No two businesses on the planet are exactly the same. This is especially true in the AV Integration space. Having said that, in today’s marketplace all integrators have similar needs that must be met in order to help them run an efficient and profitable business.
For many integrators, pride comes in having and maintaining a multitude of unique relationships with different manufacturers. In many cases those relationships have allowed for programs, pricing, and services that made integrators feel “special.” However, over the past few years we have seen high levels of consolidation and—following our friends in the IT space—we have also seen manufacturers migrate from a direct to market strategy to a distribution strategy.
While some integrators may feel this model would impact their direct relationships, others are seeing that it in fact, is not the case. This is because, just like no two integrators are exactly the same, no two AV distributors are, either. So, when selecting an AV distributor partner, choose one that allows you to retain your “direct” benefits, while also offering you the value that distribution provides to the AV industry and other growing industries.
In fact, in looking for the right distribution partner, keeping yourself focused on the 4 following items will help you achieve the best match.
Pricing: It’s no surprise that pricing is first, but let’s not mince words here. As margins have eroded in the AV industry, buying power has become key, and for integrators, great pricing is important. If a distributor cannot help a partner save money through its vast offerings, it will be hard to work with them. Having said that, price is only one part of this puzzle—because without the other 4, you may end up spending more time and money, for just a point or 2 more in product profitability.
Consolidation: When you work with a distributor, it is helpful if you can acquire multiple items from one source. Bundling offers the opportunity for creating savings on shipping and workflow, since you can often get all (or many) of the items you need from one distributor with the right set of manufacturer partners.
Logistics: Once you get pricing and product acquisition in place, business logistics must be your next priority for working with a distributor. Logistics can include things like project level management, inventory consignment, drop shipping, multi-location shipping, or tracking software that allows for a more fluid customer experience. Projects are rarely simple, and sometimes getting the right equipment to the right place at the right time can be complicated. A distributor that can streamline this process is going to help you reap more profit from your projects and provide a positive customer experience.
Customer Service and Support: As much as we would like to think that every order is perfect and nothing will ever go wrong, we all know that’s not the case. Sometimes projects have hiccups. A distributor can often help smooth out wrinkles through quick shipping, flexible policies, customer accommodations, and of course by having a caring, customer service team that not only wants to help, but is empowered to help. You can determine the level of support you might expect when seeking out a distributor by asking some important questions. For example, is their staff not only available, but are they technically certified to provide support on a product issue? The right answers to these questions should help you make the best decisions for your organization. And remember, no company is perfect, so building great relationships is the key to a great partnership.
The bottom line is that this industry is changing fast, and projects are becoming more complex and often more challenging. Integrators that focus on the business process are often the ones most capable of delivering great customer results. The right partnership with the right distributor can solve many unique challenges for integrators all while helping them achieve better bottom line results.
We want to hear from you. What are the key capabilities of a great AV distributor?