Vendor hopes that its new brand image and 90ppm products will help safeguard partner revenue
Written by Sam Trendall
CRN, 24 Jul 2008
Printing vendor Ricoh used its recent Partner Summit to unveil products and a brand strategy, and reassure VARs and customers alike that they are in safe hands.
The theme of the event, held in May in Puerto Banus on Spain’s Costa del Sol, was Protecting your Future. In making his opening speech, Ricoh UK managing director Eiji Kometani tempered his pleasure at announcing sales growth by warning resellers of the perils of the economic climate.
“The Ricoh family continues to experience growth,” Kometani said. “However, we need to recognise the uncertainty of the current world economy.”
Kometani also indicated that Ricoh needs to build on its historic strength as a mid-market copier specialist. “We need to have a presence above and below our core market. This will allow all of you to increase revenue and profit.”
Marketing director Chas Moloney told CRN that Ricoh’s push to get its partner base to adopt software products was an ongoing quest.
“We have talked about this many times. Most dealers are buying into it in some way, shape or form, but it will take time,” he said.
Chief executive Nigel Palmer revealed that printers now account for about half of Ricoh’s revenue and he told resellers that a move towards selling them should be a priority.
“If you are not already doing it, please do it quickly. Within two years, three quarters of sales will be printers,” he said.
Palmer also plans to establish a strong brand image for Ricoh.
“Some businesses immediately conjure images in your head of what the brand represents,” he said. “We had to ask ourselves: what does the Ricoh brand stand for?”
He told attendees that Ricoh had spent time studying a number of global brands and the way they drive their image through nine fundamental human drivers: sex, curiosity, parenthood, prestige, power, winning, health, tribalism and protection.
Palmer claimed he thought the three themes that best described his company were winning, parenthood and protection. “The dominant driver was protection I hope you like the theme,” he said.
He went on to tell partners that he hoped to cultivate associations with security and reliability.
Moloney explained why group legal counsel Tina Smith was tasked with giving a speech bringing partners up to speed on some of the intricacies of competition law.
“We have done surveys and one of the subjects about which partners wanted information was legal competition law and legal compliance because they are a little unaware of the implications,” he said.
Smith warned resellers that the repercussions for failing to comply with directives enforced by the UK Office of Fair Trading and the EU Commission could be severe. She indicated that companies contravening competition laws could face a fine of up to 10 per cent of their annual worldwide turnover.
Smith also revealed that individuals involved could be imprisoned for five years and disqualified from becoming a company director for 15 years.
Smith singled out bid rigging and market sharing as potential dangers for partners.
“There is not a high level of awareness of competition law,” she said. “An agreement can be anything a nod, a wink or a gentleman’s agreement. The history of competition law is full of people who thought a nod and a wink would not get them into trouble.”
One of the key events of the summit was a preview of Ricoh’s latest product line, launched this summer. The centrepiece was the Pro C900 and C900s range of multi-function devices and Moloney was effusive in his praise as he unveiled the 90 pages-per-minute (ppm) products.
“This is a high-volume product at mid-volume pricing. This is an absolutely fantastic product and you will make lots of money, I promise you,” Moloney told partners.
Feedback from partners on the new products and on the event as a whole, was positive.
Jason Spencer, group sales manager for partner Transcribe Thames Group, told CRN: “It was of great importance to get a heads-up on the new products. Our market is increasingly competitive and they look like a fantastic opportunity for us.”
But Ian Morgan, managing director of reseller Lynbrook, was more cautious.
“The products look fabulous, but we are not ready technically,” he said. “It is going to be a big challenge,
but Ricoh is very good in all aspects of its support.”
As the event drew to a close, Moloney indicated he saw the summit as vital to the vendors’ relationships with their partners.
“It is a great opportunity to talk to individuals,” he said.
“It gives us a chance to get our key messages across both formally and informally.”