Amid the continued uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s hard to find an office technology dealership that’s not actively considering expanding its product and service lineup.
It may be to capture opportunities in remote work technology, serve burgeoning office jan/san needs or meet the many other challenges posed by the current business environment.
When planning to enter new product and service areas, there’s much to think about and do. Because of this, sometimes developing a strategy to manage the attitudes and expectations of customers, employees, and other stakeholders doesn’t get the attention it deserves. But if you want to stage a strong entry into a new area of opportunity and lay the groundwork for long-term success, it’s critical. Not only that, but an approach focused on creating the right attitudes and expectations can save you money and time as you plan, launch and operate your new profit center.
So what should dealers focus on to effectively leverage new market opportunities? Three of the most important (and often underappreciated) drivers of success are internal communications, external marketing and a finance strategy.
Start with Inside Communications
It’s hard to overstate the importance of having everyone in your organization on the same page regarding a new product or service. They say there’s nothing worse than a confused customer, but a confused workforce comes in a close second. It’s important to communicate early and often with your team to ensure that all employees, even those who don’t deal with it directy, get key updates throughout project implementation and operation, including:
- The ins and outs of the new product or service
- What you aim to achieve with the initiative
- The key benefits to your customers
- The unique value you bring to the table regarding this product or service
- Your implementation roadmap
- The progress you’ve made implementing your initiative
- Notes on what went right with completed steps and what could be done better next time
- Action items for what comes next
- Kudos and encouragement for the entire team and special praise for those who go above and beyond
The best ways to keep your team up to date depends on your organization. Email is essential, especially in our socially distanced world. But don’t neglect one-on-one and small-group teleconferencing. It’s also a good idea to hold periodic virtual town halls with everyone—you may be surprised how many simultaneous attendees today’s teleconferencing solutions can handle.
Develop Your External Communications Strategy
With internal communications out of the way, it’s time to look outward. How are you going to talk about your new offering with customers? For that matter, how are you going to make them aware you have a new offering in the first place? And just as importantly, how are you going to rise above the noise and get their attention—and their business?
When formulating your marketing strategy, which should begin in the early days of your planning, you can reuse much of the work you did as you developed your internal communications approach. You could even work on the two in tandem, which can go a long way toward helping you devise a more cohesive and consistent plan.
However you go about it, don’t go small. A few emails probably won’t cut it. To be effective, your marketing strategy needs to cover a wide variety of channels—email, social media, your site, trade publications, YouTube and more. And over every one of those channels, it’s important that your message is clear and consistent, and answers key customer questions such as:
- What are you offering?
- What’s the specific value to me?
- Why now?
- Why you?
- What are you asking me to do next?
Clear offering. Clear benefits. Clear reasons to move now and choose you. And clear calls to action in every marketing piece you create or have created for you.
Those are the basics. But in these days of buying journeys that are largely self-directed and span a dizzying array of channels, it’s also important to build some behavior-based messaging escalation into your marketing strategy. Depending on your internal marketing capability, you may need outside help with some of this, but it’s essential to the initial and long-term success of your initiative.
Put Your Finance Program to Work
Finally, there’s financing. The goal here is to make the offering affordable while helping to align the newly-added service with your corporate brand and unique value proposition.
First, be sure your financing is a good match for your offering. Does it cover any needed equipment as well as software, services and other components of a fully functioning solution? In a time when protecting cash reserves is more critical than ever, your customers will appreciate a finance solution that allows them to keep more cash in their accounts and spread more of their costs over the lifespan of the solution.
Also consider whether your financing can be customized for a wide variety of use cases. For instance, can it handle multi-year software agreements, which your customers may favor for the sake of convenience and discounts? Can your financing accommodate staged projects and progress payments? Does it make periodic, profitable upgrades easy?
Assuming your financing meets all those requirements, what about supporting your brand and marketing strategy? It may not be something you’ve considered, but financing can be a key part of your efforts to inform, educate, and motivate your customers, while helping to firmly connect the benefits of your solution with your brand as an office technology dealer.
Can your finance provider offer co-branded (or even private-label) financing that keeps your brand front and center without requiring you to handle the back-end work? Going further, what marketing assistance can your finance provider offer? Believe it or not, there are providers who will help you with everything from a flyer or brochure to an entire multichannel campaign across email, social media, print and more—all for no extra cost. If your provider doesn’t offer this, consider one that does and get them involved from the earliest stages of your project.
These days, taking advantage of business opportunities across the office isn’t just an option—it’s an imperative. But whatever area you’re targeting next, plan a stronger market entry and presence with a focused and intentional approach to internal communications, external marketing and financing.