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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.

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

IBM currently has about 90 partners that qualify for the

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.