Creating a loyal customer base

Johannesburg, 13 May 2022
Read time 4min 20sec

Some resellers of printing equipment literally just supply a printer, they don’t offer their customers consumables or any other value-add. Johannes Groenewald, General Manager, Demand Factory, Tarsus Distribution, says: “This represents a lost opportunity for some channel partners, noting that their customer is having to go to another reseller to buy their print consumables. Sharing a customer with a competitor is never a good thing.”

“We want to address this by taking Tarsus Distribution’s channel partners on a journey, equipping them with the knowledge to provide their customers with more than just a printer in a box.”

He goes on to explain what he means by this. “Instead of just supplying a printer, we want our channel partners to get involved in scoping the end-user’s requirements, understand their needs, design the print solution with them and assist with the installation and commissioning, instead of just dropping a box. The channel partner has to become their trusted advisor and supply them with the right printer for their requirements.”

On this topic, Groenewald clarifies: “We often see people using the wrong printer for the wrong application in a business, such as over-investing in a colour printer when the business mainly requires black and white prints. In this instance, it might prove cheaper for the business to invest in a second black and white printer that is running at a lower cost per page.”

Another way in which Tarsus Distribution empowers its channel partners is by offering them the opportunity to upskill through vendor certification. “All of the big vendors offer partner programmes that our channel partners can use to achieve certification. Our end-users should always make sure that their service providers for hardware and consumables are certified as it means that they’re sufficiently skilled to provide the best possible advice. This certification is offered at no cost to our sales teams and channel partners.”

Once the channel partner has installed a printer at a customer, more work needs to be done to secure that customer by supplying them with consumables such as stationery and toner or ink supplies. An ongoing relationship can be maintained by notifying the customer when the printer needs servicing and carrying out that service where the required print management program is used. “As a start, a channel partner needs to ensure that its staff are upskilled so that they know how to check whether the customer’s printer requires servicing when they’re dropping off paper or other consumables, and schedule it. With this small, simple gesture, the reseller can create customer loyalty and ‘stickiness’.”

Which brings Groenewald to something that channel partners don’t always consider or discuss with their customers: the extended warranty. “Most vendors sell extended warranties, but often, channel partners just wait for their customer to order a replacement printer when their warranty expires – and the end-user is not always aware that they have the option to extend their warranty. The onus is on channel to educate and inform end-users that instead of upgrading their expensive enterprise-grade printer, they can choose to extend the warranty, ensuring that the business is protected and that it invests limited opex instead of a large capex lay-out.”

By doing this, the channel partner may miss out in the short term on the order of a new printer by advising the customer on how best to optimise their technology budget, selling fewer printers and more warranties, but in the process creating a partnership for life with a loyal customer.

His last piece of advice is for channel partners to use a system of record to collect important data about their customer base. A good place to start is a CRM system to manage their customer data to understand the technology age, the sales cycle of consumables and supplies and even when warranties will expire. “The channel partner doesn’t have to invest in an expensive CRM system, it can be as simple is using an Excel spreadsheet, then down the line they can move to a more formal tool as their business evolves. If you know how many pages the customer prints a month, then you can work out when the customer will need more toner or cartridges or other consumables and proactively reach out to the customer with a special offer on that product. This way you add value and stimulate the partnership for life with your customers.”

For any channel partners or businesses that are interested in engaging with Tarsus Distribution for assistance with your technology needs, you are invited to reach out to us by visiting the Tarsus Distribution website.

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