Distribution doesn’t rely on a secret recipe. Resellers and vendors expect their disties to aggregate goods and services and get them into their end customers’ hands as swiftly and efficiently as possible.
So disties tend to provide common services such as stocking products (inventory); finance (loans); sales advice, marketing collateral and technical education (enablement); and logistical support or ‘fulfilment’.
Many now also provide straight through to end customer self-service, cloud platforms and other services that were signal differentiators or unheard of just a decade ago.
Since the as-a-service era and rise of cloud, disties have started to sharpen their value propositions to become more attractive to resellers. Some offer marketing services. Others specialise in technologies or verticals. Others roam the land educating partners to build a skills base and grow demand where none previously existed.
And while drop-shipping a box quickly and cheaply is key for disties supplying physical products, savvy resellers now focus on how disties fulfil their primary purpose: innovating to grow their partners’ businesses.
We compiled this (non-exhaustive) list of distie differentiators so you can successfully ‘swipe right’ on a successful supplier relationship.
Sating the hands-on imperative
You can learn only so much from a product PDF or YouTube – new products demand guided, hands-on training.
Alloys has showrooms around Australia and encourages end customers to visit to experience products alongside its team.
Doing so frees partners from building their own displays, Alloys says. The distie also steps out of its showrooms to go the extra 20,669km – the distance it covered to upskill its resellers in Canon large-format printing (LFP). Alloys took its LFP training program to nine metro areas and 16 regional towns and used Skype demos to reinforce its training. It lifted sales of A0 Canon printers by 322 percent and nearly doubled A1 sales while adding 37 Canon partners.
Melbourne reseller Tyson Buechler says his sales quadrupled: “[Alloys’] support and service [went] above and beyond … to grow our business substantially”. Alloys’ work with Canon helped it win the ‘Distribution Performance’ category in the 2018 CRN Impact Awards.
‘Sensor to Sunset’ IoT one-stop shop
Weaving IoT technology with customer business knowledge is a top priority among some in the channel. Arrow ECS says its ‘Sensor to Sunset’ portfolio of 14,000 sensor models, wireless connectivity, cloud gateways, security, and big-data solutions (including visualisation) sets it apart.
“Arrow also covers ideation, design, integration, logistics, financing, billing, monitoring, managed and professional services, sustainable and secure [disposal]”, says Arrow ECS A/NZ marketing director Carineh Grigorian. It works with MOQdigital on internal proofs of concept (PoC) for sectors such as healthcare, says the Microsoft Dynamics partner’s national practice manager Nick Browne. “Aged-care organisations showed interest [in an air-monitoring PoC], so it’s likely we’ll pilot,” Browne says.
Arrow ECS A/NZ marketing director Lisa Stockwell says the most successful IoT deployments are collaborations of distie, partner and end-customer: “Partners are trained in a specific technology [but] IoT is so consulting-led”.
MSP transformation made easy
Having been on its own digital transformation for the past five years, Bluechip Infotech is empathetic to resellers lifting their services offerings.
From its near-real-time service activation through a customer self-serve portal, to advising partners in transition, Bluechip specialises in growing partners’ managed services provision businesses, says marketing manager Willy Harsono.
Key to the transition is a trusted platform “dream team” of tools such as ConnectWise (to automate professional services), Continuum (remote monitoring, backup and disaster recovery), Glüh (online store, quotes and procurement), and Xero (accounting).
Bluechip hosts MSPs’ services on its own platform and serves from its marketplace so partners can focus on higher-value activities, while automation ensures partners scale and grow profitability.
Using application program interfaces (APIs), MSPs knit their
own custom platforms including legacies using Bluechip Infotech’s technology.
Custom staging, logistics and fulfilment at scale
Although fulfilling orders is a bare minimum, configuring equipment reliably at scale takes commitment.
“Our services department specialises in staging, configuration and logistics — we perform services on tens of thousands of devices per year,” says Jason Hall, Dicker Data general manager of services and IoT.
The department spans commoditised services where “consistency, quality and price are defining factors” to custom, big and complex jobs “where flexibility, technical expertise and ability to coordinate large teams is vital”, he says.
“The lower cost of delivery provides partners with choice, increases their retained margin (or lowers their price) and increases their competitiveness.” Dicker reports its service levels so that config-uration and staging meet delivery targets. “We review every job every day and provide our entire business an accurate ETA for completion.”
Technical ‘Dis-integrator’ for SIs
With a database of 10,000 technical subject-matter experts and 150 years of in-house expertise over more than 50 certifications, DNA Connect positions itself as the technical pre-integrator for systems integrators. DNA Connect director Munsoor Khan says that as cloud came to dominate, the distie ramped its pre-defined, integrated solutions for resellers.
