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When I looked in the mirror this morning, I saw a pretty content distributor. Thats pretty as in rather, before you reach for the phone to call the Press Complaints Commission. So, I know who I am and what I do, but what has caused the contentment? Well, the fact that it wasnt such a bad summer after all.

There we were contemplating the prospect of fewer chocolate treats dangling from the tree in December, when growing optimism gave way to growing sales. Having used these very pages a few months ago to make public my anticipation of an improvement, I am experiencing not only relief but also, to be absolutely honest, just a smidgen of self-approbation.

Now, before you assume that your correspondent has finally entered the utopian realm of off-trolleydom (I get enough of that from Mrs Donohue), I must stress that everything is relative. Yes, its been toughand for some there has been real pain, while the speed of recovery is not dissimilar to that of continental drift. Nevertheless, my order book shows uninterrupted growth since April, as does the sales chart. There have been some successful resellers out there, doing smart things.

For every 1000 emails you broadcast, do you know how many are read by genuine customers and prospects?

Get clever
The really important thing for any business to do when incoming orders are scarce is to get clever with its marketing. I wouldnt dream of suggesting that our marketing wasnt always clever (Ive heard that our marketing director insists that his children refer to him as The Genius), but theres always room for improvement. Thanks to a programme of telemarketing campaigns, ably supported by the telesales team, we not only generated a decent amount of incremental business, but we now have the cleanest customer database in our history.

Our mailshots and e-bulletins are now sent to fewer locations than was the case twelve months ago, but many more people are actually receiving them. The proliferation of spam has resulted in a widespread reluctance to use unsubscribe facilitiesinstead, emails are diverted straight into virtual bins. For every 1000 emails you broadcast, do you know how many are read by genuine customers and prospects?

My sales team is briefed to look out for and resist the advances of end-users masquerading as resellers, a perfidious practice that seems to have increased in recent months.

Talking to people
In order to identify your prospective customers, theres no substitute for actually talking to people, which is why call-out campaigns are so valuable. With every exercise, contact details are updated and more email addresses added than deleted (yes, relevant people really do want to receive your sales and marketing communications).

In a two-tier distribution channel, just as important as identifying those people you wish to reach, is spotting those you dont. Trade-only distributors such as us are inundated with enquiries from end-users: some arrive innocently, looking for an outlet, so we point them at a suitable reseller; others however are looking to save a bit of money and come in disguise.

Our definition of a reseller (to whom we will supply goods) is: an organisation engaged in the resale of computers and/or computer-related products or services as its principal business activity, and on the basis that the products are provided for resale to its end-user customers. My sales team is briefed to look out for and resist the advances of end-users masquerading as resellers, a perfidious practice that seems to have increased in recent months.

Flagrant skulduggery
Putting to one side examples of flagrant skulduggery, where the enquirers name rather gives the game away (shame on the vendor of used motorhomes who once darkened our door), a brief visit to the website usually reveals the true nature of the business in question. In recent months weve been approached by a tool wholesaler, a wood machining tool manufacturer, a water conditioner and ironing machine sales outlet, an automotive parts manufacturer, a courier, and sundry transport and logistics companies, all of them purporting to be something that, strictly speaking, theyre not.

In the channel, we place our trust in vendors not to hobnob with end-users, unless invited to do so in the role of partner to the reseller. Similarly, resellers trust us not to sell to their customers. Its a simple system that works well, so long as all the players stay alert to chicanery.

As Wilde wrote in The Importance of Being Earnest: It is very vulgar to talk like a dentist when one isnt a dentist. It produces a false impression. So, in the interest of transparency in the channel, lets identify the perpetrators of this vulgarity and ensure that their artifice is to no avail!


Ralph Donohue is managing director of Paradigm Distribution. Paradigm Distribution offers trade customers the world's best available products for auto ID and data capture applications. More than simply delivering the best products at prices designed to maximise profits for channel partners, the company has earned a reputation for providing unparalleled pre- and post sales support, including access to technical experts to ensure that partners' businesses win orders and fulfil them successfully.

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