Packaging Can Pay Off for Resellers

Resold services need to go beyond mere rebranding.

In recent years, more resellers have latched on to the concept of offering managed services in addition to their traditional integration and support.

The main draw is the potential for an ongoing revenue stream from service customers as well as higher revenue per customer. Managed services are not just a business opportunity but a matter of survival for resellers battling shrinking margins and competition from online retailers.

But some resellers offer only someone elses managed service and sell it only occasionally as an add-on item. Efforts to customize the service end at rebranding, so it doesnt offer a particular differentiator for the reseller. The managed service may be loosely tied to the resellers core business, if at all.

Softchoice, a technology supplier, discovered that managed services require a bit of packaging. About two years ago, the reseller launched an asset analysis service called LiveInventory.

The service failed to take off initially, although it offered customers the ability to rapidly discover its population of servers, desktops, notebooks and other computing tools. The companys response was to wrap additional services around LiveInventory.

For example, Softchoice now offers TechCheck, an asset management service that compares a customers existing IT policies with a baseline inventory that shows where things actually stand. The inventory is generated via LiveInventory.

As part of TechCheck, Softchoice helps its customers through a gap analysis that identifies risks and recommends solutions to address any shortcomings. In a similar fashion, Softchoice has built a licensing compliance service around LiveInventory.

Customers find those types of services compelling, according to Edwin Jansen, corporate marketing manager at Softchoice.

"Its not just rebranding," Jansen said. "You have to make an investment in that service."

It also helps if the service can be connected to the resellers "unique value," said Jansen. He looked at the possibility of providing security and systems management managed services, but those were deemed to fall outside the companys core value proposition, he said.

On the other hand, Softchoice could more readily draw the line of logic between the asset management service and its role in identifying and removing risk from a customers procurement process.

"We look at managed services to create a stronger differentiator and provide more value to the equation," Jansen said.

Resellers should consider such factors as the managed-services companys financial situation and channel model, Jansen noted.

Softchoice demonstrates the possibilities of retooling a service that many other companies could potentially sell into a point of differentiation. Its a transformation that takes more time and effort than slapping a clever name on a service.

But if youre going to build the kind of ongoing relationship a managed service requires, the results justify the investment.

John Moore is a columnist with Ziff Davis Internet.