Vendor Marketing Programs: Do They Work?

Vendor-assisted marketing is meant to help resellers grow revenue, but is it all too overwhelming?

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When it comes to marketing, there's one thing vendors and accounting resellers agree on-resellers never have enough time or resources. In fact, a recently conducted survey regarding marketing among 200 Sage Software resellers found that the top two pain points were 1) There was not enough time to market and; 2) Co-op programs are too complex, and involve too much paperwork.

"There isn't enough time in the day for our partners to market. They're focused on closing business. We want our marketing programs to be effortless, and we're working to reduce the amount of paperwork," says Scott Gaw, director of channel marketing for Irvine, Calif.-based Sage.

Resellers agree. "Marketing tools are time-consuming to come up with. By participating in vendor programs, we can take the tools and tweak them to fit our business," says Manny Buigas, CEO of Axis Integrated Solutions. However, he cautions that, "Although Sage provides the tools, at the end of each day, we have to execute them. They only teach us how to fish."

Partner Insights

Marketing for Accountants

Mountain View, Calif.-based Intuit is always on the quest to help its ProAdvisors reach their clients.

Recent initiatives to do so include:

* On the QuickBooks home page there is now a link to find local QuickBooks experts. The link takes QuickBooks owners to the QuickBooks ProAdvisors referral database.

* Intuit now sends out an email to all new QuickBooks registrants. The email gives them a list of resources, one being how to find a local QuickBooks ProAdvisor.

* QuickBooks users receive a series of educational emails, which include topics such as how to use QuickBooks efficiently, and each issue features an article from a ProAdvisor on how they have helped a previous customer.

* Intuit created a QuickBooks Client Newsletter. Accountants can subscribe to the newsletter at a discount, and can send it to their customers in either print or electronic form.

* Intuit created pre-packaged PowerPoint presentations and instructor notes for several one-hour seminars.

* Through local area markets, Intuit created a Speakers Bureau. Intuit will connect interested ProAdvisors with speaking opportunities at small businesses or other accounting firms. So far, 100 ProAdvisors have signed up.

From co-op marketing programs to portals, VARs have their choice of tools. But do these programs really work or, just overwhelm the participants?

For most, it depends on the company, its clients, and the programs utilized. Most resellers say it takes a lot of trial and error, and a combination of efforts to get results.

Located in Miami, Axis Integrated Solutions is a newly organized Sage reseller that participates in several programs, including Sage's Marketing Alliance, and the turnkey marketing program, that includes templates, worksheets, and other tools to help formalize the process.

"By utilizing the marketing calendar, we have a framework to follow and we make sure we have events scheduled," says Buigas.

To date, the firm has increased its sales pipeline by $1.6 million due to the implementation of various marketing campaigns and closed sales to date that aggregate approximately $200,000. (Although Axis is a new entity it is part of other companies that have been in operation for a number of years.)

These sales were in the pipeline of Buigas' partner Kelly Hummel, now CFO of Axis. Her firm was Access Accounting eSolutions and Services, located in St. Louis.

However, Buigas feels when it comes to marketing products other than accounting, such as CRM or HR, Sage needs a little help.

"I would like Sage to explore the possibility of adding components to their programs in CRM and human resources that provide information that is more solution-specific," Buigas says.

One problem relating to CRM is that the Axis staff includes accountants, programmers, and system integrators.

"In turn, one of our challenges in committing to sell and deploy CRM was that no one in our staff spoke our client's language," he continues. "We had to go out and invest our own resources and attended a CRM certification program at a local university to learn about the industry, our client's challenges, and pain points, before we committed to selling CRM."

Marketing Programs in a Can

Vendors are offering a variety of marketing programs to help partners stretch their marketing budgets, and develop marketing expertise to generate more leads.

Irvine, Calif.-based Sage Software now has 140 members in its Marketing Alliance Program, which was rolled out last year. The program requires members to have at least one dedicated marketing person on staff, and they must submit an annual marketing plan. Benefits include a Sage dedicated marketing representative, up to 70 percent co-op reimbursement, co-op funds extended for an additional six months, and resellers receive a monthly marketing newsletter.

