In 2010, Konica Minolta implemented a vertical marketing strategy and hired individuals like myself who were not from the office technology arena but whose expertise was in fields such as legal, healthcare, government, education, among others. Since that time, we have seen many of our dealers follow suit with vertical markets for their business.
One of our more successful dealers to do so is Pacific Office Automation (POA), the largest office solutions dealer in the U.S. with a 38-year history as a recognized leader in office management solutions. It has 25 offices throughout Oregon, Washington, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado. I’m excited to have recently spoken with Doug Pitassi, President of POA, and Troy Shawhan, its Director of Services for Legal & Healthcare, about how they have achieved great success with this trend.
Let’s start with Doug:
When did you realize that a vertical marketing strategy would be advantageous for your dealership?
Along with Konica Minolta, POA has for several years had a vertical strategy. However, this strategy continues to be more focused as technology and solutions are increasingly released that solve specific business problems based on a vertical market. These can be a prime differentiator that provides for more than just being a “me too” in the market place. When you can get exceptionally detailed about a customer’s pain point that they are experiencing and solve a problem with a solution that’s specific to their industry, then you’ll find that it gives much more value than just what you sell it for.
What advice would you give other dealerships that are on the fence as to adopting a vertical strategy?
Your job as a trusted advisor is to solve a customer’s problem. Where a copier used to be just a copier – one size fits all – the customization of solutions as it relates to customers’ problems requires getting very specific. The more detailed understanding you have of a customer’s current state, the better your ability to adopt those solutions that are specific to a company in that vertical focus. This is simply a “have to” going forward in our market.
The other advice I’d have to dealerships is if you are not already using the business solutions and workflow software offered by Konica Minolta, then you need to start. The only way that your people can truly understand how it’s effective and how it solves issues is to use the technology itself in your own dealership.
Our most recent dealer conference emphasized being “FutuREady.” What did you take away from the conference in order to prepare POA to be FutuREeady?
At POA, we understand that print and color print is still very much alive. However, as technology comes at a fast pace, we have to keep up with it so we can continue to inform our business partners on how to manage documents – in all forms – is helping to shape their industry and provide competitive advantages for those who adopt a more modern and automated workflow solutions. We look very optimistically at the different offerings available in what the workplace of the future looks like. There are many variations and mixes of future workplace solutions that allow for a variety of ways an office can function. If there’s one thing I learned from the conference, it’s that we need to excel at providing a vision for our clients of their future workplace in each vertical market.
Now let’s hear from Troy:
You were recently assigned to create a vertical marketing strategy for POA. What are some of the challenges you encountered while doing so?
One of the strengths of our company is an emphasis on decentralized decision making that allows the local branches to quickly respond to client needs without a bureaucratic approval process, but still have access to headquarter resources. While it’s been key in our growth as a services company, it also means we need to approach vertical markets a bit differently within each branch or region. And that takes a lot more time and consideration to translate the global vision and strategy to the local level. There’s a tricky balance to be kept between having a more standardized approach to a vertical and not dictating to a sales force how they should conduct their business.
How has this strategy benefited your customers?
The vertical market process requires focused education within our sales force on what business solutions work best within that particular vertical environment. In turn, doing so provides our clients with more relevant data about potential solutions and a higher level of support in addressing their needs and concerns.
POA continues to add to a staggering array of available technology solutions that go well beyond our historical base of print/scan hardware – such as VOIP, IT Services, Medical Imaging, workflow and production systems and other emerging technologies designed to further office automation solutions for our clients. Developing our vertical focus allows for a better understanding within our sales force of exactly what business solutions are best designed to work in the environment of that vertical – making us a better and more trustworthy partner.
How are you keeping up with the technology advancements as well as preparing the sales team for these new trends?
I’m continually impressed at the amount of training opportunity that is made available to our sales team to understand the nuts and bolts of our offerings – it keeps them up to date not just on our capabilities, but also touches on any new and applicable technology concerns that our clients may be experiencing or exploring.
All of these available resources, though, are diminished in worth if you don’t hire people who have a naturally inquisitive nature concerning technology, especially considering we are in the office technology business. So it starts with being conscious of focusing on hiring the type of people for our sales teams that want to perpetually learn. We work within so many different vertical markets that our sales team members will come in contact at some point with technology they don’t know or in which they have a background. An innate desire to understand it better is a must in being able to address constantly evolving tech in any vertical.
That said, the rate at which technological advancements are multiplying can make it difficult for a sales force to keep up on just how some of the seemingly more esoteric fields such as artificial intelligence and knowledge management strategies may impact their clients’ solution and support needs. That’s another goal found in our approach on vertical markets: furthering our understanding of how the broad application or adoption of these technologies impacts and helps develop our solutions and relationships with our clients.
How has Konica Minolta assisted with being a trusted advisor in your marketing strategy?
At our core, POA is a problem solving organization. The more problems we can solve, the bigger our business grows. Konica Minolta keeps offering more and increasingly varied solutions for our sales team to apply to more and increasingly complex problems presented by our clients. But just having access to business and workflow solution options won’t provide the level of understanding or frame of reference needed to apply them successfully. Konica Minolta’s depth of resources available to POA is key in developing the quality of understanding needed by our sales team.
I’ve heard Doug lament that, back in his sales days, he only had a small handful of solutions to offer to current and prospective clients. Today our sales team can offer solutions in so many areas that they can establish new client relationships much more easily and create even deeper relationships with current clients. The opportunity is there to solve so many more problems and the incredible depth of dealer support from Konica Minolta provides the answers.