You've Got The Tools, Now Go Grow
These days, it's tough for VARs, integrators, and software developers to make a good buck. After all, you've got competition from Internet marketers with cheap pricing. Those same competitors are giving your customers the impression that many technologies are plug and play. That means your value-added services aren't viewed as valuable as they were in the past. Then there's the price of fuel. You have to travel, whether by car or plane, to meet with customers. Now it costs a lot more, and you're going to have to eat most of those costs.
What I've noticed during my recent travels is that both vendors and distributors are trying to address this problem. First, many of the vendors I work with have ramped up their dedication to indirect sales in recent years. It's in their best interests to see their VARs succeed, so they are doing everything from limiting the products that are sold through distribution to creating products that are modular or customizable. The latter types of products offer more opportunity for you to create a near proprietary solution that keeps your customers coming back for more and eliminates the possibility of Internet shopping. But you'll still need some level of integration expertise to design these solutions.
Take Advantage Of Vendor Services
Vendors also have added more channel management personnel and revamped their channel programs to give true VARs not only price advantages but additional services designed to grow sales. Unfortunately, many VARs stop at taking advantage of the price discounts of these new programs and not leveraging the real revenue-generating tools offered by professional services. What's worse, many of these additional services are free and simple to execute. A VAR would be foolish to pass up these programs. For instance, generating online customized marketing materials is a common service many vendors offer. Why waste your time and money trying to come up with professional-looking brochures, mailers, or even Web sites when your vendors have already done all of the hard work for you? For example, Wavelink, a vendor of mobile applications software for data collection systems, has automated product demonstrations on its Web site. VARs can send prospective customers a hyperlink in an e-mail that directs the customer to these product demos. A WebEx presentation can follow these demos to help keep the selling process moving. These are the kinds of services that can make your company look more professional for little effort and no cost.
And if you want to expand your business into new verticals or applications, the best way to do so in the near future, according to Gartner, is through partnering with other channel companies. That's why many vendors have increased their emphasis on recruiting ISVs (independent software vendors) into their channel programs. Vendors hope to hook up these ISVs with hardware-only partners to create more total vertical solutions. For example, Symbol Technologies recently created online tools to help its partners find other Symbol partners with specific service, vertical, or software expertise.
And as I mentioned earlier, distributors are also beefing up their professional services. Sure, you can get specialized technology training, financing assistance, and presales support from your distributor. But those are almost prerequisites for any company calling itself a distributor these days. VADs (value-added distributors) offer much more, such as recurring revenue-generating tools and basic business-building seminars.
Yes, it's tough out there for channel companies. But today, you have more tools to choose from than ever before for increasing your sales or market share. Take the time to investigate these opportunities. It will be time well spent.