We've all been there. A customer has a tight deadline. They need a whole bunch of equipment shipped across the country -- screens, media players, cables, extenders, whatever. So, we get on the phone with big, nationwide AV or IT distributor #1, only to find that some of the parts we spec'ed are out of stock. No problem, we think. We call our rep at reputable distributor #2, but learn that some of the parts are hundreds of dollars more expensive, and they don't carry one of the brands we need. With the deployment date quickly approaching and the customer getting antsy, we do what we can, invoking multiple distributors, ordering some of the parts from Amazon or Buy.com or Newegg, and even getting employees to stop by Best Buy on the way to work to make sure we have everything the project requires. There must be a better way.
Navigating the distributor labyrinth
It's amazing to me that we're in the second decade of the 21st century, and we're still forced to navigate the labyrinth that is the IT equipment distribution channel to deploy a relatively simple digital signage project. And while we do have some great relationships with companies who have come through in the clutch and proven their worth on more than one occasion, even our go-to favorites have arcane and archaic practices to follow, unwritten rules to memorize, and so, so many different forms to fill out.
I've started to wonder whether our experiences are typical of working with every distributor in the AV/IT segment, or if there's one that stands out among the rest. With that in mind, I put together a one-question poll to find out what our readers think (and my apologies for the US-centric answers). You'll be able to see the latest results right after you enter your response. If you're reading this article in a web browser, the survey should appear below. If you don't see it, simply click this link to take the survey.
Working smarter, not harder
Over the 12+ years that WireSpring has been in business, we've experimented with all kinds of things to make the logistics of digital signage deployments easier. At various times, we've controlled larger and smaller portions of our customers' supply chains to see if that would make a difference. We've also tried working with a preferred distributor to streamline our processes and gain access to cheaper and steadier inventory. But in the end, our experiments always turned out to be a wash (or worse), and we'd fall back to the standard practice of maintaining accounts with several different firms, making sure to farm out some business to all of them just to stay fresh in their minds.
That said, I'm sure that there must be things that we can improve upon, and I'm equally certain that we're not the only ones looking for a better way. So if you have a moment, please fill out the one-question survey above, and tell us about your best -- or worst -- distributor experiences in a comment below. Maybe, just maybe, we can all learn some tricks that will make working with IT distributors just a little bit less Byzantine.