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VARs spend most of their time running their businesses and making sales, so marketing typically is not a priority for them.

But failing to do basic marketing, even something as simple as configuring a Web site to drive online sales, means passing up business opportunities.

With that in mind, VARStreet Inc., of Santa Clara, Calif., the maker of an e-commerce platform for VARs and integrators, this week launched XC MarketSmart to help channel companies effectively market their Web storefronts to end users.

With MarketSmart, VARs and integrators get customizable storefronts, sales and technical training, and 20 hours of marketing consultation and services.

The idea behind the service, said Chris Backe, VARStreet director of sales, is to drive traffic to the Web sites to increase sales with a simple-to-follow, prepackaged marketing plan, which includes e-mail templates and end-user presentations.

While VARs have embraced VARStreet’s platform, Xponential Commerce, the company found that a lot of them were not taking advantage of the technology’s full potential because they did not promote it effectively to existing and prospective end-user customers, Backe said.

“They would do nothing more than a basic configuration,” he said.

VARs spend their day on break/fix work and implementation projects, so they have very little time left to focus on promotion, Backe said. “E-commerce, and certainly online marketing, is not an area they’re familiar with.”

But it’s an increasingly important one because some government agencies and large corporations now require purchases of such products as printers, laptops, desktops and accessories to be done online. Small and midsize companies also buy products through the Web.

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Some channel companies, such as Sherlock Systems Inc., a $10 million VAR in Buffalo Grove, Ill., operate multiple sites, each targeting a different set of customers. Many VARs and integrators, however, are still trying to figure out how to get the most out of having a Web presence.

“Most VARs do not know how to market themselves,” said Sherlock President Dave Sallander.

Sallander, who has been a VAR for 15 years, spent the previous 20 years in retail, where he said he learned the value of promotion. His company runs several Web storefronts aimed at different sets of customers, and he uses VARStreet’s technology to sell thousands of products.

VARStreet’s Xponential Commerce connects on the back end to the warehouses of distributors to keep track of product availability and pricing. Having that capability, Sallander said, means he doesn’t have to constantly update inventory and price information.

And because of that access to the hundreds of thousands of SKUs carried by distributors, Sherlock has turned from a Chicago-area VAR to a company with sales across the country to corporations that learned about the site through its Web storefronts, Sallander said.

VARStreet hopes to replicate Sherlock’s experience through MarketSmart with many of its other customers. Even though the company is just starting its formal push of the product, VARStreet introduced MarketSmart last month at an event for members of VentureTech, an elite group of VARs and integrators doing business with distributor Ingram Micro Inc.

VARStreet decided to launch MarketSmart after identifying the need for it from VARs and integrators, which kept asking for help with storefront configuration and marketing, Backe said.

“To use the analogy, instead of giving them the fishing pole, we’re teaching them how to fish,” he said. “We see it as a competitive advantage today.”

Pricing for MarketSmart services starts at $1,500.