More than a Warehouse

ADI Global Fort Worth Branch
ADI operates distribution centers and branches across North America, so dealers can carry little or no inventory. (Image credit: ADI Global)

In today’s hyper-competitive marketplace, AV customers want their AV distributors to put the "value" in value-added. This means providing customers with a range of services and add-ons that enhance the usefulness of the AV equipment they are buying—and give them the knowledge to get the most out of it. Thankfully, many Pro AV distributors understand what this term means and do their best to deliver.

Beyond Equipment

ADI Global Distribution offers a number of value-added services to its customers. For example, ADI has a systems design team that helps design, spec, and quote projects for its clients, said Cynthia Menna, vice president and general manager for AV.

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“Through our Herman Integration Services, we provide subcontracted AV labor services that includes trained and industry-certified technicians, project managers, programmers, and engineers,” she explained. “Our Project Registration program allows dealers to gain discounts from industry-leading suppliers to help win new AV and security installations. And ADI offers custom cabling assemblies for multiple applications, including fiber optic, category copper cable, audio/video, and telephone cable assemblies. “

Sandi Stambaugh, TD SYNNEX

Sandi Stambaugh, TD SYNNEX

(Image credit: TD SYNNEX)

“If you combine the complexity this market expectation presents with the competitive landscape integrators are facing today, the ability to consolidate procurement and to streamline back-office operations becomes a necessity.”

For Broadfield Distributing, putting the value in value-added means providing its customers with technical support and advice before and after the sale. The company's sales engineering team includes experts with industry certifications from Avid, NewTek, and Quantum, among others. “We can help our system integrators and value-added resellers spec out the most advanced systems for live production and streaming, filmmaking, and media storage needs,” added Glen Seaman, Broadfield’s director of sales engineering.

This access to subject matter experts and their knowledge is of great value to Stephen Rapanaro, senior account manager with T2 Computing and one of Broadfield’s customers. “It helps us navigate the difficult waters of manufacturers and their processes in ordering, as most of them do not work directly with end users,” he said.

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Starin takes a similar wide-ranging approach to value-added services, bundled under its "Mi" product banner. “Mi Design is a system and template design service, and Mi Tech is pre-sale technical support,” explained Brendan Crise, Starin’s vice president of marketing. “Mi Finance offers a variety of financing options. As well, Starin also offers project registration, demos, and a 'Try It to Like It’ program to allow our customers to try a product and demo it to the end user.”

TD SYNNEX has extensive services as well. "In addition to offering our customers AV equipment from our 16 logistics centers across the U.S., TD SYNNEX offers a whole host of pre and post-sale services,” said Sandi Stambaugh, senior vice president of vendor management. “From design services, BOM [Bill of Materials] creation, project management, installation, integration, and concierge services, our certified TD SYNNEX team is here to extend or enhance the offerings of our customer partners. For customers looking for support beyond AV, TD SYNNEX has dedicated teams of experts in technologies such as data center, network security, cloud, IoT, AI, mobility, and more.”

According to Dan Smith, executive vice president and COO, Exertis Almo, distributors often serve a “back office” role for a lot of systems integrators. Plus, distributors like Exertis Almo do not work directly with end users; instead, its services allow integrators to offer new and ongoing revenue streams.

Distributor services are “absolutely critical" for integrators to augment service gaps, particularly for large, national, or time-sensitive deployments. “Our goal isn’t to just sell product and move on—it’s to enable our integration partners to create thriving, profitable businesses,” explained Smith. “We are a dedicated alliance of full-time experts that work in concert to review the market and select the best vendors and products. We become experts on those technologies and where they are used. We integrate design, revenue-generating services, technical support, compatible bundles, educational opportunities, and so much more.”

Continuing Education

In today’s ever-changing AV world, continuing education is a must for AV customers. The move from the dedicated, distinct AV hardware of yesterday to the software-based, IT-centric AV technology of today represents a textbook paradigm shift for AV integrators and end users. Education helps integrators keep up with the times—and stay commercially viable.

Value-added distributors are stepping up to fill the education gap for their customers. For example, Broadfield hosts a weekly webinar series exclusively for dealers every Thursday at 1 p.m. ET at “We also offer more in-depth and personalized training sessions with our vendors to introduce new products and technology,” noted Jim Bask, Broadfield’s vice president of marketing.

Broadfield Liquid Lunch and Learn

Broadfield offers weekly webinars for dealers, as well as other training opportunities. (Image credit: Broadfield)

Starin is a big proponent of continuing education for its AV customers, and backs up its commitment with a selection of training options. “From easy web resources and experiences to our Town Halls, where integrators and end users alike are encouraged to engage with our vendor partners and specialists with real questions, we strive to provide content in formats that are both relevant and timely,” Crise said. “Our staff is ready to guide anyone through our resources as needed, with quick and easy access to both specialists and solutions.”

“ADI offers numerous training opportunities through our ADI Expo training series, branch and counter days, online webinar series, and our on-demand ADI Academy training platform,” Menna said. “Whether in person or online, dealers can take advantage of these opportunities to learn about the latest technologies, enhance their business skills, and earn Continuing Education Units [CEUs].”

As for TD SYNNEX? “Through our learning management software platform, customers access on demand, vendor-specific, solutions oriented, vertical market, industry certification, and professional development classes,” replied Stambaugh. “For customers looking for hands-on training, TD SYNNEX holds more than 1,000 regional and national events annually, with concentration around vendor certification, technology solution, vertical market application, and customer specialization.”

Consolidation Advantages

When an AV distributor is consolidated, it means that they offer a full range of AV products, allowing customers to buy all of it from this one source. This provides the customer with real value, because they don’t have to waste time shopping around. It also ensures a uniform, predictable product delivery schedule, as well as consistent service and end-to-end support for installations.

“Consolidation with expertise is where the real value comes in,” offered Crise. “As complex systems or compatibility questions arise, having distributor teams who can catch mistakes on large orders saves our customers time. There is nothing worse than finding out there is a compatibility problem onsite. Consolidated buying with us is a ‘last set of eyes’ that can sometimes help solve problems before they become costly.”

“We live in a world where consumer experience is driving the need for connected, cohesive, and immersive experiences,” Stambaugh added. “If you combine the complexity this market expectation presents with the competitive landscape integrators are facing today, the ability to consolidate procurement and to streamline back-office operations becomes a necessity.”

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Working with a single AV distributor also simplifies all stages of the equipment procurement process, from credit options and ensuring access to inventory to delivery scheduling, training, and after-sales service/support. A case in point: “ADI operates 110+ branches and 10 strategically located distribution centers across North America, and our in-stock inventory levels allow dealers to carry little or no local inventory,” Menna said. “In addition, some of our customers do not maintain a warehouse and prefer to buy per job to help improve their cash flow."

James Careless

James Careless is an award-winning freelance journalist with extensive experience in audio-visual equipment, AV system design, and AV integration. His credits include numerous articles for Systems Contractor News, AV Technology, Radio World, and TV Tech, among others. Careless comes from a broadcasting background, with credits at CBC Radio, NPR, and NBC News. He currently co-produces/co-hosts the CDR Radio podcast, which covers the Canadian defense industry. Careless is a two-time winner of the PBI Media Award for Excellence.