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Symbol Technologies Inc. garnered input from its VAR partners in creating its new resellers program, which makes changes in areas ranging from marketing funds for Symbol partners to product availability outside the program.

Symbol partners seem largely pleased with the outcome, although some expressed qualms about an RFID (radio-frequency identification) training aspect and certain parts of a revamped pricing model, for example.

Click here to read more about Symbol’s RFID training program for VARs.

As a result of reseller feedback, the new Symbol PartnerSelect Program for 2005 brings an overhauled structure; a new MDF (marketing development funds) component; a “partner wizard” for Web downloads of marketing collateral; and certification training in both RFID and Symbol’s MSP (Mobile Services Platform), said Eileen Corrigan, senior director of worldwide channel strategy and development.

Symbol also hopes to simplify matters by reducing the number of categories in its pricing structure and the number of SKUs in its product portfolio.

Under the new program, fewer Symbol hardware products will be sold through the open channel—and whatever does show up there will consist of products “at the ends of their lifecycles,” Corrigan said.

The vendor is now using a four-pronged classification system—classes 1 through 4—that reflects lifecycle stages among the mobile devices, RFID and bar code scanners, and management software products in its lineup, she said.

But the centerpiece of the revised PartnerSelect is its new program structure, according to Corrigan. Before launching the first iteration of PartnerSelect back in 2003, Symbol essentially sold all its products through the open channel, she said.

“Anybody could buy anything, really—and we had no information as to who was buying what,” Corrigan said.

Under the earlier program, Symbol ran an authorized reseller track, along with two upper tracks—one of them for business partners and the other for solutions providers. The business partner track had two levels, but the solutions track had three levels.

But in the new program launched last month, the levels in the top two tracks have been streamlined. Now, each has only two levels: a partner level and a premier partner level.

“We’ve changed the original structure to make it easier for [partners] to understand how they can move through the program,” Corrigan said.

“Partners make commitments around things like certifications, business processes [and] customer support. As they make additional commitments, they get additional benefits.”

For example, authorized resellers will have access to some—but not all of—Symbol’s products, Corrigan said.

On the other hand, VARs outside of Symbol’s reseller program will be limited to the most “mature” Symbol products, such as older scanners and wireless LAN equipment.

Partners approve.

Adrian Thomas, president of Peak Technologies, is one Symbol partner who’s generally in favor of the revised program.

“We were looking for a clarification of pricing and benefits in the business and solutions tracks,” Thomas said.

But Thomas added that he’s disappointed about what he sees as the disappearance of volume rebates under Symbol’s new partner scheme.

“We found the rebates important from both the margin maintenance and incentive perspectives,” he said.

Symbol has also instituted changes on the marketing side, through the MDF program and partner wizard.

“We’re going [to MDF] from a co-op based system. Under the old program, funds could only be used for certain standard marketing activities. And too often, the funds just sat there in an account, unused,” Corrigan said.

With MDF, on the other hand, funds are being aligned with more flexible “go-to-market strategies” that will be created by VARs, and then approved by Symbol.

Symbol will look for partners to present “a specific plan, such as greater penetration into a core vertical market,” Corrigan said. Activities that might be funded to support the plan include speaking engagements, appointment generation, public relations and special events, for instance.

Thomas likes the MDF concept, too. “Vertical markets are exactly where [Peak Technologies] will use MDF. Being targeted in your approach is the way to go,” he said.

Specifically, Peak plans to move beyond its present base in industrial warehousing, automotive and pharmaceutical industries into new business areas such as health care and field service.

Symbol’s new “marketing wizard,” available to partners from its Web site, lets resellers download marketing collateral materials—such as logos—for use in their own advertisements and other programs.

Meanwhile, in the training and certification arenas, Symbol is now adding offerings around both RFID and its own MSP platform.

Peak Technologies is already trained and certified on a number of Symbol technologies, including 802.11 wireless switches. But Peak won’t be pursuing Symbol’s RFID offering—not at this stage of the game, anyway, according to Thomas.

“I think [RFID] technology isn’t ‘fully there’ yet, from the standpoint of product quality,” he said. “Do the tags function correctly? Can they be read?”

In conjunction with its revamped reseller program, Symbol has launched a separate program for ISVs. Through a new “early adopter” offering within this program, the vendor plans to get appropriate ISVs involved in new product introductions two or three months before a product is launched.

Symbol’s Corrigan views the ISV program as another competitive differentiator for Symbol.

“Before this, we did work with ISVs, but we did not really ‘engage’ with them. Many of our competitors don’t have anything dedicated to ISVs,” Corrigan said.