Put Your Suppliers To Work For You!
Hardware vendors, software developers, and distributors continue to develop more channel-friendly programs and offerings. Are you using these tools to your advantage?
Reflecting on all of my encounters with VARs and integrators in the last year, I concluded that 1999 was a good year for the channel. (I went on 30+ excursions to trade shows, VAR conferences, and company visits in 1999.) Each trip gave me greater insight into the world of technology vendors and their channel members. Over time, I discovered that today's VARs and integrators are in an enviable position.
Vendors Working With The Channel
There's no shortage of hardware manufacturers and software developers with products for VARs and integrators, like you, to sell. And, in more mature technology markets, there are only small differences among their products. Most vendors differentiate themselves through their channel offerings. Here are just a few examples of what I encountered in the document management marketplace.
Digitech Systems, Inc. (DSI) (Lincoln, NE), a document management software company, gives its resellers the power to design its products. At its annual reseller conference, DSI Unite '99, President and CEO Scott Matthews presented PaperVision 8.8, DSI's document retrieval software. He encouraged attendees to provide product suggestions. DSI VARs and integrators suggested product enhancements and voted on changes to be implemented. Astonishingly, the 30 enhancement requests to PaperVision 8.8 became a reality in only four days.
Other vendors I visited are also going to great lengths to support their channels. Hyland Software (Rocky River, OH) takes support for its channel seriously. Every company employee - no matter what level or title - is trained to operate Hyland's software. All employees are also Certified Document Imaging Architects (CDIA), a credential recognizing document management and imaging competency. When a VAR calls Hyland's technical support line, the phone call is answered in three rings or less. If a call goes beyond a third ring, that call rings over the company intercom.
OTG (Online Technologies Group) Software, of Bethesda, MD, established a partner advisory council in 1999 to better meet its channel's needs. One of the first changes implemented by the council was the establishment of a dedicated 1-800 hotline for VARs and integrators.
Many vendors have stepped up to the plate with channel offerings, such as marketing materials, trade show support, and regular lead generation. Also, many vendors provide their channel with dedicated VAR Web sites that offer product fulfillment, upgrades, and knowledge bases.
Channel support has evolved. Vendors are providing VARs and integrators with the tools necessary to succeed. If you aren't receiving this support, you should begin looking for another vendor.
Use Distribution To Your Advantage
VARs and integrators are also in a good position to work with distributors. Today's distributors operate with one of two models of distribution. There are large technology distributors that offer every product imaginable at low prices. Then, there are value-added distributors that offer a select variety of products at a slightly higher price. These value-added distributors justify their margins with special services for VARs and integrators.
Take NewWave Technologies (Gaithersburg, MD), for example. This document management and mass storage distributor launched its SmartVAR program in 1999. The SmartVAR program aligns its members more closely with its vendors, so these VARs can take advantage of vendor promotions. The distributor also helps its SmartVARs develop marketing materials and supports them at regional trade shows and conferences. NewWave recently helped its VAR Linmar produce a "scanner shootout" for its customers. At the scanner shootout, Linmar's customers saw how different scanners performed in specific applications.
Vendors And Distributors Can Help You Succeed
I only mentioned examples from the document management industry to illustrate my point. There isn't enough space in my column to discuss all of the vendors and distributors developing channel offerings in the automatic identification and data collection (AIDC), point of sale (POS), mass storage, and card technology and biometric markets. But, they are out there. Are you taking advantage of these offerings? Did you know these opportunities existed?
Questions about this article? E-mail the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.