Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Do suppliers want to go out of business?

The onrushing cloud behemoth seems destined to sweep many legacy IT suppliers aside, at least if you believe the pundits.

However, it's not just down to the (often imagined) inherent superiority of cloud computing. In many cases, IT suppliers have only themselves to blame.

Now, I have no business training, but even I can understand that making it easy for customers to buy your stuff is probably a good idea.

It's clear, though, that many companies obviously don't want to sell me stuff.

Starting with a website. That's what you do now. In the old days you might have gone to a trade show or looked in a magazine, and ended up with a brochure. No more - if I want product details, I'll look at your website. If your product details are sketchy, non-existent, out of date, inconsistent, vaporware, and generally devoid of technical content, then I'll look elsewhere. If you want me to register to view your technical documentation - even something as simple as the prerequisite system requirements - then I'll likely look elsewhere. If it's impossible to even guess what ballpark your prices are in, then I'll assume I can't afford it.

Then, please tell me how to buy the stuff. If you have resellers, have a list. Make sure that your resellers have actually heard of you. And keep that list up to date and accurate. If you sell direct, say so.

And last, but certainly not least, if a potential customer emails you - either direct or via that stupid form on your website that has a little postage stamp sized box to put the query in - showing an interest in buying your stuff, actually show some interest in selling your product. Answer the email, at the very least. Do it promptly. Do it accurately.

Looking for products recently, many supplier websites simply fail, completely. In some cases, there's a confusingly jumbled list of products that you have to visit individually to work out if they meet your requirements. Other times, they've decided to randomly segment their offerings into neat customer buckets, so I have to trawl through all their sections to find the product I want. One site had a useful handy product chart - with no hyperlinks, and listing a number of models that didn't exist as far as I can tell. Being forced to use a search engine to navigate a supplier's site is not without its problems - often you land on old pages with no indication whether the product is even current.

I've been trying to get a number of quotes recently. Maybe a third of suppliers and/or manufacturers are pretty good (thank you to all of you, by the way). Another third have such a dismal web presence that they're clearly not fit for the 21st century, so why would I even think of using them? The remaining third have simply ignored all attempts to contact them. Given how difficult it is for IT companies to survive in the current rapidly changing and highly competitive landscape, it staggers me what a poor job so many companies are doing.

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