Mike Rogers, sales and marketing director of Formpipe Lasernet, urges resellers to explore the opportunities presented by customer communications management software
With 17 years of experience in the industry, Mike Rogers, sales and marketing director at leading customer communications management software vendor, Formpipe Lasernet, has seen first-hand the evolution of the ERP industry. Keen to share his insight, Mike talks exclusively to Technology Reseller about the change in consumer expectations, the emerging demands of end user businesses and the opportunities that exist for the reseller community.
Technology Reseller (TR): Please could you tell our readers a little about Formpipe Lasernet and your target audience?
Mike Rogers (MR): Sure. So, businesses of all shapes and sizes deal with vast amounts of incoming and outgoing data and documentation, from purchase orders and invoices to labels, emails and letters. What we do is give them the ability to communicate effectively and efficiently with stakeholders.
We do this by enabling organisations to digitalise, better manage and exploit their business documents to improve communication, brand perception and upselling potential. Lasernet integrates with all ERP systems to provide superior functionality in relation to the creation, control, distribution and archiving of business documents.
Around 2,500 enterprise-level businesses across a range of sectors, including retail, manufacturing and utilities, use Lasernet, along with a number of smaller businesses the world over. Lasernet is sold and supported via our certified reseller program, although we do have direct relationships with a few end users.
TR: Have the needs of your customers changed in recent years? And, if so, in what ways?
MR: Absolutely they have. The shift from paper to digital has accelerated rapidly in recent years. Paper documents can take up a lot of valuable space and can be difficult to sort through, so customers are choosing digital options like web services, XML, EDI, CSV etc. to manage communications.
Consumer expectations are also shifting. Most of us have gone paperless in areas such as bank statements and most find it more convenient to receive delivery notifications electronically either by email or text when we purchase something online. This trend is showing no sign of stopping, so there’s an onus on the industry to adapt to meet these needs and also to recognise the potential these communications preferences have for promoting a brand or selling a product. It’s not just a transactional process, it’s a sales opportunity. Including a promotion code on a delivery confirmation email, for example, is a quick and easy way of encouraging repeat business. Yet, if straying from a template is impossible or if formatting that document is cumbersome, restrictive and time-consuming, the opportunity is lost – along with the potential profit.
Companies are also now analysing customer purchase behaviour patterns and marketing products based on this research. Research has shown that 40%* of people will respond better to visual information than plain text, so our customers are asking us more often for content with imagery, because they want to engage their customer base.
Measurement is also key; businesses want to know the return on investment and to measure how effective the distribution has been. This can be seen through the tracking information we increasingly supply. This functionality simply isn’t available using ERP alone, so to capitalise on digital transformation and to add value to ERP installations, we’d encourage resellers to find out more about the concept of customer communications management.
TR: In your opinion what are the biggest challenges facing your industry?
MR: Digitalisation is where the market is going and this has huge potential for all links in the chain. Yet, one of the challenges we face is that some end users fear the unknown or are reluctant to react quickly to this inevitable shift. After years of working with print, it can be daunting to digitalise documents. It’s cultural as much as it is operational.
Our software can help customers make a smooth and relatively speedy transitioning. but ultimately it’s our certified reseller network that has to consult with customers to explain the benefits, make the case and manage the transition.
TR: Is there a particular type of IT reseller you would like to attract?
MR: We are keen on finding more vertical ISV partners who have created a specific application for a specific industry and then integrate our solution into their system to add value and standardise. This type of partnership will allow us to create industry-specific solutions to improve speed of implementation and ensure that Lasernet is the default solution for users. This is something that we are very interested in and have a successful blueprint for.
TR: What do you see as the biggest trend right now?
MR: The biggest trend right now is the concept of customer communications management. It’s no longer about generic templates that tick a box but add little value to consumers. There’s a big move in business to understand better who the customers are and how they like to engage with a brand. Content is key for this, and business documents, even down to labels and invoices, are content – content that, if designed and personalised in the right way, is an incredibly powerful marketing tool, as well as a commercial formality. Delivering content that is relevant to the customer can be really rewarding, as the customer is more likely to engage with a brand if the content reflects what they’re interested in.
