‘Convergence’ has become far more than a buzz word in the mobile industry, as the channels increasingly look at areas other than mobile to revive sliding revenues.
IT, fixed, VoIP and telephony have all grown in importance for mobile distributors, which are searching for new ways to make money.
Distribution has also moved towards a model of ‘segmentation’ and ‘specialisation’, with many companies choosing to position themselves as ‘hardware’ or ‘airtime’ suppliers.
However, one thing they continue to have in common is the pursuit of more ways to create revenue.
A recurring message coming from many distributors is the need to add value to the products and services they offer. So it is not surprising that international hardware distribution giant Brightstar is looking to its well established network of IT resellers to start offering BlackBerry products.
Distribution joint venture
The Miami based distributor works with a range of IT and mobile manufacturers and has two branches to the company – Tech Data and Brightstar.
Tech Data, which is the IT distribution arm of the business, bought a majority stake in Computer 2000, the largest IT distributor in Europe, and later entered into a joint venture with Brightstar, which distributes mobile hardware.
A group of IT resellers with an established relationship with Computer 2000 have recently been selected by Brightstar, and are being invited to a series of events across the country to be shown the benefits of selling BlackBerry products and how it fits with their business model.
This latest event takes place in Solihull, where a group of 38 resellers have congregated to find out about Brightstar’s newest initiative.
Representatives from Brightstar and RIM start the day by guiding the resellers through the different products available and explaining how they could fit into their business, emphasising the sale of technical support to BlackBerry users.
The aim of the day, as RIM channel sales manager Sam Thorne explains, is to ‘drive BlackBerry products and services awareness through the channel and to illustrate the partnership that we have’.
As well as providing an explanation of the services, the representatives also offer reassurance to resellers on the brink of entering the mobile market.
BlackBerry business development manager Nathan Mitchell points out an emerging trend that Brightstar has been following, saying: ‘Large corporates are approaching resellers for hardware and it will filter down to the rest of the market. The networks don’t give the proper technical support.’
The IT industry has a wealth of experience in technical support, but Brightstar is looking to push companies in the direction of mobile.
Brightstar’s business development director, Max Caballero, says: ‘This is the entrance into the mobile world and it is about providing these resellers with something very similar to their day to day business.’
Tony Mehdi, a senior account sales director for IT reseller Tomorrow’s
Office agrees, saying: ‘BlackBerry and HTC are trying to tap into the IT
savvy side of the market because mobile communication is becoming more and more integrated.’
A cross-section of IT resellers from Computercentre, an international company that advises businesses with over 10,000 employees down to those that concentrate on the SOHO (small office, home office) market on IT strategy, are also in attendance.
The potential partners were selected on the basis of internal research conducted by Brightstar in the lead up to the new programme.
Mitchell, a former Avenir employee who joined Brightstar seven weeks ago, says: ‘The networks are trying to push mobile into the IT channel. We have decided to focus on IT and BlackBerry, and did a telemarketing campaign looking at resellers. We now have a list of 89 people interested in selling BlackBerry who wanted to get involved.
‘BlackBerry as a brand is a bit like Hoover, a lot of people ask for it. And many of the companies are actually managing the servers already.’
The distributor has several other events lined up over the next two months, including three more reseller days in England, one in Ireland and a SME training weekend.
The feedback from the first event that took place in London has been positive. Mitchell adds: ‘The company has had a lot of good feedback and we have been inundated with appointments from the first event.’
As well as explaining the products on offer, Brightstar also announces a partnership programme for resellers able to fulfil the criteria. Although the programme lacks official accreditation for the resellers involved, a number of benefits are being offered to participants.
The details have not yet been set in stone, but the ‘BlackBerry Club’ is an outlined programme that will give benefits and support to partners who engage.
Brightstar is keen to emphasise that it would be tracking the progress of the partners involved and is interested to see who is ‘making improvements,
and active and hungry to develop business’.
Brightstar will also give business leads, from itself and BlackBerry, to newly integrated mobile/IT sellers in exchange for their commitment.
The resellers will then have to follow up the lead within 24 hours and feed back to Brightstar within 48 hours. (The distributor is quick to reassure the future partners that this does not translate to securing a deal within
Brightstar’s head of marketing, Nicci McKenzie, says: ‘The partner programme is not accredited, but we want to create a community that can be offered certain benefits.’
In a similar way to other partner programmes, the resellers will have access to new products and a 50% discount on up to two devices, free sales and technical support, quarterly roadmap visibility, early product allocation and preferential pricing to compete with telecoms dealers.
If the resellers start to bring in £5,000 per month in revenue, they will also gain access to comprehensive, tailor made marketing support.