Ahead of Dell’s autumn product launch at Munich’s Oktoberfest, PITR caught up with Dell Imaging EMEA product marketing director Dave McNally to fid out about the company’s channel strategy.
PITR: Please could you explain a little about Dell’s channel strategy and how it has developed.
McNally: At Dell, we have various routes to market. Our channel was developed over fie years ago, as we wanted to expand our reach to customers. We found that we were touching a number of customers, but there were also a number who wanted to deal with a local reseller or even a nationwide reseller. Moving into the channel was a very big thing at the time, as Dell had been a direct organisation for 20 odd years. Now, it is commonplace that we are recognised as a channel partner and have won numerous awards for our channel programme.
At the time, we developed the Partner Direct Programme, and this has evolved over the years. The Partner Direct Programme is where Dell sells directly to a partner, engages directly with that partner and supplies and fulfils through them.
That’s one of the routes to market. We have also introduced a distribution route to market, as not all resellers want to buy directly from the manufacturer: they might want to spread their credit lines or need greater flexibility and prefer to work with distribution partners. So over the last two years we have started to develop our distribution programme. We had a huge conference this year in Greece where we invited over 50 distribution partners from across EMEA. That’s evolving and we now work with some recognised distributors in the IT arena.
The other route to market is our Direct organisation, which has been running for over 25 years. That hasn’t changed. What has changed is our ability to service the customer, to give the customer a choice of where they buy their IT equipment, whether that is from their local reseller, via a distributor or directly from Dell. We give them that choice.
To prevent channel conflict, we work very closely with channel partners. Deal registration is a good example. If a channel partner is working on a deal and they register that opportunity with us, we will walk away from it, but offer that partner as much assistance as they need to win it.
PITR: How often have you walked away due to a deal registration?
McNally: It happens on a regular basis. The deal registration programme is one of the cornerstones of our Partner Direct Programme.
PITR: How many channel partners does Dell have in the UK?
McNally: We have over 1,000 partners in the UK.
We have three different types of partner. We have Registered Partners, Preferred Partners and Premier Partners. To become a Preferred or Premier Partner, you have to hit certain thresholds and have certain competencies in your business. The Premier Partner is mainly intended for enterprise solutions and has a higher threshold so that they can fulfil enterprise-type business.
As a print business, we wanted to go out and work with the key resellers that specifically just concentrate on print. However, we found that they don’t necessarily fit into our Preferred and Premier categories; they may not reach the threshold of our enterprise business or have the resources to go and win enterprise-type opportunities. So in 2013 we developed a sub-set of our Partner Direct Programme called the Strategic Imaging Partner Programme for those resellers that concentrate on print or have a print division as part of their business. This lets us identify them, nurture them and work with them on a more personal basis.
The Strategic Imaging Partner Programme has approximately 20 partners signed up in the UK, and we are looking for more partners to come on board.
They get a dedicated touch from Dell; they get access to our marketing funds; they get training; they get rebates; they get a dedicated account manager. There are things we provide a Strategic Partner over and above what a registered partner can expect.
PITR: So you still have a large number of registered partners who sell Dell printers.
McNally: Yes. And also some Premier Partners that sell Dell printers. But in order to identify and nurture partners that are like-minded, we have developed this programme so that we can give them specific support.
PITR: What attracts them to Dell?
McNally: Dell is a great brand. We provide a good, broad portfolio of products – not just on the imaging side, but end-to-end, from the document to the data centre. We have a great understanding of the IT market. We work very strongly with public sector, large enterprise and SME type accounts, and we will work with those partners who can show competencies in those areas. That’s what really attracts them to work with Dell. They see Dell as a fantastic opportunity to provide end-to-end solutions. As print resellers look to expand their offering, it seems natural to come in as a print partner and progress to selling IT solutions.
PITR: What proportion of Dell printer sales are now through the channel?
McNally: About 60% of our sales of print hardware go through the channel. That surprises a lot of people. We moved into the channel about fie years ago and were one of the fist lines of business to go and work with distribution. We have a good network of distributors in the UK including three strong hardware distributors (Tech Data, Ingram and Exertis) and two supplies distributors (Advent Exertis and Westcoast). Together with the Strategic Imaging Partner Programme, this has enabled us to grow our business quite successfully.
