IBM Launches Midmarket Software Partner Incentive Program

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print

As the recession drags on, midmarket customers continue to offer a rich field of opportunity for technology vendors and IT solution providers. IBM's new incentive program looks to work with partners that can demonstrate that their solutions offer significant ROI to end customers.

Looking to win more business from midmarket customers, IBM has upped the incentive ante for a subset of its software solution provider channel partners, with co-marketing dollars, leads and for the first time a social network marketing component.

IBM is calling the new program the IBM Business Partner Software Midmarket Value Initiative. To qualify, a partner must already be a member of IBM's PartnerWorld program and already participate in Partner Advantage Plus.

For a deeper perspective on the needs of midmarket customers, click here for a look inside the mind of a midmarket IT executive.

For those who qualify, tapping into the midmarket, defined by IBM as customers with between 100 and 999 employees, may be a strong strategy for weathering the recession. IBM's middleware software business in the midmarket is growing twice as fast as it is in any other customer segment, according to Bob Finnecy, vice president of IBM Business Partner Software Sales. But IBM is going after only the most qualified partners to participate in the program.

"We are looking for partners to take our technology and wrap it around their solutions for customers," Finnecy tells Channel Insider. "Midmarket customers are telling us they will only invest in solutions that have great ROI. We are lining up partners that offer this kind of value in their solutions."

IBM currently has about 90 partners that qualify for the program.

One of those partners that has hopped onboard is Softchoice Optimus Solutions, a software solutions arm of Microsoft Large Account Reseller Softchoice. As part of the program in Florida, Softchoice Optimus Solutions has already held an event focusing on unified communications technology—specifically from IBM and Cisco Systems.

"It was a very successful event and we are going to replicate it in different territories," says Toby Banks, director of software sales for Softchoice Optimus Solutions.

Banks adds, "We did close specific business as a result of the activities from the pilot [of IBM's program]. … We did get business in Q4 that we wouldn't have gotten, and now we are working on leads we got from our event."

Finnecy says IBM is looking to drive a 30 percent yield on the leads it passes to partners. In addition to sharing leads, IBM will do co-marketing with partners, looking for a dollar-for-dollar match. IBM wants participating partners to run a demand generation campaign once a quarter for the midmarket customer set.

"We'll sit down with them and plan with them on the solution they want to go to market with," says Finnecy. "The goal is for a program that is mutually designed."

The social networking component is a new one for IBM partner programs. "We are looking for our partners to be involved with one of the social networking groups we've established on sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter and SlideShare," says Finnecy.

Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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