Panda Appoints New Leaders For Planned Channel Expansion

Among the new hires is Rick Carlson, Panda's new president of U.S. operations, who came on board the Bilbao, Spain-based company from anti-virus vendor AVG Technologies, where he served as managing director of North American operations. In his new role at Panda, Carlson currently oversees operational activities and strategic direction.

In addition, Keith Lubner joined Panda as the new vice president of channels, with a resume that includes running channel programs for QlikTech, AVG, Datawatch, Relavis and Oracle.

Additionally, Panda aims to aggressively expand its channel with an initiative to recruit around 500 new channel partners this year, growing its channel partner base from its current 700 active resellers to at least 1,200 in 2010.

Those partners could possibly be lured with a revamped channel program, including enhanced deal registration, which now offers a 10 percent margin incentive for partners who bring sales leads to the table, regardless of whether they close the deal. The revised channel program also offers renewal protection that gives channel partners up to 30 percent commission when customers renew licenses or service agreements.

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Executives also say that marketing and branding will be a high priority in 2010, a pledge accompanied by new marketing and training support obtained via the partner portal, which includes promotions, rebates and other customizable marketing materials. Executives acknowledged that marketing -- especially in the U.S. -- historically has been a weak spot for the company.

"Sometimes the people with the best product don't always have the largest marketing budget, at least in the U.S." Carlson said. "When you're competing with Symantec, McAfee and Trend, and eight or 10 other companies that are similarly sized [as Panda], that's a heck of a lot of noise for us to cut through with our message."

But enhanced marketing efforts have now become a requirement and not a luxury, according to some of Panda's reseller partners, who say they see gaping holes in the company's ability to strategically market in the U.S.

"It's the hardest sell we have. The marketing has to be improved. The name recognition is not out there," said Teddy Gabbart, CEO of Scholastic Communications, an Okla.-based solution provider. "It's an education process that we have to go through every day. Initially (customers) are buying the product because we're recommending it. It would be nice to have someone walk through the door and say 'we want to try out Panda Security.'"

Carlson said that Panda's antivirus and other traditional security products are on par with many of the company's competing tier-two vendors such as Kaspersky or Sophos. "That's a little bit like comparing apples to apples, rather than showing them oranges that nobody else has. That's how we look to compete with the competition," he said.

Carlson said that those "oranges" -- what sets the company apart -- is its Panda Cloud Protection, which has been gaining ground in retail verticals and on distributed networks. Partners say that the technology is solid, and it offers an almost unnoticeable footprint on the workstation. Meanwhile, it also comes with sophisticated reporting technologies, allowing customers to access daily, weekly or monthly reports.

Gabbart said that among the channel improvements were the recent additions of dedicated reps and executives, who he hoped would continue to maintain company's support and commitment to their channel base.

"They're seasoned veterans in the field and have the experience to support us. We need someone who's going to support us when we have questions or something comes up," he said. "We're not competing against corporate sales people. Generating a lead is not a wasted effort. Constant issues with resellers competing with inside sales -- that's never a good situation."

While Gabbart welcomes the new deal registration protections, he has a long memory. Years ago, he said, he had some issues with Panda after he went through "hours and hours of education" with customers, only to have them call CDW or Panda direct and end up making a purchase. Subsequently, there were several occasions in which he was cut completely out of the deal and "didn't see a dime."

"Those days are long gone," he said.