How To Get The Most From Print Partner Programs

Print VARs today need to use every advantage to get new business at no extra cost.

Vendor partner programs are a staple for solution providers that specialize in printing and document-management applications. But not every VAR gets the same bang for the discount and marketing bucks that these plans represent. To fully exploit the resources, rather than just seeing modest benefits, solution providers need to key in on core resources available in the best programs, sales and marketing veterans say.

The right strategy for getting the most out of a partner program could determine whether a VAR can emerge from the current economic downturn ready to capitalize on pent-up demand.

To stay strong during today’s tumultuous economic times, solution providers should:

  • Focus on partner program resources that can help hone expertise in new technologies and solutions, including managed print services programs
  • Exploit partner programs to enhance their marketing acumen by seeding prospects even when during periods when the clients are actively writing checks for new hardware, consumables, and services.
  • Tap programs that expand a VAR’s outreach to customers, particularly with tools that go beyond traditional brochures to include customizable multimedia presentations.
New Enhancements

By offering a combination of rebates, upfront discounts, and innovative marketing tools, Xerox’s Peak Partner program has reined as one of the printing industry’s more successful resources. For example, VARBusiness Magazine’s annual ARC report card has given Xerox’s Peak Partner program top honors in six out of the last seven years.

Xerox recently built on the existing program to expand it with additional tools designed to give solution providers a low-cost way to promote themselves to their customers, many of whom are proving slow to sign new orders in a troubled economy. The additions to the program extend rather than shift Peak’s existing goals, which seek to facilitate revenue and profit opportunities for solution providers and provide them with access to industry-leading products, services, and software. In addition, the plan is designed to help partners hone their technical, sales, and marketing skills, while facilitating an ongoing relationship with the vendor to make it easy to receive rebates, services, and input from Xerox account managers.

Solution providers that see the most success from Peak are those that take full advantage of the expertise available from these account managers, says Tom Gall, Xerox director of value channel marketing at Xerox. A particular benefit comes from the dual inside and outside alignment of Xerox representatives that are available to solution providers, he adds.

Each Peak partner is assigned an internal rep who’s available via phone calls to answer questions about the program or Xerox products. The dedicated outside rep offers expertise during joint customer calls as well as help in sorting out a variety of other issues, such as deciding what are the right products to recommend for a new opportunity, Gall says.

Some solution providers that are finding success transitioning to profit-boosting managed print services with the help of these inside and outside reps, he says.

“We have more partner managers in the field than ever—approximately a doubling in the past year,” Gall says. Why expand this area when the downturn is forcing companies like Xerox to consider contractions in other types of resources? “We feel it’s the right decision because that’s the best way for Xerox to address the SMB [small and mid-sized business] market,” he explains. “The SMB market is growing and we want to be more competitive in that area. The best way to effect that is to work with VARs because of their close SMB relationships.”

Hone marketing skills

Successful exploiters of Peak Partner resources also understand the importance of improving their marketing capabilities. Many of the new Peak enhancements are designed to help partners look more professional while at the same time lowering expenses typically incurred by marketing programs.

Program members now have a handful of no-cost, co-branding resources to better market themselves. For example, solution providers may access a Xerox Web site that houses product and services brochures and allow VARs to upload their logos and their individual calls to action. Xerox then prints out the requested volume of brochure copies and delivers them to the partner.

“This means the VAR’s sales rep or service techs can leave the brochure behind whenever they visit a customer, so their logo is always in front of that client,” Gall says. “We know that sales cycles are longer today, but end users are going to buy at some point. We want to make sure that when the point comes, the reseller’s name is front of that customer.”

An e-mail version of this resource also is available to Peak members. But to assure the privacy of end-user contact information, Xerox uses a third-party organization to maintain addresses and distribute promotional e-mails after VARs add their messaging to Xerox-supplied templates. “We never see the e-mail addresses,” Gall says. “VARs don’t want us to know who their customers are and we get that.”

Xerox calls a third new marketing tool Promo Builder. It allows solution providers to log onto a Xerox site and drag and drop product information appropriate information for an individual client into a document format. VARs can then add a cover letter outlining a proposal, cost estimates, and a date to meet with the customer. The site creates a PDF version of the document, which the VAR then sends to the prospect. The PDF remains on the Promo Web site for future mailings to similar prospects.

Multimedia push

A related tool called Quick Pitch performs a similar task, but instead of delivering a customized brochure and cover letter, VARs use it to distribute pre-built PowerPoint slide decks, complete with voice-overs that accompany the slides. Prospects just click on the VAR-supplied Web link to see the multimedia presentations about multifunction products, printers, print services, or other Xerox offerings.

To help solution providers further brand this type of multimedia content, Xerox licensed technology from Brainshark, which allows VARs to create their own Quick Pitch. Solution providers can add their own slides, including logos and contact information, to the pre-built presentations. “So if a solution provider goes to an industry event and talks to 100 prospects, he or she can add a message to a Quick Pitch saying, ‘It was great to see you. Here’s [an introduction to] my business. I’d like to talk to you,’” Gall says. The Brainshark technology can track which prospects clicked on the presentation link to gauge areas of interest to discuss on follow up calls.

Gall believes these resources will help solution providers gain more value from the Peak Partner program and position themselves to more quickly benefit when an economic upturn arrives. “If you give VARs the tools to look good, it just builds on the solid relationships they already have with their customers,” he says.

For more information about the Peak Partner program go to and click on the “Learn About” button in the right-hand column.