I was grateful for the opportunity earlier this month to catch up with Mike Gerentine, vice president of global channel and solutions marketing at IBM. I hadn’t heard much about IBM’s channel program focus in the past six to nine months, and was looking for a few highlights, which he was gracious enough to share. Here are a few things that caught my ear:
- Plan globally, execute regionally. IBM’s worldwide program framework is squarely focused on several core technology solution areas, including virtualization, green IT and data center consolidation; the vendor’s channel teams will be empowered much more at the regional level to make these initiatives theatre-specific. This isn’t really new, but it’s significant given the state of various world economies. If you’re a multinational VAR reading this blog, you’re likely to have more luck with winning market development funds in growth markets than you will in North America. For the vendor channel managers reading this, it’s another reminder that what plays well in the United States won’t necessarily apply in Brazil or Russia or India. So, let leaders in those regions set the channel agenda—just make sure it plays to your high-level program messaging.
- Reward cross-portfolio solutions liberally. Watch developments around IBM’s New Enterprise Data Center initiative. The IBM channels team developed the program WITH some key IBM Business Partners over the summer and “officially” launched it in October. It emphasizes and rewards attach-rate behavior that pulls cross-branded IBM solutions into the data center domain and plays to the huge data center transformation that is happening across enterprise and midmarket accounts. So, VARs that represent the whole shebang: IBM hardware, software and services will find themselves in the catbird seat. In fact, some IBM Business Partners may even be able to snag up to $100,000 in business develpment funds to support this IBM priority. Here are more details on the whole initiative.
- Seek loyalty. IBM’s new data center program points back to the one BIG thing that vendors REALLY need from their channel partners in a whack-o economic climate like this: LOYALTY. I’ve heard some VARs describe the current environment as a “take share” market, meaning they aren’t going to see incremental revenue so much as share shifts from accounts that MUST upgrade their infrastructure. It will be bloody. So, it’s in every vendor’s interest to make sure it is as strategic (read profitable) in the minds of their existing partners as possible. For IBM (and Hewlett-Packard for that matter), that translates into rewarding the VARs and resellers that invest in pushing as much of their entire portfolio into an account as possible. It also means keeping the process around deal registration, competitive bid resolutions, special support requests and business development as simple as possible.
What’s on your mind for 2009? To chat about your company’s channel program strategy (warning, you might show up on this blog!), contact Heather Clancy at email@example.com.