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The Neglected Middle? Why the channel must be a true partner for Mid-sized Businesses

Why the channel must be a true partner for mid-sized businesses

The modern day business environment is hugely competitive, challenging and exciting. Digital disruption has given more opportunities than ever before for new market entrants and challengers – success stories can be seen everywhere from Deliveroo to Amazon. With that said, as businesses look to grow from start-up to multinational, they may find themselves stuck in the middle of a very complicated challenge, with recent research from Ricoh suggesting that the vast majority of European Mid-sized Businesses (MSBs) are failing to reach their potential. The channel has a vital role to play in supporting MSB growth, as the strategic use of technology is crucial for these companies to secure long term success. But how can the channel ensure that it is effectively engaging Mid-sized Businesses and delivering what they need?

Understanding the landscape

To deal with MSBs effectively, it’s crucial that the European channel understands the position they are in. Recent research released by Ricoh confirmed the obstacles facing Mid-sized Businesses, with 93% of 1,650 respondents reporting barriers that prevented them from achieving their full potential. These included tricky regulation, inability to acquire top talent and – importantly – a struggle to embrace the appropriate technological solutions. Ricoh discovered that this meant the annual revenue lost by Mid-sized Business in Europe was close to £364bn – not an insubstantial sum!

The stark truth for mid-market challengers is that they can be at a distinct disadvantage in an age where digital disruption is everywhere. New technologies are providing companies with the opportunity to develop whole new services, match ever-growing consumer digital demands and even enter new markets, as well as to realise significant efficiencies within the business. MSBs often lack the agility and responsiveness of a start-up and scale of a multinational business, hampering their ability to embrace new digital technologies and realise these benefits. This is reflected in a concerning finding from Ricoh’s report, as 27% of businesses pointed to an inability to source and fund the right technology to support growth.

There is a clear and valuable role for the channel here, in helping businesses to recognise and implement the technologies that will most benefit them. Amidst this difficult landscape though, it’s vital that the channel acts as a true partner to businesses, and develops a real understanding of each company’s needs and the solutions that can be applied.

The channel and co-creation

The channel should look to follow the principle of co-creation with its customers. Co-creating digital strategies with a technology partner can pair digital insight with a business’s understanding of its own needs, and so enable it to make the best use of new technology. One half of this approach is for the channel provider to engage fully with the customer and their business. Fujitsu, for example, provide its channel partners with access to customisable portfolios and solutions that are designed to enrichen the customer’s interaction within the business. This approach allows Fujitsu’s channel partners – irrespective of the size of the company – to interact more fully with their customers and so separate themselves above the competition.

The second part of this approach is the channel provider having a deep understanding of the technology available and how it may be applied. At Fujitsu, our SELECT training program provides the necessary training to channel partners about the products available to meet businesses’ varying needs. The balance of professional knowledge and technology driven ideas enables them to meet the needs of their customers.

Technologies are changing, perhaps more rapidly than ever before and as such, it’s crucial that the channel keeps up with its customers’ changing requirements and the solutions that can service them. As the channel industry progresses into 2017 traditional business models will rapidly transform into a service centric approach. Thus, it’s even more important to create relationships with the customer that isn’t just about selling a product, but includes on-going assistance and maintenance. Customers don’t want to just buy a product but crave a long-standing service that continuously adds value and can quickly adapt to deal with any problem.

In this landscape of digital disruption, agility is emerging as a defining quality for achieving success. Start-ups and small businesses are sometimes more agile in their adoption of new digital technologies, as they don’t have to contend with legacy systems or implement change on a larger scale. Executives at Mid-sized Businesses should aim to adopt this agile mentality and promote a culture that embraces strategic change. Channel partners should also look to mirror and support this approach, be ready to adapt to new business needs and emerging technologies, and update their offering to the customer accordingly.

Conclusion

The value of MSBs in Europe is clear. As Ricoh’s research found, they make up 2% of Europe’s business, but return a vast 30% of all revenue. But because of their position in the ‘neglected middle’, MSBs can struggle to make the best use of technologies, which in the future will result in them being left behind by more agile competition. There is a great opportunity for the channel to act as a true strategic partner for MSBs, by truly understanding and adapting to their needs. However, this requires the channel to engage fully with its customers, on an ongoing basis, and to fully understand the technology solutions that are available. At Fujitsu, we aim to provide our channel partners with everything they need for this, so that they and their MSB customers can thrive in this new challenging landscape.

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