It is a simple and unavoidable fact of life in this industry that a major vendor will go to market with a mixture of direct and indirect sales. After all, the very purpose of creating a channel in the first place is to extend reach and win business with customers that would otherwise be too diverse and difficult to manage.
What percentage of sales is fulfilled directly or through resellers will always vary from one vendor to the next. All that business partners can realistically expect is that an organisation is crystal clear about which existing and potential customers it intends to service directly. While the decision to call its direct strategy document 'Rules of Engagement' raised something of a giggle in our office (isn't it is a term most readily associated with warfare?) the information has been welcomed by all HP channel partners contacted by ARN. Honesty is the best policy, right?
In addition to improving clarity, the decision to introduce a single direct strategy across all divisions also brings a level of consistency that will make it easier for resellers to know where they stand with HP. It also helps the vendor play down industry rumours that it is preparing to sell-off its less profitable PC division in order to concentrate on its more successful printer business.
How much business HP fulfils directly will be determined by a variety of market factors, according to its partner sales director, Martin Dare. One such market factor was Ingram Micro's acquisition of Tech Pacific in November, a deal which arguably left HP too reliant on one local distributor. There has been a suspicion in some quarters ever since this merger was announced that HP would increase its direct presence in the market to counterbalance its reliance on Ingram. It is too early to say whether this is true but we will undoubtedly find out soon enough.
Having talked the talk, it is now time for HP to walk the walk. It will be interesting to monitor the situation and see how resellers feel about the execution of this policy a year from now. I guess only time will tell.
But why walk when you can drive? Having read about a Kyocera incentive offering resellers the chance to get behind the wheel of a Porsche, a HP spokesperson was quick to pick up the phone and tell us it was offering its dealers the chance to win a BMW Z4 convertible. Lexmark, of course, is closely associated with the Indy 300 race in Surfers' Paradise. It runs a channel program in conjunction with the event, which saw it take about 200 resellers and customers to the petrol-fest in 2004. It's all getting very racy in the printer channel at the moment isn't it.
While the longstanding traditions of jetting leading resellers to a host of exotic locations or packing them off to leading sport events for the weekend are as popular as ever in the channel, it is nice to see vendors coming up with some different ideas. And once the marketing departments get going, it is difficult to predict where this trend could take us.
How about a ride in a fighter plane or having your name added to the list for the first public space flights? Nothing would surprise me.