You may have noticed a theme among many of the major manufacturers at their recent dealer and media events. They love the channel more than ever, and they believe that success of their new initiatives and product lines are heavily dependent on the success of their dealers. Xerox, Konica Minolta, Sharp, Canon, Toshiba, Brother, HP, and Samsung have all made statements along these lines. Ricoh has even gone so far as to restructure its direct and channel sales organizations in a way that will likely benefit dealers.
Why have manufacturers intensified their focus on dealers? We see several reasons:
- The copier/printer market is still very much driven by the relationship between customer and dealer. People who buy equipment want someone they know and trust to stand behind it. That often means local and accessible. When there is trust between the customer and the dealer, it is much easier for the dealer to have a conversation about new ideas and products. That’s important to manufacturers trying to compete with new technology and products.
- Copiers and printers are more capable and, in some ways, more complex. For example, many of the new devices coming on the market are designed to facilitate companies’ business workflows and integrate with business systems. Again, selling and supporting those systems requires a high level of trust with the customer. Dealers work hard to build that trust.
- It’s not just about copiers and printers anymore. Dealers have been building out service offerings to diversify their businesses. That often makes them more deeply entrenched with their customers. When dealers own not only the devices but also the network they are on or perhaps the entire IT infrastructure, it’s very difficult for a competitor to come in and replace all the devices with another brand. Manufacturers see value in that approach as a way to retain their base and take market share from competitors.
All this attention presents a number of opportunities to dealers. For example, manufacturers are listening. Now is a good time for dealers to have deeper conversations with their manufacturer partners about what they need to be successful. Many manufacturers are looking to add dealers, and in many cases that will mean stealing them from other manufacturers. That gives dealers leverage when negotiating with their partners.
New resources are becoming available. Take advantage of them. Manufacturers have announced new training programs, sales and marketing resources, finance options, market research, and technical support services. Many of these resources are free to dealers. Make sure you and your team know what your partners offer and how you can best use them.
With all the new product and technology activity, dealers have a lot more to talk about with their existing customer base and prospects. Some of the recent initiatives present new revenue opportunities that are not dependent on page output. Dealers who understand how to properly deploy these new products and technologies in customer environments could have a real growth opportunity.