As part of an initiative to further strengthen its Business Partner network, IBM is offering many ISVs considerable incentives to advertise.
Good software solutions shouldn't be kept secret. Advertising can convey key information on products to differentiate one from another. Big companies have war chests for advertising, but small to mid-sized companies often have to satisfy this part of the marketing mix with grassroots initiatives.
Though it may be harder for small and mid-sized tech firms to lease space in the minds of iSeries decision-makers, IBM always tries to help its Business Partners extend their reach. The springboard upon which many IBM Business Partners bound these days is PartnerWorld. Introduced in May 1999, PartnerWorld is IBM's marketing/enabling program designed to create new revenue opportunities for its Partners.
Discount Advertising Package
Under PartnerWorld, several co-marketing and co-advertising promotions have been launched. Late last year, IBM announced the PartnerWorld Industry Networks initiative (PWIN), a program that extends several marketing tools to ISVs that want to take a more aggressive approach to promotion. Over 3,000 technology vendors have taken advantage of PWIN benefits since the program was announced. One such benefit is the Discount Advertising Package. IBM will lend Advanced and Premier ISV members of PartnerWorld who participate in the PWIN initiative either professionally conceived ad templates or the help of an advertising agency in the event that the ISV has a message to convey that isn't captured by one of the boilerplate ads. IBM has also negotiated low rates with over 220 vertical and horizontal B2B publications, and program participants can benefit from IBM's big buying power.
Why would IBM offer to build the image of thousands of ISVs and ultimately increase the equity in their brands? Industry analysts say organizations most often buy IBM hardware because of strategic software solutions that run on eServer boxes and IBM middleware. IBM itself is not in the solutions gambit; it divested itself of its applications business in 1999. It therefore makes sense to lend its world-class marketing know-how and bargaining power to its ISVs so they can go to the mountain and tell the world about their business solutions. IBM defines 12 critical vertical markets or networks, including automotive, banking, education, healthcare, government, and others.
IBM also knows it has a very large group of loyal iSeries users, and to them the numerous virtues of the platform are already apparent. These people generally don't need a lesson in MTTF, server consolidation, and TCO.
For a long time, IBM co-marketed its products with big solutions vendors like SAP, and while this strategy was successful, the vast SMB segment seemed to lay unexplored. IBM's ISV strategy adapted, eligibility requirements for Advanced ISV status were simplified, and those who had documented successes and put forth the effort to complete the paperwork now had many new Business Partner benefits at their disposal. Hence, an army of ISVs was forming to engage the SMB.
Advertising in itself is not a panacea--the magic wand that, when waved, solves all of a company's sales problems. Good marketeers always heed the four Ps of their craft and focus on the issues of product, price, promotion, and place (or distribution). Other facets of IBM's ISV and PWIN programs address these issues.
Those who choose to take advantage of the Discount Advertising benefit must abide by a few simple rules. Although specific details can be found on IBM's Web site, they can be summarized as follows: The Advanced or Premier ISV must participate in at least one PWIN vertical marketing initiative, with the maximum being four. IBM says the ad should contain a clear call to action, feature content primarily about the ISV, include a brief description of IBM's PartnerWorld program, and bear the IBM logo. Participants must agree to report back to IBM the number of leads received from the advertisement for up to 90 days following publication, and although you would think it wouldn't need saying, the ad must not include any references to competitive solutions. So far, roughly 100 Advanced and Premier ISVs have expressed interest in the program or signed orders.
"It is going to grow over time," says Leslie Givens, Program Director, ISV Sales and Marketing. Givens is responsible for developing IBM's ISV marketing and recruitment strategy and driving its successful worldwide execution. "It takes time to build awareness." Strategies on how to best exploit the program are already evolving. Says Givens, "The impact of ISV advertising can be very significant, particularly if it's synchronized with a program that IBM is running."
Some Business Partners don't like print advertising or they opt out of programs like these because of the time they believe it will take to complete all of the qualifying paperwork. Others, like Vormittag Associates, Inc. (VAI) are enthusiastic about the relationship. VAI is a software provider for the retail, manufacturing, and distribution industries, and it also markets IBM hardware. VAI is a Premier ISV, and through PWIN it markets solutions to three different industries: Wholesale, Fabrication and Assembly, and Retail.
"Our business has grown 38% in the last trimester, and I think it has a lot to do with our relationship with IBM," says Bob Vormittag, VAI's president. "You gain a lot of credibility when you walk through the door with them," he adds. Although VIA and IBM have not yet teamed up on an ad, Vince Taravella, VAI's director of channel sales and marketing explains, "We definitely intend to take advantage of the Discount Advertising Program. It's a win for IBM, a win for the magazine, and a win for the Partner." Earlier in the year, Taravella laid out his advertising schedule and signed space contracts with magazines that focus on distribution and manufacturing, but he intends to work through IBM's Advertising Discount program to promote VAI's System 2000 for Retail, a solution that incorporates point-of-sale, back office accounting, inventory management, CRM, and e-commerce components. Commenting on the Discount Advertising Program, Taravella says, "It looks like a terrific thing."
Robert Gast has had an extensive number of articles published on technology and business management-related issues. He is the managing partner of Chicago area-based Evant Group and can be reached at