Strong OEM/ODM Relationships

The benefits, although sometimes hidden, are powerful.

Today’s fast-paced and rapidly evolving AV/IT world encompasses many different market verticals across a range of technologies. Although every company is different, one thing is true of them all: it’s next to impossible for most companies to do everything to keep up with the rate of change.

Company leaders make strategic choices about what to do internally or externally, and where they need help and guidance. This is where a strong partnership with an original equipment manufacturer/original design manufacturer (OEM/ODM) can offer benefits far beyond just delivering a product. So, whether you’ve worked with an OEM partner for years or are just recently considering the possibility, take a fresh look at an OEM relationship. Because here’s the bottom line: No matter how big you are, you never have enough resources. OEMs can fill in the gaps.

Leverage Available Resources To Grow

There is a range of business situations particularly suited to leverage the strengths of your OEM partner, rather than doing the heavy lifting yourself.

Here are some to consider:

Line Extensions

If you’ve been successful with a particular product category and want to extend your offering, but don’t have the internal resources for the expansion, your OEM can take an existing product and expand your offerings within that line. The beauty of an OEM is there are many ways you can work together. You can white label a stock product with your brand, or you may choose to develop a more customized solution.

Always take time to explore the R&D capabilities of your partner to be sure they are up for the challenge. There should be a strong engineering team with an emphasis on product design.

Ancillary Products

Sometimes companies do work in related industries, but need some AV/IT pieces to round out their product offering. For example, we’ve done work with a company whose core competency is developing new and creative ways to stamp out metal. They have a following across a number of industries, so as a result they developed a need for some AV/IT products related to their core business within a segment of these industries.

Are there products related to what you do that could be an extra revenue stream for your business? Consult with an OEM to guide you toward appropriate products and to advise you how best to market them to your clients.

Fill In Gaps

Fill in the gaps for your natural audience. Add incremental business where you can. There are different tiers and types of customers—some buy a lot of one SKU, and some buy multiple SKUs. Distributors and large integrators are looking for ways to have their own brand. Doing so gives companies more control over their destiny and more say in product design; plus, it builds brand awareness.

When you can develop a deep relationship with your customer, and not have to send them elsewhere for one or two things you don’t have, you build trust.

Custom Product

Marketing a custom product is sometimes simply a matter of having a great idea that needs developing. All companies have unique specialties and applications in the marketplace, and it’s not uncommon to think, “If only there were a product that does this….” Work with an ODM, who already has manufacturing capabilities in place, to make your great idea a reality.

Think Differently About Your OEM/ODM Partner

When you work every day with the same products, it’s easy to get complacent. To help you think differently, here are some good conversations to have with an OEM/ODM partner.

  • How can I embed new technologies into existing products? Look at ways to develop new related products. Next generation and improved functionality of existing products is a natural progression. A strong OEM/ODM keeps you at the cutting edge and forefront of technology, no matter what your field.
  • I’m ready to get creative with budget and bandwidth. Think outside the box—the sky is the limit. You can move into new verticals and improve your flow of information to customers with the right partner. People can use technology today in ways we never thought possible even 3 years ago, so ask your OEM/ODM how they can help.
  • Seek a relational, not a transactional, approach to the partnership. There are lots of companies that make great products. A relational partner should move beyond manufacturing capabilities to become a trusted advisor who will support you long term in other, less obvious ways. When you have a partner who intimately knows your companies and its goals, they can provide valuable guidance. Of course, you’ll want to execute an NDA first.
  • Strategize growth for the next year, three years and five years with a strong partner. Your ideal partner should be able to help you plan a growth trajectory. That means they should have strong industry knowledge across a range of disciplines and be actively involved in industry associations to keep abreast of developments.

Whether you are currently working with an OEM/ODM or it’s just something you’ve thought about, there are ways to leverage that relationship that you may not have considered. Viewing your OEM/ODM as a true partner in positioning your business for growth can be the differentiator that carries your business to the next level.

3 Critical Questions To Ask

What does your process look like? You’re looking for two things here: a partner who has a defined process that you can work within, and a partner who is flexible and will adapt to whatever your go-to-market processes are. They should be comfortable with both scenarios. If you’re new to OEM, you may work best in a defined workflow—a good OEM will lay all that out for you on the front end.

Tell me about your global team. How we will work together? With today’s global society, time zone and cultural differences can make for operational inefficiencies. This costs you both time and money. Inquire about your OEM’s support team within your geographic area—for example, can you get tech support in your own language? Can your engineers work together during normal business hours? Your partner should have a strong team in a time zone and language you can work with.

What value does an OEM bring to the relationship? Business relationships are about far more than making great products. The value beyond the products is critical. Drill down to find out what kind of technical support you will get after the sale, how easy all the team members are to work with, and whether or not this partner is committed to your long-term success. If they can help with strategy, design, planning, processes, budget and more, chances are they are the right partner for you.

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