SAN DIEGO – Hewlett Packard’s Imaging and Printing Group (IPG) is aiming its sights at the small and medium business (SMB) market with a series of services tailored specifically for them.

At HP’s Imaging and Printing Conference in San Diego, Kathy Stromberg, vice president, IPG-Americas

marketing said, “We’re trying to expand and make (our service offerings) more of a menu, recognizing that there is a wide range from consumer all the way up to medium to large accounts. We’re making sure that things that we might have in the past exclusively offered to a large account, we’re scaling to a level that would meet the needs of a small account. Support packages would be a good example of that.”

In addition to the expected sale of printers and supplies, HP now offers completely managed printing solutions to meet these customers’ needs, supplying hardware, consumables and service for a per-page fee.

Robin Clark, manager, Homelife/United Realty Inc. in Mississauga, Ont., is taking advantage of this program to supply his 160 users with colour printing. For $0.15 per copy, he gets a 17 ppm HP networked colour printer with all supplies and maintenance included.

“”It’s working out really well,”” he said. “”From our point of view, we really don’t have to do anything.””

“SMB customers just want to do their own business and rely on the channel,” added Vyomesh Joshi, executive vice president, IPG for HP. “We become a trusted advisor to SMB customers through our channel partners.”

With the entry of Dell into the cutthroat printer market, HP has rethought its channel strategy.

“I’m not so much sure that it’s changing,” said Stromberg. “I think it’s helped us refocus and get real clear on what our strategy is. It’s caused us to really step back and realize that one of our greatest assets is the broad way that we make our products available to customers. We do have direct; we’ve been working for a number of years to bring that to our customers. But we have a great partnership with retailers, with distributors, with service providers and other people making sure those partnerships are really solid and that together we work even more to leverage that and make it seamless. That’s probably the biggest thing that we’ve refocused on because we think it’s important that customers have choice.”

Ralph MacNeil, vice president, marketing for IPG for HP Canada , added that customers have already had the opportunity to assess and make decisions about the Dell line months ago. “For us, we really see that nothing has changed.”

With over 30,000 commercial resellers and 37,500 retail outlets in North America, HP IPG makes most of its sales through the channel. In Canada, MacNeil noted, the number is 99 per cent. “”Unless we have misread customer intentions, that will continue for some time,”” he said, adding that consulting and services are beginning to present a large opportunity. “”Customers are starting to see that printing is a significant cost. They’re looking to experts to help run that asset. It’s an opportunity for the channel to look at document and imaging consulting practices.””

Beginning this year, HP Canada has launched an imaging and printing team in Canada to push printer management, click-based printing, and total asset outsourcing which, said MacNeil, relies on the channel and third parties. “”The team that we have is sizeable, and they are extremely busy. The time has come in customers’ minds.””

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