Sizing up the SME opportunity

In last month's feature Microscope looked at the choices in the printer market and concluded that small and medium enterprises (SME's) stood to benefit from inkjet printing where lower print volumes are experienced.

In last month's feature Microscope looked at the choices in the printer market and concluded that small and medium enterprises (SME's) stood to benefit from inkjet printing where lower print volumes are experienced. Linda Endersby examines the SME market in more detail and the opportunity for inkjet resellers.

Small and Medium Enterprises are defined for the UK Government Department for Business Innovation and Skills statistical purposes (BIS) as those with under 250 employees, small enterprises being those under 50 employees.

In the BIS Statistical release providing Business Population Enterprises for the UK and regions in 2010, of the 4,572,015 enterprises in the UK, (SME's) together accounted for 4,564,085 (99.9) % of all enterprises, 4,532,035 (99.1%) of these being small enterprises.

Market opportunities
The SME market therefore is huge. Innovation and growth are two of the most used words by the coalition government and it is keen to encourage small business.

Steve Hilton of Analysis Mason, the technology advice organisations says "For the last three years, there's been an underinvestment by SMEs in technology. They really had to pull back because their revenue stream had dried up. A lot of the technology they have is old, so it's time for a refresh."

With the Business Secretary putting pressure on banks to increase lending to SME's under Project Merlin, it appears that cash for investment may be easier to apply for and the opportunity is set to grow. IT resellers need to tap into this opportunity with small businesses and encourage them to make investment in their technology to improve their marketing and production strategies.

Replacing old technology
Small businesses in the hospitality, retail, business services or real estate markets; indeed any business which requires high quality print in relatively low volume should be encouraged to look at the new generation of inkjet printers on the market so they can learn about the efficiencies that can be made on essential printing, as newer consumables are being made to last longer and therefore cost less.

The improvements in quality to the latest generation of printers would also promote the look and feel of the business to its customers. With small businesses being urged to embrace online marketing methodology, printing demand will inevitably fall. Moving to an inkjet printer is ideal for those companies who now print less than 100 pages per day. The smaller footprint may also benefit companies with small premises who are taking on more people.

Printing in house

Looking at the printing opportunities, not only can resellers target SME's wishing to upgrade or replace older, more expensive, equipment, but there are sizable savings for businesses who print externally.

A survey in 2010 by the Centre for Economics and Business research (CEBR) revealed that £360 million could be saved in the UK every year by moving expensive outsourced printing in- house, with between £500 million and £1760 million potentially coming from more efficient management of existing in- house printing tasks.

When printing externally many companies will produce waste by ordering a greater quantity than really necessary, in order to get the best deals. Up to 20% of the average print job can be wasted in this way. Advances in technology such as smart phones and net-books enabling a mobile business environment may result in printed output lasting for longer, and so information is more likely to change before a large print run is required.

Bringing the printing in-house can often result in consistency in style for various output needs, for example flyers, business cards and leaflets all having a similar feel and quality in appearance, as well as content. Even just with basic office packages, great results can be easily achieved and tested in print immediately to get the job right first time. Businesses can also print in smaller batches as and when required, meaning that a huge stock of print is not wasted if information changes suddenly or unexpectedly.

Return on investment

Printing in house can also encourage the business to be more creative and innovative in using print to enhance marketing and everyday tasks, giving more input into the business by the people within. A small retail outlet such as an independent bookshop could utilize an inkjet printer to print copies of promotional material for windows and displays. Bookmarks could be printed with information about upcoming releases and events to slip into current books or hand to customers as they are greeted in the shop. Colourful recommendations could be added to bookshelves to catch the customer eye.

With the printing within the organiszation's control, output could be produced wherever required in a fast moving business, where the next releases or literary prize or event are happening every week. This in addition to regular business communications and checklists for staff, and other back office requirements, can really make the printer they need for everyday items start to benefit the business in terms of merchandising.

The variety of inventive small businesses in any UK town can give regional representatives of a reseller a huge opening to tap into such opportunities. Targeting a geographical area and holding demonstrations for business owners and those looking to start up in business could promote the benefits to  a part of the business community who are not always first in line to embrace technology.. Because the smaller firms tend to have all-rounders rather than experts in technology, there is still a trend to see any IT as a low priority, so it's a must for resellers to get out to these companies and show them what can be achieved for a relatively small investment.

In the next feature MircroScope looks at the advantages of colour printing for SME's and how it can be achieved at low cost with inkjet technology.

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