2018 Elite Dealers: 21st Century Leaders in Action

Marketing brilliance, increased offerings set top performers apart

As our Top Stories of 2018 feature clearly illustrates, we are in an intense period of mergers and acquisitions that have increased precipitously during the past three years—a trend evident among dealers, as well as manufacturers and distributors. This tightening of the office equipment technology belt has created a chain reaction in the not-so-linear path between product and end user. Yet we present to you the 2018 Elite Dealer list, which has grown an astonishing 43 percent in the past two years, proving that a contracting market brings only the best to the foreground. Here’s a sampling of some of the traits that are common to the industry’s top performers.

Client engagement on the rise. From blogs to billboards, radio spots to television commercials and beyond, our core of Elite Dealers is using a healthy blend of time-tested and modern, digitized channels to engage their customer bases. Many dealers are still optimizing their websites for more fruitful and increased/higher-ranked search results, and there are a few firms that haven’t yet fully embraced the capabilities of social media, believing that Facebook is merely a billboard for company holiday parties. But they’re slowly coming around. Open houses and technology expos are on the rise, and dealers are keen on crafting events that stress fun, creativity and social interaction. A PowerPoint presentation in a windowless conference room is a definite no-no for Elite Dealers. Getting a customer to attend is half the battle…what you do afterward will dictate if they return, or sign a deal.

Increase in OEM offerings. More and more, the Elite Dealers are looking to other manufacturers to increase their market share and entice their customer base with a more varied product and service offering. The most noticeable additions to dealer vendor listings were Panasonic and Brother, a sign that companies are seeking to diversify their portfolios with scanning equipment and another tier of A4 multifunction printers. By the same token, there were a couple of manufacturers who were notably absent from some of the returning Elite Dealer listings, a sign of shifting selling habits and the evolving needs of customers. Software solutions remain a strong growth area, and a number of Elite Dealers touted the progress of their managed IT offerings. Adding production print equipment has given dealers entry into a domain that was once inaccessible.

Growing role of the employee. A competitive salary, matching funds for 401(k) retirement accounts, generous vacation days, health insurance and casual-dress Fridays graced many a job listing’s benefits 20 years ago, but my, how the times have changed. The millennial generation has developed a reputation of wanting a well-defined career path and an employer that is robust in its embracing of technology. One common denominator among Elite Dealers is employee empowerment—they seek to provide autonomy to team members, who can then take ownership of a client’s needs. The days of top-heavy management are slowly disappearing, and that sense of autonomy further solidifies the roles within organizations that pride themselves on a tenured workforce.

As futuristic and ancillary technologies continue to work their way into the Elite Dealer’s value proposition, there is still room for time-tested products and strategies. A firm handshake and following through on your company’s promises still goes a long way with the customer. If you believe your dealership exemplifies many of the characteristics embodied in the following pages, we invite you to fill out a form for the 2019 list. But now, let’s take a look at the 2018 Elite Dealers.

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