Tips for choosing an office printer vendor

multifunction-printer-1-300x295This isn’t the most glamorous topic, but I recently found an e-mail I had sent to a former co-worker who had asked me for some advice about finding a good printer vendor for his ad agency and thought the advice I passed on might be useful…

  1. The color printer dictates pretty much everything else – if  you can settle on a brand you’re happy with then you’ll find that it’s less painful to simply use that vendor for all of your printing needs (black printers aren’t brain surgery anyhow). So making that color decision is key.
  2. Determine what your needs are: Paper sizes? Do you want the printer to also function as a scanner (and, if so, what formats are important to you)? Dual-sided printing? Edge-to-edge? Take the time to work up a hit list of priorities – that’ll make whittling down the choices a lot easier.
  3. Figure out your options based on your needs: Hit the websites of the bigger vendors  – Canon, HP, Ricoh, Xerox, etc.) and find the best option based on their current models. Basically, familiarize yourself with each manufacturer’s offering so that the reseller you subsequently contact isn’t leading you by the nose.

    printing technology is the biggest nuisance for any I.T. manager

  4. Arrange for demos w/ local resellers. This is key – don’t pull the trigger sight unseen. Most resellers will be able to demo units for you. When you do go on these trips, be sure to bring samples of YOUR work – don’t rely on samples they provide. Print out samples of the same files with each vendor so that you have an apple-to-apples comparison of the output quality.
  5. Get pricing. Obviously, get a quote for a lease duration appropriate for your needs. Pay attention to overage costs (do yourself a favor and try your best to figure out what your actual usage is beforehand so you have a baseline).
  6. Ask for references. Any local reseller will be able to pass you off on some of their other local clients. Ask them the obvious questions about the printer’s performance and reliability. More importantly, ask them about their relationship with the reseller – are they responsive? How good are they at resolving issues? Remember that, if you play your cards right, this is a vendor relationship you can make once and, hopefully, not have to revisit every few years.
  7. Negotiate the final contract. Remember that YOU have the leverage here, so use it.
    • Throw in the idea of providing all of the printers for your office; that should produce a discount on the leasing prices.
    • Play the quotes you’ve received from other vendors against each other – if your first choice vendor is quoting a higher price for a relatively equivalent product from the others, use that to your advantage.
    • Resellers, once they start talking to you, are usually hot to close the deal by end of month. Don’t let let them bully you into signing if you aren’t “100% there.” You may even be able to use that time sensitivity to your advantage.
  8. Consider a short-term contract. One safe bet may be to , rather than lock into a typical three-year contract, sign a one-year so that you can kick the tires with the understanding that, if everything goes well, you intended to move to a three-year after that. You may pay a bit more that first year but it’ll be worth it of you can sign in confidence going forward.

In my opinion, printing technology is the biggest nuisance for any I.T. manager – their highly physical nature makes them the most likely device in your organization to break down when you least expect it. Mitigate that pain by doing your best to find a product that performs reliably and, more importantly, establishing a relationship w/ a reseller who’s “got your back.” If you do it right then it’s a decision you won’t have to revisit for a long time.

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