Lexmark fleshes out roster of small workgroup-focused GO line with new entry level products

The GO line was designed to strengthen Lexmark’s push downmarket with product specifically designed for the market, and the new models provide colour options at the entry level.

Sammy Kinlaw, channel chief at Lexmark

Last October, Lexmark introduced its new Lexmark GO Line, designed to accompany the broadening of its channel from larger enterprise products to ones aimed more at small workgroups, whether they be in small businesses, ROBO deployments of large enterprises, or anywhere in between. 16 SKUs were introduced, specifically designed for this market, along with margins, spiffs and incents designed to make their sales profitable for partners. Lexmark has now supplemented the lower range of the GO line with six new color devices aimed at this space, as part of their developing strategy to built up a firm presence in this part of the market.

The new devices include two new colour single-function printers, the C3224dw and C3326dw, three new colour multi-function MFPs, the MC3224dwe, MC3224adwe and MC3326adwe, and a new monochrome MFP, the MB2236adwe.  The colour devices print up to 24 or 26 colour pages per minute, while the mono device features print speeds of up to 36 pages per minute. The multi-function products have a 2.8″ touchscreen.

“The most important strategy that I’ve taken on since I walked in the door is to take to market a product line, the GO line, specifically built for the channel,” said Sammy Kinlaw, who Lexmark recruited away from Lenovo, where he had been the global channel chief, in January 2018. “The GO line has been successful, with double digit growth year over year in an industry which overall is not growing.”

The 16 SKUs rolled out In October included the monochrome version of the 2 series, the low end of the GO line, which Kinlaw said had done very well, but most of the product released then was  the middle and higher SKUs of the GO family, in the 3 series, 4 series and 5 series.

“We have now rounded that out with single-function and multi-function colour SKUs from the 2 series and the 3 series, the entry level lasers,” Kinlaw said.

The channel has always been important for Lexmark, but before Kinlaw was recruited away from Lenovo to reshape it, it was primarily focused on Fortune 1000 customers like big pharmaceuticals and retailers, particularly around managed print services. Kinlaw was tasked with developing Lexmark’s presence in the SMB, which included adjusting the coverage model by recruiting quality partners focused on that space, and coming up with product specifically designed for it.

“We introduced the higher-level GO models first, and with these we are extending it to smaller level workgroup products,” said Ron Wells, Worldwide Product Marketing Manager for Lexmark.

“We wanted to double our addressable market and we have done that now,” Kinlaw said. “This widens the net that we can cast. We have sold into this market before, but really without the right product or the right price band. We haven’t had this price band before.”

The new C3224dw

“We haven’t previously been offering product either at this price point, or at this size and weight,” Wells indicated. “These models have enterprise features, but at price points that smaller businesses are looking for. Before, in this space we used to have models, the CS317 and CX317, which we introduced in early 2017. They took an enterprise engine and put it in a product aimed lower downmarket. But they were kind of husky and big, and were selling into a market where weight and size mattered. So it didn’t work. We knew that these were issues in 2017, but it takes years to design and develop products.”

“We emphasize things that are unique for this part of the market like ‘no asterisk security,’” Kinlaw emphasized. “These have full spectrum security with no asterisks indicating Not Applicable here or there. The competition has tons of asterisks in this space. With us, wireless is standard, as is mobile print availability. That’s not the case throughout the market.”

Kinlaw said that this feature functionality is essential to properly support partners, and protect them from the proclivity of much of the small business market to look for product at low-cost outlets.

“We protect our partners against being caught by discounters with a a 4P mentality – Product, Placement, Price and Promotion,” he stated. “We know that the 2 series and 3 series products are in segments which have 10 million devices being sold in similar price brands. We have to manage things differently to emphasize price and value. We know we are being compared. In this price brand, it’s easy to shop. So the things like ‘no asterisk security’ make sure that our partners aren’t at a disadvantage.”

While the price brand is clear, the target market for these is more diffuse, and Kinlaw resisted labelling these as being only for any particular size of customers.

“We don’t want to narrow the focus,” Kinlaw said. “These are intended for micro work groups where size and weight could matter – small  branch offices, small retailers, small banks, small classrooms. But it’s not just aimed at small businesses. These could sell in the midmarket, or even to very large companies – if they have uses cases for smaller branches or classrooms. My largest buyer of these to data was an overseas bank with many micro-branches. They bought several thousand of them.”

Wells also indicated that partners see these fitting in a broad range of settings.

“We had some Canadian distributors come down with partners who were excited about small businesses they could sell these to, but we also have prospects like  one large company interested in them for locations with just two or three people.”

Kinlaw updated ChannelBuzz on Lexmark’s progress in building the right channel for the GO line.

“We are still driving to an ideal state,” he said. “We have recruited a significant number of partners, and  Canada is up double digit year over year, but I’m being uber-careful to make sure I’m growing in the right areas. The value-added retail and DMR space are mine to protect. That’s where most of our revenues come from. But as we enter these smaller categories there is an etail consideration as well. We are distant from the number one and two players in the space, so I have to grow. I’m not done with newer paths to market, but not at a cost of endangering the baseline business. We have to protect that, while still adding partners like etailers who we aren’t dealing with today. That’s a reality.”

Lenovo has been looking for stability in its top leadership after losing three CEOs in two years. The new CEO, Allen Waugerman, came on board in late May and has given Kinlaw some strategic direction for the year ahead.

“As I close out year and move into 2020, ease of doing business with us and operational expertise are top of mind,” Kinlaw said. “Our new CEO Waugerman has asked me to work on those, which involves  rebates and promotions. As a growing vendor, I have to do things that larger ones can’t do. We are more nimble than they are, however. I know Lexmark has not been seen as nimble in the past, but we are very nimble today. Today, we have an onboarding team that provides partners with white glove treatment, with the intention being to roll out the red carpet to partners as they drive new business lines. We are charged with being a growth engine for the company, and we need to be able to tell a partner clearly ‘Why Lexmark.’”