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No Better Time to be a Dealer

14 Apr, 2003 By: Wes Phillips imageSource

No Better Time to be a Dealer

Tom Johnson, founder
of Global Imaging Systems, delivered a powerful and positive keynote address at
this year's ITEX show. His core message was that the document imaging industry
is a great business and there is no better time to be a dealer! His presentation
was not only important to dealers, but interesting from a marketing viewpoint
because it provided a roadmap to long-term profitability and marketplace
leadership. Plus, it validated the marketing principles that have consistently
been shared in this publication.

Developing Vision In
order to be successful and effectively direct limited resources, Global Imaging
Systems has developed a clear vision for their company. First they have carved
out a niche. They chose to avoid the trap of seeing every business as a viable
prospect. Instead, they focus on small- to medium-sized businesses as their
primary target. These companies range in size from 15 to 1,000 employees,
generally are growing businesses and have an increasing demand for office

The wisdom of this
approach is multifaceted. First, it allows Global to build an infrastructure
specifically geared to respond to the needs of their target demographic. Their
sales teams all share the same marketing message with the marketplace. Their
service staff receives effective training to respond to the unique demands of
growing businesses. Plus, valuable resources are not being wasted on segments of
the market that are expensive and time consuming to penetrate. For an
independent dealer, there is much to learn from Global's approach. For example,
if you are an independent dealer, you (and your senior management staff) should
define your primary target audience.

As you define your
primary target audience the definition should be very specific. This means that
in addition to very carefully defining the types of businesses you want to
target, you should go one step further and define the types of people in those
businesses you will need to motivate into action. In other words, you need to
know the gender and age of the individuals you need to reach that are employed
in the businesses you have targeted. In addition, you will want to identify
qualitative factors about these individuals, such as their job titles, income
levels, education levels and role in their company's purchasing decisions.

This depth of
clarity will give you the power to do many things far better than your
competition. For example, with this insight you can create marketing messages
that will be very specific (and motivating) for your target audience. Also with
this information, you will be able to put together a more effective sales
training program for your marketing staff. Finally, as you decide on how to
invest your limited marketing budget, you will be able to select the most viable
advertising mediums to communicate with your target prospects.

Johnson's clear
vision for Global Imaging Systems includes more that just carving out a
marketplace niche. It also embraces the challenge of defining what
differentiates Global from the rest of the competition. Global Imaging Systems
sees itself as "Passionate About Customer Productivity." This
positioning allows Global to develop marketing messages that are different than
those of their competitors. Also, Global is able to train their employees to
understand how they are to interact and behave with customers and prospects.
Stated in a different way, Global has recognized that one of the most powerful
methods with which they can brand and separate themselves from Xerox, IKON and
even other independent dealers, is to instill an "attitude" of
passionate customer service and productivity into each and every Global

Again, as an
independent dealer, you should examine your corporate vision. In addition to
understanding and defining your target audience, do you know why prospects
should want to do business with your dealership verses one of your competitors?
It has been the experience of our firm that when we ask office technology
dealers what makes them better than the competition, most respond with only one
word - - service. The weakness of this response is that almost every dealer
states that it is their service that makes them better than the competition. If
a dealership does not go further in crafting what makes them better and
different than the competition, the results will likely include extremely
generic marketing messages, lackluster sales growth and eroded profit margins.

The challenge to
you, the independent dealer, is to do the upfront work to uncover why prospects
chose to become one of your customers and why your customers chose to stay

Finding Answers The
most effective approach to answering these questions is to commission a market
research survey that will be statistically valid. Over the years, some of our
largest independent dealer clients have used market research with great success.
However, most independent dealers do not have the resources at this time to make
this investment. Fortunately, there is an acceptable alternative that is useful
and cost effective. Very simply, it is to interview fifteen to twenty existing
customers. Though their responses will not be statistically valid, the
information gathered will provide a foundation of consistency. Plus, the
responses will provide you and your marketing team with the words that customers
find useful in describing why you are better and different than the competition.
It is from these words that you can define your company's attitude and your
company's differentiation.

In connection with
interviewing your existing customers, here are a few suggestions that should
help manage the process. First, keep the number of questions that you ask to
less than ten. The questions should be open-ended and require more than just yes
or no responses. As you select those to be interviewed, choose a cross section
of existing customers. This means you want to have insight from newer and older
customers. You want responses from those who work with your company on the
service side and who make the purchasing decisions. Finally, if possible, have
an outside resource do the interviews. Appropriate resources include your
advertising agency, marketing consultant, CPA or even one of the local media
representatives that you trust.

Benchmarking Success
Tom Johnson concluded his remarks at ITEX by stating that in addition to having
a clear vision, carving out a niche and exhibiting the right attitude, there was
one other component for profitable success. This component was to make sure that
you have a great business model that includes "benchmarks." These
benchmarks are performance goals developed for all segments of your company's
operation and provide a savvy approach to running a business. Most independent
dealers with some tenure in the business understand the value of benchmarks.
However, there are many that do not adhere to them. They do this at their own
peril. For those of you that do work with benchmarks, here is an advertising
expense benchmark that has been shared in previous columns, but is worth
mentioning again.

One of the questions
that surfaces in every advertising fact-finding or presentation that I have been
a part of is, "How much should our company spend on advertising?" In
the context of benchmarking for office technology dealers, the answer to this
question is 1.5- to 3.5-percent of projected total gross revenue. At what level
your dealership chooses to spend within this range will vary depending on the
maturity of your dealership, your growth objectives and how consistent your
marketing efforts have been in the past.

Johnson was very
generous with his presentation, sharing the secrets of the success that are
being experienced by Global Imaging Systems. He provided insight that
independent dealerships can use for years to come in order to generate market
leadership, increase profits and add more value to a dealership. It truly is a
great time to be a dealer.

Phillips, CEO of Hunter Barth Advertising, located in Costa Mesa, California,
submitted this article. Hunter Barth Advertising is a full service marketing and
advertising firm specializing in the office technology industry. You can reach
Wes at 949-631-9900 or at Phillips@hunterbarth.com.

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