There’s nothing quite like a pandemic to force you to look at your business and fine tune your go-to-market approach, including your product mix. From my view, there is a lot of opportunity for the Office Technology Dealer.I’ve been a part of both the Information Technology (IT) and Business Technology Association (BTA) channels for over 16 years of my life and in a number of different roles in both arenas while at GreatAmerica Financial Services.
During this time, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with MSPs, Telecom Resellers, Pro A/V and Security Resellers, VARs, Integrators, Dealers, Distributors and Manufactures. It’s because of these opportunities that I hope to be able to provide a little bit of guidance to those reading this blog, to potentially point out blind spots in your own offering while gathering insight as to what some of your competitors might be doing. Whether you view diversification as an offensive or defensive strategy it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you take the time to learn, evaluate and be strategic about your approach to the market.
But Is Now Really The Time To Evolve?
It’s easy to think the right move is to hold tight and weather the storm, but I argue now is the time to pivot and find new ways to meet your customers’ immediate and long-term needs. Ask yourself, how can I protect the business I have, and continue to win new business? As we begin to see businesses transitioning to their new normal, new demands emerge. Business owners will need to take new products and services offerings into consideration, and prepare to compete with others inside and outside of their space in new ways.
But First, the Network!
Most new and emerging products and services we are hearing about revolve around the network. This makes sense for Office Technology Dealers. For starters, copiers and printers hang on the network. If you are not in the network game or haven’t previously considered the IT space, it’s time. Knowing, understanding and being able to talk intelligently about the network is becoming the ticket to entry on many of the solutions I’ll cover here.
Watch the Webinar Recording for ‘Opportunities for Diversification: IT & Beyond’ Below. Or Browse More In the ‘Build For Tomorrow Webinar Series’ Here.
Businesses understand what’s at stake in this area, and not just larger organizations, but even SMBs and mom and pop shops now understand the high priority network security should hold. Everyone is vulnerable to a security breach and the repercussions can be debilitating for a business of any size. If you are able to help your customers maintain a secure environment, they will be willing to listen to the solutions you present.
With that said, the ability to protect your network and the desire of the ‘bad guy’ to get into your network, has never been higher. Keep in mind, network security is complex; there are companies out there where network security is all they do. If you want to go all in, you have to know what you are doing, attaining the proper certifications, resources, and specialists that understand how to protect both you and your customers’ interests. If a breach happens on your watch, that opens your business up to liabilities. If you want to play in this arena, we recommend either partnering with a third party who can guide or provide this service, or looking at some specific niches. I’d be remiss if I didn’t point you to resources we have via our subsidiary, Collabrance, LLC, a MMSP in this space. If you’re wanting to learn more about getting into IT, the information available here, may help.
Backup and Disaster Recovery
One niche of security we’ve seen our partners successfully enter is in the realm of Backup and Disaster Recovery (BDR). BDR is a combination of data backup and disaster recovery solutions that work together to safeguard a company’s business continuity. The nice thing about BDR devices is they are lower maintenance and allow for solid recurring revenue and exponential growth. Getting into the network security game through a niche like BDR can allow you to deploy a simple strategy that attaches your business to the network so you can grow from the inside out.
Another aspect of security is physical security, meaning on premise surveillance, access control systems, or monitoring systems that ensure the physical security of an environment is maintained. This space involves some risk. For instance, if you get into monitoring or access control systems and there is a failure, you could be at fault. This creates a need for liability insurance to address that risk should it occur. The world of physical security is vast and we recommend finding a niche. As an example, we’ve seen some partners experience success in the surveillance side of this business.
The cloud has completely transformed the telecommunications game. Though there are still enterprises using the on-premise model, we are seeing more and more transitioning to a hybrid or fully cloud-hosted model. The cloud has made it easier for those who aren’t a specialist in the area of telecom to play there, creating some opportunity for you to gain traction.
When you hear the term Pro Audio Visual (AV) market, think conferencing technologies. There’s been no better time to sell digital monitors, cameras, conferencing systems and the software that supports all of these offerings. The recent entrance of Zoom into the AVaaS space with bundled video conferencing solutions, as well as several distributors and manufacturers moving in this direction, has only accelerated the AV industry’s move into financing and AVaaS offerings on other products. Overall the AV space is still a traditional “cash” sale with very little maintenance or managed services to support the technology. Technology providers that can differentiate by selling monthly payments or “as a Service” offerings in the AV space would be very well positioned, especially in the current economic environment.
