WHAT IF A TRADE GROUP could more directly convey the wants and needs of VARs in the SMB channel to the distributors supplying them? What products, services, and programs would develop that might benefit all parties?
Harrisburg, Pa.-based D&H Distributing Co., which asked itself those questions in 2017, subsequently approached IT membership organization The ASCII Group about collaborating on an “ASCII Elite” group of VARs who are both members of the trade organization and customers of D&H.
“About a year ago, they came to us about forming a D&H and ASCII ‘Elite’ committee,” recalls ASCII Chief Operating Officer Doug Young. “D&H has really spearheaded the opportunity. It’s all about getting feedback—how can D&H help [customers]?”
Partnering with D&H in particular on a venture of this sort makes especially good sense, Young adds, because it’s the most widely used distributor among ASCII Group members. “I would say probably say 75 percent have an account with D&H,” he says.
Working together, The ASCII Group helped D&H create an advisory panel of a dozen predominantly SMB solution providers tasked with helping D&H discover ways of enhancing its support and customer experience. The group convenes quarterly, with additional communication as needed, to discuss real-world needs and challenges in the channel with D&H executives.
“The ASCII leadership team helped us select providers from around the country,” says Peter DiMarco, D&H Distributing’s vice president of VAR sales.
“I think we have such a diverse array of members from all over the country,” ASCII’s Young says. “They’re all going to have different opinions about what their needs are based on where they’re located. The needs of someone in a major city [are] going to be different from someone in a smaller town.”
One of the selected providers was Manheim, Pa.-based TCW Computer Systems. The company’s sales manager, Ryan Bowman, is eager to participate in the advisory group, but hasn’t brought along any preconceived agendas or ideas.
“The only thing that is a recurring theme for me,” Bowman says, “is that at industry events the businesses servicing the needs of the small businesses are largely overlooked. A lot of the content and information is not tailored to us.”
For the group’s first meeting, ASCII Elite members will discuss their business and market challenges as well as thoughts about cloud, security, digital signage, and other solutions. Training needs will also be covered.
According to Young, The ASCII Group is open to creating similar advisory groups with other distributors or vendors.
“We would consider it,” he says. “It’s great when any vendor or distributor listens to feedback from customers.”