By Doug Johnson, Chief Strategy Officer, LMI Solutions 

Think back to when you started your company.  You had general knowledge of the industry, but how did you develop your revenue streams?  If you looked at a topographic map of your first few years in business, there would be peaks and valleys as you marked your first successes and setbacks.  Like Louis and Clark, however, it was your map. Your cartography of success, which was a result of your trial and error efforts.

Today, experience determines which of those routes on that map you charted are the most successful. The problem has become that as time has progressed, the wide-open expanse of market opportunity from your early years is no longer the same.  Your competitors have been utilizing that same map, charting routes of their own—and over the years all of those routes have blended.

In order to survive and move past flat or declining revenues, you need growth. New ventures can only flourish with new, uncharted territory.   You need to set a new course for the road less traveled.

That new road for our industry is Managed Business Services.  We need to branch out past selling transactional printers and printer supplies; otherwise, the industry will continue to stagnate.  The print industry has become highly commoditized under this transactional selling model.  It has become even harder for dealers to compete.  With Managed Business Services, dealers can develop a more compelling value proposition based on a consultative selling model.  This approach delivers growth, higher profitability, share of wallet and, most importantly, contracted business with predictable annuity streams.  Managed Print, Managed IT, Managed Energy… these all promise growth in revenue and profits.  These types of value-added services equip you with capabilities that not only allow you to better serve customers, but also strengthen your long-term business valuation.

However, with Managed Business Services, that old map you have does not really apply anymore.  Managed Business Services is an entirely new terrain open for exploration.  It can be overwhelming and confusing at times, as if you were walking through another country where you were unfamiliar with their language, customs, or even the geography.  You will have to establish new routes for revenue and profit.  While you are establishing these new routes, you need to keep in mind that exploration into new business models often calls for new skills and competencies across your company.

Technology has evolved and advanced since the time you established your business.  There are tools in place now to help guide your navigation strategy.   You may need to invest in new systems, expand your knowledge base, and sharpen your competencies.  Do a deep dive into new vendors and partnerships you may be able to form, and consider the type of insight and advice you should utilize in order to guide your navigation.

For any Managed Business Services offering, the most effective engagement is going to occur at the C-Level inside your customer base—particularly the CFO.  Those in C-Level roles tend to be the ones with the access and authority to provide the type of information needed for analysis, control over the costs associated with the outsourced service, and can sign a contract with the duration and complexity often associated with outsourced services.  Managed Business Services requires a consultative selling style, as you will be meeting with customers to assess their current environment, uncover their pain points, and provide solutions to eliminate or mitigate those pains.  Additionally, you need robust operational skills in order to cost-effectively manage and optimize the assets, systems, and solution variables within an account.

Managed Business Services focuses on selling value instead of cost. These have the capability to aggregate and optimize disparate costs, workflow, and service levels within your customer environment. However, what sets Managed Business Services apart is its ability to constantly change and “re-route” as the market moves, expands, and diversifies.  As business situations grow and evolve, Managed Services can provide some degree of insulation against economic fluctuations and changes in trends.

If your business was a map at the inset—your business today should be more like Google Maps.  Interactive, capable of rerouting based on various situational changes.  Having fluidity in navigation strategy, like Google, enables you to reach your profit destination faster, and with multiple successful profit routes.