Selling to the Competition


I recently interviewed a client for an upcoming case study on Mekel Technology microfilm and microfiche scanners. The client represents a service bureau and asked a question we hear often, “We’re Crowley competitors. How do you represent us and yourselves at the same time?” Good question.

Crowley has several divisions: research and development; manufacturing; hardware sales; technical support and Crowley Imaging, our own service bureau. In addition to selling to service bureaus, with which we compete, we also manufacture and sell competitive scanners – Wicks and Wilson and Mekel Technology – essentially competing with ourselves. Strange bedfellows and, oddly, it works (although it does bring to mind that old Latham and Jaffe song, “I’m my own Grandpa”).

Reseller to Service Bureau

Senior hardware representative Ed Berkowitz was on the call with me. As I gave my answer of, “We’re able to co-exist because the scanners add efficiency, image quality and a competitive advantage across the board,” Ed chimed in with what the client really wanted to know. “Look,” he said. “When I meet with a service bureau, I tell the prospect up front that I don’t want to know their clients and I don’t want to know job specifics. All I need to know are the technical requirements, the challenges and how I can best help meet them to gain efficiency and productivity from a hardware perspective.” This approach immediately puts a prospective bureau at ease. Ed also points out that many service bureaus work in specific geographic areas and don’t often cross paths with each other…or with Crowley Imaging. “Although Crowley Imaging is a full-service bureau that is widely respected,” notes Ed, “it is best known for its preservation capabilities and work with fragile, rare, specialty and high-volume collections. The reality is that the projects we work on are not typically those found on the bid circuit.”

From the manufacturing side, the value of operating our own equipment in a service bureau environment gives us unique qualification.  As the engineer and the end-user, we’re able to tweak the hardware and software as new challenges are presented and then pass these refinements on to other operators.

With more than 20 service bureaus as customers, Crowley has become a solution partner rather than a head-to-head competitor. 

Mekel vs. Wicks and Wilsonmekel-vs-wicks&wilson

Not so in the hardware sales arena where we are in direct competition with ourselves. And again, somehow, some way, it works. Think of us as a vendor that sells Coke and Pepsi with the end goal of creating satisfied customers. For many years, Mekel Technology and Wicks and Wilson were worthy adversaries and each drove the other to product improvement. In 2003, Crowley, then resellers of Mekel Technology products, purchased the firm and entered into the manufacturing end of the business. In 2011, we acquired the assets of Wicks and Wilson which forced us to examine each product and the marketplace from a fresh perspective. Wicks and Wilson came with a strong reseller base and very loyal clientele. It made sense to combine certain units under both brands – such as the aperture card scanners – and to keep the microfilm and microfiche scanners separate. Going forth, new development is under the Crowley umbrella, using the combined strengths of our engineers and developers in California and the UK, and will be sold by both brands to their respective markets. Case in point is the UScan universal film scanner, which is the first product developed by the combined firms. It is sold as both the UScan and MACH2 UF-series. 

It’s all relative

We sell to competitors. We compete with ourselves. It’s slightly convoluted but makes for a fun, fascinating and fluid work environment and allows us to be all things to as many people as we can while putting our best foot forward.

In short, we are our own Grandpa.


The Crowley Company is a full-solution imaging partner. From micrographics equipment and microfilm to desktop scanners to production scanners to patron systems and conversion services, The Crowley Company has aided archivists, librarians, students, records managers and others throughout the world with archival preservation and digitization.

If you have any questions, please contact the Crowley Company by calling (240) 215-0224. General comments and inquiries can be emailed to [email protected]

Cheri BakerCheri Baker, Crowley’s former Director of Communications, has retired but retains her love for writing and all things Crowley. With a career that spans newspaper, agency and corporate communications, her goal remains to dig behind the scenes and tell the story - whatever it may be. Find Cheri Baker on LinkedIn+

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