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Sage arming partners for cloud services era

Channel partners getting access to new marketing and training as Sage puts emphasis on online and connected services

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD. — With business software vendor Sage North America putting increasing emphasis on cloud computing and hybrid delivery models, it’s launching new marketing tools and training resources to help its channel partners adopt to and profit from evolving business models.

Sage’s vision includes Connected Services, a hybrid of on premise and cloud-based services that offers additional functionality around core Sage offerings. The strategy also includes online business solutions, which allow customers to pick and choose the functionality they need from Sage offerings, and purchase it through an on-demand model. A new multi-tenant Software as a Service (SaaS) offering for entry-level businesses is also expected from Sage later this year.

Pascal Houillon, the new CEO of Sage North America, told partners at the vendor’s Sage Summit conference that Sage has to change the way it prices its offerings and delivers them to customers.

“Customer expectations are changing. They expect to pay only for what they use, and that requires new payment models. The desire to easily add new services requires different access to the portfolio,” said Houillon. “Unlike pure SaaS players, Sage recognizes the value of the channel. But we need to rethink the value proposition.”

Sage is helping partners re-think that value proposition with a program called Sage Transition Journey. Tom Miller, vice-president of channel management with Sage, explained its an educational program consisting of development symposiums, workshops, and Web casts designed to help partners make the business model shift, from internal structuring and recurring revenue to pricing, selling and marketing.

“I believe the opportunity is there for partners if you talk about your value-add,” said Miller. “(You need to) transform your business to meet the needs of your customer and the way they want to be serviced and sold to.”

Amedeo Tarzia likes the direction Sage is taking around cloud computing, adding it compares favourably to competitors such as Microsoft and Salesforce.com. The CEO of Corum Corp., a Sage SalesLogix (CRM) partner based in Concord, Ont., said Sage’s early decision to embrace the HTML5 and CCS3 web standards has been particularly helpful given Corum’s strong mobility business.

“It really showed they were willing to take a lead on new technology. I think Sage was ahead of the game,” said Tarzia.

He also likes that the SaleLogix mobile offering is included with the CRM offering for no additional fee, and that Sage provides the database so he can work with his customers to develop a hybrid cloud-on premise infrastructure, and move functions back and forth if needs and priorities change.

“That’s still fairly unique, and as a partner it allows us to offer our customers ultimate flexibility with cross-platform and cross-browser support,” said Tarzia.

Overall, Miller said the move by Sage to a hybrid cloud model will allow partners to generate a recurring revenue stream and will bring exciting opportunity for the channel.

“We have a lot of really good partners with a lot of customers. When customers are satisfied, they tend to stay,” said Miller. “Our Connected Services strategy lets partners get involved in solutions with incredible value to customers, elevating their ability to sell value.”

In addition to training resources around cloud services, there’s also a new partner marketing forum available to the channel for a monthly fee that provides partners access to marketing resources they can use to dynamically add value to their web sites, provide white papers for lead generation and launch e-mail marketing campaigns.

Miller said they did a controlled release of the marketing portal four months ago, and already 150 partners have signed-up. They’ve done 244 e-mail campaigns sending 77,119 e-mails and generating 10,833 customer contacts. On the web side, content fed to partner web sites dynamically has generated 35.912 visits, 5,079 clicks and 144 requests for follow-up information.

“If partners aren’t using the marketing portal, I want to know why,” said Miller.

Tarzia isn’t using the portal, but he said that’s only because support hasn’t been launched for SalesLogix yet. He’s gotten a look at it while at Summit though, and he likes the look of it. Particularly compelling is that it’s not a frame-based implementation, but instead pulls content to the partner web site. That means partners get traffic analytics to chew on, instead of the data going to Sage. He also likes that he can add his own branding to the white papers and other content to differentiate Corum from other partners that may be drawing on the same material.

“I have a marketing person but I do get personally involved in marketing because I see a fundamental shift happening,” said Tarzia. “It used to be a push; we’d push content out to people. Not we’re seeing more of a pull, where consumers do research online and pull content through web search. If you provide that content to your target audience they’ll gravitate to you, but control of marketing is heading much more to the consumer.”

Follow Jeff Jedras on Twitter: @JeffJedrasCDN.