HD Communications' Personal Touch
June 26, 2008
HD Communications tests all of its inventory and only sells what it can vouch for. It also offers free design services with its wireless equipment-just pay a small upfront fee, and that fee is then credited towards the price of any equipment the company sells.
Don Davis and Mark Hersly founded HD Communications in 1991 to sell communications equipment. At the time, Davis says, that mostly meant cellular equipmentbut the company has since expanded to offer a full range of wireless products for everyone from home users to wireless ISPs. The company now also runs a WISP on Fire Island, where HD tests every product it sells.
About seven years ago, Davis says, HD Communications began serving as the North American representative for the Korean antenna manufacturer SmartAnt Telecom, which OEM'd antenna for companies like D-Link and Linksys. Those companies, he says, then started referring customers to HD for other equipmentwhich led to HD Communications' launch of its broader Wi-Fi equipment offering.
To market the Wi-Fi equipment, HD Communications launched an online storefront at WirelessNetworkProducts.comand as new wireless technologies enter the market in the future, Davis says, they'll happily launch additional sites for those as well. "We're RF guys, and we've been RF guys from the beginning," he says.
Still, Davis says, they're not just a mindless distributor. "We work with customers who are looking for a solution to a problem that they haveand based on what they're looking for, based on their budget, based on how much bandwidth they need, we recommend a solution to them," he says. "As we tell people, we're a 'distributor with benefits.'"
A selective line cardAs a result, Davis says, only about 30 percent of the company's business is conducted online. "The balance of the business is where someone picks up the phone and calls us and we recommend what the right product would be for them we've done everything from the guy who wants to share Internet access with his neighbor to the United Nations," he says.
And Davis says the company only stocks equipment it has tested in-house. "Across the board, you can look at a particular vendor and you'll see we don't sell some of the products from that vendor," he says. "That's because either it didn't make sense for the market that we're selling to, or the product didn't test out the way we believe it would."
At the same time, Davis says introducing new products to the U.S. market is a key focus for the company. "One example is a company called 4ipnet," he says. "They're a new company, they have a great product, they were trying to sell it through other channels unsuccessfullyand they started talking to customers, and customers came back and recommended us. We're the only distributor for the product in the U.S., and we're in the process of signing up resellers for it. It's an amazing product, it goes up against the Nomadix box and it's about one third the costbut nobody knew about it."
And for everything from a small office to a college campus, HD offers Wi-Fi Design Services for a small fee. "We used to do designs for everybody and anybody, but then we started follow up on the designs and found out that a lot of the people we did designs for weren't buying any of the gear from usso what we do now is we charge an upfront fee for the design, and if you buy the equipment from us, we credit that design fee back to you," Davis says. The fee, he says, starts at $175 and goes up for large installations.
Pricing and leasing optionsIn general, Davis says, the company's pricing is straightforwardthey follow the manufacturers' minimum advertised price for single units, and offer discounts on quantity. "I don't think we've ever lost a job on price, because of the value added service that we offer along with it," he says.
Similarly, he says, HD doesn't mark up its shipping fees. "Whatever the freight charge is, that's all we charge," Davis says. "If a company wants to make money on freight, they should be in the freight business, not in the wireless business."
HD has partnerships with six different leasing companies to help its customers with financing as necessary. "A lot of the wireless ISP guys who are doing a big roll-out, they love it because they can set up a leasing plan, and now they've got a single number that they need to pay back on a monthly basisand they can charge their customers on a rental basis for the equipment and make money on the difference of the two, and they haven't had to outlay $200,000, $300,000 for equipment, hoping to get paid back for it over time," Davis says.
But in the long run, Davis says, the advice that HD offers its customers is what really makes the company stand out. "It's about recommending the right product for the right application," he says. "We retain our customers that way, because they remember that we're the one that helped them outand the next time they have a project, they come to us."
Jeff Goldman is a veteran technology correspondent based in Southern California.
Article courtesy of ISP-Planet.