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For many resellers, especially those that provide hardware with little value-add, staying close to customers can be a problem. While it’s true that you’ll probably keep those who like your prices or your delivery times, it’s not always a sure bet. After all, there’s always the chance that some company will offer a better price or maybe free shipping, and you can lose some sales.

But suppose you’re not just offering to ship products at a good price. After all, many resellers do a lot more by providing additional products and services. In many cases those products and services aim at a single vertical market or at a specialized function. But even there, it’s nice to have a way to stay close to your customers.

You can accomplish this by providing a service that keeps the customers coming back to you for more, giving you a chance to make sure their existing products stay running and that the customers depend on you to keep them updated in other ways as well.

One great way to do this is by providing software on machines you ship to customers that can keep their computers updated and secure, and that will allow you to provide targeted updates when they need it. You could charge for such a service, or even provide it for free, but either way, such a service would keep you in touch with your customers, and keep your customers satisfied.

One product I’ve found—there are probably others—that can do this for you is from BigFix. They have both enterprise and consumer versions of their patch management product. The enterprise version of BigFix includes vulnerability assessment in addition to patch management.

The consumer version is already distributed by Gateway and eMachines for their customers, but it can be distributed with any reseller’s machines. The way it works vaies, but essentially you can set it up so that the patch management application checks with you for any updates to whatever value-added products you’ve sold with a given computer.

The enterprise version is much more extensive, but it gives you a very good way to help your customers keep their products up to date and free of vulnerabilities.

One company that’s using that version to keep their customers protected, and also as a way to stay in close touch with customers, is Hyecoup LLC, in Westport, Conn. According to Aram Eblighatian, vice president of Hyecoup, the company offers BigFix to their consulting clients. “It’s got capabilities beyond patch management,” Eblighatian said, noting that he helps his clients use the product for everything from vulnerability detection and remediation to asset management.

What he likes best about BigFix, however, is that it keeps him in close touch with customers. He’s able to stay in touch with their needs as they change, and provide more services when they need them. As a result, Hyecoup’s customers have come to rely on their connection with the company.

Either way, resellers are finding that providing an ongoing service that their customers really need is an effective way to enhance revenues. In addition, it’s a great way to help their customers decide to come back for more the next time their needs change.