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With the slumping economy showing no signs of a quick reversal, VARs are using Ingram Micro’s Marketing Services Agency to help hone their marketing techniques, amplify their value proposition and drive new business.

At its tenth Venture Tech Network (VTN) Fall Invitational this week, Ingram announced it has expanded its Marketing Services Agency to include a stronger emphasis on Web 2.0 technologies, including interactive, digital advertising and experiential event marketing and Web design.

These expanded services are in addition to branding, messaging and strategic work Ingram’s Marketing Services Agency has been offering since 2006 and will be crucial for VARs looking to strengthen their value proposition and market position as the economy weakens.

“With times like these, there’s going to be lots of downtime in our industry. And what better time to refocus on your core competency and really make sure you’re getting the right messages out to your customers?” says Erik Johnson, president of managed services provider Trailhead Technologies.

Ingram isn’t alone in its marketing services for solution providers. Rivals Tech Data and Synnex are ramping up their marketing offerings to help vendors and solution providers hone their marketing messages, augment limited resources and capture new customers. Most of these programs are paid for with vendor’s marketing development funds (MDF), which help control the direct costs to solution providers.

Johnson says while the tough economic times will weed out some of the weaker competitors in the industry, it will also reinforce the value of organizations that can best articulate their value to potential customers.

Trailhead’s relationship with Ingram’s Marketing Services Agency began in 2006, he says, when he met Dennis Cupri at an Ingram event and struck up a conversation about how the service could help market Trailhead.

Trailhead originally engaged Ingram to create a corporate Web site, but Johnson says as the relationship developed, Ingram took a much more comprehensive approach.

“We talked for several months about the project, and then spent an entire day hashing out who we are as a company and what we do. They took that information back to their team who drafted the site, crafted the look and feel, created logos and then they came up with a great-looking site,” he says.

Ingram was able not only to design and deliver a Web site, but got right at the heart of Trailhead’s corporate identity, says Johnson.

“We’ve worked with other marketing companies, in fact some of our clients are even marketing companies and they just didn’t get who we are and what we do.  But Ingram is really right there with us. They knew what we did better than we did!” Johnson says.



While Trailhead set out to create a Web presence from scratch, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.-based solution provider CSI needed help redefining their brand and sharpening their go-to-market strategy, says Vice President Bob Knapp.

“Being a typical tech VAR, we’re really good at the bits and bytes of things, but we had trouble really getting focused, from a marketing perspective, on customers who fell outside of all the technology and the jargon that we spend our days mired in,” Knapp says.

He says Ingram’s Marketing Services Agency began about six months ago to help CSI clearly articulate their brand and message.

“They showed us how, in plain English, to explain our value proposition, who we are and what we do without getting into a bunch of industry jargon,” says Knapp. That rebranding also helps CSI to ensure all its employees are delivering the same message to clients, and that consistency of message has helped reinforce CSI’s importance to customers.

“It’s helped to simply write down the way we operate as a business and clearly stating our internal processes. It hasn’t necessarily changed the way we do things, but it has helped that every employee is using the same phrases to describe ourselves, given us common themes to focus on and better aligned our business with the underlying values,” Knapp says.

CSI didn’t experience any “aha!” moments, but Knapp says the experience was critical to CSI’s development of new business opportunities. Next, Ingram will help CSI with development of a new Web site, as CSI looks to expand its client base to the SMB market.

“We weren’t as ignorant at marketing as we thought we were, but we found that we did need someone with more expertise in marketing to focus and sharpen our conversation. They helped us really clarify and focus our external and internal conversations,” he says.