Big Blue revamps co-marketing programs with $100 million investment

Published: February 15th, 2011

Orlando – Having heard from partners who have called its co-marketing programs too much process for too little money, IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) used its PartnerWorld Leadership conference here Tuesday to launch a revamped co-marketing program that’s backed by an over $100 million global investment in partner marketing for the mid-market alone.

Hosted on IBM’s PartnerWorld Web portal, the new IBM Co-Marketing Centre takes what were several separate, siloed co-marketing programs and brings them together in one single, integrated tool that partners can use to create customized marketing assets such as webinars or flyers.

IBM’s Mike Gerentine, vice-president, marketing for midmarket, global business partners, told CDN, that with its decision to merge the partner and midmarket sales organizations and lead with the channel in this space, IBM has also been shifting the strategy of its demand generation programs from IBM-led to partner-led.

“We made the decision last year to move investments closer to partners and have partners do their own demand generation,” said Gerentine.

The shift began last year when IBM put marketing service vendors, or MSVs, into place. These are strategic marketing vendors, one in the U.S. and one in Europe, with channel marketing expertise that are enabled and funded by IBM on a three-to-one basis to help partners develop customized and repeatable marketing campaigns.

Gerentine said IBM is aggressively investing in co-marketing because it sees large white space opportunity in the midmarket to win new accounts.

While partners without their own marketing expertise may want to go the MSV route, Gerentine said IBM recognizes some partners may want to develop their own marketing campaigns or leverage the expertise of their distribution partners. IBM has co-marketing programs for them, but Gerentine said partners said the programs were cumbersome and took too long to see funds approved and transferred.

The new Co-Marketing Centre was designed to meet that challenge. Some 12 campaign design and marketing tools that didn’t talk to each other have been integrated. And funds that used to take three months for approval are now promised within 30 days.

“We had partners telling us it’s not worth the hassle for us to do co-marketing with you if I have to go through these two tools and processes and wait three months for a few thousand dollars,” said Gerentine.

Partners need all the help they can get with marketing said James Alexander, senior vice-president with London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group, and anything vendors like IBM can do to make marketing programs easier to navigate is a must.

“Most partners are not extremely large, and for most partner organizations the overhead and program administration from a variety of distinct vendors who all offer a variety of distinct programs is a drain on their resources,” said Alexander. “It’s a burning concern for partners, and all vendors have been challenged in how they implement these programs.”

IBM seems to have hit all the right pain-points in streamlining its program with one-stop shopping, but Alexander said he’ll be watching the execution on the payment window commitment with interest.

“I think the commitment to pay in 30 days is a noble one and I hope they can figure out a way to pull it off,” said Alexander. “Because again, those are fundamental hygiene issues for partners.

The program is backed by over $100 million in co-marketing funds for the midmarket alone, worldwide. Gerentine added IBM has an advantage in the midmarket with this marketing heft and its new organizational structure bringing the channel and midmarket organizations together under one roof.

“We’re much more midmarket focused because I own both pieces now. We’re able to get closer to the business partner’s needs and requirements for their midmarket clients,” said Gerentine. “We have a business partner advisory council; we can understand what they’re seeing in the midmarket and validate that with product owners/developers.”

Follow Jeff Jedras on Twitter: @JeffJedrasCDN.