Cutting Complexity: D&H Helps Partners Build Solid Solutions For SMB Customers

D&H Distributing is evolving its offerings with an eye toward best-in-class solutions as SMB customers move from single products -- and single vendors -- to the kind of solutions that solve their increasingly complex IT challenges.

D&H is unique among the major distributors in that its primary market focus is the SMB end user and the resellers that support them, said Tim Billing, vice president of vendor management and purchasing for the Harrisburg, Pa.-based company.

"Our vendor partners really see D&H as the preferred distributor to support SMBs," Billing told CRN. "The majority of our competitors really look to go more midmarket. We fully believe there are significant opportunities for us to work proactively and strategically with our vendor partners to support the SMB market."

Rich McDaniel, executive vice president and chief technology officer of Dynamic Computer Solutions of Topeka, said D&H's solutions-focused programs have directly helped his business.

McDaniel pointed to the HERO (Heighten and Elevate Revenue Opportunity) program D&H introduced last summer with Hewlett Packard Enterprise as a prime example. D&H, through the HERO program, eliminates the need for partners to invest tens of thousands of dollars at one time to bring new HPE solutions to clients, McDaniel told CRN.

"We don't have a procurement officer who specializes in these kinds of programs but D&H partners with us to help us get HPE training and support through HERO," he said. "I could have had my guys spending hours and hours researching this. But with D&H, we get the contacts we need and get quick responses."

Another solution provider, Troxell, has benefited for years from the expertise D&H brings to its education business.

Will Stone, an account executive for Phoenix-based Troxell, said D&H has the brand experts and solutions that make a big difference for smaller partners in the education market, which is the solution provider's primary vertical.

"D&H has brand experts who know the education product lines backward and forward, for any use," Stone told CRN. "Just specify the topic, and they'll provide the information, the white papers or videos or other support we need to close the business."

D&H differentiates itself with the solutions, services and support it offers, and scales to meet the needs of thousands of resellers and regional SMB channel partners, Billing said. Those solutions focus on key areas such as security, collaboration, wireless networking, professional A/V, and server and storage infrastructure, he said.

The company also looks at vertical markets including health care, government and education.

"The infrastructure that is required by D&H to support the SMB market is, I would argue, very different from what is required by our competitors, who are much more focused on serving the midmarket side," he said.

D&H's strategy includes services as well, Billing said. While midrange and enterprise solution providers typically have in-house services capabilities, SMB-focused channel partners can rely on D&H to provide end-to-end service and support structures for them to deliver solutions, he said.

That includes training on the technologies the distributor supports, enablement strategies, marketing support through D&H partner services programs, and support to deliver cloud-based and Device-as-a-Service solutions, he said.

These could be single-vendor solutions such as SMB Mesh Wi-Fi solutions based on either the HPE OfficeConnect OC20 802.11ac -- which clusters up to eight access points -- or Cisco Meraki with a cloud-based controller that can be managed via the internet.

These also could be multivendor solutions featuring best-in-class products, Billing said. That adds complexity, which is mitigated with help from D&H. "Being able to integrate those technologies and solutions together is part of the services that we provide," he said.

Increasingly, D&H's solutions feature some type of consumable model as a way to help SMB customers reduce overall IT expenditures while providing the opportunity to manage those infrastructures, said Donny Lu, senior vendor business manager for D&H's HPE business.

That consumable model could include cloud-based or flexible capacity-based consumption, with billing based on overall use, Lu said. "We look at it as a consumer model that allows [customers] to consume IT more simplistically at a lower cost," he said.

As partners embrace such consumable models, D&H is offering flexible financial alternatives that give SMB partners a choice of a Capex-based solutions model or monthly recurring expenses to support their business, Lu said.

The SMB market is adapting to new delivery models at a fast pace, making this D&H's fastest-growing business segment, Lu said. "And the cost of ownership continues to decline as well," he said. "It's really the foundation of our business today and fueling the aggressive quarter-over-quarter growth that we are seeing as a company."

D&H also is seeing a huge shift in its SMB partner base toward managed services and is helping partners choose the right MSP model for their business, according to Lu.

He cited as an example life-cycle management of IT equipment as part of an overall SMB solution. Lu said partners can offer customers a consumption-based solution, remove and recycle old equipment in a compliance-friendly fashion to provide part of the required funding, and then add data analytics and data intelligence to reduce their total cost of ownership and manage their customer experience.

"We're helping MSPs morph to a hybrid model [because] it's a model that they can use to support users' needs and challenges from an IT perspective," he said.

D&H has a number of ways to help partners bring services to customers, including while-label services that partners can offer under their own brands, Lu said. The distributor also offers scope-of-work services to provide support around implementation, installation, rack-and-stack, and so on, he said.

In addition, D&H offers cloud services such as the Microsoft Azure Stack for cloud service providers, edge-to-edge life-cycle management with a consumable model, Device-as-a-Service on a monthly payment basis, and such enablement services as pre-sales, post-sales and technical training, Lu said.

D&H is seeing rapid adoption of cloud services as part of its SMB solutions, but Device-as-a-Service is still in the early stage, Billing said. The company in early April launched a program focused on Device-as-a-Service, which lets partners deliver a suite of client devices with multiyear life-cycle agreements across a variety of vendors. "As our OEM partners and D&H offer solutions around [Device-as-a-Service], and we educate and promote those services to our reseller customers, you'll see adoption start to increase," he said.

D&H also brings custom marketing services to solution providers, who themselves are often small businesses without their own marketing capabilities, Billing said.

As part of that, according to Lu, D&H is looking at how it can provide a digital transformation template to its partners to help them better take advantage of digital marketing tools and move beyond traditional print-focused marketing.

"At the end of the day, not everybody is good at marketing," he said. "We have to help partners with marketing, various content creation solutions, and different go-to-market activities to build that image of themselves as the preferred choice of IT outsourcing."

This includes helping partners move into digital marketing, Lu said. "Shifting into the digital marketing area is a key focus of ours as well, whether it's leveraging our web services or whether it's leveraging social media to reach our resellers and provide some guidance for them to reach new potential customers," he said.

Spearheading D&H's digital marketing and custom marketing efforts is Tina Fisher, executive director of the distributor's vendor management and commercial team, who works with business managers like Lu to help vendors build end-to-end plans as part of their go-to-market strategies.

Those will often be single-vendor solutions but are more often becoming complete multivendor solutions, Fisher told CRN.

"Some of the vendors want to start within their own world," she said. "But I think they quickly realize that resellers need a multivendor solution. And it's good for everyone involved."

Most of D&H's vendors have developed strategic partnerships and alliances, and D&H has strategic partnerships with the IT industry's top vendors including Microsoft, Intel and AMD, making it easier to build multivendor solutions, Billing said. "We have a very robust line card that includes the technology to support a multivendor-type solution," he said. "In today's world, if you are going to market with a single-vendor solution, you may be stuck on an island a little bit. It's very important for us to have a very well-rounded solution that includes best-of-breed products."

D&H invests heavily in pre-sales training to ensure it can bring those multivendor solutions to its channel partners, including training inside D&H through its solution labs as well as webinars and other presentations, Fisher said.

"You see us getting out there more and more working with not only our sales rep enablement, but also the customer enablement," she said.