In the reseller categories of last year’s Channel Awards it was something of a clean sweep for DSG. Equanet, DSG’s corporate reseller arm, won the Corporate and overall Reseller of the Year Award, while PC World Business took the SME award. This year, however, there is a lot of very strong competition.
The voting has already been very strong in all categories and the number of votes this year will exceed previous years by some distance. Resellers that are canvassing for support will need to work harder than ever to win an award.
Abdul Terry, marketing manager at Equanet, said his firm has a real fight on its hands this year because there are some very good companies on the short lists.
“Each year it gets tougher to win,” he said. “The increased competition will make it harder, but we are confident that we are talking to everyone we can from our customer base and suppliers list to encourage votes. The strength of relationships and going the extra mile for customers will make the difference.”
It is very important that resellers, as well as vendors and distributors, follow the voting rules. While canvassing for votes is perfectly valid, votes from your own company, block voting by customers or suppliers and votes from email identities that have been created for the purpose – such as Hotmail,Yahoo! and other free email addresses – will be discounted. It is also worth noting that vendors and distributors can vote for resellers, but they should vote only for one company in each category.
Evidence of over-zealous pro-activity will be taken seriously by the judges, who when they meet at the end of October to consider the voting, have the power to place the awards in the hands of the companies they feel are most deserving.
Equanet will not be the only VAR trying to draw votes from customers and the industry. Many have already been spreading the word. WStore is up for the SME award and is an old hand and past winner. It knows what is required to be in the running.
Stuart Hayward, sales director at WStore, said: “As with previous years, we will canvas votes by phone, email and our web site in the course of our regular contact with customers. Unfortunately, we are not allowed to bribe them, so we will have to rely on our good relationships and SME focus to bring in the votes that saw us win in 2004.”
Ramsac, which is in the running once again for the SME award, is also counting on its past experiences. But it is taking care to not to offend the sensibilities of either its customers or the judges.
Robert May, managing director of Ramsac, told CRN: “As soon as we heard that we had been short-listed we started our campaign of enlisting the support of clients and suppliers.”
Among other things, Ramsac is using an email system that tracks which of its customers have followed the links to the voting site. This, according to May, allows the company to encourage participation without having to nag customers who have already voted.
May added that while it is important to be careful not to turn customers off, it is also well worth asking them to vote.
“We have seen in previous years that customers love the fact that we are short-listed and there is genuine support and interest building up to the event,” he said. “Last year, I was amazed by how many customers contacted us to find out how we had got on during the big the night. It was fantastic to feel such loyalty and support.”
Blue Chip, which is also listed for the second year in succession for the SME award, has implemented an array of activities to encourage customers and suppliers to vote, according to Kate Morris, marketing manager. This includes a ‘vote now’ button on the standard company-wide email signature, e-shots, PR coverage in local media and a ‘vote now’ button on its home page.
Esteem Systems, which is up for the Corporate award this year, is using the nomination to try and encourage excitement and potential sales among its customers, according to commercial director, Alastair Kitching.
“Letting customers know about the Channel Awards is a good excuse to get in touch and see how they are,” he said. “Communication is key to our business, so talking directly to our customers helps us build relationships with our strategic partners.”
First-time entrants – and there have been lots for the 2006 awards – also understand what that they need to do to win. For example, Freedom Communications, which is listed in the Corporate category, is already on the case, said Tom Perry, the firm’s head of marketing.
“We will use our e-marketing channels and ask all of our suppliers to vote for us,” he said. “We have also created a page on our web site to promote our nomination. We hope this will result in many nominations.”
Another newcomer this year is Servo, which is on in the Services Provider short list. Like Freedom, it has already started to put plans into action to get votes.
Dionne Barlow, marketing manager at Servo, said: “We are doing lots of work with partners, suppliers and customers to ensure we get our name out there and encourage the all-important votes. Ultimately, we are happy that our customers are responding positively and genuinely wanting to vote for us based on the services we provide to them.”
The level of activity around the reseller awards is more intense than in previous years. This is a sign, according to May, that after 13 years the Awards are now being taken very seriously across the whole industry.
“CRN’s Channel Awards are the most respected in our industry,” May said. “You only have to browse the trade magazines to see how many of the advertisers proudly display their status as past winners to see how highly valued the awards are. Other magazines awards are not used in the same way, and that speaks volumes. The Channel Awards are so coveted that the contenders undoubtedly have to keep raising their game. Each year the IT ‘X factor’ has to be improved.”
The kudos that the awards now carry means that even being short-listed is valuable to the business, according to Helen Croft, marketing manager at Vistorm, a contender in the Specialist category.
“Being short-listed is a great testament to all of the hard work that the Vistorm team has put in, and to win this award would be fantastic,” Croft said.
Barlow said that the awards serve an wider purpose by promoting the whole of the IT channel, in particular the value that VARs can deliver.
“Awards such as these are an important way to promote to the industry as a whole, and show how resellers can add real business value to their customers,” she said. “Clients are looking to get the most value from their IT operation and achieve a greater return on IT investment. These Awards reflect the important role we play in working with clients to achieve those goals.”
Actually winning an award brings some very real rewards, which past winners understand only too well.
“We want to win because we want to increase our reach and strengthen our focus on SMEs,” Hayward said. “Having an award that has been voted for by customers provides us with a valuable marketing tool.”
“Being short-listed is a boost and should not be overlooked,” Terry said. “However, to win is what we want.
It would underline how we have changed our approach to benefit of customers.”
Winning can also significantly heighten a reseller’s profile in the industry. This is what Servo would like to achieve, according to Barlow.
“Winning would be an enormous boost to the whole team at Servo because this is a flagship award with a prestigious track record,” she said.
“We also see this as a chance to communicate Servo’s message more widely. It would have enormous value for our communications to prospects, existing clients and, on a corporate level, to partners and employees. To win would just be a fantastic accolade to our business.”
Winning can also give recognition to companies that deliver a very good service, but do not always get the acknowledgement they deserve, simply because their turnover with individual vendors is not big enough.
“I would also take enormous satisfaction from an SME such as Ramsac winning in a sector supplying to SMEs, rather than the prize going a larger national organisation that can clearly canvass far more votes without necessarily having such a wonderful proposition, fantastic team or such loyal client base,” May said.
Here he is likely to be echoing the sentiments of thousands of resellers that yearn for more attention and recognition from suppliers and clients for their efforts. Perhaps many more resellers should enter, if only to focus on their own qualities and achievements, and highlighting them for the attention of their partners, customers and prospects.
The Channel Awards give everyone an opportunity to win, and being a big player is no guarantee, especially in the reseller categories. When they convene again in October, the judges will consider the number of votes attracted against the size of the business and its customer base. Smaller resellers that attract a lot of votes, relative to their size, have every chance of winning. It is not all down to the number of votes you get.
MSP plans to use new acquisition to expand its security offerings
Reseller also saw its operating profit fall five per cent in its financial 2017
Wendy Bahr to bring 18-year spell at networking giant to an end
AdEPT says latest purchase will push revenue beyond £50m