Exciting time for the interactive technology channel...

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Promethean AV Distribution is a major distributor of specialist interactive training and presentation equipment; including the Promethean PRESENTA range of interactive tools available only through the channel, selected ACTIV products, digital projectors and LCD displays from Sanyo and Sharp, and the latest in digital presenters from Samsung. It specialises in supplying interactive presentation solutions to education and the growing health, emergency services, corporate and training markets, through a network of resellers. Steve Dracup (pictured right), the company's managing director, talks to IT Reseller.

Q: Steve thanks for taking part in this Q&A. Let's start with the companys route to market?

A: Promethean AV sells solely through resellers and supports this channel by undertaking end user focused marketing activity to create demand and generate awareness of our products. Where this activity results in sales leads, we field the enquiry out to appropriate resellers.

As a distributor, we are able to provide a wide variety of products from leading manufacturers. So as well as our interactive ACTIV and PRESENTA solutions, we are distributors for projectors from Sanyo and Sharp and supply Samsungs visual presenters.

Q: How do you view the current state of the UK market for your technology?

A: Its an exciting time for interactive technology. After a few years of rapid growth, interactive whiteboard sales into education are at an all time high, with the sales forecast for 2005 predicted to be 105,497 units. In schools, that will take the total number of boards installed to 272,000 by the end of the year. And by 2010, projections are that every classroom in the UK will have an interactive whiteboard. The sheer volume of installations will create a market for replacement boards, with the first wave of these expected to kick in next year.

Whilst education remains a fertile market, competition for sales, especially post Becta tender, is fierce. This is a direct result of many resellers targeting education to try and secure a share of the Governments (50 million) funding, as part of the 2004/2005 interactive whiteboard expansion initiative. However, in reality, only a small number of resellers have actually attained business through this initiative. Resellers shouldnt overlook that there are still a lot of local supply routes where sales can be made on the back of existing personal relationships.

"Were actively looking for resellers across the marketplace, especially in new markets where mainstream AV resellers might not have relationships with organisations."

New markets
Markets outside of education, such as corporate, healthcare and emergency services, are starting to realise the benefit of interactive technology.

At Promethean AV, weve put a lot of time and resources into developing products which match the needs of these markets, because we recognise that it is a massive and untapped source of revenue for our resellers.

The technology has been used for interactive command and control by the emergency services, to plot the position of officers in real time. To aid such operations, weve added a time and date stamp to our interactive Px software.

The need to deliver interactive presentations in conference or large group scenarios has also been identified. Prometheans PRESENTA panel enables this by allowing the presenter to face an audience and the image projected on a virtually limitless size screen behind.

To further match the needs of these non education markets, weve just launched PRESENTAvote a simple to use response system that integrates with PowerPoint. Its an exciting product because it can be applied in a range of settings general assessment, meeting feedback and testing in its truest sense. But its also really easy for someone who has no prior knowledge of interactive technology to understand, because it mirrors the response mechanism of who wants to be a millionaire.

By making available a wide range of interactive technologies, were ensuring that the products will fit comfortably into an organisations existing environment.
For resellers who can identify new and innovative applications of the technology, there are many more avenues to be explored.

Q: Do you need to expand your current channels? If so, what kinds of partners are you looking for?

A: Were actively looking for resellers across the marketplace, especially in new markets where mainstream AV resellers might not have relationships with organisations.

Many IT resellers have huge customer bases with whom theyve been working for several years, which means they already have their foot in the door when it comes to selling the technology. If a projector has previously been sold to an organisation, it gives the reseller an excuse to make contact again and add value to that sale by introducing a new range of interactive products.

Utilising existing relationships, IT resellers should focus on major companies who have large training requirements. By doing so, an upfront investment of time and effort will be required for the initial sale, but once the technology has been piloted internally, its likely to lead to low maintenance repeat business.

Interactive technology is not something that can be easily explained on paper; people need to see and experience it for themselves. Thats why weve invested in developing a DVD, to help bridge the gap between literature and face to face demonstrations. Were looking for resellers who will help stimulate the markets by using this film to get out there to show how the product works.

Whilst demonstration is a major part of the missionary effort to penetrate new markets, resellers themselves need to be advocates of the technology. This means using the technology as part of their own business routine. Practising what you preach about the technology is the only way to breed excitement about its use.

Were not expecting the channel to undertake a major marketing campaign but they will need to spend a bit of time working on people with whom they already have good contact. IT resellers should use the knowledge they have about the markets they operate in to identify new and innovative ways to implement the technology.

Whilst interactive technology is still early in its life cycle, box shifting wont work. This means we need resellers who are willing and able to provide after sales support and a degree of training. Obviously, as the technology matures, training and support will become value-add rather than an essential part of the sale.

Q: How will you support them?

A: Promethean AV has invested heavily in developing a new channel and is committed to continuing this and supporting our partners in opening up new markets. Were continually expanding our sales team to ensure that hands-on support is always on hand out in the field and on the phone.

Weve developed a dedicated partner programme, Accelerate, which gives resellers a wide range of material to support them in their own sales and marketing efforts.

An annual partner event is organised to make sure resellers are up to date with our plans for the forthcoming year and provide them with an opportunity to feedback on what more we can do for them. Throughout the year we produce a broad suite of literature to ensure partners have the material they need to underpin sales activity.

At this years partner event, we launched the DVD 6 Keys to communicating with impact. This provides resellers with another sales tool that helps convey the benefits of the technology and offers a happy medium between data sheets and going out to demonstrate the product.

By showing the technology in use across a range of markets, the DVD gives resellers something tangible to show customers before going out to see them.

The DVD features European Business Speaker of the Year, Steve McDermott, and different market sectors. This endorsement of the technology shows the valuable contribution it can make to improving presentation technique generally. A free copy is available and can be requested via our website.

Promethean AV has only ever sold through the channel. So we understand what resellers want, how they operate and have made a real commitment to helping our partners develop their business. Were set up to work with resellers and every aspect of our support has been developed over time and in response to ongoing feedback.

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