A VAR's Secret Weapon: Mastering the Most Overlooked Recurring Revenue Stream

Printing Supplies - Money

A VAR’s Secret Weapon: Mastering the Most Overlooked Recurring Revenue Stream

In our digital world, it’s easy to believe that printing is going away. After all, when was the last time you sat with a newspaper at the kitchen table? Or pulled out your five-pound phone book to order a pizza?

While some elements of print have gone extinct or, at the very least, been repurposed, others continue to thrive and grow at an exponential rate.

COVID-19, for instance, required rapid innovation in how print and digital media could work together. You couldn’t visit a restaurant without seeing a menu hidden behind a printed QR code. Meanwhile, as ordering goods online from mega-warehouses became more common, so too did the need for printing solutions that gave companies real-time inventory tracking in the form of printed RFID-tagged labels.

While many may underestimate the significance of print in today’s digital world, a closer look reveals that printers remain essential tools across industries. In fact, the global commercial printing market size was valued at a staggering USD $494.53 billion in 2023 and is projected to continue growing at a rate of 3% CAGR (compound annual growth rate) until 2030, according to Grand View Research.

Printing Growth Rate

But you probably know most of this, especially if you sell hardware in retail, hospitality, or supply chain. Printers, especially for labeling and tagging, are still very relevant. In this article, we'll explore an aspect of printing you may not think about nearly enough: the supplies and media consumables that allow VARs (value-added resellers) to unlock a steady and exciting recurring revenue stream.

Printing Money: The Untapped Revenue of Supplies

BlueStar Printing Supplies - Money

•    Recurring Revenue Powerhouse: Unlike hardware with one-time sales, printer supplies offer a steady income stream. A company may only upgrade its printing equipment every five to ten years, but printer supplies are something they may order monthly or even weekly (depending on the industry). A 2022 IDC report estimates the worldwide printer supplies market to reach $54 billion by 2026. VARs can ensure a consistent revenue flow and build long-term customer relationships by prioritizing the sale of high-quality supplies alongside hardware. 

•    Customer Focus: VARs will benefit by moving beyond the simple selling of printers. This starts with a customer-centric approach to understand a customer’s specific printing needs and challenges. Analyze their print volume, document types, budget constraints, and environmental factors. The latter element’s importance cannot be overstated, as it can make or break a sale. Consider RFID tags as an example. How harsh is the environment that these supplies will need to withstand? Will weather, chemicals, or other elements require more durable printing solutions? Understanding such things will better position you as a subject matter expert, offering tailored solutions encompassing hardware and compatible supplies.

•    Don't just sell products – provide value:

  • Consultations: Analyze customer printing habits and recommend optimized solutions for cost-efficiency and performance. Again, consider things like print volume, document types, budget constraints, and environmental factors

  • Technical Support: Offer ongoing technical assistance to ensure smooth operation and troubleshoot supply-related issues. This will be a huge differentiator when customers compare you to the Amazons of the world. Make it apparent that the transaction isn’t over as soon as the product is delivered. Be there for ongoing support, suggestions, and possible upsells.

  • Supply Management: Implement automated reordering systems to prevent stockouts and maintain consistent supply levels. Consumers are used to picking up their phones and subscribing to goods and services. They tap a button and don’t have to think about it again for months. This makes their lives easier while guaranteeing that you will make money for the life of their subscription.

•    Communication is Key: Ensure clear and concise communication when discussing printer supplies. Use terminology your customers understand and avoid overly technical jargon. Explain the benefits of high-quality supplies, such as consistent print quality, extended printer life, and warranty protection. Educate them about the risks of using third-party, uncertified supplies, which can lead to smudging, fading, and even printer damage.

•    Staying Ahead of the Curve: In the ever-evolving technology landscape, staying informed is critical. Keep yourself updated on industry trends and new product releases. For instance, the emergence of RFID printing technology offers exciting possibilities for asset tracking and inventory management across industries —from warehouse goods to law firm files to tracking babies in the NICU. By showcasing your knowledge of cutting-edge solutions and their applications, you position yourself as a trusted advisor, capable of guiding customers toward future-proof printing solutions. 

Addressing the Third-Party Challenge

Customers who buy printers from a VAR and then purchase the supplies on Amazon later may save a bit of money, but saving money doesn’t always equate to a better value or what’s best for one’s business. VARs should educate customers about the long-term consequences associated with third-party purchases.

Make it clear to your customers that buying printing supplies from someone else could lead to the following issues:

  • Compromised Print Quality: Fuzzy text, streaking ink, and inconsistent color reproduction are common issues when purchasing inferior or incompatible printing supplies. Inconsistencies could occur within the same bulk order or from batch to batch.

  • Reliability Issues: Uncertified cartridges may malfunction or cause printer damage, leading to downtime and additional repair costs.

  • Warranty Complications: Using non-genuine cartridges or supplies can void the manufacturer's warranty on a printer. This could leave the customer responsible for any repairs or replacements needed due to compatibility issues or damage caused by uncertified supplies.

Moreover, it’s important to consider third parties who are also hardware suppliers (i.e., your competition). If your customer is already choosing them for printer supplies, why wouldn’t they consider them for their future hardware needs as well?

It’s better to avoid giving your competitors a chance to poach your customers by simply making sure you offer your clients everything they need, including hardware and supplies, all at once.

"If you don't sell the supplies, your competitor will. The day they also decide to offer hardware or something else you sell, you're out."

medi_jessicakroth 4  Jessica Kroth, Media Business Development Manager, BlueStar

Getting Started

It should be apparent by now that printer supplies are not an afterthought. Rather, they are a strategic revenue driver for VARs. By prioritizing customer needs, offering comprehensive solutions, and staying informed, VARs can unlock the full potential of printer supplies and establish themselves as trusted advisors in the ever-evolving printing landscape.

Here at BlueStar, we are dedicated to helping VARs every step of the way, providing you with all the tools needed to make each sale as complete and profitable as possible. Click here to get started. 


James Wilson
James Wilson is a Digital Marketing Campaign Manager with a background in public relations and all things marketing. James has found himself working in everything from education nonprofits, to petcare, to a stint at a SoCal tech startup. When he's not working, you can find him hitting some hiking trails with his two dogs, or sipping a good bourbon over the weekend.

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