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Projectors Point The Way
Peripherals such as projectors have a tremendous presales and postsales opportunity that VARs should consider when building a solution practice around a peripherals category, said Wendy Linsky, vice president of peripherals, supplies and accessories product marketing at Tech Data Corp., a Clearwater, Fla., distributor.
"Look at projectors, for example. We do a great business in light bulbs that go with the projectors. It's obviously the biggest margin-builder in that opportunity," Linsky said. "All of the products we sell, in all peripheral products, we encourage one strategy: attach, attach, attach."
In the survey, solution providers listed ViewSonic as the projector vendor whose brand they would be most willing to recommend, followed closely by InFocus, equal numbers for Samsung and NEC Mitsubishi Electric, Toshiba America Inc., Epson, HP and BenQ America Corp. During the past year, the projector segment was marked by strong moves by vendors toward increasingly smaller and more mobile form factors—a trend that doesn't appear ready to slow down during the coming 12 months.
Hot Tickets: Power Supplies
The power supply space was among the most turbulent in 2007, as Schneider Electric acquired American Power Conversion Corp. and energy prices worldwide caused IT planners to rethink strategies for their energy and efficiency needs. Power protection in small and midsize businesses has gone from afterthought to priority, given the number of catastrophes worldwide in recent years, as well as increases in energy costs and lower pricing segmentwide.
When it comes to selling power supplies, VARs should begin any discussion around the idea of business continuity, Linsky said. "Think about the total solution," she said. "That's been our mantra, and it continues to be our mantra."
In the survey, American Power Conversion, West Kingston, R.I., was listed as the vendor whose brand VARs would be most willing to recommend, by almost 3-to-1 over the next company on the list, Liebert Corp. Those companies were followed by Tripp Lite and Belkin International Inc. and MGE UPS Systems.
External Storage On The Rise
In the first year in the survey, desktop external storage from manufacturers including Seagate Technology LLC, Scotts Valley, Calif., and Western Digital Corp., Lake Forest, Calif., have shown themselves to be a factor. Almost two-thirds of solution providers say the products are easier to sell than a year ago, and almost three in four say the capacities now offered are a key factor in how they deliver the products.
Schwab noted that in desktop external storage, added capacities and pricing now allow VARs to begin a compelling conversation with customers and that, along those lines, network attached storage is gaining traction as a network peripheral.
Seagate was listed as the vendor whose brand they would most be willing to recommend, followed very closely by Western Digital, and then HP, Hitachi Ltd. and Lenovo. The year 2007 was the first, full calendar year that Seagate operated following its acquisition of Maxtor.
Find Your Peripheral Vision
There are opportunities for increased profits and revenue in all five categories, said solution providers. In fact, 77.5 percent of respondents said they are in the peripherals space because it "lets me address new technology or industry-vertical markets."
But it may take effort to find the right partner. Jay Tipton, vice president of Technology Specialists, a Fort Wayne, Ind.-based solution provider, said profitable partnerships with peripherals vendors aren't a given. "You've got to be choosy," Tipton said. "Especially in the printer market. You can't make money selling HP, period. But you can find companies that will allow you to make 15 points, 20 points." On the printer side, Tipton said, his company has found good partnership with companies including Xerox, Minolta, Brother and Samsung. And, unlike with LCDs or other devices, printers provide the ability to make additional postsales profit on consumables.
Tipton isn't alone in feeling price pressure. More than two out of three in the survey said they found DMRs or retailers to provide the largest competitive threat to their peripherals practice.
Debbie Enockson, president of SoftNet Services, a Plymouth, Wis.-based solution provider, said it's not so much which brands sell the best, or which vendor has the best program. "With LCDs, I'm also competing against the Best Buys and the Office Depots. Sometimes, customers will go around and buy a cheaper model. That's not what I recommended," she said.
The key, she said, is to keep the customer's needs at heart. "I sell my customers what they need, whether they are replacing something that's dying on them, and not doing the job, or whether I'm designing a whole, new solution," she said.