In addition, participants can attend monthly Web seminars that cover different marketing activities such as public relations, direct mail, and telemarketing. The program lasts 45 minutes and draws approximately 60 attendees each month.

For Sage resellers who do not have a dedicated marketing person on staff, marketing opportunities are available through channel marketing.

Channel Marketing offers a turnkey program to help dealers generate leads. Sage has reviewed suppliers of services such as telemarketing, direct mail, lists, graphics, booth rentals, newsletters, and yellow page advertisements. Programs are then tailored to reseller needs.

All turnkey programs are eligible for approximately 40 percent co-op reimbursement. "Turnkey programs increase visibility throughout the marketplace, bring in qualified leads, maximize ROI, provide an effective venue to communicate, and present the partner's company at tradeshows or events," says Scott Gaw, director of channel marketing for Sage.

Similarly, Novato, Calif.-based AccountMate offers a variety of marketing options, including co-op marketing, direct mail, case studies, and an annual conference. Also, the AccountMate marketing store can be utilized for printing personalized promo materials, collateral and direct mail, and the AccountMate weekly Newsline. "Most partners use the information provided in the weekly AccountMate Newsline and TechNews to communicate with their customers via their own newsletter or through email," says Donna DeRosa, director of marketing.

Meanwhile, Fargo, N.D.-based Microsoft Business Solutions offers VARs print advertising, recruitment campaigns, Go-to-Market campaigns, and reseller newsletters.

The Partner Marketing Center is available for partners online and includes technical demonstration toolkits, the partner logo builder, campaigns including the Go-to-Market campaigns, presentations and marketing templates for business letters, direct mail pieces, invitations, emails, flyers, and postcards.

MBS is making a big push with its Go-to-Market campaigns, which provide a collection of tools and resources for partners to easily market to their customers.

For example, Kati Hvidtfeldt, senior director of MBS Partner Strategy, suggests that ERP partners start with the Partner Marketing Center followed by the Business Operations Management Go-to-Market Campaign page. "This is a great resource and details everything that is available to ERP partners today. Partners can read and leverage to customer presentations, call guides, and other marketing materials that will help them communicate the benefits of delivering the Business Operations Management campaign to their customer base," says Hvidtfeldt.

James Campbell, CPA and vice president of Exton, Pa.-based Applied Data Solutions, likes the tools that Sage provides. "I'm a CPA by trade," he says. "The more marketing I do, the more I learn. Right now, Sage does the hard work, and I use everything they offer. The more Sage gives us, the better."

ADS focuses on Sage's Accpac product line and although it does not have a full-time marketing person, Campbell allocates 20 percent of his time and 2 percent of the firm's revenue to marketing activities such as telemarketing, mailings, tradeshows, and newsletters. To take advantage of the Sage programs, Campbell created a marketing plan, which listed all the marketing activities the firm planned for the year.

"It outlined everything from the people I was going to meet to the dates of postcard mailings. The plan made us really try to meet all of our marketing goals, like we never have before. Not to mention, someone at Sage called each month to check in," adds Campbell.

In a recent direct mail campaign, Campbell purchased a list with 500 names. He narrowed that down to 250 names that he thought would work best. The culled list produced 10 callbacks that turned into three requested meetings and one sale. "That's success to me," says Campbell.

Simplify It

Located in Bird Land, Minn., Y Solutions focuses on business management systems, security products, warehouse management, e-commerce, and EDI.

President Yvonne Mangum works with three primary software vendors to get the firm's name out there: AccountMate, Microsoft, and Symantec.

"AccountMate's program is more comprehensive, so we have used most of their available materials and many different approaches. Approaches include educational direct mail pieces, postcard branding ads, and telemarketing," she says.

However, the main source has been the use of co-op funds for membership in SellAccountingSoftware.com, which generates leads for people who are considering a system purchase.

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