MSPs: How to Choose a Print Partner
Building a relationship with a quality print vendor can be a game-changer for your MSP.
When you partner with a print vendor, you’ll be able to expand your service suite significantly without changing anything about your current business model. Your MSP can stick to handling your client's IT suite while your print vendor takes on their print device suite.
But saddling up with another company you can trust with servicing your clients is not something to be taken lightly. If you don’t partner with a provider worthy of your customers, you’ll damage your MSP’s brand and your relationships with your customers.
So how exactly do you decide on a print vendor to work with?
Print Partner maintains relationships between hundreds of MSPs around the country and our parent company, Green Office Partner. After years of experience, we know what MSPs should look for in their print partners.
We clearly recognize that we are not going to be the best fit for every MSP and their customers. There is no “one size fits all” solution.
With that in mind, to help you on your journey to find the best-fit partner for your business, we’ve created a guide for choosing a print vendor to work with.
We’ll break down the vetting process of potential print partners into two sections.
First, we’ll review general traits you should look for in any print vendor. Then, we’ll review the different types of print vendors and the benefits of working with each type.
Values to look for in a Print Partner
Here are some of the most significant values to consider when establishing a relationship with a print vendor.
Collaborative Print Service
The first trait you should examine in your prospective partner is what kind of service they offer and how they work with others.
The MSP space is closely linked to the print space, and often, print issues will require collaboration between you and the print vendor.
Make sure this is an organization you are willing to work with, and that they are willing to work with you!
Ask them about their support process. How do they solve their clients' issues? Do they have a guaranteed time frame to resolve these issues outlined in their service-level agreement? How is onsite support managed? Do they handle it directly or triage the support?
Consider if the MPS vendor offers solutions like PaperCut, E-Fax, document routing and management, advanced print device security, etc. These solutions can offer tremendous value to your customers and also make your MSP’s support process much smoother.
A good print vendor commits to supporting their MSP partners by making them look good. Find a print vendor that has a proven track record. Ask for testimonials, and learn about their history and the types of MSPs they work with.
You want a print vendor who will fight in your corner and work side-by-side to deliver simple, easy, and effective print solutions for your clients.
Protection from MSP Competition
On top of exceptional, collaborative service, find a print partner that will not compete with you for MSP-related services.
“Pure” print vendors are a dying breed, with most becoming MSP/print hybrid companies. Many print vendors will either buy out an MSP and package its services with their print services or slap on IT services of their own.
To learn more more about this phenomenon of print vendors creeping into the MSP space, read: The Greatest Threat to Your MSP: Managed Print Providers
When vetting potential print vendors to work with, be very careful. If they offer IT services beyond standard print management - services that compete with your service suite - you’re leaving your clients wide open to get poached.
Don’t let the fox in the henhouse!
If you absolutely have to partner with a print vendor that also offers MSP services, see if you can get a handshake agreement that they will never solicit MSP services to your customer.
On the flipside, when you partner with a print vendor that doesn’t sell MSP-related services, they can protect your customers from working with another print vendor that does.
So find a print partner that has your back and will protect you from other print vendors looking to pounce on your existing business.
Profit from Print Referrals
While your MSP can benefit significantly from a print vendor with a collaborative service that protects you from the competition, there is one final, major factor to consider when choosing a partner.
Will this relationship make your organization money?
Sure, good service and protection will strengthen your bottom line over time. But many print vendors pay your organization directly when you refer them to new business opportunities.
For example, when you work with our team at Print Partner, we offer the following bonuses for each referral MSPs send our way:
- $250 per business referral
- Another $250 if we receive the prospect’s current print agreement with the referral
- $1,000 per copier sold
- 5% on the client’s lifetime print allotment
- Additional revenue for future sales
These opportunities combined can be a significant revenue stream for MSPs. Let’s crunch an example.
If you referred a client to us with their print agreement, that’s $500, regardless of whether we close the deal. Then, if we close and sell five copiers, that’s an extra $5,000 in your pocket. Plus, you’ll be paid a recurring 5% on their lifetime print allotment.
Imagine making money while helping your clients and protecting your business without needing to change anything about your current business model. Not bad!
Types of Print Vendors
Now that you know the fundamental values to look for in a vendor, we’ll review the types of vendors you can check to find the best fit for your business.
