It is not easy for international firms to break into the UK market, particularly in a poor economy. Most of you will have read for example that Doyenz has now exited the UK market and at very short notice. Doyenz stopped providing or supporting its rCloud backup and recovery service in the UK on 10th August 2012 – with just 3 days notice.
Based on many of the comments I have read in the media, on Twitter and calls received into our office since the Doyenz departure, I fully understand and appreciate how extremely frustrating this was for our reseller and MSP partners. Sadly, I suspect Doyenz might not be the only withdrawal we will see over the next 12-24 months. People will continue to re-focus their businesses so channel shake-ups are bound to happen.
However, the distribution market in general has a very big role to play in trying to limit impact on the reseller community of such withdrawals, and it needs to take this very seriously. Along with standard due diligence when agreeing to work with vendors, distribution should:
- Check how committed the vendor actually is to the channel in the contract negotiation stages. For example, how much budget does it have to support reseller recruitment activities? If it has the necessary funding and is prepared to provide dedicated sales and marketing support, then this is good sign
- Understand the brand awareness of the vendor and or its product and act accordingly. There is an enormous amount of effort needed by distribution [and reseller partners] up front when trying to sell the products of new entrants [or vendors with low profiles]. Conference calls are adequate to keep the communication flowing in the long-run but to start, good distributors will be demanding face-to-face meetings and a designated local contact to really help create desire for the product
- Encourage the vendor to provide 'airtime' in the distributor's office for training of staff, ready to support the reseller community
- Ensure that vendors have the tools that resellers need to go out sell, i.e. a marketing strategy, messaging and localised collateral. This is vital especially if the brand is lacking
- Be prepared to use the vendor's products in-house, to act as a test bed and check on-going suitability for the reseller community. This is really putting one's own business in the line of fire, but a good distributor will be prepared to make the investment. At Blue Solutions, for example, we are currently using Symantec for backup, Microsoft SharePoint and Dynamics CRM for customer management, Sage accounting software and Trend Micro antivirus and spam filtering
- Build a broad portfolio of complimentary vendors to present best fit choice so if there is a pullout then there is a back up option for the reseller
When situations like Doyenz's exit from the UK market happens and often completely by surprise, distribution's role is limited but of equal importance to the pre-exit activity. First, they must:
- Provide accurate information to resellers so they can, in turn, explain and apologise to their end user customers
- Have well trained, knowledgeable product experts available to support resellers with direct telephone and email support
- A migration path [where possible] for resellers to work with alternative suppliers within their portfolio, or failing that with a new vendor. However, distributors must not simply push resellers from the frying pan into the fire though. They must work through the same due diligence and conduct a full screening process before making recommendations. We have previously turned-down the chance to distribute products that we think are too niche for our reseller community or do not present clear revenue generation opportunities
We fundamentally believe in only working with vendors that we believe have products and services that add competitive advantage to our customers' business – this should be the same ethos for all of distribution. Distribution is in place to serve the channel community and its role is never more important than in times of turmoil.