MDF shortcomingsBy Channel Insider Staff | Print
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No matter how many support programs vendors put in place for their partners, solution providers always want more.
Another area in which solution providers count on support from vendors is marketing, even though only 30 percent of providers in a Ziff Davis Enterprise survey in December considered vendor-sponsored marketing programs "very important." Still, if asked, providers typically say money from vendors in the form of MDF (marketing development funds) isn't enough or has too many strings attached.
Vendors, meanwhile, say the marketing resources they provide in their partner portals are not being leveraged effectively, Crimson's Charles said. "It's an interesting opportunity for vendors to step into that gap, but it has to be more than content and money," Charles said.
The next bastion of marketing may be the Internet, vendors and solution providers agree. "When potential customers discover they have a problem, they turn to the Internet to look it up," said Pam Stanford, director of worldwide channels marketing for IBM Software Group. "We've been talking to partners about doing better at leveraging the Web for marketing." IBM helps partners create search engine terms and identify potential partner affiliates to increase Web traffic. "By having links from other sites to their Web site, they can boost the relevancy rate with search engines," Stanford said.
With strong aid, customer reaction to marketing programs can soar. Workgroup Connections asked IBM for help with a demand generation product involving e-mail archiving. Using direct mail to current customers and IBM-identified potential customers, Workgroup Connections filled the 30 spots in three days. IBM also worked with the company on a presentation. "It was highly successful," Schreiber said. "Everyone actually showed up for the 2-hour breakfast."
In the one-two punch of successful selling, if good marketing is the right fist, then strong technology is the left. Solution providers want vendors to create channel programs to get them up to speed on new technology offerings as quickly as possible. This is an area in which vendors seem to be doing well.
Microsoft has a program that flew TekLinks people to Redmond, Wash., to meet with engineers for intensive training and then go home and bring that knowledge to the whole organization, Rayburn said.
IBM representatives flew to partner BlueWare's headquarters to educate the provider on major changes to IBM's middleware offering. IBM also invites BlueWare to try out prerelease operating system versions and visit its VIC (virtual innovation center) for sales and technical workshops.
Workgroup Connections, meanwhile, points to IBM's SBE (Solution Builder Express) program as a key source for technical information. This portfolio creates a complete offering of software, hardware and services, along with customer scenarios, to help deploy industry-specific solutions to midsize customers. "This program allows us to pick up new products at an accelerated pace with little risk," Schreiber said.
Room to Grow
When asked what more vendors can do for them, solution providers have many ideas, and their wish lists are as varied as the partners themselves.
Some ask for helpful information on the business landscape. "I would like more competitive information than seems to be available," AIS' Cannon said. "I know vendors spend a lot of time understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the competitor's technologies, but there never seems to be much information like that available to us." Others want global reach. "Today, even smaller customers have some global presence, and solving that has to be on the radar," Calence's Fong said.
Hailey Lynne McKeefry is a freelance writer based in Belmont, Calif. She can be reached at hailey@professionalink.