A recent analyst briefing provided some clues.
Is Brother ready to be a player in the channel?
What’s that you say, they’re already a player?
Well, yes and no.
On April 11 and 12, Brother held a briefing for press and analysts at Foxwoods Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut, to update us on its product portfolio, programs, solutions, and services for the independent dealer channel.
The event began with comments from Yoshio Nakao, general manager, SMB Business Development Dept., Brother Industries, Ltd. Nakao described Brother’s strengths as flexibility, agility, and cost competitiveness. The primary message he relayed was that the company’s business model (and the channel’s) was shifting from a box-moving business to new models that nurture customer relationships and provide unique value.
Dan Waldinger, B2B senior director, followed by emphasizing how the company is offering customers solutions and services that aid in digital transformation. Examples include file sharing in the cloud; open architecture; scanning, distribution, and document management; print security; expanded device management and services via Brother’s Value Print Program (VPP) and Managed Print Services (MPS); personal desktop document management; and strategic partnerships that expand its business models.
The Brother Value Print Program is designed to help dealers win contractual business with consistent service, supplies, hardware, service, and field sales support. Waldinger also referenced the Brother Authorized Service Dealer (ASD) Program, which provides dealers with access to Brother’s technical site, enables them to service in-warranty machines and receive reimbursement from Brother, and order warranty and non-warranty parts and receive service updates.
Brother’s growing product and solutions portfolio was introduced by Shelly Radler, B2B senior manager and Robert Burnett, director, B2B product and solutions. New black & white laser printers include 20k toner in the box, making them ideal for MPS engagements. Radler reported that the company will be expanding its A4 line in the third quarter of 2019. The Brother A4 lineup currently includes two color laser and five monochrome devices. A notable option, available later this year, is the SF-4000 stapler-finisher option for the HL-L6400DW/T A4 MFP. Brother is reportedly the first company to offer this option for an A4 device. Extended warranties, including a three-year extended “Hot Swap” warranty on Brother Workhorse Business Class Models, should also appeal to dealers.
The company will also be enhancing its HL-L9310CDW and HL-L9570CDW with enhancements that allow for better color reproduction and accuracy when printing and making copies. This is achieved with a firmware and driver update.
Besides A4, Brother has an extensive scanner line and is introducing new firmware and enhancements such as scan preview , file split, auto start scan, and JPEG compression in the TWAIN driver.
Security is top of mind these days and Brother is providing dealers with an array of security offerings. For example, Brother devices offer triple-layer security, including device access security for individuals or groups, the ability to secure documents and data, and the ability to secure devices on the network.
The Brother Value Services Program, a portfolio of services and solutions designed to help mid- to large-size businesses improve collaboration, strengthen document security, enable the digital transformation in their businesses, and create workflows customized to user needs is another interesting offering.
New Revenue Opportunities
Throughout the presentations, there was a strong emphasis on the new revenue opportunities Brother is providing to dealers. Burnett cited data that indicates the translations industry is a $43 billion industry in the U.S. and the fourth fastest growing industry. Translation Services Powered by thebigword is one such offering that will enable Brother dealers to capitalize on this trend. For example, scan to email workflows from a Brother MFP or scanner can be translated into 98 possible languages via just three steps.
Workflow is another revenue generator highlighted during the event. Brother has partnered with AccuSoft and is offering its OnTask SaaS workflow solutions program which is accessible from the touchscreen of compatible Workhorse models. Other revenue opportunities include Brother Cloud apps such as scan to Word, scan to Excel, scan to PowerPoint, as well as Brother Web Connect, which enables printing from and scanning to business cloud services.
We also saw a demonstration of the Brother Solutions Portfolio where dealers can select a solution by entering its name, or view solutions in the portfolio by category, by machine compatibility, or by a particular attribute.
A nice touch was a fireside chat with two dealers, Tom Mitchell, president, Connected Office and Philip Zangara, sales director, Image Systems & Business Solutions. The two dealers discussed why they elected to partner with Brother. Both revealed that the Brother A4 devices fill a gap in their product lines that their primary office technology suppliers aren’t providing.
At this point, Brother’s dealer network is modest at best–less than 100 dealers, not counting the dealers it is supplying product to through the Toshiba partnership. When asked about plans to grow that number, we were told that yes they want to grow that figure, but at present don’t have any specific targets in mind. At least any targets Brother executives were willing to share.
The Sum of its Parts
Brother is putting on a full-court press to woo dealers and raise its profile in the channel, and with end users. Those efforts encompass products, solutions, and an array of programs, marketing materials, and advertising, email, and social marketing initiatives. Also on the docket is a field support network for on-site sales; and product, solutions, and vertical market training; government major account managers, solutions specialists and field engineers for pre-sales end-user customer support; and consulting and MPS support.
Prior to the briefing, I would have considered Brother an afterthought as a player in the imaging channel. Based on everything I saw and heard, there are plenty of reasons for the channel to take notice. Brother is making the necessary investments to grow, it has an extensive A4 product line (if you’re looking for scanners and label printers they’ve got those too), and an impressive list of solutions, services, and programs that place the company on a par with some of the bigger players in the industry. It remains to be seen if this will help Brother move the needle, but it won’t be from lack of trying and providing dealers with plenty of incentives to consider them as an A4 option.
Access Related Content