Lexmark beefs up partner capabilities with enterprise service, revamped channel program

The new Lexmark Connect program emphasizes making Lexmark easier to do business with, while the Cloud Print Management service has been extended from direct sales to channel partners.

Sammy Kinlaw, Lexmark’s vice president, Global Channel Sales

Lexmark has taken multiple steps to strengthen its partner channel. On an overarching level, they have revamped their partner program with Lexmark Connect, which restructures program components to make Lexmark easier to do business with, particularly across geographies. They have also made Lexmark Cloud Print Management, an enterprise service which has been sold by Lexmark’s direct sales force, available to their channel partners.

“We have been working on the Connect program since I walked through the door here at Lexmark two years ago,” said Sammy Kinlaw, Lexmark’s vice president, Global Channel Sales. “It’s not easy for any company with a worldwide channel to have a unified partner program in every country. It’s really heavy lifting, and it took two years to get done.”

All companies these days stress that their program emphasizes making it easy to do business with the company, but Kinlaw stressed that the changes here really emphasize bringing in a global consistency which had been lacking before.

“We wanted the program components to mean the same things in the different regions,” he said. “Some of our partners are cross-border. We wanted their benefit statements to be the same, and the program levels, and the partner portal tools. It just makes us easy to do business with, and provides clarity across borders. It doesn’t impact every partner, but for those that it does, it makes it easier to do business with us.”

Changes have also been made to help new partners with speedier onboarding.

“For new partners, we made vast changes to speed up the onboarding efforts,” Kinlaw noted. “A year ago, it would take 30-45 days to get through the process. Now it’s 3-4 business days, with a rep supporting the partners.”

The structure of the program itself and its organization remains basically  unchanged, although Lexmark increased benefits in 2020 for selling their small workgroup-focused GO line, and Kinlaw said that the Lexmark Industry Advantage program introduced last summer is important.

“With the Lexmark Industry Advantage, there are some net-new support offerings,” Kinlaw said. “Lexmark has its own solutions people focused on specific processes in verticals like manufacturing and government. Until this year, I had no way to turn on that support structure with the channel. They only supported enterprise accounts. Now as partners proceed through the ranks, they have access to those resources. Gartner just referenced Lexmark Industry Advantage as a defining feature for us, and gave us a glowing report.” The program is available in North America, Latin America and EMEA.

The partner portal has also been designed to enhance ease of use.

“The changes have gotten good reviews,” Kinlaw said. “If you make it hard for partners, they will shy away from you.”

Kinlaw also emphasized Lexmark’s commitment to helping all types of partners to sell more services.

“Every partner wants to sell services,” he said. “Even a smaller one wants to punch above their weight class. Our Cloud Fleet and Cloud Print Management broaden services offerings for partners that they could never do on their own.”

The Cloud Print Management [CPM] service, which has been only a direct offering before now, has been opened up to channel partners.

“Cloud print management is the future of print,” Kinlaw said. “Today, with people talking hybrid cloud and reducing complexity, we have to follow suit in the cloud infrastructure. Traditionally, any company that printed in the office was driven by x86 architecture. Today, they want less complexity. CPM does this by getting rid of x86 architecture, and letting the user release a document from the cloud securely.”

It will also help partners to sell more printers,” Kinlaw added.

“Some partners left print because of complexity and concerns it was a dying market with hardware, but IDC says that 30 milion devices were still sold last year,” he said. “I grew my unit sales 8% last year. CPM elevates the selling game of a partner, to give end users what they want in a less complex and more secure environment. CPM also gives a small or mid-size partner the ability to sell to a larger end user.”

While Lexmark sold CPM to large enterprise customers, Kinlaw said the channel market for it will be much broader than that.

“It’s aimed at both large and small partners, and at anyone printing in an office environment,” he indicated.

Cloud Fleet Management [CFM] remains a direct service offering, but Kinlaw says that won’t be the case for long.

“CFM allows remote access and management of devices in the field, with remote starting of the device, monitoring of toner use, predictive failure,” he stated. It is planned to be a channel offering in the very near future.”

Like CPM, Kinlaw said that CFM will not just be available for partners selling to large enterprises.

“It’s not just designed for large enterprises,” he said. “It will fit in smaller enterprises and in the mid-market. Many customers use third party software that manages devices, but not at the same levels of complexity that CFM can do. As the printer manufacturer, we are the first to know of an issue, not third parties.”

Kinlaw said that these services are also not just for partners who are already selling cloud services.

“It depends on the type of partner that chooses to sell them,” he indicated. “Many of the partners in North America have a cloud practice, but same may not. Those selling IoT or hardware may see this as a way to enter the cloud easily, or expand from just hosting in the cloud through AWS and Azure. It’s not a one size fits all.”