July 13, 2011
The VAR Guy was super-busy at the Sage Summit 2011, and not the least of his tasks was a roundtable group meeting with Dennis Frahmann, executive VP of corporate marketing; Himanshu Palsule, executive VP of strategy; and Sage CEO Pascal Houillon. The open-forum Q&A quickly turned into a discussion about Sage’s biggest announcement: the brand. Houillon wasn’t shy in explaining why this change will be the most important and effective change Sage has ever made. But what of the partner reactions, which so far have leaned toward the negative? Houillon said it’s purely emotional. Read on for the details …
Houillon was confident in stressing Sage’s growth is a key element in making the company successful, and the brand is the bottom line to make that happen. He apologized for reiterating some of what he said in the keynote, but emphasized this strategy would need to happen while Sage simultaneously tries to quell fears. “It’s [more] difficult to go to one technology from another, instead of [just] as a brand,” said Houillon.
But cost is always a big issue with partners, and the burning question for many — The VAR Guy included — was how much partners will have to lay out in the wake of the branding transition. Houillon suggested it shouldn’t cost much money at all, and in fact seemed somewhat baffled by the notion the transition would be expensive and difficult for partners. “Where are the costs? I want to see the costs,” said Houillon.
Frahmann noted partners using paper marketing materials should look into the e-marketing solutions Sage offers, and said Sage is working hard to market the new branding mechanisms properly, “ensuring that we get the naming right for the long term.”
Houillon said the real ire with channel partners wasn’t the shift they’d have to make, it was the attachment to the brand name itself. The panel confirmed that the new names for products would be Sage + Identifying Number + Generic Descriptor, as they are in Europe, and contested that even though the naming convention isn’t snazzy, it gets people talking about Sage, and that’s where the money maker is.
“Specific brands can limit the word of mouth [within] a customer’s base. People who aren’t customers, they know who ACT and Timberline is, but they don’t see it as relevant today, because it’s connected to the past,” said Palsule, who added that even though the solutions are updated and new, they’re not perceived as new or appealing to the customer — not to mention the current nomenclatures don’t get people talking about Sage.
“It’s [going to be] a long journey,” Houillon said, but noted Sage will be developing ways to help partners understand the journey and — most importantly to Houillon, he said — help partners break free from the reaction of losing a brand and understand it’s the path to true future sales.
Houillon assured the roundtable members that this isn’t his first rodeo; he oversaw similar changes in Europe that were very successful in bringing growth to Sage. However, North America is a different market altogether. Our resident blogger believes Sage — and Houillon — have their work cut out for them. Houillon seems like a confident and knowledgeable man wearing the cowboy hat, and whether he survives the bull once it’s out of the chute is, right now, anyone’s guess.
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