Identify AND Own Your Company Brand and Label
As technology has advanced over the years, IT channel businesses have evolved in response. Differences in hardware pricing structures, software delivery, business models, and more have forced IT channel companies to adapt. In the midst of this rampant channel change, an interesting phenomenon has occurred: Businesses are uncertain about what to call themselves.
Instead of the legacy classifications of “value-added reseller (VAR)” or “systems integrator,” many of today’s channel companies may refer to themselves as “technology solution providers,” “strategic service providers,” “managed service providers,” “cloud service providers” — and the list goes on.
Plus, not every channel company settles on just one label. Many refer to themselves as “hybrid” businesses, focusing on both break-fix and managed services, for example, or telecom services and cloud solutions. You may even encounter channel chameleons that define their businesses differently depending on the situation or who they are talking to.
If your company is struggling to put your finger on exactly where you fall on the spectrum of IT channel businesses, it could be indicative of a bigger problem: a weak brand identity.
Help Customers Understand Who You Are
If you once had a cut-and-dried view of your company but have lost some of that focus as you adapted to keep up with change over time, it’s a good idea to reconsider your current business identity and develop a clear way of describing your business. A good place to start is with how you want customers and prospects to recognize it. Your goal should be to clearly communicate that your business provides a relevant solution or service to your target market. Some good examples are “cloud services provider for manufacturers,” “point of sale services and solutions provider,” and “supply chain and mobility solutions provider.”
A word of caution: Don’t categorize your business by a term just because it seems to be trending. Don’t market your business as a managed services provider if you’re primarily a break-fix VAR. It’s a mistake that gives the impression your business has capabilities that it doesn’t. Make sure you can meet the expectations you set.
Another mistake is attempting to find a term that applies both when you’re building your brand as well as when you partner with a vendor or distributor. They will most likely be different terms.
Keep Vendor and Distributor Terms in Perspective
You may have settled on the term “cloud services provider for manufacturers” for branding purposes and to position yourself to prospective customers, but from the perspective of most vendor partners, you are probably still considered a VAR or MSP. It’s vital to define your role in the partnership with a vendor or distributor as accurately as possible, but you often get just a few acronyms to choose from. The better your vendors know you, the more well-positioned they are to serve you. So, if asked to identify your business, help the vendor understand where you’d land if you had to pick from the few categories they offer but don’t limit yourself to that role in your market. Your prospects may not be searching for an “MSP,” so don’t feel like you have to use that term when you’re talking to them. They’re trying to identify a business that can meet their needs, and vendor labels won’t convince them.
Highlight Your True Identity
Coming up with the appropriate label for your company may require many internal meetings and debates, and it can be tempting to just choose a simple term assigned to you by a vendor or distributor. Beware of this temptation. There’s too much at stake. Describe your business in a way that reflects how it meets specific business needs and can offer real value to your customers and prospects. Your business’ true brand identity should be based on the solutions and services you provide your market, rather than on broad and somewhat outdated category names that make you sound just like any other company.