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Distributor Varlink has grown rapidly over the mere two years it has been in existence. IT Reseller spoke to managing director Mike Pullon (pictured) about the methodology behind the success.

It was a fresh-faced Varlink that was first profiled in the November 2005 edition of IT Reseller. Since then, the company has moved from strength to strength, evidenced by its decision to relocate to more extensive premises in York during April this year; conveniently only a stones throw away from where it was originally situated. The companys new distribution centre has a two-storey warehouse with mezzanine floors amounting to a total of around 4500 sq ft of storage and office space.

A mere four years ago, this level of development could not have easily be foreseen. For a couple of years prior to establishing Varlink, I gave a lot of thought to how IT had had to adapt to lower margins and faster pace of change and convergence of technologies, explained Varlinks managing director Mike Pullon. I had worked in mainstream IT and distribution for a while and had even bought a small reseller. It was very interesting having to deal with the issues that for many years my customers have had to deal with. So what was the primary reason behind Pullons decision to re-enter the distribution industry? I felt resellers needed products that were going to be promoted by us to their end users, he said. They also needed to know that there was going to be some weight behind those products in terms of marketing knowledge, marketing awareness and compatibility with other products. But it definitely was not the time to hunker down and pretend the world was just as sweet as it used to be. We couldnt have thrived and couldnt have grown if we had not promoted product, not gone for partnerships, and not brought new products to market.

Solutions

Varlinks solutions portfolio has developed apace over the past couple of years. It currently offers resellers a range of well-established data capture product brands such as Datalogic, Opticon and Baracoda, as well as mobile printing solutions from Zebra and label design software from Seagull Scientific. One brand that historically has not been so well known in the UK is Aceeca. Aceeca manufactures rugged waterproof terminals used in sectors such as forestry and mining, explained Pullon. Our partnership with Aceeca takes us into relationships that none of the standard vendors were able to get us in to. Other solutions providers that Varlink has recently forged a strong relationship with include heavy-duty tablet PC company JLT and Korean vendor Bluebird. We feel we have something really quite special in this partnership in terms of the product set Bluebird had come to market with, and also the relationship that were developing with the company, remarked Pullon. Its been really exciting to find a Windows mobile 5-based product with pretty much every feature device you can imagine; and at a very low price. Our resellers, particularly in the mobile computing marketplace, have said they totally agree with us, and have been buying demo units and selling the product in very attractive numbers.

Software Village

Varlink runs an ISV Software Village conference and exhibition in York once a year, attended by around 100 of its resellers. For two days, as well as being able to meet companies such as Opticon, Zebra, Baracoda and so on, our resellers were able to meet a number of people who had written software that was being successfully sold either on a geographical basis or in a vertical marketplace, said Pullon. These software vendors felt that our reseller customers could from time to time dip into that software product and take it on. Kodits product, AccuCheck was a classic case. For many years, Kodit had been selling a really solid IT asset management system to schools. However the company felt it couldnt grow the business without having a larger direct sales force, which it didnt wish to do. We knew that a number of our resellers were good at asset management and had relationships with sectors such as healthcare and local government, but werent specifically selling asset management into schools. So we got a group of them together and six of them have signed up to become Kodits extended sales force. Its proving to be a win win relationship for everybody.

Pullon also pointed out that Varlink can now provide the channel with a heavy duty product equipped with GPRS/GPS functionality as well as serving as a scanner and a camera. There are very few devices that had this breadth of capability; however we came across just such application from German company t+t netcom, said Pullon. It is what you can only call a project product. Resellers could sell many of our solutions as one-offs, but with t+t netcom it has to be part of a really big project bid. The good news is we have many resellers currently bidding for large volumes of it. Another company Varlink is now associated with is Globaltrak, which offers a suite of asset management products. In addition, Varlink now sells a stock control product from Channel & Mobile called Typhoon. Again, both companies were featured at Valinks most recent ISV Software Village event.

Varlink very recently formed a partnership with Denso, (Toyotas auto ID division). The company makes scanning devices, particularly for 2D barcodes, that tend to get used in some fairly specialist application areas, explained Pullon. Denso provides us with a good range of industrial scanning PDAs that are somewhat different compared with the scanners we distribute for companies such as Opticon and Datalogic. Theyre much more specific in terms of where they are used.

In order to bolster further its relationship with its software vendor partners, Varlink has established a website directory, www.mobilecomputingsoftware.co.uk, where ISVs prepared to sell their software to resellers and recommend Varlink hardware to host their software, will be featured on this site to help with end user leads generation. So we provide a route to market for our resellers through this site, said Pullon.

Partnership

Varlink has also enjoyed considerable success with a four-page overview brochure titled Minicat, first introduced soon after the company was established. Many resellers would not regard themselves as having particularly deep pockets when it comes to marketing, and some of them would also say theyre very short of time, said Pullon. For many resellers that take every issue, the brochure has probably become their primary method of marketing. I would also say its become an integral part of the relationship between us and our customers. Its all about partnership.

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