Sell Customized Semirugged Mobile Solutions
Give your customers the durable mobile devices they want along with the customized applications they need.
Rugged computer vendors go to great lengths to show how their products are different from nonrugged computers. I’ve seen demonstrations involving a rugged tablet being run over by a Ford F-250 truck. This may be enough to convince your military and construction customers to pay 2 1/2 to 3 times the cost of a consumer device, but for many other customers, this won’t be enough. There has long been a chasm between consumer devices and rugged devices. Even though TCO (total cost of ownership) statistics don’t lie, many companies believe their employees will handle mobile devices more carefully and beat the odds. End users may even take extra measures to help beat the odds such as purchasing rugged cases and/or rugged mounts for their devices. In some instances, it will be necessary to educate a skeptical customer about the TCO of rugged devices. You could point them to a 2004 study conducted by Venture Development Corporation (VDC), which reveals a five-year TCO for a rugged device is $8,569 compared to $12,631 for a consumer-grade device. The big finding from studies like this is the big cost of a broken mobile device isn’t paying to have it fixed, it’s the cost of downtime and the cost of trying to conduct business while waiting for repairs.
Don’t Try To Sell Rugged PCs To Every Customer
Do you really think every customer needs a device that can withstand being run over by a Sherman tank? Even if you do, rugged mobile computer vendors such as Itronix, Seneca Data, Panasonic Computer Solutions Company, and Psion Teklogix don’t. Each of these vendors (and several others) has come out with semirugged mobile devices within the past year that bridge the gap between consumer-grade and fully rugged devices. “Semirugged devices cost only about $200 to $250 more than their consumer-grade counterparts and are a fit for just about anyone who takes a mobile computer outside of their home or office,” says Matt Hutton, mobile business development manager at Seneca Data. “Customers who primarily use mobile devices in their vehicles are ideal candidates for semirugged devices because even though drop protection isn’t needed, they still need protection against spills and vibration.”
Do Take A Vertical Market
Approach To Selling Semirugged Computers
Mobile computer vendors usually have several models within each line of semirugged devices, each of which has a different appeal. “VARs need to understand which features are the primary motivators within specific vertical markets,” says Sheila O’Neil, director of channel sales at Panasonic Computer Solutions Company. “For example, home healthcare nurses may need to capture handwritten notes and therefore prefer semirugged tablet PCs instead of laptops. In the insurance industry, on the other hand, insurance sales reps like to be able to show PowerPoint presentations to their clients, making semirugged laptops a better fit.” In these scenarios, the degrees and type of ruggedness needed may also be different, and VARs need to make sure their products meet their customers’ specific needs. A vertical market approach to selling semirugged computers also needs to take into account other areas of customization, such as peripherals and radios. “We’re seeing a strong demand for multimodal devices that include multiple radios and peripherals,” says Ron Caines, VP of marketing at Psion Teklogix. “For example, a material handler in a shipyard may use a single semirugged handheld device that can interrogate RFID [radio frequency identification] tags, read bar codes, take digital pictures of damaged products, and be used like a walkie-talkie to communicate with a crane operator.” A field sales worker, on the other hand, may need Wi-Fi, cellular data, and bar code reading capabilities.
Remember Customized Mobile Computing Software, Services
After selecting semirugged computers with the proper rugged characteristics and the right peripherals and wireless radios, there are a couple of final steps that will help you edge out your competitors. Bundling vertical market-specific software with your semirugged computer is the first step. “VARs can gain vertical market expertise by taking training classes from their vendors and attending vertical market-specific trade shows,” says Panasonic Computer Solutions’ O’Neil, who offers an example of how a vertical market-specific application differs from a typical mobile application. “GPS [global positioning system] is a common service used in conjunction with mobile devices, but it isn’t always needed for the same reasons. One of our VARs, for example, developed a software application for the utilities industry that enables field electricians to find exactly where conduit is buried so they can more efficiently troubleshoot problems.” Having the electrical conduit database integrated with the GPS service saves electricians hours a day. You can imagine how much more successful that VAR is compared to someone else that offers only more general software applications with their mobile computers.
Postimplementation services are the final differentiator between a VAR that settles for single-digit profit margins and a VAR that earns 20% to 40%-plus profit margins. “A VAR can distinguish its product line by backing up its equipment with a warranty and providing in-house service and support,” says Matt Gerber, senior VP of marketing at Itronix. “To achieve this, VARs will need to dedicate a minimum of two trained field technicians to product repairs. Also, VARs that want to provide repair services will need to purchase a service parts kit from their vendor for each product line they support, along with other testing devices and service documents.”
Providing a total solution plus services enables VARs to understand their customers’ businesses better and earn more money from each customer. In addition to warranties and repair services, VARs can also offer remote monitoring, patch management, and edge security (i.e. password protecting a mobile device and ensuring it has the latest software security updates, and scanning it for viruses before allowing it onto the customer’s network) services. And that’s something big box retailers, online retailers, and many others won’t be able to compete against.