Keeping VARs in Front of the CustomerBy John Moore | Print
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A new Avnet program is designed to give VARs the marketing continuity they need to gain more business.
Small-business marketing often operates by fits and starts: a seminar here, a direct-mail piece there, and not much in the way of continuity.
Avnet Partner Solutions, IBM Americas division, wants to change that situation. At this week's Avnet Partner Conference, the company unveiled Avnet Integrated Marketing Solutions (AIMS). AIMS is intended to make marketing less episodic.
Roger Arndt, vice president of customer and product marketing for Avnet Partner Solutions, IBM Americas, says the company has found that most solution providers operate "single-shot" marketing campaigns. "They run an event and move on to the next thing," he said.
What solution providers ought to do, in Arndt's view, is establish an ongoing dialogue with customers. That way, the reseller is on the radar screen when the customer is ready to make a purchase.
Simple stuff, fundamentally. But small businesses may have limited, or nonexistent, marketing staffs. Marketing efforts such as newsletters tend to "die on the vine," Arndt says. Partners may get the first two issues out, but soon find that they "don't have the time to chase the articles and put it together," he adds.
That's the type of problem Arndt plans to overcome with AIMS. AIMS is a subscription-based service that provides solution providers with a collection of marketing aids. For example, AIMS helps partners deliver a quarterly electronic newsletter targeted toward existing customers and new prospects. AIMS provides a catalog of articles that pertain to the partner's business. A company's marketeers can also include their own articles, but they are not on the hook for the whole lot.
The newsletters also serve to plug a partner's Webinars. Through AIMS, Avnet marketing specialists help solution providers host eight Webinars each year. Partners choose from a list of topics, such as blade servers and Linux. During the Webinar, Avnet captures participant feedback via polling questions. Responses to the questions, as well as any leads resulting from Avnet's telemarketing followup, flow back to the partner.
Also under the AIMS umbrella is a notification service that reminds partners' customers when leases or maintenance agreements are scheduled to expire. The notifications are branded under a given partner's name.
Overall, AIMS offers partners the ability to expand business within existing accounts, as well as cultivate new customers, Arndt said. Newsletter articles and Webinar topics can demonstrate the solution provider's breadth of services. A company known for selling IBM's iSeries can use a Webinar to showcase expertise in xSeries, for example.
Avnet is still refining pricing details on AIMS, but an annual subscription is expected to cost around $25 per contact for solution providers with up to 500 contacts (customers and prospects). Above that threshold, the annual price tag is expected to be around $7 per contact for up to 5,000 contacts.
Arndt says an investment in AIMS will "position the business partner to establish this ongoing dialogue with the targeted market that they select."
Partners will have to decide for themselves whether a program like AIMS or their own efforts will best provide that continuity.