Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Checking In & Out at The Print 4 Pay Hotel

This was an article written by Scott Cullen back in 2004, I have update some of the numbers such as total members, membership demographics and a few others to keep it current. (Art)

01/09/2004 By: Scott Cullen

When one checks into the Print4Pay Hotel it’s the guests who receive tips, not the staff. The Print4Pay Hotel: The Imaging Professional's Resource Center is a Website ( and message board focused on providing extensive imaging product information to resellers as well as a forum for imaging industry personnel to share knowledge. Although most members work for different dealerships, virtually all sell and service the Ricoh, Lanier, Savin, Sharp, Canon, KonicaMinolta, and Kyocera family of machines.

The site also contains an impressive collection of documents and brochures on various manufacturers office equipment. Art Post, CEO of the Print4Pay Hotel and Docusultant with Century Office Products in Middlesex, NJ, is the architect behind the Print4Pay Hotel. The site allows digital imaging specialists to share information and find answers quickly, says Post. It's also a place where imaging professionals can store their knowledge, search their knowledge, and share their inspirations, ideas and passion for the industry.

Launched seven years ago on a Yahoo! community, Post eventually switched to an MSN community to take advantage of additional features, such as additional memory which allowed him to include product brochures and photos that could be downloaded for proposals. Post notes that the purpose of the site isn’t to show how smart its members are and encourages visitors not to be afraid to ask questions. I think it's the real skinny about what the products can and can't do, says Post, plus the ability to get information quickly. Too often we call a product manager or district sales manager and don't get a call back in a timely manner, and then when we get the call, they say they'll get back to you if they don't know the answer. This could take a few more days. Adds Post, The reason we're asking the question is because the customer or the potential customer asked the question and these days you must be on top of your knowledge because if you aren't someone else is, and that someone else may get the sale or the heads up in the knowledge area. I've stated many times on the P4PHotel that with more than sixty pieces of hardware and 30 pieces of software, none of us are experts. However, we all have a certain expertise in different markets or different hardware and software. The Hotel allows us to share our information and then we as a group are more knowledgeable in all of these markets along with hardware and software.

The inspiration for the site came from a message board on Ricoh's sales/support extranet site. I thought I could do a better job and unite Ricoh, Savin and Lanier salespeople so that everyone could share information and knowledge within minutes, notes Post. Post subscribes to the notion that the days of selling boxes is over and that dealers must focus on selling solutions. In order to do this, not only are we required to know our own products but we must also know our competitor's products almost as well as our own, maintains Post. While we are doing this, we still must prospect, consult, evaluate, listen and then close the sale.

Since opening its doors in 2001, the hotel has grown to over 2,000 registered members and averages over 1,000 page views a day. Members aren’t limited to the U.S., the site has members from around the globe, including more than 116 different countries.It's not easy managing an Internet site, especially one that requires a constant flow of information and exchange of ideas. When asked what the biggest challenge of this Internet enterprise is, Post replies, The constant dedication to post new information, answer questions and grow membership. Post spends at least two hours per day on the site.

As with any discussion board, there are a number of topics of interest that seem to resonate more with members than others. Although Manufacturers do not sanction the site, Post reports that some of his contacts have told him that what he is doing is great and needed in the industry. That said, Post is aware of some sales manager's who are uncomfortable with what he's doing. I guess we have united Copier Salespeople across the country and now good and bad news travels quickly, opines Post. So, if a product bombs or a if a product is exceptional we get the word out to our members immediately.

Post believes the site has been a boon to his and other member's sales efforts even if there is some uncertainty from the manufacturer side. We know we're kicking butt with our products and all of our members are busy selling, maintains Post. All we're about is sharing information, sharing knowledge and sharing product information to support ourselves and our families.

No comments: