Monday, October 1, 2012

A Guide to IBM’s Marketing “Launch Pad” for MSPs

IBM blue logoMSPs around the world tuned into IBM's online launch event of their new PartnerWorld initiative for Managed Service Providers on September 26. (In case you missed it, the event is now available on-demand when you register and login through the above link.) IBM executives presented new incentives, offerings, and marketing programs, and current MSP partners, like Doug Mow of Velocity Technology Solutions, shared their real world IBM success stories. IBM sees this as the beginning of "a new era of partnership, new ways of working together, and new opportunities for future growth." 

Andy Monshaw, GM for IBM's Midmarket Business, kicked off the event with some honesty: "IBM did not connect with the managed service provider community at all...and we were completely wrong." I appreciated this admittance. IBM isn't pretending as if they've been focused on MSPs all along. Monshaw reassured the community, "We don't view you as a channel, we view this as a partnership."

Besides Monshaw's introduction, one of my favorite parts of the launch was when an exec said they realized that the last time there was a press release about IBM and MSPs was "never." Now they can say it was 9/26/12:

IBM Launches Global Initiatives to Help Managed Service Providers Capture Burgeoning Cloud Opportunity

As the marketing manager of an MSP, I've learned to have low expectations for partner portals. There's nothing like navigating a portal to leave me feeling frustrated, and I can count on one hand the vendors who I feel actually care about whether I can find that banner for our website or that product brochure for our client. So the part of the online launch that intrigued me the most was the marketing and sales support initiatives in the IBM PartnerWorld.

If I'm intrigued, I figure some other MSPs might be as well. The following are the set of services listed in the PDF (which is the first link under the Marketing tab in the PartnerWorld for MSPs) Introducing IBM's new Marketing Launch Pad for MSPs: MSP Concierge, Marketing Plan Development, Marketing Assets & Funding, Marketing Execution Services, Analytics & Insights, Social Media/Marketing Education, Promotion of MSP via IBM's BP Directory, MSP Mark.

So let's go find these services!

Accessing PartnerWorld for MSPs

You can access this revamped treasure chest one of two ways:
1) The simple URL of (This is already a step in the right direction and the site hasn't even loaded yet. A simple URL for a partner portal instead of a long cryptic address? Crazy!)
2) Once you sign in to PartnerWorld, click on Partner Program > Company Type > Managed Services.

This will bring you to the page pictured below:

IBM Managed Service Provider PartnerWorld

To access the marketing launch pad, click on the Marketing tab.

Navigating the Marketing Launch Pad for MSPs

The Marketing tab contains 4 sections - Develop a marketing plan, Build your brand, Execute a campaign, and Identify best prospects. I went through these sections looking specifically for the set of services promised in the Launch Pad PDF. Let's see if IBM's marketing of the Marketing Launch Pad is accurate.

MSP Concierge

MSP Concierge is the "single point of contact" for all your questions about the MSP program. You can find it on the right-hand side under "Contact PartnerWorld" as "Live Chat for MSPs."

IBM MSP Marketing Launch Pad

IBM MSP Concierge login

The Live Chat link brings you to this page where you must first fill out your information.

IBM MSP Concierge wait time

It's nice that they tell you where you are in the queue and your wait time.
IBM MSP Concierge live chat session

Might as well test it out while I'm here, right?

The responses were timely, and it's comforting to know that this is an option for support. I don't know about you, but I'm always grateful when I don't have to pick up the phone and go through the whole entering my partner number, etc.

IBM MSP Concierge email

Another benefit to this is the option to have the transcript emailed to you:
IBM MSP Concierge transcript

I received the transcript 5 minutes later: "Thank you for contacting PartnerWorld. Here is the online chat transcript you requested."
IBM MSP Concierge pop-up

I also experienced this pop up on a few pages, which is definitely helpful but I wish there was a constant "Chat now" option on every page. Having to go back to square one or waiting for this to pop up is inconvenient

Marketing Plan Development

Find it under Develop a marketing plan - "Develop a marketing plan with help from skilled marketing resources. Select Live Chat for MSPs to learn more."

The skilled marketing resources are referred to as MSVs in the PDF: "IBM has strategic partnerships with Marketing Services Vendors (MSVs) who along with IBM, can work with you to build out a business and/or marketing plan." It's a little disappointing that there isn't at least a link to a form that you can fill out to be contacted by an MSV, but going through the Live Chat is better than nothing.

Marketing Assets & Funding

IBM Web Content Syndication Service

Find it under Build your brand - “Enhance your web site content with direct product and marketing feeds.

After clicking on the link, you have to click through a couple pages until you can get to Sharedvue, which is where you actually register to obtain the content: "Fill out the form below to register for the IBM Web Content Syndication benefit. Once registered, you will receive an email from with information on how to get started."

IBM Web Content Syndication Sharedvue

For an example of what the content will look like on your site, you can see it on our MSP site: The main ways IBM allows you to customize the showcase are selecting which tabs you want to include and your contact information.

Customer Reference Program

The reference program is for partners to promote their client success stories. This is one of the few services that is not free. For $2,850, Candau Consulting will make a 3 minute video podcast and do a page write-up featuring a success story with your client. It seems like after you get out your wallet you don't have to do much else. Candau will work directly with your client to get the job done.

IBM's MidMarket Asset Gallery

Find it under Execute a campaign - View available demand generation assets on IBM’s Midmarket Asset Gallery.

Don't be alarmed by the sudden appearance of color (a la Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz)! You can search by keyword and/or filter using campaign support (marketing strategy, demand generation, etc.), asset type (print, banner, etc.), and date. When you get the results, you can sort them by campaign support, asset type, date, and title.

IBM Midmarket Asset Gallery



Co-Marketing Center

Find it under Execute a campaign - Visit the Co-Marketing Center to download customizable demand generation assets.

Here you can find materials by Solution, Topic, Products & Services, Asset Type, and Audience Size. There are also some downloads available here that don't require any customizing. I tested out editing a solution brief and I was pleasantly surprised with how easy it was. Instead of downloading the material and then editing it, which is what I usually have to do with other vendors' material, you can simply click on the areas that are customizable and edit them right on the site. You can also have IBM print the materials for you, for a fee, but this can be covered by funding if you follow the appropriate steps.

IBM Co-Marketing Center

Partners must complete the co-funded marketing application and after it's approved you begin your marketing partnership campaign. You then have to submit your leads and keep them updated with sales information. After you get some wins, you can submit your claim form for reimbursement.

Marketing Execution Services

Marketing campaign services

Again, this is something that involves the MSVs. In the PDF, the services are described as follows: "Plan and execute demand generation, with one of IBM's strategic marketing services vendors (MSVs) who specialize in working with Business Partners, TSL Marketing or OnChannel. Their services span the entire marketing spectrum including strategy & planning, data lists, execution/demand generation as well as lead nurturing." However, this is one of the things I was unable to find anywhere in the launch pad.

Other lead generation services (fee)

Find it under Execute a campaign - Generate sales opportunities with Frontline’s appointment setting services.

For this service there is an hourly or fixed fee for each individual demand creation opportunity. This is what you get:
  • "An expert to help you drive leads through setting appointments with the right executives for those important early stages of business opportunities
  • A verbatim transcript of each business meeting scheduled by Frontline Selling with the target client and Business Partners sales representatives, capturing the initial contact with the prospects
  • Detailed lists of all individuals executives contacted in targeted accounts and their reaction to key value propositions and speaking points"
For these appointment setting services, you have to send an email to Frontline, which I thought was interesting since it was the first time I encountered an email address instead of a form in the portal.

Identify prospects

  • Propensity to Buy Models - Another thing that was mentioned in the PDF that did not make itself apparent in the launch pad.
  • IBM Market Insights
Find it under Identify best prospects - Tap into IBM Market Insights for marketplace reports, buying behaviors, industry trends, and competitive information. 

