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IBM rolls out ISV ad program

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IBM Corp. last month rolled out a co-marketing and co-advertising program for its independent software vendor (ISV) partners, giving them deep discounts on advertising costs and providing advertising, marketing and sales support.

The program is being offered through IBM's PartnerWorld Industry Networks initiative, which was established last year to help IBM's business partners, including ISVs, market their products and services.

The PartnerWorld program supports partners that develop solutions for eight vertical industries: automotive, banking, financial markets, government, healthcare/life sciences, insurance, retail and telecommunications. To become a member, ISVs must develop software that runs on at least one IBM hardware platform and one IBM middleware platform, and confirm that their software is installed in at least one customer site running on an IBM platform.

In 2004, IBM invested $1 billion in ISV programs, and this year it will probably expand its investment, said Scott Hebner, VP-marketing and strategy, ISV and developer relations at IBM.

"It is a fundamental pillar of our strategy going forward," Hebner said, noting that since IBM divested its applications business in 1999, a key marketing strategy for the company has been to partner with ISVs that develop applications running on IBM hardware and software platforms.

valuable partnerships

IBM's business partners drive one-third of the company's overall revenue, and more than half of its revenue in the small and midsize business market. "Since we exited the applications business, we have systematically been expanding the number of ISVs that we integrate into our advertising, marketing and co-selling efforts," Hebner said.

IBM now has tens of thousands of ISV partners. The new co-marketing program is designed to help ISVs create ads and other marketing materials, as well as follow up leads and partner with IBM salespeople to close deals.

Through the program, ISV partners receive between 50% and 70% in co-advertising discounts that can be used to place ads in more than 100 publications, including Bank Systems & Technology, Health Management Technology, Government Computer News and Insurance & Technology. IBM negotiates ad rates with the publications and passes along those discounts to its business partners.

IBM also provides campaign execution support at no cost to the ISVs through its ad agency partners, including creative development and native-language translation for ads in foreign markets. The ads feature content primarily about the ISV, although IBM requires that its logo and a brief description of its PartnerWorld program be included in the ad.

One of IBM's ISV partners is Vertical*i, New York, which develops business application software for the life sciences industry.

Vertical*i worked with IBM under a pilot launch of the co-advertising program that rolled out in the fall. Through the partnership, IBM helped Vertical*i create three different ads, which have run in publications including International Data Group's Bio-IT World and PJB Publications' Scrip Magazine.

"As a small company, you don't have access to all the advertising resources," said Tim O'Connor, CEO of Vertical*i. "Large agencies charge huge amounts of money."

"The relationship with IBM has allowed us to speak to marketing professionals who have helped us with our copy, message and media placement," he said.

two advertising options

IBM offers two types of ads through its partner program: individual ads for ISVs and multipage advertorial inserts, which feature up to five or six ISVs.

IBM is also offering online advertising support through a relationship with KnowledgeStorm, an online IT directory. Under the deal, IBM has negotiated discounts with KnowledgeStorm that it is passing on to ISV partners so they may list their companies in the online directory and have access to KnowledgeStorm resources.

In addition to advertising support, IBM is providing co-marketing support with direct mail and telemarketing.

Under a new program called the Complete Industry Campaign Incentive, IBM will subsidize the first 500 pieces of direct mail, as well as match the first 75 outbound telemarketing calls, made by a business partner. It will also provide sales support by giving ISV partners access to IBM's sales team.

"We are helping [our partners] generate leads through co-marketing, and we're helping them close more business by providing access to our worldwide sales network," Hebner said. 

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