Conference Room As-A- Service
Video conferencing has never been more important than it is now. Many of us continue to work from home and we need to maintain face–to-face interaction. Pre-COVID-19, this market was already growing. We can only expect it to continue to pop even after we return to the office, as we’ve all become more comfortable with the technology.
In that respect, we’ve seen notable growth in conference room as a service offerings. Conference room as a service is a bundled rental solution that includes the necessary devices, software and ongoing service and support. If you’ve ever been late to a call or virtual presentation because you couldn’t get your technology to cooperate, then you can understand the demand that lies in ongoing conference room support. Customers are willing to pay for an ongoing lifeline to reduce inefficiencies of technical issues associated with conferencing offerings.
Software licensing has exploded over the last quarter. Considering how difficult it can be to go in and install equipment given the current environment, software offers a very clear benefit. With the ability to remote in, you reduce the IT resources needed for implementation.
You do have to understand and be knowledgeable in the software you sell and if you find the right niche that provides the right solution to your customer, you can make good margins on it. This creates a nice pickup to help fill the gap on some print volume losses. Here are a few examples.
Citrix or VPN Licensing
Especially in our current environment, people need a secure way to access their organization’s network remotely. The ability to perform my job depends on this software and many dealers and MSPs have seen a lift in this area of their business, especially post-COVID-19.
Document Management Software
Document management, often referred to as Document Management Systems (DMS), is the use of a computer system and software to store, manage and track electronic documents and electronic images of paper-based information captured through the use of a document scanner. Document management software is crucial to help employees scan, save and share documents digitally and securely with team members. Digital Workflows have only accelerated in importance with today’s distributed workforce; you can help your customers remain efficient and effective with their business processes with a Document Management solution.
Printing from Home
Depending on what study you’ve read, it’s estimated that between 20-30% of the workforce may never return to the office space. How does that impact printing? Right now, printing that was happening in the office isn’t happening. Even when some do return to work, not everyone will. This means we can expect a drop in print volume even after things return back to “normal.”
Those that are working from home still have a need to print and will be tempted to plug in their home devices, introducing security risk to their employer’s network. That’s why many organizations need to implement a print from home type of solution for their employees. While this is a fairly new offering, dealers are looking at how they can package an at home solution which organizations purchase and disperse to their remote workforce.
COVID-19 Related Offerings
As more and more businesses return-to-work, many are seeking the necessary products and services in order to do so safely. Solution providers are asking us questions around financing in-demand equipment lines and services beyond that of your standard office technology solution.
We receive calls daily from resellers asking about thermal scanners: What can we finance and how? This is extremely new territory for our space and we are learning a lot. First, there are all kinds of thermal scanners out there. Pre-COVID-19, you had to use machines that were specifically FDA approved and compliant. They have paused that during the immediate future since the need is so large. While that currently takes some of the complexity out of the equation, keep in mind the FDA can revert back to their previous standards at any time. If you start selling these now, you need to be prepared for that. We also are uncertain if these are a longer term play or a shorter term play.
Second, many see the demand for these extending out farther into the future as people begin to return to pre-COVID-19 norms while maintaining necessary precautions. The need could remain strong as people verify the health of those traveling, coming into work or dropping kids of at school or daycare.
As a final consideration, these do not offer a strong recurring revenue potential, as there are no supplies to be replenished on thermal scanners.
Hand Sanitization Stations
Whether you are on the offensive side or defensive side of the diversification field, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you have an idea of what’s out there, what your customers need, what others are doing and what you could potentially offer yourself. Our desire with this blog was to help provide guidance and to protect your blindside to competitors that might be coming at you. Perhaps it sparked an area of interest you’d like to research further?
Prior to joining GreatAmerica in 2004, Wil was an independently licensed insurance agent for the Eastern Iowa region. Wil joined GreatAmerica as a Vendor Relationship Manager for the East Atlantic Region. Wil has also served as the Vice President of Sales for the Office Equipment Group. He moved to Communications and Data in 2009 as the VP of Sales, was promoted to VP/Managing Director in 2012, and in 2014 became the VP & General Manager of the group. Wil received a B.A. degree in Computer Science from the University of Iowa.