The AIDC channel is being increasingly subjected to marketing messages from companies large and small, promoting themselves as adding value. How much of this is simply marketing spin and how much of it is genuine?
If a reseller promoted itself as offering added value to an end user, the end user would expect a number of additional benefits to be included in part of the deal. So why is it that in the channel, companies can position themselves as offering added value but have no real substance behind the statement? What exactly does added value or valued added mean?
At Blackroc we use the phrase value added in our marketing messages because we believe absolutely that we add value to our partners business. However this positioning is becoming somewhat diluted by the companies out there that make the same claim, but actually offer little or no value.
When you are next speaking to a company claiming to offer added value, it would be prudent to ask them to explain exactly what it is that is being added and what benefit this is to your business.
If the company adds value by offering a range of services, find out which of these are useful to your business. Can the company conduct site surveys for you? Does the company have a highly skilled technical team available to support you, both in your sales campaigns and then afterwards in implementation and post sales support? Can this team be utilised to supplement your own team, with seamless integration as part of your business?
Direct relationships count
Often companies claim to have fantastic relationships with the vendors. It is worth asking whether these are direct relationships or whether they have indirect relationships via a third party. This might not seem important to you but a company that has a direct relationship has far more influence on a vendor, which it can, in turn, leverage for you, its customer. This can make or break a deal depending on the strength of the relationship and, with competition continually on the increase; this can actually be a very important benefit.
Sometimes these relationships can stretch outside of the AIDC vendor arena and into the more general IT or mobile communications sector. Relationships with companies such as Microsoft can add substantial benefit and credibility to a business. The same can be said for partnerships with the major mobile phone companies responsible for carrying the data generated by mobile computing applications. The stronger these relationships the larger the potential benefit. Imagine being able to get your solution showcased in front of the whole of the Orange sales team? Imagine having fast track access to get your solutions tested and approved?
Finance and leasing
Another important value add is finance and leasing. Companies often need finance for large AIDC roll outs and if you can arrange this through the same company providing your hardware then it means less work for you, and enables you to retain control of the whole deal by keeping everything under one roof. The same can be said for leasing. More and more companies are looking at leasing following the trends seen in the general IT industry but would you know where to start looking for a company to offer this if you were asked or would you have to let the customer research this themselves, letting some of your control over the deal go? Indeed, would you take the positive step of presenting a solution proposal that including a leasing option? A supplier who makes your life easy in this regard would be providing true value add.
Financial benefits are another often hyped value add. Many companies claim to offer rebates but often the hurdles you have to go through to claim the money outweigh the potential reward. Ask the company how quickly they will pay the rebate and what you need to do to claim it before going down this road as it often leads to nowhere.
The most common value add is of course stock holding, but find out what stock levels are held and typical delivery times. There is nothing wrong in them shipping directly from the manufacturer to you, but surely not on product lines they state that they holdthis can result in quite lengthy delays if you expected the item next day. Find out what the policy is for larger orders and also whether a good range is held, or just a few key lines. It is also worth finding out exactly where the stock is held and who pays for shipping. If you are charged for shipping, then an overnight shipment from a UK warehouse is often considerably cheaper than the same shipment from a warehouse in Europe for example.
Finally, what about marketing? Marketing is after all largely responsible for the use and abuse of the phrases value add and added value so will the offer of marketing funds and support be useful to your business? The answer is a categorically yes, provided that the process around the funds isnt so tied up in red tape that it simply isnt worth the hassle. You should also find out what a company means when it claims to provide marketing support? Does it simply provide you with out of date adverts from the vendors for old products or will it work with you to develop and implement a marketing plan or campaign that is well thought through and results focused? There is a big difference.
So the next time a prospective supplier starts talking about value add be prepared to put them on the spot, shake them up and see what drops out.
Martyn Broadhead (pictured) is sales and marketing director at Blackroc Technology Ltd and has over ten years experience in the AIDC industry. Blackroc Technology, based in Stafford, is the UK's fastest growing value added distributor of AIDC (Automatic Identification and Data Capture) technologies and products. These include RFID, Industrial RF LANs, rugged mobile computers, hand held terminals, bar code scanners and printers. The company also provides professional services and integration to the channel including RF site surveys, commissioning, wireless security set up, wireless support contracts, RFID integration, and a rapid design and manufacture service for integrating technology and interfaces to existing manufactured product.
Resellers: what is your experience of suppliers claiming to offer added value/value added services/benefits? Do they all tell the truth? Would their claims stand scrutinising? Wed like to know. Write to [email protected]