Mom-and-Pop Print Shops
Do you want to walk into a print vendor’s store and shake hands with the owner? Do you want a local, friendly partner that can pop over to your mutual clients in a few hours when needed?
If so, consider partnering with a small, local print shop.
One massive benefit of working with small print vendors is that they are less likely to compete with MSPs.
They also often have close-knit relationships with their clients. And if you earn their trust, they can send you opportunities from their usually-loyal book of business.
Small local vendors can be great if most of your clients are, well, small and local. These print shops are often very reliable and can pop by their clients’ business within a few hours when support is needed.
The downside of smaller print vendors is that they have a smaller radius of service coverage than their larger counterparts and a more limited device suite.
If your MSP works with businesses outside your immediate vicinity, consider working with larger print vendors. So while the “warm smile and a handshake” may sound tempting, it may not always be practical.
Mid-Sized, Multi-State Print Vendors
Are you looking for something a bit… bigger?
Despite the charm that your local hole-in-the-wall print shop offers, it may not be practical for your business.
If your business operates across your state or multiple states, you’ll need to look for a mid-sized print vendor to accommodate your needs.
In addition to your MSP’s current reach, consider your trajectory. Where will your business be in five years? Ten years?
Make sure your print vendor relationship will be able to grow with your business and support your expansion.
For example, if your MSP currently only services local businesses but plans to expand to a new state next year, you’ll need to find a print vendor that can also support that new state.
Otherwise, you’ll have to find a different print vendor for that new area you’ll expand to, or you’ll just have to leave some of your clients’ locations at the mercy of whatever random print vendors operate in that geography.
But having multiple print vendors manage print for a single client often leads to issues down the road, and we highly recommend multi-site clients have all of their print suite under one vendor. To learn why, read: Why Your Multi-Site Clients Should Use a Single Print Vendor
Also, consider your prospective partners’ solution suites. Larger print companies typically offer more services and available devices and can cast a wider net regarding your clients’ needs.
But, working with larger print vendors comes with its caveats. For starters, multi-state print vendors will be less likely to “pop on over” to your clients when they have print issues.
Since they are more spread out and have more clients, you may not be able to walk in anytime and have a beer with the owner. Bummer.
Perhaps most concerning for your MSP is that mid-sized print vendors are much more likely to offer MSP-related services. So as you look to larger partners, be very careful about working with one that provides services that compete with your own.
Consider drafting a non-compete clause.
If you choose the wrong print partner, you could end up with one that is “all talk” and tries to steal your clients as soon as you turn your back. Don’t let this happen to you!
Large, National MPS Providers
Finally, we have the big boys.
These are for the MSPs with a national client base and can service businesses all over the country.
Much like moving from small to medium-sized print shops, national MPS providers have their pros and cons. We’ll start with the good stuff:
When working with national print providers, you’ll never worry about where your clients can get service. Expand your service to any state, and they can be covered. If your customer grows from five to twenty locations across the country, they can simply keep adding devices with their current print vendor.
Also, national partners often have the largest selection of services and devices. So whatever your clients need print-wise, they’re likely to be satisfied.
Now for the downsides. First, the support your clients receive from larger providers will be much less personal than from smaller print companies.
Because of their broad reach, national MPS providers often have call centers or third parties they work with. This can make support hit-or-miss depending on the quality of the representatives taking the calls.
Also, almost all national print providers offer competing services with MSPs.
In fact, at the time of writing this article, we are the only MPS provider that operates on a national scale and and doesn’t offer MSP-related services.
Choosing Print Partner
When prospecting for a potential print vendor to work with, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
Luckily, Print Partner is here to make your decision easy.
We offer collaborative print support, protection from competition, and generous referral bonuses.
For each referral we receive, you’ll earn $250, plus $1,000 per copier sold and 5% on their lifetime print allotment.
We pride ourselves on offering all the benefits of large, national print providers, but our dedication to supporting MSP partners makes us unique.
We don’t offer MPS services, and we never will. Our goal is not to compete with, but to join forces with our MSP allies.
So if you're looking for a dedicated, high-quality print provider that will always have your back, consider partnering with us, a Print Partner you can trust.