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From point products to providing value, peripherals have become less, well, peripheral.
In just a few years, 23-inch desktop displays have expanded from the province of 3-D designers and engineers to near-ubiquity. The capacity of PC storage on the desktop is now so large it could make a data center blush. Printers have become more colorful and moved into the domain of the CIO from that of the property manager.
State Of Technology: Peripherals
In this year's CMP Channel State of Technology: Peripherals survey, almost half of the VARs polled said the greatest growth opportunity in the peripherals business is the ability to upsell customers. The box is out. The solution is in. And as more VARs look to peripherals as an opportunity to go deeper into a customer's enterprise and add value, there are some approaches that may work better than others.
One idea is to get more cozy with the manufacturers of peripheral products, said executives. After all, for VARs to be successful selling peripherals, it's incumbent on their vendor partners to provide support, said Ann Moser, senior vice president of Ricoh Co. Ltd.'s Printing Solutions Division, Pine Brook, N.J.
Vendors have to spend time with the VAR—"develop a relationship, meet their sales force, train their sales force. Do whatever [the VAR] needs to get up to speed," she said.
If the vendor isn't doing that, it might be time to look for another vendor that will.
"In the end, it's all about partnership," Moser said. "We can't expect people to start selling Ricoh if they don't understand our programs. They need to look for manufacturers who are going to help them with personnel, programs that will bring them profits and are easy to follow, easy to get reimbursed for. If [a VAR] doesn't want to do service, does the manufacturer have good service, a help desk?"
Jessica Ottesen, a national account manager at US techdisplay, a Gambrills, Md.-based solution provider that specializes in digital signage, said her company has succeeded by forging a close relationship with a vendor—Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., San Jose, Calif.—and by knowing her customers. The key, to Ottesen, to building a solutions practice that includes peripheral devices is to start out by sticking close to home. Build on skills already honed.
"My advice to a VAR thinking about getting into the market would be to initially go after what you know," Ottesen said. "It's not something I think you should start, completely, from scratch. You should look at who your current customers are and where your offering may fit for those customers."
After all, she said, "You know that hometown market so well, it's really the perfect place to start."
Over time, it becomes more profitable to the VAR and more valuable to the customer to deliver printers and MFPs that attach to networks; LCDs that improve efficiency or deliver a revenue-generating service; power supplies that save on energy costs.
US techdisplay includes Samsung displays with media boxes and server software to deliver multimedia messages—advertising, business information. For example, the solution provider may install a digital signage display in a tavern that plays a multimedia advertisement offering a coupon for a drink special via an SMS text message. The customer gets a return on investment and the solution provider has closed a larger, more profitable deal, Ottesen said.
The example illustrates a key finding in the State of Technology: Peripherals survey—that advances in technology are helping driving sales of peripherals around a solution. This year's survey looked at five categories: displays, printers/MFPs, projectors, power protection and external storage.