Sage looks to hook partners up with its own Big Data

Joe Langner, EVP of midmarket and CRM solutions at Sage North America

Joe Langner, EVP of midmarket and CRM solutions at Sage North America

Sage Software says it will help its partners get greater access to data on the company’s two million customers in North America, part of an effort to build partners’ business by upselling the existing base on a variety of the customers wares.

The introduction of a new plan to mine the ERP vendor’s data was one of three significant changes to its channel programs recently introduced and set to come into action over the next few months.

Joe Langner, executive vice president of midmarket and CRM solutions at Sage, said the company has collected 130 unique attributes about its customers that it feel allows the company to sort its customers into groups, and to identify opportunities with its channel partners.

Under the plan, the company is making that data available to its business growth managers, who then work closely with partners to identify customers likely to be in the market for the company’s wares, based on the other products the customer already uses, or the customer’s similarities to other Sage customers who use the same products.

“It lets partners have more of an informed conversation with customer, creates faster speed to market, and creates a better overall customer-partner-Sage experience,” he said.

The information is kept up to date, pulled on a daily basis as the Sage business growth managers schedule meetings with partners, usually on a quarterly basis for top partners.

“It’s information on their own customers that we’re providing them, but we’re doing the analytics and finding the insights for them,” Langner said.

The company has also announced changes to its marketing supports for partners, moving away from its traditional co-op program (a flat rate of marketing dollars based on number of dollars of Sage software sold by a partner) and towards the kind of market development funding (MDF) that’s tied to specific marketing activities.

“It’s a shift in how we’re looking to invest in the growth and execution of our products,” Langner said.

Product sales volumes will still be a component of the MDF formula, but no longer the exclusive rule. Instead, partners will bring their marketing plans to Sage, which will look to co-invest with partners. Langner said the company welcomes anything “that is focused on growing a sage product, and that makes sense to drive Sage revenue.”

He said that while it’s too early to predict how exactly it will shift the company’s marketing dollars, the new model will likely see partners who are more engaged in focused marketing activities getting a greater share of the overall dollars available, simply because they’ll be the ones with the processes in place to take advantage of the new program since day one.

The MDF program debuts April 1, while the old co-op regime will be accrued through the end of April. Partners who earn co-op dollars will have until the end of September to use those dollars, after which time, the marketing efforts will focus around the MDF program.

A third change – the company has decided to run a Symposium Series, essentially taking a shortened version of its annual partner- and customer-show, Sage Summit, on the road to a variety of market across North America. The company tested the idea with Canadian dates late last year, and is running a handful of the events in the first half of the year, with more dates and venues soon to be announced when the tour picks up after Sage Summit in July.

“We look at this as a way to sell more together, to grow the business and make more face-to-face connections,” Langner said, adding that he tends to walk away from Summit every year thinking the company needs to “bottle that up and take it out to the regions.”

The software company is also undergoing some major changes in terms of channel management. Tom Miller, who’s been channel chief since June of 2009 when he joined the company from a channel management role at Microsoft’s Dynamics group, is retiring this week, with Langner taking over as the executive face of the company’s channel efforts.

“I cam to Sage on a two-year plan, and it’s been almost four years,” Miller said with a laugh. “I am leaving the channel in really good hands with Joe.”

As for Miller, he said this is a “true” retirement, not just a retirement in the press release sense. “We’re going to move to Connecticut and spend more time with our grandchildren,” he said.