I can't comment on the insights because when I tried to access them, I was brought to a page that said, “No results found that match your selections. Change your selections above to add results.” I actually chatted with the MSP Concierge about this and they suggested clearing my cache or using a different browser. I did both and there wasn't a change, so I'm not sure if other people are having this issue as well.
  • Hoover’s
Find it under Identify best prospects - Get a discount on Hoover’s and access to more than 32 million companies worldwide for research purposes.

This link took me to a page for independent software vendors. I didn't see anything for Hoover's but there are some resources in this area of the site.

Analytics & Insights

Again, I didn't see anything for analytics or insights in a big kind of way like a dedicated page for them, but many of the resources could be under this umbrella.

Social Media/Marketing Education

Brand-Building Training

Find under Build your brand - Enroll in Brand-Building Training to learn how to extend your reach using social media.

This link takes you to, where you can register for “4Q-CBT-BC: Self-Paced Social Media Boot Camp.” The dates to choose from are every Monday for the rest of 2012. IBM has partnered with Profitecture to provide this service.

IBM Social Media Boot Camp ProfitectureIBM Social Media Boot Camp register
I registered and received a confirmation email from Profitecture. This is what you get:
  • 24/7 access to curriculum
  • Individual assignments (designed to take >30 minutes) and measurements
  • One-on‐one coaching call upon request
  • Access to coaches via email, phone, text and Twitter
The date you register for is just the kickoff date, you can set your own pace for the assignments. The camp is only open to the first 500 people who register, so if you're interested in this don't put off signing up. (Stay tuned for a post after my first assignment!)

Promotion of MSP via IBM's BP Directory

Find it under Build your brand - Promote your company in this IBM repository of Business Partner solutions.

This link takes you to the Global Solutions Directory page. Here partners can:
  • Create and update your solutions
  • Submit a solution for verification
  • Submit a client reference
  • Nominate your solution (for an IBM Industry Framework, technical validation, specialty, or Managed Service Provider initiative)
  • View response cards
If your solutions meet certain criteria, it will be featured in the IBM Business Partner Application Showcase which customers can search to find providers who have implemented solutions that are relevant to their business.

IBM MSP markMSP Mark

See the badge to the right over there? That's the MSP mark.

The Verdict

Overall, I'd say I was pleasantly surprised with IBM's Marketing Launch Pad for MSPs. That it even exists already puts them ahead of many other vendors who don't bother to cater to MSPs; but then again as such a large vendor, what took them so long to do so?

There are some nice touches I appreciated that I didn't mention in the breakdown above, like the "Midmarket social media" links that can be found on the right hand side in the launch pad. The links are to IBM PartnerWorld SMB on LinkedIn and Facebook and IBM MidmarketBP on Twitter, and all of these are updated frequently.

Another thing I didn't mention since it wasn't promised in the PDF is the lack of a guide (like this one that's happening right now). They're offering us a lot of stuff in here! They should provide a guide or a "Launch Pad Help" section within PartnerWorld to make sure we MSPs don't miss out on any of it. The PDF was a good start, but it doesn't even correspond with how the marketing tab is actually setup. I'd like to see something more thorough that includes step by step directions, and maybe even divides the services by levels of involvement. (For example, there is very little involved in the MSP mark, but the social media boot camp requires a much more significant time commitment.)

Although there were a few services in the Launch Pad PDF that I was unable to find in the actual Launch Pad, for the most part I was able to easily access everything. My low standards may leave me feeling more impressed than others, but I feel that these services could really add value for us and other MSPs. I hope this is the beginning of a long and fruitful partnership for all involved.

What did you think of the launch event? Have you had a chance to explore the new Managed Service Provider PartnerWorld? Do you have a different opinion of IBM after all this? Please leave a comment, let's start a discussion. (Or tweet us @mspbuilder1 and be sure to use #IBMMSP)