Airtime distributor HSC (formerly Hugh Symons Communications) recently narrowed its product line by eschewing fixed line and bringing in laptops.
This allowed a clear message to be sent to dealers to show the company is concentrating solely on mobile offerings.
The move follows its rebranding in April to HSC with a new corporate look to reinforce itself as ‘a safe, trusted supplier’.
The market is changing rapidly, and with a decreasing dealer base and a shrinking number of transactions, distributors have been forced to evolve.
Despite this, HSC is confident it can be the ‘market leader’. Business manager Bob Sweetlove reveals how the distributor will deal with an ‘over-populated’ market.
Mobile: You changed your branding – what reaction have you had from dealers?
Sweetlove: The rebrand, to simply HSC, was designed to clearly communicate our market positioning. We’re mobile specialists dedicated to supporting dealers from all channels to thrive in mobile.
Our dealer base has continued to grow since the rebrand, and in a retracting market, which is very encouraging. It was a useful exercise that allowed us to highlight a clean proposition from a safe and trusted supplier, which is resonating well in the dealer community.
What changes have you made to the business since the new branding?
In addition to the new corporate look and feel, we have narrowed our product set to a purely mobile offering. Out with any fixed-line products and in with laptops and hosted mobile solutions.
We have launched a new technical department providing support and training for dealers and their customers on mobile solutions. We are imminently launching a new version of our dealer portal, Yourhsc.com, designed to make day to day tasks even easier. It will now be simple for our dealers to access the information they need and also buy, stock and check their account without having to pick up the phone.
How do you differentiate from your competitors? Are you looking at any new products?
We’re focusing on three key areas to differentiate HSC from the rest – knowledge, service and relationships. We have just launched The Mobile Club as the vehicle to communicate and deliver on our unique selling propositions.
All our dealers can now attend regional training courses, use our technical support team and benefit from our bespoke point of sale material service, among many other benefits. Meanwhile, ‘VIP dealers’, in return for 50 pay monthly connections per month, receive a personalised level of service and support to help them drive their businesses forward.
What are the current challenges in the market?
The biggest challenge is probably over-population – the overall volume of transactions has dropped significantly, as has the independent dealer base during the last couple of years. The net effect is that nearly the same numbers of distributors are fighting over a smaller amount of business. Our strategy is to establish HSC as the clear market leader for the next generation of mobile distribution. We’re doing this by putting the dealer at the heart of our decision-making processes.
What advice would you give to dealers?
There are two key ways to expand your business – sell more to existing customers and win new ones. To achieve this, dealers need to have deeper conversations with existing customers on their overall business communications – this has to extend to their fixed line and IT setup. The more dealers know about their clients, the more adept they will be at spotting new opportunities.
To win new customers, it is becoming increasingly harder to cold call successfully. We would recommend building robust referral models within existing client bases and their wider network of contacts.
Do you see the market changing this year? How will you adjust?
I think change is a permanent state for the mobile market, so our businesses need to be flexible and evolve with the market. This goes against some natural human behaviours, therefore we are investing a lot of time to ensure the HSC team is flexible in its approach.
In line with the increasingly technical nature of our products, we will also be investing in this area. For example, we will shortly be able to provide fully trained and accredited engineers to install BlackBerry BES servers on behalf of dealers.
What new areas are distributors and dealers looking at as a result of market changes?
Dealers are very entrepreneurial by nature and, depending on their unique business challenges, are very good at reacting accordingly. Rather than anything totally new, most are evolving additional services around their core model.
Retailers are getting better at service and repair, and using stores as a base to target local businesses, not just consumers. Mobile services are better integrated now that b2b dealers are more IT literate. Content and internet on mobile devices are booming areas, and dealers are starting to develop propositions using applications rather than simply devices and tariffs. We’re still all part of a huge industry with many opportunities for those sharp enough to embrace.