From a distributor's point of view

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Periods of inactivity provide a good opportunity for every organisation to examine its modus operandi and to put in place new procedures that will deliver agreater competitive edge, not just when times are tough, but more importantly, when markets return to growth. Get it wrong and your market share will be gone.

Trade distributors are sales and marketing organisations which stand or fall by the quality of the service that they provide. In our sector, resellers require speed, accuracy, discretion and pricing which enables them to deliver solutions to end-users both competitively and profitably.

Value added resellers are entitled to expect added value from their suppliers. For instance, can the telesales staff provide impartial technical information or advice on product suitability? Is there a hardware/software bundle that matches the resellers needs? Does the distributor offer technical training for reseller staff? Some of the new business won by Paradigm in 2003 suggests that not all of the players have had their eyes on the ball!

Equally important is the relationship between distributor and supplier. Manufacturers which bypass the two-tier channel do so at their peril. Resellers will give a wide berth to vendors who are known to entertain direct trading relationships with end-users. There is plenty of evidence that mixed models dont work, amply illustrated by market leader, Symbol Technologies strengthened commitment to the channel in the shape of its PartnerSelect scheme. Without the full support of the channel, no manufacturers sales and marketing team can hope to match the combined efforts of several distributors and thousands of specialist resellers.

During 2003, various trends have emerged. Mobile computing is set to continue growing as it spreads from the familiar environments of warehouses, shop floors and field operatives toolkits to increasing numbers of white collar applications. Conversely, there is a marked decline in demand for traditional bespoke programming as more end- sers and resellers employ rapid application development tools and userconfigurable vertical solutions. The loss of revenue for VARs can be more than offset by the wider market created by the lower cost of access to mobile technology.

Wireless mobile applications, involving GSM/GPRS communications and mobile receipt and label printing are the current popular trends, while Microsoft continues its rise in the sector with its Windows Mobile and CE .NET operating systems.

To maximise new business opportunities, it is essential for the wider prospective markets to be aware of what mobile technology can deliver in terms of improved efficiency and increased profits. The hardware vendors, the software publishers and the VARs all have an important role to play here.

It is the resellers who labour in the front line and it is the job of the vendors and their distributors to ensure that product and support are in place. If we can get this right most of the time, then we can all look forward to a truly rewarding year.

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