D-Link: VIP Program Changes Spur Deal Reg Surge

To hear D-Link's channel brains tell it, what was needed at D-Link wasn't so much another completely revamped channel program as it was an updated system of rewards and resources that were easier for partners to use.

The proof is in the pudding: the changes D-Link made to its Value In Partnership (VIP) channel program in March have brought a five-fold increase new partner registrations, and a doubling in the amount of deal registrations, according to Steve Ryan, director of North American channel programs at D-Link.

"A lot of it came down to tightening up what we had," said Ryan, discussing what motivated the changes to the program. "I think we're creating something that's going to be a lot more rewarding for them. What we want them to know is: We're listening."

D-Link's VIP program was launched in April 2010 but, according to Ryan, D-Link needed to fine-tune a lot of the partner resources, which included changing D-Link's rebate program and strengthening partner incentives such as deal registration.

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One result is that under the VIP program, deal registration discounts are now offered by deal size rather than partner level and are provided on the front end of deals instead of the back. Specifically, D-Link offers 6 percent off MSRP for deals ranging from $5,000 to $20,000, and 10 percent off MSRP discount for deals $20,000 and up.

"Every deal is vitally important to us, and this way, more partners are protected if they lead with us," Ryan said. "We bounced that [discount structure] idea off a couple of partners and they loved it. It gets the deal in our pipeline, even though it may be smaller in some cases, and everybody wins. If more discount is needed in a competitive situation, we'll increase the discount to win the business."

Ryan joined D-Link in November 2010 following a stint in the channel strategy group at HP Networking. He was a member of HP's 3Com acquisition integration team while there and was director of global channel programs at 3Com before HP acquired the company in late 2009. Ryan has strong ties to D-Link's Nick Tidd, who was 3Com's global channel chief until March 2008, joined D-Link in May 2009 and became North America president in January 2010.

Other incentives in the VIP update include technology certifications that award 5 percent discounts on certain products and the GovEd Discount Program, in which partners who sell into government and education can receive a 5 percent up-front discount for products purchased through distribution for deals in those markets.

Also preserved is D-Link's Bounty Program, in which Silver- and Gold-level partners who end up losing registered deals to competitors can still receive a small rebate from D-Link for their troubles for if they meet certain criteria.

"If they demonstrate that they've really gone to bat to lead with D-Link and then it gets lost to a competitor, we'll still pay the partner 3 percent MSRP," Ryan said. "It's really important to reward partners for leading with us."

NEXT: D-Link Gets Partners More Involved

Partners also will be more involved with company strategy. Next week, for example, Silver and Gold partners will be able to participate in the first of what D-Link said will be quarterly briefings on D-Link's product road map. All D-Link VIP partners, from Registered on up, will be invited to quarterly Webinars hosted by Ryan and other D-Link executives, including Tidd, to provide an overview of the company's sales direction and what quarterly promotions are available, as well as take questions. Gold-level partners, who already receive priority for sales leads, are eligible to be part of D-Link's recently formed Partner Council.

Previously, Ryan said, a lot of the information that D-Link plans to provide in the Webinars would only be available piecemeal on D-Link's partner portal, and there was no formal product road map discussion available for higher-tiered partners.

Part of Ryan's job is also to manage the online systems integration between D-Link North America and D-Link Europe. This year, D-Link will evolve toward a more global channel program structure with some differences specific to geographic regions, rather than separate programs, he said.

The VIP rollout means there are fewer overall D-Link partners, Ryan said, because it required D-Link solution providers to re-enroll from the previous channel program to participate.

The timing of the current changes is in line with a recruitment effort that finds D-Link looking to shore up its SMB-focused VAR base -- Ryan described the "sweet spot" as 20- to 400-seat businesses -- but also attract midsize-enterprise-focused solution providers that can help it push upmarket on top of the enterprise-grade products it began to release a year ago.

"We have the product portfolio for it," Ryan said. "I think our program is much simpler than some of the others out there. Some others, their programs are great but you need a full-time person to administer them, it feels like. We're constantly looking at ways to better service our partners."