Epson Art 0318By Larry Trevarthen, Epson America 

Businesses require the sharing of ideas to be successful. Converting these ideas to and from paper is vital to moving these ideas not only from the mind to the hand, but also from one person to another. Printing, copying, scanning or faxing are the motions of moving an idea around, which helps shape the idea among peers, enhances concepts, and provides the strategies that drive company growth.   

Document imaging, the broad name for print, copy, fax and scan, has many commonalities across businesses in different vertical segments. All require speed, high image quality, exceptional paper handling and affordable solutions. Businesses are looking beyond the hardware for complete solutions that integrate into their document management systems, provide document security, and are fully network compatible. In many ways, these multifunction solutions can be placed horizontally across many vertical segments. 

Beyond these commonalities are some important differences where dealers can customize their solutions to meet the more exacting needs of unique vertical markets. While one company might require low-cost, high-volume black-and-white machines for printing thousands of invoices every month, another might need a machine that accurately copies and prints vibrant, professional-quality outputs for their sales and advertising needs. And while some companies might need a scanner to capture a few fields on a few forms, others might need something to read dozens of contracts. Ultimately, it’s what a company does that will determine precisely what they need.  

For dealers, this means you can’t walk into a physician’s office, then a law firm, and then a college with the same solution and the same pitch. You need to provide a different solution for each of your different customers’ unique problems and be able to provide the right mixture of hardware and software to solve them. It’s often best to understand a specific vertical and specialize, as you’ll find your expertise in this vertical will place you above your competition who doesn’t have your detailed insights.  

Let’s explore some of your customers’ specific needs, and reflect on some solutions and strategies that might help you help your customers better.  

Education 

There are colleges, universities, and public and private schools in almost every town. Syllabi, homework assignments and reports are increasingly shared between teachers and students in cloud and electronic formats, but paper is still very prevalent. From printing classroom notes or teacher handouts, to copying and scanning research notes for a report, document imaging is critical to the success of both student and teacher in today’s education system.  

In addition to hardware, educational organizations also have to manage the cost of supplies. In some public schools, these expenses fall personally to teachers, who spend the money as they use color printing to stimulate the imagination of young minds in the classroom. High printing supplies costs, and storing and managing ink and toner so it doesn’t run out at the wrong time are all concerns of both teacher and student.  

Today’s office equipment dealers and MPS providers are already equipped with a portfolio of inkjet MFPs and print management solutions that can help public and private schools and higher education offer versatile, always-ready, low-cost printing. Today’s business inkjet devices are designed to print for years without replacing supplies and with very low ongoing operating costs. This allows students and teachers the ability to print affordably and dramatically reduce the hassle and costs of ordering and storing printer supplies, while having fully integrated copy, fax and scan capabilities readily at hand. And since most inkjet MFPs integrate with fleet management platforms, you can monitor device statuses and consumables, and automatically notify the proper personnel when an error occurs or replenish supplies automatically when they are running low.     

Houses of worship 

There are many people in a congregation, and a lot to communicate, from evening youth group meetings and Saturday and Sunday services, to invitations for family gatherings and fundraisers, requiring the ability to print in vivid color to capture the spirit of the service while printing high quantities fast and affordably. Houses of worship have very specific needs, and business inkjet copiers on the market today meet these needs with color printing as fast as 100 pages per minute, allowing everyone in the congregation to have information about the service in their hand, even if printed at the last minute. Business inkjet printers can very affordably print on 11-by-17-inch paper, allowing a great deal of information to be provided to the congregation in each document.   

Nonprofits 

When you run on donations, and you are constantly writing, editing and submitting grants to sustain your funding, you’ve got to stretch every dollar as far as it goes. As with education and houses of worship, dealers have an excellent opportunity to step in and help nonprofits reduce their print costs while not reducing their print quality, so nonprofits can allocate more funds to what is important. 

The color vibrancy of today’s business inkjet printers allows nonprofits to print fund-raising materials internally that might previously have been outsourced. Flyers, posters, labels and banners can also easily be output on a business inkjet printer, not only saving costs versus outsourcing, but also allowing the organization to personalize their requests to potential donors, greatly increasing the likelihood of support.  

Healthcare 

You’d be hard pressed to find another industry as regulated as healthcare. The original bill that dictates how healthcare and insurance providers must handle a patient’s data is 169 pages long — and that’s just one of them. And when you start to read these rules, you’ll realize quickly that it’s not that hard to break the law, even if you’re not trying.    

Something as simple as a few wrong clicks or a printed page left in the output tray can lead to a fine — maybe even a big one. Today’s sophisticated devices and solutions can help to prevent breaches or accidental noncompliance. For instance, most platforms enable administrators to control which users have permission to access what file repositories while using the MFP, so they can’t print out a bunch of sensitive information that they have no business printing. And with pull-printing technology, print jobs are held in a virtual queue, and aren’t printed until the user authenticates at the MFP’s control panel and releases the job. Since the users must be at the MFP while the job prints, the chance of someone else retrieving the job first, or that the information will sit in the output tray for everyone to see, is virtually eliminated. 

Security aside, dealers can also help healthcare providers improve patient safety and overall quality of care. Consider this: in 2006, Time reported that thousands of people die a year because of doctors’ bad handwriting. According to the report, “preventable medication mistakes injure more than 1.5 million Americans annually. Many such errors result from unclear abbreviations and dosage indications and illegible writing on some of the 3.2 billion prescriptions written in the U.S. every year.” But with color label printers, doctors don’t have to worry about malpractice suits. Instead of writing prescriptions by hand, they can print easy-to-read color labels. And thanks to fast-drying ink that can stand up to solvents and smudges, doctors can highlight important information without distorting the text. On top of that, label printers can be used to print barcodes and other information for patients’ wristbands, should a hospital use some sort of digital patient tracking system.    

Finance  

For an industry that has been gung-ho on automated, paperless solutions, financial firms sure do print a lot. It’s not entirely their fault though — be it regulation or customer preference, monthly, quarterly and annual statements, loan applications, and other documents are ultimately printed at one point or another. But with how easy it is to integrate modern inkjet printers with core business systems, dealers can help financial firms automate transactional print processes and reduce costs.  

For example, dealers can dovetail MFPs with their customers’ accounting systems and use variable data printing technology to automatically pull the necessary information and insert it into a specific field in a document, rather than have an associate do it manually. Not only is this faster, but it also reduces mistakes, like if someone spells the customer’s name wrong, and a new contract has to be printed.   

Indeed, print, copy, scan and fax are very much horizontal, general office needs. And sure, at first glance, the entire spectrum of document imaging hardware and software does look the same. Everyone wants low-cost, reliable, easy-to-use and secure hardware and software. But at the same time, it’s the tasks that these businesses need to execute that dictate which combination of hardware and software makes the most sense. Dealers need to take note of the differences between their customers and develop strategies built around each of their customers’ unique problems, because targeted vertical solutions, rather than a one-size-fits-all strategy, not only improve their customers’ satisfaction, but also lead to greater profits and a broader customer base for the dealer.   

Larry Trevarthen is director of marketing at Epson America.

This article originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of Workflow.