Today HP announced a few interesting things, and one of them is a new reseller strategy.
The other announcements dealt with, oh, only a new series of full color 3D printers, but we already discussed them here. Now I want to talk about their new reseller strategy.
At first glance it seems quite innocuous: they’re providing significant support to their partner program in the form of service infrastructure, as well as “reference centers”, where prospective clients can check out machines, software and processes.
That’s all great, but I think there is a lot more to the story. But we need a bit of background first.
A reseller is a lot more than just “selling machines” like you’d see on a website. If it was as easy as that, machines WOULD be sold on websites.
The reseller must provide a strong relationship with the client in order to overcome the client’s inevitable skittishness about dealing with the complex matter of 3D printing on industrial scales. They provide not only machine sales, but repair and installation services, material sales, educational services, advice and even assistance with 3D printing strategies. These are things most companies don’t want to invent themselves and would rather get from qualified providers – the resellers.
That qualification makes it very important for the customer to trust the reseller, as they act as their advocate with the larger 3D printer company. It’s a tricky business that’s quite different than making 3D printers, and that’s why many manufacturers use a network of resellers instead of selling directly themselves.
Now, back to the HP situation. We know that HP has had challenges attracting resellers to their 3D printing product line, and its not due to any issue with HP’s equipment, materials, service or costs.
It’s because most of the major 3D print resellers have signed exclusive agreements with Stratasys, such that they are allow to sell ONLY Stratasys products.
This has effectively locked out HP from a juicy network of resellers. And good news for Stratasys, of course.
HP has recruited some resellers, but their strength and reach appears to be far less than Stratasys’.
So what can HP do? Until their product line is so incredibly compelling that the Stratasys resellers abandon their highly profitable Stratasys businesses and jump to HP, they’re not going to move.
This is what HP can do: Make their own resellers, from scratch.
That’s what this announcement is about. It’s about attracting new resellers to the 3D printing market, companies that perhaps are already selling other kinds of equipment, but found it too daunting to enter 3D printing.
Why would they find it daunting? Because it’s hard to set up systems, personnel and facilities to do all those services mentioned above. It’s a big investment for these resellers, and there’s no guarantee of success.
If only someone could provide all that stuff for them.
Well, that’s exactly what HP seems to be doing.
Expect a lot more new resellers to appear. And a lot more competition in all areas.