Ingram Micro Taps Web 2.0 To Build Partner Relationships

Web 2.0

The Santa Ana, Calif.-based distributor launched the Zone sites at its VentureTech Network Invitational in Las Vegas earlier this month.

"The primary use of the tool is for partnership and to [bring partners together] more efficiently and effectively," said Kirk Robinson, Ingram's vice president of channel marketing, North America. "It's really taking what we already do and giving them an online portal to expand it deeper into the organizations and make their partnering that much easier."

However, helping VARs partner effectively should aid their quest to reach more small business customers, he said.

"It's going to enable them to get in there through partnerships. A lot of times they get hit with, now I need security. I need VoIP. I need storage, and it's not their specialty, but using this tool is going to enable the SMB resellers to also be able to partner and to be able to answer 'yes' to the end user in the SMB market," Robinson said.

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The Zone networking sites are open to members of Ingram's solution provider communities: VentureTech Network, SMB Alliance, GovEd Alliance and System ArchiTECHs, and will be live next month. Each group has its own Zone site, powered by Leverage Software.

The sites allow both solution provider executives and employees to create profiles and blogs and network with colleagues to share information and best practices just like a MySpace or Facebook profile.

VARs can list information about themselves, including contact information, vendors they sell, certifications and specialties. They can also post what they're looking for in a partner by technology specialty, vertical market or region. Users can also create groups of contacts with whom they can communicate with through the sites. Additionally, the site features chat rooms, and resellers can participate in and create on-site polls.

"I think it's going to be a good tool. It's going to be very, very useful for us. It will drive the relationships with the partners we work with in VTN that much deeper," said Todd Hanna, CEO of Protocol Technologies, Vernon, British Columbia. "We'll be able to get some collaboration with our engineers and the engineers of the other companies in VTN. We're pretty excited about it actually."

Hanna said he expects that his company's engineers and sales team will use the tools to interact with other solution providers to share information. "I see newsgroups happening and blogs around marketing where some of our marketing people will be able to get information from others and share best practices," he said.

The tool will allow his company to expand the reach of Ingram's VentureTech Network, many of whom are successful in the SMB market, as well. "Usually, it's just owners and principals at VTN ... [Other staff members then] don't get the same exposure as we do, so we come back and we talk about these things and that's kind of where it ends. I think this social networking tool is going to allow us to drive it deeper into our organizations," Hanna said.

He also expects it will help network his company with solution providers in more urban, well-connected areas.

Ingram also announced an alliance with the M&A Forum, an online marketplace where solution providers can discuss and coordinate mergers and acquisitions. Ingram is offering resellers a discount when posting on the M&A Forum, which is available immediately to all Ingram Micro solution providers.

"We're looking at ways to elevate their partnerships and advance their businesses faster than they could do on their own," Robinson said.