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Ingram Micro isn’t wasting a perfectly good recession

With a slew of new partner initiatives, Ingram Micro is remembering a recession is a terrible thing to waste

An economic downturn provides a convenient excuse to pull back on investment offerings. Ingram Micro Inc., which just announced a slew of new partner initiatives at its recent VentureTech Network Invitational event, isn’t making those excuses.

Mind you, neither are its competitors – most disties have been looking for ways to add value in an industry that’s been hard hit by the recession. And they don’t have much of a choice – when times are changing, you can’t continue to do business the same old way. It’s not survival of the fittest; it’s survival of those who adapt best to change.

Top economists tell us not to waste a perfectly good recession. While an economic downturn presents challenges, it can also be the bearer of innovation. And we start seeing innovative initiatives that perhaps we wouldn’t see if we were experiencing better times.

Ingram is piloting three programs (to be available in the first quarter of 2010) that have obvious benefits for VARs, particularly its business intelligence dashboard and lead generation tool, which provide customizable data derived from five years of a member’s own sales data with intelligence from the distributor’s database of more than 2 million unique records. Ingram says the data will reveal IT refresh and growth opportunities, as well as help chart unique sales trends.

How business analytics can help during an economic downturn is a topic unto itself. But in this case, Ingram is going beyond standard reporting tools and providing more advanced analytics through a predictive modeling application (one the distie already uses to help vendors predict sales). Now Ingram is looking to provide the same application to its reseller partners. And this could truly differentiate Ingram from its competitors.

The big question is, how much will this end up costing the reseller? Ingram is making a significant investment in these programs, so it’s not planning to give it all away for free. That’s understandable, of course, but at the same time, some partners may resent having to pay anything, since they’re bringing their business to Ingram in the first place. Some even suggest that vendors absorb the cost.

If a partner is truly deriving value from this – by closing more deals – then that partner is likely to stick with Ingram rather than switch to a competitor. Perhaps that’s payment enough.

Still, there’s some truth to the sentiment that people don’t always appreciate things when they’re free, so a nominal fee may not be such a bad idea. But charge too much, and there could be a backlash.

Other programs include the VTN Rebate Tracker, which will help partners track, report on and forecast rebate dollars each month, helping to eliminate the complexity of vendor rebate and discount programs – and eliminate the frustration of navigating these programs to save some money. VTN Connect will bring members together to collaborate and share business analytics. And Ingram is now on Facebook and Twitter.

It looks like Ingram is taking advice from the economists – it’s not wasting a perfectly good recession.