It may seem counterintuitive in these tough times, but a good strategy may be to turn business away. What!?! How can that make sense? Let me explain. Every business has some things that it does well and other things not so well. Not surprisingly, the things that you do well also deliver the greatest business volume and profits.
If you and your staff install a certain technology often, say VoIP systems, you get to be pretty good at it. This means that you know how to evaluate and plan jobs in a way that anticipates issues. This, in turn, allows you to work smarter and faster.
You also know how to better estimate the job from both a time standpoint and profitability, so you are much less likely to have any surprises that delay the job or add costs for you or the customer. This translates into happy customers and repeat business. All of this means that there is less uncertainty and, most likely, your profit margins on your core services are far better than they are on occasional services.
Looking for a partner
Down the street, there are other systems integrators (you probably know who they are) and their core offerings may be different from yours, yet you still compete against them. Although counterintuitive, it may make sense to look into collaborating on bids to take advantage of each others’ strengths. Depending on the relationship you set up, you may end up giving up some of your lower margin business (or a portion of it) but you pick up projects that play to your strengths (and profitability).
Collaboration can be a great way to expand your portfolio of services without having to invest in additional staff, training and equipment with all of the associated overhead issues that accompany staff expansion. Your customers also benefit from a greater level of expertise and your partner’s efficiencies of scale.
Offer new services
Partnerships can also be a way to offer an entirely new set of services that support your core sales. Let’s say your expertise is in POS systems. Your customer is looking for a networked bar code labeling system and you have no expertise there. You have a few choices:
This will encourage your customer to think of you as their systems consultant, so they may turn to you for other projects and advice.
Partnerships can even help you expand your portfolio with entirely new, non-technical services. Many systems integrators are hesitant to offer digital signage. They have the technical networking and computer expertise to sell digital signage hardware and install a digital signage network. Yet, they don’t have the expertise or the interest in helping their customers create the graphical content for the signage pages. Although some digital signage systems make it easy to design slide templates and graphics, customers may still have special requests and want some hand holding.
A partnership with a marketing or graphic design firm can expand your offering with a whole new set of capabilities for your customers – it enables you to sell a multifaceted service that adds value and essentially gives your customers a turnkey operation. This same strategy can be effective for call center music/messaging on hold systems, meeting conference systems, Web hosting, sales automation and even knowledge management.
So, if you are thinking about how you can refresh your business and give your customers another reason to buy from you, this may be a good time to step back and assess what your strengths truly are. Then, determine if the most efficient and cost-effective way to satisfy your customers is to continue to develop needed skills in-house, or expand or enter new markets through partnerships. With the slowdown of business today, it’s time well spent that can add more to the bottom line in a shrinking market and broaden your horizons when businesses loosen their purse strings.
Mike Strand is founder and CEO of StrandVision LLC, an Internet-based subscription digital signage service that is distributed through resellers. Previously, Mike founded StrandWare, a leading bar code software and AIDC company.