PITR: Who do you have your OEM agreement with now?
McNally: We OEM with Lexmark, Samsung and Fuji Xerox. They manufacture our products for us, but the products themselves are Dell-designed. We develop a lot of the IP ourselves and use those three partners to manufacture for us. With our Fall launch you will see a lot more colour products coming out and they are mainly manufactured by Fuji Xerox.
PITR: Are you active in the A3 MFP market, as well as A4?
McNally: We introduced three new categories in May around everyday printing, cloud printing and smart printing. As we go forward we will have a series of printers that have an ‘e’ prefix, meaning it’s an everyday printer; an ‘h’ prefix denoting that it is a cloud printer – the ‘h’ stands for Dell Document Hub or Dell Printer Hub; and the smart series will be prefixed with an ‘s’. We have 22 products, ranging from everyday, single function desktop printers to an A3 colour multifunctional with workflow solutions embedded into the device. We’ve got a single function A3 colour device and a multifunctional A3 colour device.
PITR: Are you planning to launch more A3 models?
McNally: It’s under consideration. At the moment, we are focusing our effort around cloud. You will see a lot more products coming out that are cloud-enabled. We believe that’s one of Dell’s strong points. The type of customers that we work with – small businesses, SMEs and public sector organisations – are looking to the cloud as a means to access information and data, and we make that easy. So, a lot of our development is around cloud and connection to the cloud, not necessarily at the A3 end of the market.
PITR: Is the cloud where you have a lot of your IP?
McNally: Yes, we have something called Dell Document Hub. We see that as a fantastic platform to enable small and medium-sized businesses to go and work with the cloud and gain access to the cloud and document management in the cloud. You will see more developments around that as we go forward.
PITR: MPS is a growing requirement for SMBs. Do you have your own MPS offering or do your resellers offer Dell products as part of their own solution?
McNally: We looked at offering an MPS solution and what we heard from customers is that they want a product-agnostic approach. So we identified resellers who can offer that and go and work with them. We don’t offer a specific programme where we offer our own monitoring and tracking software. We leave that to the reseller. But we will support them with things like training and preferential bid pricing so that they can go and win those opportunities. They have the relationships; they have the expertise; they have the flexibility; they have the wide product set. We will focus our efforts on working with resellers in that community and grow our MPS offering through them.
PITR: What benefits do end users get from selecting Dell products?
McNally: Very similar to those enjoyed by the channel. Dell’s a brand that can be trusted. Our customers use Dell for their other IT equipment, so using printers is a natural progression. We have the same exacting quality and performance standards on our print products as we do for the rest of our products. Customers know they are getting a tried and trusted quality product.
We offer a range of benefits from how easy the product is to use to how easy it is to own and manage. A lot of that is built into the device, with things like the Dell Printer Hub. That’s very much the cornerstone of our proposition: how we simplify printing for customers. As well as providing a return on investment and making sure our prices are competitive, we want to add value to products.
PITR: Do you think ease of use is becoming more important with the rise of mobile workers who might have to use machines they are not used to?
McNally: Yes. To give you a couple of examples: we have developed a WiFi Installer so that a home user can connect their printer to WiFi with a maximum of two clicks – sometimes just one click; and going forward, Dell products will all have touchscreens very like the user interface on a smartphone. People are used to capacitive touchscreens on their phones and we have developed that on our products to make it really easy for people to get the best out of them.
With Dell Document Hub, we have combined all the printer utilities you get – the scan manager, print manager, toner alerts – into one dashboard. It will also enable you to access things like the cloud so you can have cloud repositories and manage firmware updates from a simple dashboard console. You can remove all those utilities and have them in one central place, which makes things easier when you are setting up in an unmanaged environment.
PITR: Are you planning to recruit more dealers?
McNally: If we feel the partner is right and we have mutual goals, we will happily work with them particularly in the managed print arena. We don’t have our own offering but we see it as an important part of our business. We will also work with partners that can offer an end-to-end solution because Dell customers like our ‘document to data centre’ approach. There shouldn’t be any reason why resellers don’t offer a Dell printer as part of that offering.