NATIONAL HARBOR, MD. – Last month business software vendor Sage North America signed on as a sponsor of the Canada Games, as part of the company’s efforts to grow the visibility of the Sage brand in the Canadian market.
Building the Sage brand in North America is a key priority for the company and its partners. One year ago it formally dropped such iconic product brands as Peachtree and Simply, opting for Sage-centric product names such as Sage 50 Canadian Edition. The idea is that it will be easier to market the overall Sage brand and raise awareness of the entire portfolio, rather than trying to market a host of individual products.
It’s an ongoing process. Many partners were invested emotionally and financially in the old names. Sage provided marketing and logistical help to assist partners in communicating the change to their customers an adjusting their marketing materials, and Sage North America CEO Pascal Houillon said, after an initial adjustment period, most partners have successfully made the switch. He pointed to rising customer satisfaction scores and awareness figures, as well as rising sales and share price, as proof the strategy is working.
“Customers are happier with Sage because they know what we stand for, they know what we offer, and it’s easier to do business with Sage today,” said Houillon.
Still, not all partners have made the adjustment. One Canadian partner told CDN it feels like he’s having to start over talking with customers about Sage instead of the old product name, and likened it to marketing “the symbol formerly known as the artist Prince.” Houillon said such cases are rare, and all their data shows growing customer awareness of the Sage brand.
It’s also an important part of encouraging partners to develop a solution-based selling approach. While some Sage partners are finding it more difficult to adjust because they’ve just been selling one Sage product, the vendor wants them to go deeper with the Sage portfolio, and be ready to help customers move up the Sage stack to other solution offerings as the company grows.
“The majority of our customer know the brand change has taken place,” said Connie Certusi, executive vice-president and general manager of small business solutions for Sage North America. “To be quite honest with you, our customers don’t care, as long as they know it’s the same solution and they don’t have to go through retraining.”
Recognizing the need to continue driving brand awareness — Sage wants to be seen as the top provider of business software to the small and medium-sized business market — Houillon announced a tripling of the vendor’s spend on brand building and the recent hiring of an executive vice-president of marketing to coordinate and drive marketing initiatives across the company.
Pre-dating that announcement is the Canada Games partnership, which will see Sage provide software, including Sage 300 ERP and Sage CRM, to the organizing committee and gain visibility in Canada Games marketing and at the events themselves, beginning at the 2013 Canada Games this summer in Sherbrooke, Quebec.
This summer, Sage is running an RV tour with executives, customers and partners across the United States, and Nancy Harris, vice-president and general manager for Sage 50—Canadian Edition, said they plan to evaluate the success of the U.S. tour and then consider bringing it to Canada. Sage’s midmarket team did complete a cross-Canada schedule of customer symposiums with partners in Sag’s fiscal 2013, and the plan for fiscal 2014 is an expanded schedule teaming with the small business team as well.
“It will bring together a holistic view of sage for Canadians,” said Harris.
Building that holistic view is important for Sage. With Sage One — a cloud-based for very small or startup businesses – launching in Canada later this year, Sage can now show a progression path for a business to grow with Sage as the business grows and its needs become more complex, from Sage One to Sage 50 (formerly Simply Accounting) to Sage 100 ERP, and beyond. And it wants partners to be able to help customers move along that continuum.