Solution Provider Scores Home Run With SMBs

Kolkmeyer, whose official title is manager of sports marketing and programs, is heading up programs for an innovative technology center the solution provider has created right in the heart of the Cincinatti Reds' Great American Ballpark, where the company can demonstrate its vendors' technology products, deliver educational seminars to small business owners on various IT solutions, and of course, watch ball games.

"About a year ago our president was sitting with the ownership team of the Reds looking out to center field and staring at the big jet-black eye sore of a facility there and talking about the inability the Reds had to sell out the facility," Kolkmeyer says.

"We thought that if we took ownership of the facility and completely gutted out the place and created a state-of-the-art technology pavilion we could sell it out," Kolkmeyer says.

The solution provider was right. One year later and a lot of man hours, the facility is now sold out for the rest of the season, with about 125 customers signed up per each game.

Sponsored post

With the help of its vendor sponsors, including AMD, Cisco, HP, NetApp, and Sun, which provided the technology and financial backing for the project, the VAR created a multi-story, riverboat-themed rooftop deck at the ballpark, using the lower level as a technology pavilion where it can demonstrate products and give presentations. Another area of the pavilion houses an outdoor entertaining deck, designed for networking and watching Reds' games after the evening technology seminars. A third level of the pavilion is more geared for larger enterprise clients.

"With the dozen 42-inch to 55-inch plasma screens in there, it's the best sports bar in town," Kolkmeyer says.

But the pavilion has also created a big payout for the solution provider as well. The pavilion has helped it close numerous deals, some of which have been very large and have helped boost the solution provider's revenue 25 percent to $216.6 million in 2006 from the previous year. And so far, for the first half of 2007, sales have been up 9 percent from the first half of 2006.

"It has more than paid for itself," Kolkmeyer says.

Increasing its image in the community has also gone a long way toward boosting its business in the small-and-midsized business community; in fact, most VARs say the top way they plan to grow their businesses this year is through efforts related to drumming up market image and presence.

Also, getting its SMB customers to travel to the company instead of vice versa has saved its salesforce a lot of time on the road.

"There is a lot of windshield time in the SMB market, so the ability to bring 150 people out to each game and get in front of those customers and present our solutions is great," Kolkmeyer says. "We can get small business owners out to a Reds' games after hours, after their work day, at a baseball game in a very relaxed atmosphere."

The VAR has also learned a lot about what solutions its SMB customers are interested in based on the feedback it has collected from the seminars. The hot topics: security, virtualization, disaster recovery and storage, and add-ons to voice solutions.