market leaders like Kodak and Fujitsu have increasingly encouraged resellers to offer only the manufacturer’s authorized service at a price dictated by the manufacturer. The result has been successful service programs for the manufacturers, which has helped them offset some of their falling margins on hardware sales, but it has also put the squeeze on resellers who also have to deal with falling hardware margins and now have to deal with more restrictive service margins as well.

Imaging 411 is attempting to reverse that dynamic and once again make scanner service an important profit center for VARs. The Long Island, NY-based organization is offering scanner service packages to VARs—advertising significantly higher margins than the VARs get reselling similar service packages from leading scanner manufacturers. Imaging 411 recently brought on board long-time scanner industry sales and marketing executive Don McMahan as its VP of sales to help it drive some aggressive channel growth.

McMahan was originally hired by Imaging 411 as a consultant in 2010 when he launched the service provider’s Maintenance VAR Program (MVP). “One of the big components of the MVP program is that we offer deal registration,” said McMahan. “This signifies that we are not competing with our resellers. In addition, we are offering VARs two to three times the margins they get on service contracts from leading scanner vendors.”

Imaging 411 was launched in 2004 as a VAR, with the value-add of being able provide its own service. Its co-founders, Gary Armstrong and Joe Paradiso, are former Lason executives who helped manage service for a large conversion services and imaging systems integration business. Over the years, Imaging 411 began to increase its focus on service on both microfilm and document scanner equipment.

“In each of the past five years, Imaging 411 has enjoyed at least double-digit growth in terms of revenue and new accounts,” said McMahan. “We’ve landed some major national accounts with more than 100 locations—including Databank, which we publicized last year. We also landed a contract to provide in-house scanner service for one of the biggest office integrators in the U.S.”

A lot of the Imaging 411’s early customers are former Kodak Service & Support customers. “We went after Kodak customers and partners first because the dollar values associated with some of their accounts are so high and Kodak’s programs aren’t very flexible,” said McMahan. “One of our differentiators is that we pride ourselves on being easier to do business with."

McMahan said that Imaging 411 currently has about 20 reseller partners. “We are definitely growing our channel,” he said. “That said, I think 30 partners, that really want to do a good job, would be plenty."

Imaging 411 offers coverage throughout the United States through a combination of its own field engineers and contractors. It also provides Level II support to supplement its field personnel. “Our price book is basically the same as the manufacturers’,” said McMahan. “We match all the service SKUs sold by Kodak, Fujitsu, Canon, etc., and we offer more flexible pricing.”

“The bottom line," McMahan added, "is that even if the service market is shrinking, for a smaller company like Imaging 411, the opportunity is too great to pass up. We think the market is plenty big enough to support another major player.”

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