It took nine months, but Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard have finally delivered their PartnerReach program for sharing partner marketing efforts to Canadian VARs.

First started in the U.S. a year and a half ago and then trumpeted by HP Canada last October that it was coming to Canada, the

program is now ready to go here, spokesmen for the companies said in an interview this week.

“We see this as a great way to get synergies out of our joint go-to-market (plans),” said Phil Cory, manager of HP Canada‘s alliance program with Microsoft.

The centerpiece of PartnerReach is the promise of up to $5,000 to VARs for hosting customer events centred on the two vendors’ products.

Key to the program is the agreement of channel reps from both vendors to pool marketing finances, said Cory.

However, neither he nor Rochelle Coleman, Microsoft Canada‘s partner team manager, would say how much the two companies have budgeted for resellers. Coleman did say that “this is one of our biggest investments” with a strategic partner.

The two companies have worked closely for years. Cory estimated that half of HP’s sales are related to Microsoft products “in one way or another.”

It took nine months of planning and pilot projects before the two companies were satisfied the program was ready for this country.

It’s open to Microsoft certified and Gold partners who are also HP PartnerOne resellers. The companies figure 800 VARs meet those qualifications.

PartnerReach focuses on helping VARs sell four groups of Microsoft applications on HP servers: Infrastructure upgrades (Windows or Exchange migrations); security (installations of Microsoft ISA); Business solutions (Xapta, Navision, Great Plains) and SQL Server consolidations.

No turnkey solutions are being made available. Rather, partners are being encouraged to offer the appropriate Microsoft/HP combinations to customer needs.

The mechanism is through joint marketing The program could roughly be described as having three parts: Tools to help VARs configure combinations of hardware and software from the two vendors, including best practices papers; marketing material to help deliver joint messaging for generating customer demand, such as telemarketing scripts and data sheets resellers can put their logos on; and money and advice for promotional events.

This last requires HP’s partner business managers and Microsoft’s partner account managers to work together with resellers to find out how they can take advantage of the market development funds the two vendors offer.

There’s a formal application a reseller has to fill out explaining the proposed event with a business plan, which can be e-mailed in. A committee of five persons from HP and Microsoft have the power to give the green light.

A partner who most recently took advantage of the program during the pilot was Orbex Computer Systems Inc. of Guelph, Ont., which staged a day-long event last month in nearby London, Ont.

It’s a network support firm with annual revenues of about $8 million, “We’re not a marketing company,” said president Dwayne Mott. “We haven’t a clue how to market.” But his HP rep mentioned the program, and Mott wanted to put on a technology showcase in London, where the company is expanding.

Working with both HP and Microsoft staffers, an event was put together which included several other local resellers. Orbex knew how to talk about what it sells, Mott explained, but he needed speakers to talk about why customers should buy and how they could take advantage of technology.

In the past when Orbex tried to put on an educational event vendors would only talk about their products. With the PartnerReach application he said HP and Microsoft understood what he wanted to achieve.

“It was our day to run,” he said. “They didn’t put any restrictions on it” but gave valuable advice.

The event cost about $15,000 (including hotel rental), and he hopes the vendors will pay back $5,000.

Of 350 invitees, 98 showed up. Mott believes it was worth it. “It raised our standing” among potential customers, he said. “They didn’t look at us as trying to flog stuff from our truck.”

His staff is close to signing two deals, he hopes.

“We want to give them (partners) all the tools they need to be successful in selling our joint solutions,” said Cory. Doing joint marketing for two vendors “reduces their cost of demand generation . . . and increases their potential revenue because they get synergies from upselling and cross-selling of HP and Microsoft combinations.”

PartnerReach is an adjunct to a VAR’s marketing strategy, added Coleman. “Having that integrated view allows them to work in a steady, consistent fashion, versus flip-flopping between (HP and Microsoft) programs.”

PartnerReach is a global program. Britain and Japan are the next countries to adopt it.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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