Avoid the 5 Percent Trap

Five percent—that can be the margin between success and failure for managed print contracts. The number comes from the printer test page created for the ISO IEC_19752 industry standard, which uses 5 percent page coverage as the benchmark for comparing toner cartridge yields. But in the real world it’s about as accurate as EPA gas mileage ratings–which is another way of saying don’t bet your business on it.


Toner yields are especially important when solutions providers write managed print contracts. They play a huge role in determining whether the contract reflects the actual costs a solution provider is on the hook to cover. Go too low, and you’re subsidizing your customers’ consumables expenses. And according to most solution providers, 5 percent coverage significantly underestimates actual page coverage rates, which more typically range from about 7 percent to 12 percent.

That’s why savvy solution providers don’t stake their success on rules of thumb. Read one VAR’s strategy.

In short, the best approaches start with a physical inspection of a prospect’s printing environment. The walk through lets VARs eyeball the types of print jobs being run and get a feeling for typical page coverage. This provides a context for more detailed evaluations.

VARs can use a variety of tools and techniques to accurately gauge toner usage rates. For black and white printers, record page counts at the beginning and end of cartridges used by the customer to extrapolate page coverage averages. For color printers, software such as APFILL from AVPSoft.com can record coverage rates for each page.

The results will not only give solution providers an accurate foundation for pricing contracts, they will probably open up the eyes of each customer. In most cases clients have only the fuzziest ideas about how much they’re actually spending on printing.

These extra steps will add a little more time to the sales cycle. But that’s a lot better than getting locked into a services contract that’s underperforming at best or, at worst, turning into a long-term money loser.