Being part-owned by Orange brings advantages and disadvantages. Mainline gets preferential terms and is first in the queue for new products and services. However, it also means that Mainline is completely beholden to Orange’s strength in the market and its willingness to serve the dealer channel.
Mainline claims that it has focused on b2b for longer than most distributors. MD Andrew Boden (pictured) says: ‘Others are still trying to catch up with us, so we have less to adapt. We understand that b2b customers are more discerning than consumers, and demand a better service, as well as good prices.’
Boden began working for Mainline after he finished school, and eventually took over the reigns from his father. This could be a contributing factor as to why staff seem keen to convey a family atmosphere when describing the business.
Mainline has been an Orange-only distributor since April 1994, and the operator owns a 25% stake in the company. Boden believes that the link with Orange gives the company security. ‘The relationship gives us a future proofing that others don’t have.’
Mainline’s sales and marketing director, Darryl Brunt, left the company in mid-March. The distributor said that Brunt, who previously worked for Nestlé, struggled to adapt to the mobile industry.
Nonetheless, the company still plans to hire staff from outside the industry. Boden feels that ‘some people in the industry can’t cut it anymore’ and is looking into areas outside of distribution such as IT and mobile data for new blood.
New products and services
Mainline aims to continue offering products with tried and tested profit margins, and is wary of new ‘cutting-edge’ devices that the market may not be ready for. ‘We are guarded about products with poor margins. We know what the margins need to be. You see a lot of distributors taking on new products without proper scrutiny of whether they are profitable,’ Boden says.
Mainline has seen BlackBerry sales grow significantly, and it plans to use them to help push Orange’s business broadband package, which is the next service that Mainline will offer its dealers.
The distributor was the first to launch Orange Home Max, which provides wireless broadband and two home phone lines in one package. The main attraction to the service, according to Mainline, is that it provides a good margin for dealers.
The Business Mobile Programme is also still in place, which has been running since 2004, and is designed to support dealers operating in the b2b market.
Mainline’s focus for the future is to grow its share of Orange’s indirect connections. The only problem is that many bigger rivals have crowded into the b2b market. Boden insists all new dealers must be high quality, but every distributor is making similar claims. Boden says that the company ‘lost a fortune’ from not taking on cashback dealers, but the strategy has worked out in the long run. ‘We’re not whiter than white, but we’re whiter than most,’ he adds.
Mainline’s dealer base has recently increased, with around 55 new dealer additions since September. Denise Field, its customer service and operations manager, is confident that the service Mainline offers will ensure they stay with the company long into the future. She says: ‘We’ve never missed a payment. My team has a face-to-face relationship with the dealers. We know them personally because we are always communicating.’
Boden believes that continuing with b2b means the company is within its comfort zone. ‘In b2b we’re back to selling, back to our roots. We’re back to being an organisation that has to proactively sell stuff.’