Remaining relevant in a global market: Why the Customer is Key

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Richard Eglon – Marketing Director at Agilitas

There is a growing trend in the global IT market of channel partners recognising the importance of working as close as possible with the customer to understand their business outcome needs. As a result of this, businesses within the channel are increasingly developing a broader range of relevant services and products needed to help customers meet both their long and short term business objectives. Development of these close relationships has never been more important than it is today; it is critical that customers believe you can help them achieve their ambitions through the solutions you provide, rather than just selling them off-the-shelf products and services that will not address the ever-changing needs of their business.

With cross-channel collaboration on the rise, expansion into global markets has never been more accessible than it is today. This eco-system of expertise and highly specialised resource is enabling channel businesses to remain aligned to the needs of their customers by expanding their service offerings and breaking down the traditional trading barriers associated with new technologies, currency and geographic regions.

Looking to expand globally will also help businesses take advantage of targeting new customers in other markets, or assist their existing customers in entering new markets. Every business knows that the world is decreasing in size due to technological advancements and a 24/7 culture. Those companies that are willing to go on a journey and explore the opportunities that operating globally brings are the ones who will succeed in the channel of tomorrow. This is a fantastic catalyst to demonstrate to customers how the snowball effect of globalisation can accelerate growth when collaborating with the right partners.

Developing new and relevant solutions for customers

A large proportion of decision makers in the channel say that a lack of customer requirements is a main reason for them not expanding globally; a wise choice – after all, how successful would an attempt at international expansion be, if there was no demand from customers?

With customers’ needs and desires changing continuously, channel businesses need to be ahead of the curve by developing innovative relevant solutions that are ready to be deployed once the need from the customer arrives. This is about using your close relationship with the customer to not only provide solutions for today but also accurately predict what they will require tomorrow and continuously share that solutions roadmap with them to ensure you are both aligned.

In order to be able to develop relevant services and products for customers, it is crucial that channel companies have access to a varied skillset. However, according to a survey from the British Chambers of Commerce, firms are now finding it harder than ever to recruit skilled workers, and almost three quarters of services businesses struggle to make the hires they really need. An obvious way to develop this further is by embracing collaboration with international partners, enabling channel businesses to identify and expand on a lack of owned skills.

Offering a wide range of resources and solutions

Of those channel companies that are already operating overseas, most have recognised the importance of offering a wide range of resources for customers to access. For most companies operating in the UK, their own offering consists of physical technology products, which then requires an inventory, logistics, and/or delivery partners in these markets to complete the supply chain. According to our recent market research, this same process is also carried out by companies and partners that deliver professional services and installations outside of the UK.

As well as offering a wide range of resources, companies are also offering a variety of channel solutions, which has increased due to the rise in cloud providers and cloud reliance. Along with the growing number of products and solutions offered, some companies are also offering, or looking to offer, technical training for customers outside of the UK. This ensures customers are kept up to speed with the pace of new products and services coming to the market, and also goes some way towards solving the worldwide skills gap channel companies are currently facing.

When expanding internationally, just as with companies operating solely within the UK, offering relevant solutions that are targeted to the demands and desires of customers, rather than off-the-shelf options has proved very beneficial for companies developing other products. Revenue can be increased through overseas operations, and companies are becoming more collaborative; clearly, there is huge potential for growth when companies look forward globally.

Providing existing customers with options

There will always be a significant appetite of channel companies using the services of partners to provide their existing customers with an increasing portfolio of solutions, instead of focusing solely on reaching out to new customers they can work with.

Many companies will focus a high proportion of their business operations on utilising the services of others within foreign markets, which can highlight the growing importance and dependency of international collaboration within the channel.

However, many channel businesses may have also developed their own services portfolio whilst expanding into new markets. This would more likely be for the bigger players within the channel, as their significant revenues allow them to have a huge and ambitious strategy for growth, helping to foster increased sales and ultimately, profit.

It is evident that developing a global portfolio of relevant solutions for customers through a natural extension of their existing proposition is now more important than ever before for channel companies, due to the unpredictable and constant change of customers needs and demands. Rightly so, the customer is now the most important part of your business, as they hold all the cards. The vendors can no longer dictate the rules of engagement. As a result, those channel firms who are close to their customers, continuously evolving their value proposition and embracing collaboration on a global scale are the ones that will succeed and remain relevant in tomorrow’s world.

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