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View from the Hill - #5

Why are most* Sun resellers invisible on the web?

  • is it because they think that web technology is something which is only good for their customers?
  • are they useless at marketing? or,
  • are they intimidated by competing with Sun's web site?

*excludes companies already listed on this site


In the first half of 2003, approximately 15% of US Sun VARs went out of business.
February 2000:- This is a column by Zsolt Kerekes publisher of the SPARC Product Directory.
See also:- article:- Celebrating the Work of the Independent Sun VARs
article:- the Top #10 SPARC Manufacturers
article:- Data Recovery for Sun Servers
article:- Should Sun, Apple and Red Hat form an anti-Microsoft Marketing Alliance?SPARC Resellers in the USA, SPARC Resellers in the UK, other SPARC articles, SPARC - news, articles

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My view, based on years of research is:-

Yes, most Sun resellers are indeed useless at marketing, and don't realise how difficult they make it for potential customers to find them. But let's not forget the "paralysis by analysis" factor. If you see Sun's web site every day, you may mistakenly believe that your new site has to have all those features... That ain't necessarily so...
More views from the hill...

I meant to start this article with a more controversial statement, such as "If you own shares in a Sun reseller organization which is not listed in the SPARC Product Directory, then maybe you should sell them now, unless you believe that the business strategy of being invisible to most Sun users is a good idea."

That's because if they aren't listed in this directory, then they are even less likely to be listed anywhere else. FYI - all Sun resellers get free links in this directory if either:-

  • we find their web site. This is proactive research (we spend thousands of hours every year searching for new suppliers)
  • they find our web site, and fill in their geographic location (country and state) and web address in the add url form. That's not too diificult, and companies get added typically within 1 or 2 days.

Before going any further, I'd just like to say:-

  • The easier it is for you as a reader to find more resellers, the more you can benefit from:- choosing a supplier with a more convenient location, or a better product range, or a lower price.
  • Manufacturers have diverse policies about publishing lists if their own resellers. Some do make these publicly available. Most don't. Sun Microsystems seems to have a policy which varies from country to country. But Sun is not in the business of helping its competitors, so even where they do make this kind of information available, it typically excludes a significant number of companies which sell compatible products made by competing oem's. Another reason that manufacturers don't like publishing reseller lists, is because that makes it easy for their own competitors to target and poach their best customers. As a publisher, our interest is to try to include as many companies as possible so that our own product (this directory) is bigger and better.
  • I do have interests in some marketing training companies (my wife runs one, and works for several others) but they get more than enough business from across the whole spread of IT manufacturers and resellers, and don't need my help to drum up business. Feedback from that quarter would suggest that resellers in all segments of the computer market are equally good or bad at marketing, so perhaps I'm being unfair at focusing on the Sun segment. But that's the one I know best. So here goes...
  • 10 years ago, when I was a marketing manager in a Sun reseller company, I too, was completely clueless about most things to do with marketing, having started my career as a techie. I wasn't concerned about my ignorance then, and most marketers today probably aren't concerned about their ignorance either, because when you're seeing phenomenal growth occurring in your own customer base, you don't have to be very good (at marketing) to survive (or even thrive).

First I'd like to quantify what percentage of Sun resellers you can actually find on this web site, compared to the estimated number of such companies in the market. This is to support my statement that most of them are "invisible on the web".

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SPARC Resellers in the UK SPARC Resellers in the USA SPARC manufacturers
# of companies listed in the
SPARC Product Directory
February 15, 2000
71 230 194
# of companies in this category estimated total* 450 650 200**
Percentage of companies which are not listed 84% missing*** 65% missing*** 3% missing***
* we've been researching the SPARC systems market since 1991, and in the days before the web we used to sell our worldwide database of SPARC resellers. So part of our estimate is based on hard verifiable data about companies which are this market, and which do not, as far as we know, have web sites. Other data comes from other market sources we have spoken to about the size of this market. Our definition of a SPARC reseller in this context is a business which primarily says SPARC hardware which is made by somebody else. This definition excludes companies which are Independent Software Vendors, who sometimes sign up as resellers, but don't actively sell systems to anyone else. For example we would not classify Oracle Corp as a SPARC reseller.
** our manufacturer database is focused on the USA and Europe. It may accidentally exclude some oem's which only market in other regions. That's simply because we don't have the language skills internally to reliably research and capture all these other companies.
*** companies are not listed if:- they don't have a web site we can find, or if they do have a web site which is difficult to find but have not taken the trouble to add their url to this site

If anyone has any better market size data than the table above, just contact me. If my market sizes are too small, I'll be delighted to learn that the SPARC systems market is actually bigger. But that also makes the percentage of missing companies bigger as well...

So why are most SPARC resellers so shy about promoting themselves on the web? The cost for being added to this site is free, and even very small low-tech, and no-tech companies seem to have no problems with setting up web sites in other markets...

Let's look at it from their point of view.

  • 1996 - they start thinking about setting up a web site... But decide to wait, because not enough customers are using the web.
  • 1997 - they still think this web thing is a good idea, but it's too early for them
  • 1998 to 2000 - now they think it probably is a good idea, but they are nowhere on this learning curve. The average cost of setting up a really good web site (as reported by is now $730,000. Hey they know a lot of people in other companies who did do that, and then a year later had to repeat the process to replace an out of date site! Not only is that scary, but the really scary part is that they don't want to risk setting up a simple site which will not adequately reflect the position and true importance of their company. And also they don't want to be embarrassed when they show it to their Sun account manager, and they compare it to

Here's the good news for anyone who works for a websiteless SPARC reseller.

  • Most users surf the web while using only 1 copy of their browser. So if they find your web site, size = 1 page, and that page includes the information they need, then the other 999 pages which you haven't yet designed are not relevant to them, or to you. A few years ago, one of our advertisers Memoryx had a web site which consisted of just 1 page:- their price list, which was updated frequently. Their web site is a bit more complex today, but it's still got a simple and effective format.
  • Setting up your own web site is easy. Take a look at my web marketing bookmarks for more information than you'll ever need about this subject.
  • You can promote your company on the web effectively even without having your own web site. For example, if you join SPARC International ($500), or advertise as a reseller on this site ($1,000) you get 1 year of classified advertising which works whether or not you have your own site. See also, my list of other hardware organizations which can offer similar schemes. Another option is to just deliver a stream of press releases about your company via the web using a service like SourceWire. That will create information about your company which can be found by potential customers who use search engines which track those news feeds. Later, when you start you own site, you can include links to those other sites, or cut and paste some of the content to get you up and running.

Ideally, I would like to see every reseller in this market survive and thrive, and have links in this directory. I would be very happy to be proved wrong.

I see zillions of web sites. Here are a few examples of web sites in the STORAGE market which have impressed me recently, which I feel I should mention here:-

Paralan's list of SCSI information includes articles and reference information about all aspects of SCSI cables and related problems. This is a company which has invested a lot of time to help educate potential customers. In fact they have written a new article specially for us called LVD, SE, HVD, SCSI compatibility - or lack of it - by Paralan. The Paralan site goes to show that you can produce a really useful web site without using whizzy technology in the site design. But you do have to think about the needs of your customers and invest time and effort to give them the info they want.

There are also lots of other good examples in the SPARC market, which are linked from this web site. I didn't want to just start listing hundreds of links...

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