The magic is in the marketing. That's the secret behind solutions entered by IBM business partners in response to the vendor's $100,000 Business Partner Enablement Challenge.
The contest, announced at last year's PartnerWorld conference in St. Louis, was designed to encourage business partners to share solutions and processes that they had built for their customers.
"This was a challenge for partners to bring forth their best enablement that could be replicable around the world, have a return on investment that was quick and allow partners to strengthen their partner-to-partner capabilities," said Alex Gogh, vice president of Global Channels Marketing, IBM Systems and Technology Group, Armonk, N.Y.
What came out of the most creative entries was a road map showing how coordinated and sustained marketing efforts can yield a substantial payback in a relatively short time.
IBM received more than 100 entries from around the world, but two of the three winners came from the U.S., including submissions from Champion Solutions Group, Boca Raton, Fla., and Berbee Information Networks, Madison, Wis.
Champion tackled the challenge with a marketing blitz, while Berbee took a one-on-one consultative approach. But the commonality is that both tacks yielded significant new business opportunities.
Champion built a strategic marketing campaign aimed at promoting data management and compliance in a virtual environment. David Boim, marketing manager at Champion, said the main ingredients of successful marketing are commitment, planning and execution.
"The key is to have a full 360 program," he said.
That means dedicating full-time marketing people to research the market, plan events and measure their success. Champion did market research to determine the concerns and pain points faced by CIOs. With the advent of virtualization, CIOs expressed concern over their ability to manage data in a virtual environment given the wave of compliance regulations they face securing and archiving information.
Once Champion settled on a topic, it decided to hold a three-city event in which it would invite local CIOs to hear speakers in the morning followed by breakout sessions in the afternoon. Boim said one key was to choose quality locations -- events were held at Hyatts in Tampa, Fla., Bethesda, Md., and Dearborn, Mich. There also were private dinners with the CIOs at a Morton's or Ruth's Chris steakhouse the night before the event. "You can't get CIOs to come to a Holiday Inn for chicken," he said.
But ensuring that people come at all is the first order of business. Boim says that too often people can plan a great event but overlook the effort it takes to make sure it is well attended.
Champion held a one-day call blitz that included everyone in the company manning phones. IBM also helped out with call center staff and field reps. "In one day we got 150 people registered for the symposiums," Boim said.
Champion then sent out wedding-style invitations to CIOs who had signed up for the event and followed up with phone calls and e-mails. The planning and persistence paid off with between 60 and 70 customers new to Champion and IBM, nearly $8 million in new business and a $20 million pipeline to future business.
Over at Berbee, Vice President of Systems and Storage Scott Severson said his organization takes a consultative approach to going after the virtualization market. "We don't have to evangelize the benefits of virtualization in the x86 environment," he said. Instead, Berbee focuses on assessing which of the customers' applications are best suited for virtualization and then building a virtualization road map, including the financial benefits.
To do this, Berbee uses IBM's CDAT (consolidation data assessment tool) to analyze a customer's IT environment and to assess where virtualization can help him or her reduce costs and increase productivity. Using the virtual assessment tool is paying off, Severson said. "It's rare for us not to do follow-on work with the customer either in more services or product fulfillment or both."
"We don't sell hardware anymore," he said. "What we sell is virtualization and the benefits it has on the IT environment. Virtualization reduces the costs and complexity of x86 environments and hopefully frees up dollars to spend on more strategic initiatives."