He says it’s especially important for partners providing IoT or cybersecurity because, “end-customers expect their partners to be specialised in everything, and that’s not possible any more; there’s too much emerging technology.”
The company recently supported integration of an air-quality and monitoring solution, and parking-availability IoT projects. As a distie for Splunk, and video data software maker, Avigilon, DNA Connect infuses its technology stack with accessible big data capabilities for applications like shrinkage protection in retail, and crowd monitoring for facilities management, says Khan.
Enterprise cloud platform
The Parallels/Odin acquisition Ingram now calls ‘CloudBlue’ tilts at top-tier service providers such as telcos and even other disties while serving smaller, downstream partners on its Cloud Marketplace.
CloudBlue is a US$500 million ‘hyperscale’ cloud commerce platform for major intermediaries offering their own cloud services to end customers.
The anything-as-a-service (XaaS) platform has a marketplace, service catalogue, subscriptions, bills and invoices, provisioning, business intelligence reports, enablement, and identity and access services. Partners can now automate, aggregate and monetise their own cloud and third-party digital services and software vendors speed to market through its Application Packaging Standard (APS) technology.
And while it’s still building out in Australia, globally CloudBlue serves more than 200 service providers, a similar number of software vendors, 80,000 resellers, and has 27 million subscriptions. Strategic partner Microsoft, which hosts CloudBlue on its Azure platform, also offers Ingram’s platform to its Cloud Solution Providers (CSPs).
Speak to the UC&C specialist
While many disties offer unified communications products and services, Mia Distribution emphasised support, services, and enablement after seeing a market gap.
Recognising that cloud and services could intimidate resellers, Mia “bridges” the old and new ways to resell unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) solutions, says Mia sales manager Matt Milne.
And it presses its vendor partners to offer the “most suitable, end-to-end UC&C solutions” for resellers on the cutting edge so they don’t “get lost in endless vendor lists”.
Going deep with UC&C and engaging with tier-one telcos and service providers offers Mia unique insights into its direction, he says. And through the distie, smaller resellers forge direct wholesale arrangements with service providers at significantly lower cost.
“We view ourselves as a UC&C enabler to the SME market, which has the largest potential for growth.”
More bang for your e-marketing buck
The cobbler’s children may have no shoes but there’s no excuse for an IT reseller’s digital presence to be anything other than top-notch. Yet NextGen’s marketing subsidiary, Bang, found that nine in 10 reseller sites are inadequate.
Bang has helped partners such as Brennan IT tell its story through an ‘Innovation Lab’ that encouraged end-customers to share their gnarliest problems for a shot at a $30,000 prize.
Bang also audits digital properties for messaging, user experience and search engine optimisation. And while Bang delivered cloud HR firm Synchrony Global a headline 114 percent lift in sessions on its site, it also boosted engagement (a leading indicator of revenue) with 33 percent longer average sessions and 11 percent cut in bounce rate – prospects found what they wanted more easily and stuck around to learn more, potentially aiding sales conversions.
All cloud, all the time
Most disties have a cloud business but rhipe lives and breathes cloud, from Microsoft CSP and service provider licences (SPLA) to leading as-a-service vendors such as LiveTiles and Skykick.
“We’re all about helping our partners… who build clouds or resell cloud technology build profitable businesses,” says rhipe CMO Athena Thompson.
She says a key “pillar” is monthly vendor subscription management through rhipe’s PRISM marketplace portal and API integration, “five-click Microsoft CSP provisioning and 24/7 technical support”, including Office 365. Rhipe supports its technical experts with its digital content library to speed resellers’ businesses.
And rhipe caps it with marketing-as-a-service to drive demand, she says. “So our key differentiators are how we help partners make money, save costs and reduce risk in their businesses.”
Global deployment for the multinational sale
Resellers can be confident what they offer the Australian division of their multinational customer is deployed anywhere, says Westcon-Comstor EVP Asia-Pacific Patrick Aronson.
Its presence in more than 50 countries over four continents through a joint venture with Westcon Americas (a Synnex Corporation subsidiary) ensures Australian innovation is easily exported. From hosted deployment, logistics and boots on the ground to billing and tax, it crafts a commercial model for resellers and their customers.
And its in-country knowledge steers resellers on the right side of local laws and compliance – especially when there are export controls or technology transfer embargoes.
“They can stand in front of their customer, design the solution and turn to Westcon-Comstor to ensure we deploy [around the world] – even technical support and services,” Aronson says.
“We might sell to the end-user on behalf of a partner, and collect the money [to remit] margin back to the partner.”