MSPs: Managing Print In-House vs Through a 3rd Party

What do you know about print? If you’re like most managed service providers, probably not much. 

As fellow technology industry leaders, MSPs are often associated with managed print providers. But as managed print vendors, we sell print devices,actively track print spend, replenish toner and deploy support as needed - in reality, MSPs and managed print are quite different.

Managed print offers enormous value to your clients, supplying them with the necessary print equipment and keeping costs low. The need is there, and your MSP should take advantage of the market’s demand.

Plus, many print vendors attempt to sell their own IT services to compete with MSPs. Having a hand in your clients’ print is a way to protect your business from these print poachers taking your hard-earned customers.

Read: The Greatest Threat to Your MSP: Managed Print Providers to learn how print vendors are creeping into your MSP’s space.

But HOW do you satisfy your client’s print needs? Should you manage your client’s print in-house or partner with a third-party print vendor?

Print Partner has facilitated over 250 relationships between MSPs throughout the US. We know what it takes for MSP and print to collaborate effectively.

In this article, we compare managing print in-house vs. partnering with a print provider, weighing the pros and cons of each.  We hope to help your MSP make an informed decision on the right print solutions for you and your clients.

Managing Print In-house

Let’s address the first solution to meeting your clients’ print needs. Do it yourself!

Adding managed print to your arsenal of services can be a very tempting prospect for MSPs, allowing your business to tap into a new market.

Adding print can take a massive amount of time and effort, but if done right, can be extremely rewarding.

Pros of in-house print

If you sell the print, you keep the profit!

Managing print can be a highly lucrative operation. Copier sales alone can net thousands upfront for even small to mid-sized businesses. When selling to large, multi-site clients, upfront sales revenue increases exponentially into the 10s to 100s of thousands of dollars.

And this is just the beginning. As substantial as printer and copier sales can be, the bulk of revenue comes from managing the print after the equipment sale.

Print is the gift that keeps on giving. Supplying toner and providing customer service when necessary will reap $100s to $1000s per month for each client you manage, long after the initial equipment sale.

With managed print, you typically engage in three to five-year service agreements that cover toner, on-site service and support that is provided for the equipment. 

Here’s an example: If you’re billing $1000 per month for a service agreement on a five-year contract, you have added $60,000 in recurring revenue, of which at least 40% should be profit.

Along with the added revenue, another perk of handling print in-house is quality assurance. You want to know your customers will get proper delivery, customer service, toner replacement, support requests, etc.

When you work with third-party print providers, trust is necessary. Not all print vendors may hold themselves to the same service standards as your MSP. And if you work with a sub-par print vendor, this could reflect poorly on you to your clients. 

Will your clients trust you after their print company drags their feet on an important service request? After all, you recommended this print company.

However, this is no longer a concern when your MSP manages print in-house. You will have total control over the quality of print service. There’s nobody to mess with your precious MSP-client relationship that you’ve meticulously cultivated.

For more profit potential and total quality control, in-house print makes a viable print solution for your MSP.

Cons of in-house print

While adding managed print is tempting, be prepared for a long, bumpy road ahead.

Are you prepared to shift staff away from your MSP’s standard operations to focus on print operations? Do you have the capital to invest in creating a print business from the ground up? Do you have connections with copier manufacturers? How will your sales team learn to sell print to adequately support your customer’s needs?

Start with consulting experts if you are serious about becoming a managed print services (MPS) provider. Who will be guiding you through this process?

In a Xaas Journal article, Xerox Executive Jim Joyce describes the option of adding managed print services to your company’s catalog:

“To start, identify an MPS subject matter expert — either from within or hire from outside — who has the desire, skills and commitment to learning MPS and becoming trained and certified,” says Joyce. “Success in MPS requires more than a part-time effort and a casual approach.”

While print vendors and MSPs operate in proximity to each other, they are very different beasts. The infrastructure of an MSP isn’t capable of shifting to managed print overnight.

Joyce continues, “Success in MPS is based on a series of best practices that are continually employed to drive success. Attempting to move forward without this knowledge and commitment is like a doctor, plumber or lawyer attempting to practice their trade without the proper training, tools and mentorship.”

While the potential value of offering MPS in-house is evident, adding print to your arsenal should not be taken lightly. It requires a massive investment of your company resources and is not the right option for everyone.

Partnering with a Third Party Print Vendor

If you are unsure about diving head-first into managed print, partnering with a third-party vendor is an easy alternative to meeting your client’s print needs. 

Transiting into a managed print company is a huge investment of time, money and resources, and frankly, it’s not for everyone.

You can provide your clients with the value of managed print without the commitment of delivering that on your own by working with a reliable third-party.

Pros of third-party print

Are you looking to meet your clients' demands for print while protecting your business from competition in the easiest way possible? If so, a third-party print partnership may be your best option.

When working with a third-party MPS company, your customers will still get the print service they require. A managed print provider will offer them onsite repair service, equipment, toner replenishments, and cost analysis. And, you won’t need to make a massive investment to provide service on your own.

Another great perk of going with a third-party service provider is that you can make extra money for your MSP with no capital required.

Many print vendors offer referral bonuses to their MSP partners. This is an easy way to make money while providing your customers with added value from a print sale.

Another major advantage of partnering with a print vendor vs. in-house management is the speed of implementation.

Adding in-house print can be a grueling process, especially for smaller businesses. But adding a print partner can take no time or cost, and only add quick value to your offerings.

Overall, print partnerships can quickly lead to increased revenue for your business and strengthened relationships with your existing clients with minimal effort required.

If you try to reinvent the wheel and offer your own print, it will likely take you several months or even years to properly implement an effective print strategy. It could be years before you see a significant change to your MSP’s profits.

This leaves you with a giant chunk of time where you aren’t addressing your clients’ print needs.

But if you partner with a print company, you can start providing value immediately! All you need is a way to contact your print partner and you can start sending referrals tomorrow.

Cons of third-party print

As easy as making a partnership is, you are sacrificing the control that would come with in-house management.

This lack of control is why choosing a print partner you can trust is so important! Going with the wrong partner will frustrate your clients and make you look bad.

Poor print service may lead your clients to call you when they need help with their copier. And if you don’t have a reliable print vendor you work with, there will be no one to triage the repairs. In other words, it’s a less-than-ideal situation for you and your clients.

And while print partnerships can be lucrative for your MSP, you won’t be diving head-first into the print market as you would if you handled MPS in-house. Less risk, less reward.

However, if you are looking for a low-cost, advantageous solution for your clients, and you’ve found a trustworthy print vendor you’d like to work with, a third-party print partnership can be an excellent solution for MSPs.

Print Partner: a Reliable Third-Party Print Vendor

If your MSP is looking to partner with a trusted print provider that has worked with 100s of MSPs throughout the country, look no further.

Print Partner is dedicated to creating relationships between our parent company, Green Office Partner, and MSPs.

We take the burden of print off of your hands. Make the introduction, and we’ll handle the rest.

And we’ll pay you! We offer $250 per referral, ($500 if you can get a copy of their prior print agreement) $1000 per copier sold and 5% of annual print allotment.

Your customers will thank you for the added print value you’ve connected them to, and you’ll have extra income from us without revamping or training your staff. Win, win, win.

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