Nimble adds net-new benefits to partners with first formal partner program

The three new partner tiers all have revenue and certification requirements, and most partners will not qualify, but all partners, including those not in a tier, will receive the benefits Nimble has been providing until now, as all the new benefits to the tiers are net-new.

Alvin Da Costa Nimble 300

Alvin DaCosta, director of Channel Marketing at Nimble Storage

Flash-focused Nimble Storage has launched the Nimble Storage Partner Program, a global program that for the first time imparts a formal partner structure, with new tiers that give net-new benefits beyond what all partners were receiving previously.

“This is our first formal partner program,” said Alvin DaCosta, director of Channel Marketing at Nimble. “We have wanted to do it for a while, but when you are a startup, you want to see traction and run rate from a group of partners, so you know how best to segment and what kind of rewards you want to provide.”

Nimble did provide partners some benefits previously without a formal program.

“There was some enablement we did through webinars, and we provided benefits like deal registration, spiffs and NFR units,” he said. “We relied on partners heavily to bring us opportunities. What we are doing now is getting more strategic in our thinking. We have really beefed up certification and enablement. I think we are on par with the big companies now in terms of having a foundational partner program which will get us to the next level.”

The genesis for the formal program came six months ago from Nimble’s partner advisory board.

“They asked about a program because they wanted differentiation that would reflect their investments in Nimble,” DaCosta said. “We also had opportunities with some very large partners who thought that the lack of a program was a lack of company maturity. So we formalized the program, even though we had a lot of the elements in place.”

The program has three tiered levels – Bronze, Silver and Gold – with membership in all three tiers requiring a minimum annual sales level as well as certification requirements. There is also an Authorized level for partners who do not qualify for the Bronze tier benefits. Most partners will start as Authorized, as of the approximately 1000 partners Nimble has globally, DaCosta estimated about 50 will start as Bronze, 20 Silver and 20 Gold. It is important to note that ALL the benefits that Nimble was providing previously to its partners will be available to all its partners under the new program, even to the Authorized partners.

‘For the partners who do not qualify for a tier, nothing has changed from last year,” Da Costa said. “The benefits to the three tiers are all additive here, as the benefits they receive we never offered before. The Authorized partners will still get spiffs, deal registration, NFR, and the trade-in program. That 90 per cent of our partners will still get a ton of resources because we can’t abandon the people who got us to where we are today. However, for the Dimension Datas and CDWs who invest heavily in us, we want to make sure we reward them.”

Bronze partners have a minimum bookings goal of $USD 500,000 per year and are required to certify two salespeople as NSPs (Nimble Sales Professionals) and two engineers as NIOPs (Nimble Installation and Operation Professionals).

“In addition to the benefits the Authorized partners get, Bronze partners get proposal based marketing funds through distribution – Avnet and Ingram Micro,” DaCosta said. The proposals must be approved by Nimble.

Silver partners have a minimum bookings goal of $USD 1,000,000 yearly. They are required to certify 6 NSPs and 6 NIOPs OR 50 per cent of their sales account managers and sales engineers respectively, whichever is less. The percentage option was added to allow smaller but productive partners to qualify for the tier benefits. These include all the Bronze benefits, plus access to participate in the Nimble Loyalty Incentive Program, which provides 1 per cent MDF, as well as access to special programs and additional spiffs.

Gold partners are required to have a minimum bookings goal of $2,500,000, and to certify 10 NSPs and 10 NIOPS, or the 50 per cent alternative, again, whichever is less. They receive all the Silver benefits, plus eligibility for a 1 per cent back end rebate based on mutually agreed upon growth goals. They also have access to additional special programs and Memorandums of Understanding with Nimble, which rewards the partner for achieving specific milestones.

Partner certification and education have also been enhanced. Nimble has three courses, the NSP, the NIOP, and a third one, the NSEP (Nimble Sales Engineering Professional) for pre-sales engineers. DaCosta pointed out that while some company certifications are expensive, Nimble’s are free, and do not take an onerous amount of the candidate’s time away from billable activities. The NSP is a two hour online class, the NSEP is a four hour online class, and NIOP is a one-day instructor led class, sometimes at the partner site, sometimes at a hotel to draw more broadly from an area.

Nimble also offers bimonthly webinar training, with topics based on partner requests. DaCosta said these have been well attended, with between 300 and 400 individuals typically attending.

DaCosta emphasized that Nimble has always had a strong focus on partner enablement.

“We are one of few vendors who send account managers out on site to offer strategic business development with all the training and tools,” he said. “A subset of Gold partners with MOU contracts, likely six to ten in total, will also get joint strategic planning with Nimble.”

Nimble’s old partner portal has been replaced with a new one that features a smartphone application for mobile access, and customized data depending on the user’s profile.

“The partner logs in and gets real time snapshot of their business with the granularity dependent on their access level,” DaCosta said. “A CEO would see all sales pipelines, quarter by quarter growth, deal registrations and certifications. Managers and individuals have their own profiles which show less data.”

Finally, while details are sketchy at the present, Nimble intends to roll out programs jointly with allied vendors.

“Over the next six months, significant enhancements in incentives will come from alliance partnerships from partners like Citrix, VMware, and Cisco,” DaCosta said.