Channel Insider content and product recommendations are editorially independent. We may make money when you click on links to our partners. Learn More.

What works in marketing?

During a break on March 14 at Ingram Micro’s VTN conference in Nashville, VARs shared with each other some unique success stories.

  • Inacom Information Systems, of Madison, Wis., took the focus off technology, holding events like family night at the zoo, inviting guest speakers like University of Wisconsin football coach , Bret Bielema (a sure celebrity in that state), and the VAR increased attendance to 100 percent. The firm’s engineers sit down with attendees and vendors in afternoon sessions to make the pitch.

    Inacom also began charging its own vendors “$5,000” to participate, and the marketing department now pays for itself and turns a profit, said Liz Skolaski, vice president of sales support and operations.

    “It wasn’t hard to get them to pay once I told them their competitors would be there,” she said.

  • Heartland Technology, of Harlan, Iowa, held a contest for a “technology makeover” for an SMB based in Joplin, Mo.

    Aside from tons of free press, even from local television, the contest netted 50 qualified applications “where businesses told us their business plan, laid out their network, the problems they were having, how technology would be a home run for them,” said Larry Hedin, vice president of sales and marketing at Heartland. “Guess where those 50 leads went.”

    Heartland has plans to do it again in April in Ames, Iowa.

  • But it’s Nitro Microsystems, Ottawa, that may be getting the best marketing ROI.

    The firm has been using search engine optimization and paid search to drive customers to their Web site and eventually to their office, said Larry Poirier, Nitro’s CEO.

    The paid search can be expensive, but efficient. It’s $3 per click for users who click on “Ottawa” and “voice over IP” or 25 cents for clicks on “Ottawa” and “IT outsourcing.”

    The paid search also comes with reports informing Poirier of the searches on certain words, which let him know 500 people a week are searching “Ottawa” and “voice over IP” and only 30 are searching “Ottawa” and “storage area network,” which allows Nitro to optimize the site and paid search.

    He used one such “Ottawa” and “IT outsourcing” search recently to close a three-year SLA for $10,000 a month. A serious ROI.