IBM Global Services rethinks, revamps catalog

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Challenge: IBM Global Services is aggressively targeting the small and midsize business market with an extensive portfolio of offerings. But IBM wanted to describe these services in a unified piece of marketing collateral that could be used both by IBM’s in-house sales teams as well as IBM channel partners.

Solution: IBM turned to Leopard, a b-to-b marketing agency specializing in the high tech industry, to help it design a best-of-class catalog. Leopard helped with the front-end strategy and a segmentation/versioning plan, as well as design, writing, and production. In addition, the agency produced an internal supplemental piece that is used inside IBM to outline the process and explain the value/need for the catalog and how it works.

“It’s definitely the first services catalog within IBM,” said Luke Bemis, an account director with Leopard. He noted that Leopard also spent considerable time talking with IBM channel partners about their needs, too.

The first version of the catalog was released in January 2005 and was largely a brochure for internal use only. But it did, for the first time, contain a global offering list and was adopted in 12 countries. In May 2005, the update to the catalog made it suitable for clients. This version organized the offerings around client pain points. The latest version of the 20-page SMB Services Catalog, published in last year’s fourth quarter, features 35 SMB offerings, compelling quotes from current clients, promotional offers, a focus on service and support and information on financing options.

Available online or in print, the catalog can be customized by IBM Business Partners as distinctive creative versions to take to their customers. “It can be versioned and made relevant, so the partner version can be customized with a phone number, Web page and customize the letter inside,” said Samantha Harris, manager of worldwide value channel enablement at IBM Information Technology Services.

The catalog deliverately avoids pricing on services, as those are highly project-specific. But it does make a point of creating a call to action on every page, for instance driving readers to sales phone numbers or a Web site for additional information. “We were kind of split on whether pricing [in the catalog] was a priority,” said Harris.

Results: According to IBM survey results, 89% of the sellers surveyed saw the catalog as useful for seller education. Seventy-one percent noted that the catalog would make the purchasing process easier for clients and speed the sales cycle by assisting in the research phase. As one survey respondent put it, “It’s something that they can ‘touch and feel,’ whereas most services are conceptual.” Others said the catalog was a “clear, concise overview,” and praised it for putting “information in a customer view.”

Already, the catalog has garnered support and participation from sales and is being deployed in eight additional countries. The catalog will be updated twice in 2006 to correspond with the launch of new offerings. It will include more details in upcoming releases, including pricing, delivery method, installation, software information and more.

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