Canon UK and Ireland has a new Director of B2B Indirect Sales. James Pittick joined Canon in 2008 and previously worked on the company’s direct side as Head of Sales, Strategic and Enterprise Business. PITR met up with him to discuss Canon’s evolving channel strategy
PITR:Canon had a difficult 2016 globally. How did it do in the UK?
James Pittick (JP):Given the current conditions, our performance in the UK was good. Our market share is stable and, in the office space, we still see a lot of opportunity in consolidation and managed print, despite the fact that we are in second and third generation relationships. In the commercial print space, we are seeing a lot of interest and opportunity in publishing, book printing, those sorts of markets.
PITR: Are you seeing growing demand for MPS amongst SMEs?
JP: Yes, more and more. There is an appetite to have greater control of print, so we are seeing much more interest in output management, in reporting, in secure release printing and in mobile interaction as the workforce demographic and the technology available to the workforce evolve. In the mid-market and corporate sector, there is still opportunity for consolidation and management of information. That market is more mature, but we still see opportunity there.
PITR:Canon sales are currently split evenly between direct and indirect. Do you plan to grow the channel side of the business in the future?
JP:Yes, our strategy is to see how we can grow channel sales. We have a very successful and long-standing channel business today, which is formed predominantly of copier and print resellers, managed print specialists.
Some of those businesses are evolving quite rapidly, in terms of the technology they offer, and we are looking at how we can work with them to open up more of our portfolio to them and to their customer
We are also looking at where we can gain growth in newer and different channel markets, for example by working with systems integrators on IT projects in enterprise and global customers and by increasing our relevance to IT resellers that focus on the SME market. Print is a mature market, as we all know, but the opportunity for us to grow our business still exists, and the channel is a very exciting proposition for us. There’s a lot of focus and a lot of investment in growing our channel business.
PITR:What are some of the additional technologies that you want copier and printer resellers to take on?
JP:There’s still room to develop and grow some of our output management proposition, to help customers print securely. That fits very naturally with our information management portfolio, which allows resellers to extend their capabilities in workflow design, document management, the digitisation of documents. Those are very complementary technologies.
PITR:It seems strange that resellersare not already offering printer and output management solutions?
JP:They are. That technology is being used today, but our focus is to expand it further within the reseller community. We think uniflow could be a very important part of that growth. It’s a single platform message and the product has been developed recently with the SME market in mind. The move to cloud-developed propositions within uniflow supports our aspirations in the SME market.
PITR:Is the strategy to get these products into more of your existing resellers or do you plan to take on new ones?
JP:A combination of both. There’s an opportunity for us to sell more of our technologies and capabilities through our existing resellers. Where there is a fit that delivers synergy with a complementary technology, there’s a growth opportunity.
Then, there are partner types and partner businesses that we are not currently working with that we think are a good fit with our organisation and our technology. As the market diversifies and as the technology stack diversifies, partnerships enable us to deliver a whole product, in which managed print is just one element. Working with a partner – sometimes more than one partner – lets us articulate a ‘stronger together’ message to the customer.
PITR:How is what you are offering to the channel any different to what other manufacturers are providing?
JP :We have a renewed growth ambition to reach more customers, and regard an expanded presence in supporting and helping channel partners grow and develop their business as an important part of that – for us and, hopefully, for our partners as well.
PITR:The breadth of your product range aside, how else do you plan to help resellers grow?
JP:Through the skills, attitude and knowledge that we have developed in our business over many years. We have some strong marketing and professional services capabilities in our business that we can use to enhance our proposition, not only to the channel but also to their customers. Part of our strategy is to unlock the capability we have within the organisation to support multiple, different routes to market.
PITR:Helping them with their e-marketing, that sort of thing?
JP:That’s one example. We have done work with partners around things like social media, looking at how we can help them to develop their presence in the social media space and use social media as a tool to network and ultimately promote their business and identify opportunities. We’ve held workshops and we’ve also utilised industry partnerships, working with companies like Scredible, which helps businesses develop social media strategies, and Jellyfish, a digital marketing agency. We will talk to our partners about the things we are doing and we will also use businesses that we feel are industry experts to help our partners develop.
Also, we have huge knowledge of, and insight into, vertical markets, which we draw on to help partners evolve their marketing activities and demand generation campaigns. When they address specific vertical propositions or markets where they are already gaining traction, we can add to their credibility and credentials by providing vertical insight in addition to the value proposition of the technology we offer.
PITR:I know on the production print side you offer insight guides and a range of business support services…
JP:Yes, we have the Essential Business Builder programme. It’s a slightly different market; they are using our technology to generate an income. If they are buying into the Canon portfolio, with us directly or with a partner, we feel there’s a great opportunity to invest in that organisation and help them reinvest in Canon technology by educating them in market insight and market trends.
PITR:Some big competitors, like Xerox, HP and Samsung, are promoting the use of MFPs as app platforms. Canon was once a pioneer in this area, with MEAP technology, but it seems to have fallen behind as others have created more open systems based on Android.
JP:A number of manufacturers are going down the Android route. We are on the fourth generation of MEAP, which is our own technology, our own platform and Java-based. Whilst it is our platform, there are a number of complementary technologies and third party applications that you can access via our platform. For SMEs, things like direct scan to Dropbox and Google Drive are all available on our MEAP platform.
PITR:What products will you be focusing on as you seek to recruit more IT resellers?
JP :We already have some presence in the IT market, with scanners and some of our smaller MFPs and print solutions. What we are now looking to do is open up more of our portfolio to the IT reseller channel – to develop our imageRUNNER technology to work within the IT reseller managed print environment, enabling more MFP and associated software sales and more cloud-based propositions across our technology set. There will be selected products, with a servicing infrastructure supporting that.
PITR:Some other vendors are trying to create an integrated portfolio of solutions, linking up their MFPs to displays, for example, but it seems to me that Canon’s B2B proposition is focused very much on the document.
JP:Our proposition around B2B and office is, in hardware terms, scan, print, MFP up to production and large format and wide format technologies. Then, you have document management, workflow and output management software. Document, yes. But in this age, that also means image. Whether a document is physical or electronic, it is all about our knowledge and understanding and expertise around the management of images. This ties very nicely with the other part of our business, which is the capture of the image with camera and lens technology.
PITR:Can you give me details of any initiatives you have planned to attract IT resellers?
JP:Individual elements of our strategy will emerge in time. We have just undergone a business transformation programme and realigned all of our B2B offerings to be focused around customer, customer-type and the Canon proposition. We have identified areas where we think we can grow and we are now advertising our desire to grow within the channel. Following this, there will be a series of releases and discussion points, where we will talk in more detail about our ambition and the attraction of our programme.
PITR:A lot of your competitors are buying resellers. Is that a strategy that Canon aims to pursue?
JP: In the UK, there is no specific strategy for that. It is not something that I am aware of.
PITR:What do you think are the particular challenges facing resellers today and how can Canon help overcome them?
JP:For me, it is about the maturity of the market and the evolution of technology. The market dynamic and the technology dynamic are evolving at a rate that is faster than we have ever seen, and it only seems to be increasing. Trying to stay relevant and trying to develop the services and customer offerings you have is a key challenge.
We are also seeing different businesses, sometimes IT businesses, acquiring print and managed print businesses as a complementary technology to their overall proposition. There is a lot of change and consolidation happening.
Canon’s ability to develop partners’ capabilities, to supply complementary technologies, to provide market insight and to offer additional support around marketing activities and professional services is a real attraction. An organisation like Canon is in a prime position to support partners’ growth and development and stay relevant to those businesses.