TR: What other developments are there in the industry that might present opportunities for resellers?
MR: ERP providers expect the industry to develop solutions to enhance certain functions of their systems. For example, we were selected to become part of Microsoft’s Technology Adopters Program because Microsoft recognised the need for our connector to integrate seamlessly with Dynamics 365 ahead of its official launch, to meet anticipated demand from users.
In the absence of expensive awareness campaigns, ERP users can find themselves searching for specialist software to support their ERP system post-implementation, which is when resellers can step in and capitalise.
Many of our partners and customers don’t consider customer communications management until the last minute, when they reach the point of wanting to generate documents. Ideally, we would like the complete project to be considered upfront. This is beneficial for both parties, as looking at requirements of design, distribution, content and branding early in a project is key to ensuring on-time, on-budget delivery.
TR: What support do you offer your partner resellers?
MR: I like to think we provide a personable service to our partners and resellers. We’re a friendly and approachable team and always aim to respond quickly and maintain our end of the bargain.
We provide our partners and resellers with everything they need to promote Lasernet to prospective customers. Whether that’s training to get to know our software, help with demos or attending meetings with future clients, we make sure we provide support every step of the way so that all parties are happy and our customers get the most out of Lasernet. Best of all, there’s no dead horse flogging involved! Lasernet is an easy sell as it’s simple to use, scalable and delivers real value to users.
TR: What are the company’s future expansion plans?
MR: Complete global domination is at the top of the agenda. We have really turned it around with our European strategy over the last two years. Since our inception over 20 years ago, we have grown to operate on a worldwide scale and today we work with a certified network of partners who distribute our software all around the world.
Two months ago, we opened our first office in the US, in Chicago, and our team is constantly working to expand our client portfolio in the States. Most recently, we have made a move into the Icelandic region, with the signing of our first partner, who has already signed two clients within weeks of our deal.
While focusing on expansion overseas, we are still growing our Cambridgeshire-based team and looking for new partners and clients in the UK.
Moving forward, we are looking to do more in APAC where there is a lot of potential for our software to make a difference.
TR: In your opinion, who are the pace-setters in the ERP market?
MR: Microsoft Dynamics 365 is developing the market and setting a new benchmark. Users may be relatively slow to migrate to the latest cloud version – change takes time – but the innovation involved and the benefits when they do are vast. Cloud ERP has played a major role in shaking up the market and making it more competitive as in the cloud businesses can modify their systems more easily compared to an on-site ERP.
As we are a Microsoft Gold Partner and member of Microsoft’s Technology Adoption Program, we know Microsoft 365 inside out and are privileged to be at the forefront of developments and the first to see the latest releases. Consequently, we were the first to develop software that seamlessly integrates with Microsoft Dynamics 365.
As well as unrivalled integration with Microsoft, Lasernet also integrates with other leading ERP systems, including AX, NAV, SAP and INFOR.
TR: Do smaller businesses recognise the benefits that your technology can bring?
MR: Smaller organisations deal with larger organisations, which requires them to produce and store data and documents in a consistent and professional format. However, ERP systems designed for use by SMEs are unable to accommodate this, as standard functionality is limited. Which is where our technology comes in. It provides the necessary services and, in doing so, allows users to compete in their market with a stronger offering.
Established over twenty years ago in Denmark, Formpipe Lasernet is a leading document creation and control software vendor. Its core product, Lasernet, gives over 2,500 customers worldwide the ability to design and distribute incoming and outgoing business documentation quickly and accurately, in hard copy or electronic formats. Lasernet has unrivalled integration with Microsoft Dynamics 365, NAV and SAP and is a Microsoft Gold Partner and member of Microsoft’s Technology Adoption Program (TAP), Formpipe Lasernet is sold and supported through a certified network of global partners.
* Research conducted by Zabisco: https://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/33423/19-reasons-you-should-include-visual-content-in-your-marketing-data.aspx