Print resellers fall into two camps. There are those that sell office and consumer printers, which rarely print on anything more exotic than paper, never go beyond A3 size and where most of the output rarely leaves the office. Then there is the land of the giants, where machines can produce outlandishly large banners, adverts or posters.
Meanwhile, local government loves to erect A1-size missives that communicate to other bodies or to the tax-paying public, he suggests, especially if they can print them in 27 languages.
The entry-level products, though employing the same technology as higher-end offerings, do not have the same challenges, says Burchett. "We service the printers. The reseller just needs to ask the potential client the right questions," he points out.
At this end of the market, the reseller only has to remember three principles. As Burchett says, they need to ask the customer the right questions to match them with the right printer for their applications. They need to be able to calculate and show the customer a return on their investment. And they need to demonstrate that the printers are sufficiently easy to use: at this end of the LFP market, Canon offers only two modes and one of them is known as the Easy setting, he says.
Software bundles may illustrate how Canon envisages its printers being used. Poster Artist, an application offering the user 1,000 templates to use for designing a poster, usually costs about £425, but is given away free with the Canon range sold through Midwich, says Burchett.
Canon and Midwich are doing a lot of work here. Canon is producing presentations, sales guides with answers to typical customer questions, cost comparison figures and sales organisation sheets, he says.
Meanwhile, Midwich is to have a dedicated sales development manager and sales development executive. Like with every golden-sounding sales opportunity, resellers may wonder how long the demand will last. In which case, they may want to start moving up the value chain, eventually taking on higher-end products, adds Burnett.
Canon also offers higher-end products, but they are handled by different distributors the more specialised Velmex and Art Systems.
Gareth Parker, product manager at printer manufacturer Ricoh, says resellers will need to address new markets if they wish to sell higher-end products. That is where the complexity comes in. "Recognising the difference between the two key large-format markets CAD and graphical can be a challenge."
CAD-based plotting was once mono based, but customers now demand colour. High-end graphical applications, however, have always been wholly colour based, for both in-house and outdoor production. Wherever there is colour, there is complexity. Even plotting and printing for CAD can be difficult, says Parker, as there are various expectations on
controllers, production time and the use of different media.
"Understanding historic processes and workflows will be a challenge for new resellers getting to grips with the large-format market," he says.
Recognising the trends from centralised production to decentralised, convenience printing and plotting is important. The immediate challenge in the CAD market is to offer high-quality colour scanning at an affordable price, ideally integrated into one system with a robust plotter or printer, says Parker.
Another challenge that ambitious resellers may want to think about is identified by Quocirca's Clive Longbottom. "When you are selling these large-format devices, to whom do you pitch? The IT manager or the printer manager, the asset manager or the facilities manager? Think about who you target," he says.
Colourgen's Enser argues that resellers planning to sell LFPs but wanting an alternative to Canon are most likely to choose Epson, which she said is the nearest equivalent and has LFP offerings at about the same price.
HP with its DesignJet range dominates the market, though, she says. HP was not available to contribute to this article.
Epson's prographics business manager Martin Johns has a few now familiar-sounding words of advice to IT resellers thinking of entering this market.
"It is not a market that I would advocate for an IT reseller unless they had the requisite knowledge in matching Photoshop settings, colour management and raster image processor (RIP) with a client's business processes," he says.
"It may take at least a year or two to get the pre-press experience."
The pre-press market is huge, though, so it would not be too difficult to find staff with that expertise already, according to Johns.
Xerox's UK wide-format manager, Howard Witt, is also encouraging. "There are few industries that do not need wide-format printers in some way," says Witt.
He cites oil and gas companies, universities, finance organisations, engineering and law firms as all being particularly happy hunting grounds.
Again, it depends on the resellers' ability to match workflow software with the printing process, which suggests you need to know market applications particularly well to get the right printer settings configured, he notes.
Another pitfall is that some printers can be high maintenance and that is before one considers the media and the inks used, according to Witt.
"Some machines look very similar, but one might need its printer head periodically replaced, and another might merely need the ink to be refurbished regularly. The difference in cost can be enormous."
That is the whole point of Canon and Midwich's initial training for the channel, agrees Alistair Coyne, Midwich's product manager for digital imaging brands.
"The great selling point for Canon is that it is open and accessible. It designs the products to be easy to use, almost plug and play. And the return on investment should be easy to identify," says Coyne. "Our rationale is to keep the cost of printing down by keeping it simple."
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