launches affiliate program for consultants

DirectDial Screenshot

A partner co-branded site

London, Ont.-based e-commerce site is reaching out to IT consultants and the growing number of other pure-play services companies in the channel with the launch of an affiliate program.

Under the program, partners offer a co-branded version of DirectDial’s e-commerce engine on their Web store, and get a commission for all sales through that Web site.

The program comes from a realization that the company’s sweet spot is in the S of SMB, the same as many of the smaller IT services shops it’s targeting with the affiliate program. It also comes from the realization that many of those consultants are already using the site – according to Bill King, director of sales and marketing at DirectDial, from 3,000 of the 7,000 to 10,000 small IT consultants in Canada are already ordering the site.

“We felt it was time to reach out to those guys, and that’s the foundation of the affiliate program,” King said.

Offering a Web store is free for qualified solution providers. Commissions for gear sold via a partner’s co-branded Web site range from a minimum of half a percentage point up to two per cent for products from the program’s platinum sponsor, HP Canada. It’s not the kind of money that’s going to make or break a business, but that’s money that would otherwise be going to big box or other consumer electronic retailers, King contends.

“It lets consultants present services they couldn’t in the past,” he said, for example offering printer or other consumables, or engaging in break/fix contracts on the gear sold through the site.

Like most e-commerce site selling IT or consumer electronics, DirectDial has its hooks in to all the distributors, and is able to present something of a “power in numbers” story to smaller consultants. Partners who have found themselves a small fish in the major distributors’ big ponds because they purchase too few items on too infrequent a basis will “be a pretty big fish in our pond” by getting customers to order through a co-branded DirectDial site.

That means giving up some customer information, and to some degree, control of the customer, to DirectDial. But King said his site is strictly focused on the transactional – on hardware and software and other things that can be shipped to end users, and does not offer the services of advice that end users, particularly those in the small business space, expect from their local VAR or consultant.

“Our business isn’t to go after the client – that would be slitting our own throats,” he said. “We want to foster that relationship with trust.”

Beyond the simple e-commerce site, King said the company plans to build something of a community. Every member of the program will have their own internal portal to both track their business through DirectDial and to communicate and interact with the e-commerce store and other affiliate partners. DirectDial will also be offering regular Webinars, marketing collateral and other materials, either of its own design or coming from sponsoring vendors

The plan is to expand the number of vendors actively involved in the program and therefore offering larger commissions, and that the company has “a number of commitments” from vendors to come aboard.

King also envisions an expansion into more vertically-oriented stores and partner groups, and even perhaps an award program for its most active affiliates.

“This is a living and breathing thing, and it’s going to become more feature-rich as time goes on,” he said.