The reseller organisation is, indeed, a unique player in the very competitive IT market- place. It is both the saviour and the "headache" enjoyed by vendors. It is, more often than not, at the mercy of manufacturers deciding to change direction at a pace that neither they (nor their customers) can keep up with. But the Australian reseller is here to stay and must move beyond survival techniques to derive competitive advantage in a market where growth is limited and gaining market share is costly.
The IT reseller is chosen by a manufacturer to resell its product range by meeting a set of criteria - specialist skills, vertical market expertise and knowledge of the local market - resulting in a healthy distribution mechanism. To be totally dependent on the manufacturers represented by the reseller for marketing activity - resulting in the much sought after leads - is naivety at best and stupidity at worst.
I want to introduce a sense of urgency that you should all feel for developing an understanding of marketing practices today. You must be a market-driven organisation yourself to be noticed, to be successful, to be profitable!
Depending on the vendor represented, market and product activities are undertaken at a global level - Digital, Sun Microsystems, Cisco, HP etc. This provides mass company capability and product credibility, but there is still much work to be done at the local reseller level.
How your own organisation adds real value to the product you resell is the "techno" branding required. The need arises to brand your organisation. A strong brand image offers organisations tangible benefits - the most important being competitive advantage.
At the product level, a brand recognised by buyers encourages repeat purchases. At the company level, branding strategies are used to envelop the entire product and services offerings, creating a unique identity at the mention of the name. Clear examples of this include Nike, BMW and Oroton. Maintaining that "reputation" requires ongoing corporate branding exercises.
Branding expert David Aaker explains ". . . the value of a brand name is a set of brand assets and liabilities linked to a brand, its name and symbol, that add to or subtract from the value provided by a product or service to a firm and/or to that firm's customers." (David Aaker, Managing Brand Equity, The Free Press, New York, 1991). Thus, brand loyalty, name awareness and perceived quality all impact on brand equity.
Brand equity creation for resellers is essential and must be an ongoing commitment. It is a long term objective understood by all employees and developed (or damaged) by all levels within the organisation.
Positioning, perception, branding - it's all the same really. Make sure the magical four Ps of your marketing mix: product, price, promotion, place - along with the newly recognised additional two Ps: public relations and power (lobbying, advocacy) - all create a unique brand which is the recognisable face of your company.
Dolores Diez-Simson is business communications manager at Datacraft, and has extensive experience in the IT marketplace, having held senior marketing and communications roles with UB Networks, Sun Microsystems and HP.
Diez-Simson tutors at Monash University on Marketing Planning and Implementation and Issues in Competitive Advantage