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The Great Office Supplies Caper

The Digital Solution for Transforming my Office Products Business!

by Ian M. Elliott | 3/15/17 7:58 AM

Resilience and creative thinking are pre-requirements for a small office products reseller contemplating a path toward a digital business transformation. The stakes are high! Without digitization, the future for small independents is bleak. With it, comes a ticket to enter a $20 billion growth opportunity!

In this story of our Amarillo-based office products reseller, we've taken you through the digital self-assessment, the planning and goal-setting and, finally, the budgeting. These steps demonstrated there's no silver-bullet solution and they helped illustrate why most small businesses have failed to make progress down the digital transformation path.

In this, the last of the four parts of our story, we'll take you through the final stages of our reseller's evaluation process. We'll see how the issues were broken down into a series of smaller, more manageable steps and learn how our reseller was able to reduce both the risk and the amount of investment capital required, to deploy and utilize a digital platform.

The Story (Cont'd):

"We've been on quite a journey! All the way from the initial assessment of our (lack of) digital capabilities, creation of a transformation plan, developing a budget to learn just how much it was going to cost and then, disappointingly, arriving at the conclusion the costs and risks involved to execute the plan, were outside our budget and risk tolerance.

As you may recall, despite the investment and risk roadblocks, I felt it was important not to abandon the initiative, and decided to start looking around to find a partner to help us get into digital marketing.

My first step was to revisit the evaluation document and scope out what I believe to be the essential platform components before we can start down this path.

  • Upgraded website
  • Optimized Social Media Accounts
  • CRM Software
  • Email database & campaign management system
  • Blogging platform

These are my minimum requirements for us to make a start and to build the foundation for all our future marketing. To accomplish this, I'm earmarking $7,500 of the overall budget of $37,500 to use to get the platform established. I know each of these individual components are readily available but it's really outside our skill set to put them together so, I'd like to explore availability of a bundled "turnkey" service that fulfills our requirements.

Once our platform is established the table below shows what I'd like to plan for our recurring weekly content creation, curation, and distribution:

Content Plan
Content Per Week Per Year
Blogs Published 2 104
Email Blasts 2 104
Social Messages 30 1,560


At this stage, I'm just assuming our up-front investment will provide us with a platform that allows us to make sense of the data and the interactions we'll be hoping to get from our efforts. Without it, we're not going to have the ability to determine what's working and what isn't or, just as importantly, to be able to act on the anticipated interactions.

However, even if I can get our platform set up for only $7,500, and although that will leave us with $30,000 to spend creating and publishing content over the two-year plan, that's only a budget of $1,250 per month. Unfortunately, we're not going to get the volume and the quality of content we want from such a modest budget.

I'm willing to think about front-loading the budget but, even if I raised it to $2,000 a month for 12 months (eating up 80% of the 2-year budget), it wouldn't be sufficient to fund the amount of content I think we need, and it would leave us with a major shortfall for the second year.

So, encountering this latest roadblock is leading me to the possibility of an alternative approach. Instead of front-loading the plan, I'm starting to think it may make more sense to do just the opposite and back-load it.

Thinking about executing the plan, we know we need a new platform and I'm realizing we're not going to know how to use it most effectively on day one. It's going to take time to get everything setup and time to learn how to use it.

For now, I'm going to assume coming up that learning curve will take us six months. Maybe, for these first few months, it's better for us to focus on fixing our website, cleaning up our social media accounts, starting to figure out how to expand and engage with our social audience, and to plan our email campaign strategy, than it is to churn out expensive blog content before we're ready.

As you already know, I don't like our existing website but, at least it has a fair amount of content we could probably re-purpose to get us going with some initial blogging material. Also, our vendors have educational content relating to their products and services which I'm sure they'll make available to us to further supplement our content library.

This alternative approach would mean that, instead of investing $2,000 a month from day one, we'd only spend $500 for each of the first six months. This would mean that I'd have 90% of the content budget ($27,000) remaining six months into execution. By that time, I figure, I'll also be more likely to know just what to spend that remaining budget on!

It's been a laborious process, but, finally, the first step I must take toward a digital business transformation, has gradually crystallized! All I need is to deploy a platform with the capabilities to blog, publish to social media, launch email campaigns, record visitor activity and, have it all underpinned with an upgraded website that's fully integrated with our product catalog and shopping cart and, we're off to the races!

My expectations for results are realistic. We know we're never going to be a national brand with millions of site visitors. We know, digitally enabling our business is not going to be a silver-bullet solution and, we know a transformation is going to be hard work. However, if we can accomplish this, I think we'll have an edge over the big guy's as we leverage our personal service in our local market. We've been here a long time, people know us and they trust us. Our value proposition has deteriorated over the years because we haven't kept up with technology but, I believe we can fix that and get ourselves back in the driving seat."

OP Resellers Digital Transformation Timeline_3.png

We're going to leave our story on this upbeat note. Although our reseller hasn't located the partner he'd like to work with for the digital solution, he now knows what he's looking for and has developed a more manageable execution path. The risks have been reduced and the budget appears to be sufficient to make a decent start. He's going to face a steep learning curve and the partner selection is likely to be a major component in determining whether he's successful with his transformation efforts.


Here, at E and S Solutions, we think there's still a positive outlook for office supplies dealerships and their office products business, especially if they focus on high-quality aftermarket office supplies as the lead component of their value proposition. Despite the global stampede to digitization, there's no reason why small business and sales channel development can't successfully go hand-in-hand.

For office products resellers interested in how we may be able to help with a digital business transformation, please click on the button below to choose a time slot that fits your calendar as well as ours to schedule your personal "no obligation" consultation.

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Topics: Business Transformation

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