Microsoft Canada Co. Ltd. is offering to aid its channel partners with a free, Web-based direct marketing tool that will be integrated into the Microsoft for Partners Web Portal.

Dubbed VAR Direct, the tool allows resellers to take

advantage of a series of approved templates to send out e-mail or direct mail brochures.

Doug Hawe, Microsoft Canada’s channel marketing manager in Mississauga, Ont., explained that VAR Direct is considered a key component of the company’s VAR Access feature. Moreover, Hawe told CDN that the idea behind offering the tool was to empower those VARs with limited advertising budgets with the opportunity to create a high-quality, direct marketing campaign without a substantial financial investment.

“”Through formal surveys from our reseller community and through informal communications with our partners, it became apparent that our small and medium sized VARs that cater to the SMB marketplace don’t have a large marketing budget,”” Hawe explained. “”They needed help and they wanted that help to be affordable and easy to use. So when we were revamping our VAR Access Web site last November, we began beta testing this initiative.””

Through VAR Direct, three templates are offered: High-end Direct Mail (offers VARs an intricate direct mail piece), Oversized Postcard (a less complex direct mail piece), and HTML e-mail (an e-mail newsletter-style brochure).

Hawe continued that VARs would be able to tailor whatever direct mail piece they choose by adding content such as logo and business boilerplates. Once the VAR’s customization efforts are complete, a simple upload via the Partner Web Portal is all that’s required. From there, a third party agency will handle the mailing and distribution fulfillment. Hawe added that all information provided is kept confidential and secure.

“”The main thing is for us to create a push and pull in the marketplace,”” he said. “”Microsoft does a ton of marketing to the end-user. This tool also ensures those messages about our products are consistent (with those coming from Microsoft Corp.).””

Eric Lo, operations manager for GenX Solutions Inc. in Toronto, said VAR Direct is an indispensable addition to Microsoft’s Partner Web Portal.

“”It’s efficient and it saves money, that’s the bottom line,”” Lo told CDN. “”We’re a small company, marketing resources is a big limitation for us. This offering provides us with professional exposure before our customer base at absolutely no expense to us.””

Eleven resellers initially tested the VAR Direct tool in late 2001 via the OfficeXP campaign, including GenX Solutions. A total of 47,000 direct mail pieces were issued at that time.

Microsoft described the test campaign a resounding success.

We wanted to ensure that the Web engine was working properly and that the entire process was sound,”” Hawe said. “”We looked at the take rate of the hard copy direct mailing and also how many leads it generated.

“”Part of the subsequent discussions we had with our partners reinforced what we were thinking and they suggested we offer a postcard and an e-mail version as well.””

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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