I have always followed the channel programs of Autodesk pretty closely, partly because in my mind the company has led the software industry for many years in figuring out the best way to work with REAL VARs. That is, companies that sold solutions specifically focused on the CAD and design markets for which they had a unique business differentiation. Right now, the Autodesk channel includes about 1,900 such companies.
Plus, honestly, it’s pretty impressive that this is a company that is able to award silver anniversary honors to some of its channel members, not just employees. For the second year in a row, mind you. (More on that in a moment.)
I caught up last month with Steve Blum, senior vice president of the Americas for Autodesk, about how the company’s channel organization is helping partner principals manager their businesses right now. Blum hopes that by keeping close to key resellers now, they’ll be better-positioned to ride the up-turn more successfully. Incidently, that means Autodesk is recruiting partners, even though both they and these new resellers know that it might take longer to get up and running with a practice in the current economy.
This also includes, by the way, a lot of training for the Autodesk channel managers so that they can understand the concerns of a smaller business. “We should not be in the position of telling a partner what they have to do,” Blum says. “We merely share ideas that we’ve seen work in the past.”
Here are a couple of specific programs, though, that might be of interest to the partners that Autodesk is wooing, as well as any existing partners that might want to deepen their relationship. These might seem like very common sense ideas, but you’d be surprised at how few vendors support ideas like these in practice:
- The Path-to-Volume program: Autodesk has a very disciplined approach for figuring out when to take a product to the channel, and how. Every new application and acquisition is running through this lifecycle assessment to figure out how it should be layered into the program.
- Autodesk is also one of the few vendors to reward its partners with Solutions Incentives, meaning they get certain considerations for vertical and industry sales. Partners also can get Loyalty Incentives for driving long-term customer engagement and loyalty. (Which, in turn, drives long-term partner engagement and loyalty.) And they can earn Key Incentives for driving business in new products and technologies OR for getting an account to start thinking vertical. Last year, partners were able to grow their 3D sales by 25 percent using a combination of these incentives.
- Autodesk’s deal registration program (called the Autodesk Customer Engagement process) has helped some partners increase their margins by 20 percent.
- Over the past year, Autodesk has given out more than $10 million in “growth funds,” based on business plan submissions. (This is in addition to more traditional things like cooperative marketing funds.)
- The vendor also is pushing additional financing options, especially those that help resellers avoid having to carry product sales in a time when credit is hard to find for small businesses.
- And, harkening back to a long-time policy, Autodesk earlier this month introduced something called the Autodesk Assistance Program. The company has long seeded universities with its software, which has helped position its applications as critical business applications for professionals in the architecture and engineering professions after they enter the workforce. Under the new program, the company is free software and certification seminars to both students as well as unemployed architects, engineers and designers. Here’s a YouTube video with more information about the program.
Now, back to those Autodesk Silver Anniversary awards. Last month, at its annual One Team Conference, Autodesk recognized four resellers that have been representing the company’s software for 25 years. They include:
CAD MicroSolutions (A design automation solution provider in Toronto)
Hagerman & Co. (A consulting company based out of Fort Wayne, Idaho, that handles not just CAD/CAM but also sells 3D printers)
Industrial Technology (A Riviera Beach, Fla., reseller that focuses on manufacturing solutions.)
Le Groupe BusCom (A Montreal-based architecture and engineering expert.)
In case you are wondering what makes these relationships work, there are some slidecasts that Autodesk created with several of these partners. Here are those links, too:
Hagerman & Co.
Le Groupe BusCom