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Lead or Get Out of the Way

28 Mar, 2006 By: Ian Crockett imageSource

Lead or Get Out of the Way

always been amazed by the American entrepreneur. Their competitiveness and
ability to adapt to varying circumstances make this country vibrant and a great
place to work.

A terrific example of this resiliency is the office equipment provider. Much has
changed over the past two decades from a technology and competition standpoint,
yet dealers are able to adapt.

The public companies, with the exception of Global Imaging Systems, which has
tried to maintain the entrepreneurial spirit, seem to have disappeared from the
competitive landscape.

IKON is probably spending more on legal fees than it is on marketing. Nobody
even mentions Danka unless it’s a conversation about where his or her new sales
manager used to work, and Xerox doesn’t even get mentioned when I ask clients
who they are encountering in the field.

In addition, we now have a brand new industry. In the technology arena, the pie
is much larger. Dealers are no longer just selling copiers, they’re providing
document printing solutions, lower cost color output, scanning and storage,
retrieval products, and some dealers are even installing and servicing networks.

So, if we’re talking about a new industry, the question becomes: who will be the
leaders? There will be some dealers content with getting the most out of their
customer base and having a very nice, comfortable lifestyle. But, as I indicated
earlier, entrepreneurs tend to be competitive and want to lead.

Communicate Your Vision

Becoming the marketplace leader requires a vision. But, more importantly, you
need to communicate that vision.

You need to communicate it to the marketplace and you need to communicate it to
your employees in a manner that they are able to pass it along to whoever they
come in contact with on a daily basis. Ways to accomplish this include:

    Collateral materials: Your brochures or websites need
to promote your company’s vision with both graphics and content. Sell the
features, advantages and benefits of your dealership, not the product you

    Branding: You need to establish a brand, which should
be derived from your vision. Whether you’re selling technology, furniture or
supplies, you need to communicate a difference. Please don’t say it’s your
service or your people. It may be true, but everyone says that.

    Creativity: Develop a unique slogan or tag line, a
catchy jingle, a logo (think Nike Swoosh), or a character that represents your

To assume the leadership role in your market(s), you must be prepared to take a
risk. By risk, I mean you need to invest in your business, its advertising, and
you need to invest in your people.

Have a Plan

With any investment, you’re looking for a positive return. So, have a plan. It
always amazes me when dealers react to the marketplace or quickly throw
something together and then grumble that their advertising flopped. A good plan

    A media component. Communicate your message to a
specific target audience. Don’t try to be all things to all people. It’s better
to reach fewer people with more frequency.

    A responsible budget. A dealer that really wants that
leadership role will have a marketing budget between 2-3 percent of gross
revenues. Dealers content with a comfortable lifestyle and being in the middle
of the pack should be closer to 1 percent or just spend manufacturer co-op funds
to maintain a presence.

    Events. Open houses, for instance, bring customers and
key prospects to your facility and allow them to view products firsthand and
interact with your staff. I encourage my clients to have an element of fun or a
theme. This way, people look forward to your events and your employees are
motivated to make each event better.

Incidentally, even though I am an avid golfer, I don’t include golf outings in
this category. They may meet the above criteria, but a golf course doesn’t allow
for education regarding your products and services.

I once had a client say, "This is an easy business. I just need to keep my
current customers and go out and find new ones."

In today’s marketplace, there’s more opportunity. Customers are looking

for vendors that can do it all. This presents an opportunity to implement a
marketing strategy that can flaunt all of your dealership’s capabilities.

When you couple this with the once dominant public companies losing people and
market share, there are more prospects ready to line up behind the marketplace
leader, which should be your company!

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