The Internet is merely the latest in black art technology, surrounded by techspeak, just like accounting and networking before it. Resellers that have invested time, and not a great deal of cash, in understanding the Internet have given themselves a modern differentiator from 'normal' resellers by embracing this new technology, and are currently enjoying increased trading margins.
Fifteen years ago smart resellers made good margins by being the first to be able to sell and install accounting packages - any of you remember paying upfront fees to accounting software companies, just for the right to resell the software? Now vendors such as Sage have made it so that all resellers can sell the software. Similarly with networking, remember all the authorisation levels you had to clear before you could even purchase the components? Any reseller now without networking expertise is way behind the curve.
The point I'm trying to make is that this is just another round in getting ahead of the game. As a reseller you will be aware of customers you have won or lost depending upon where your skills set stood at the time. If you have the expertise to provide Internet services now you can win customers away from your competitors, whereas in time, without Internet skills, you will surely lose your customers to competitors with the Internet skillsets.
So what investment levels are required? First, get on the Internet - startup kits are numerous and inexpensive - and find your way around, see what customers and competitors are already doing. Second, learn how to create home pages and links - again starting with your own company.
The software that enables you to do this is now freely available and generally sub #100. Reviews of these packages are freely available in the Internet magazines.
Go to the Internet shows. Pre-registration generally assures free entrance, if not, find an exhibitor that you do business with and get them to send you a complimentary pass. Just as you would with networking shows, check out the major players and then go and find out what else is on offer that you can use to differentiate your services from that of your competitors.
Examples of this would be ongoing maintenance of your customers' Web sites, creation of an online catalogue so that your customers can sell off the Web - quality software is now available to make this process relatively straightforward - lead tracking from the Web, creating intranets and installing firewalls.
How much business is out there? According to Compuserve, there are 500,000 users in the UK, growing to 2 million in two years' time. The Global figure, according to Durlacher, is that there will be 200 million users by 2002.
Like networking, the sector will continue to grow as more technology becomes available at a price that customers will pay. Already clued-in Internet users are using Internet phones to make long-distance phone calls for the price of local calls. Businesses are sure to follow, and quality video - easily available on the Web - is just around the corner.
So what is the first stage? Read this new magazine from cover to cover, become familiar with the jargon, and make the small investments suggested earlier.
If you missed out on the early margins resellers made in accounting and networking, this is your best chance for years to come and play catch up.
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