July 12, 2011
Sage North America CEO Pascal Houillon took center stage at Sage Summit 2011 July 11, offering his vision for the future of Sage. The No. 1 priority? Growth. But not company growth or revenue growth — rather, brand growth. How does Houillon plan on taking Sage’s multiple brands and merging it into one mega brand? Partners working with Sage should perk up — The VAR Guy has the details on what this means for you and the brands you already know, sell and love …
To say that Houillon was feeling bullish on Sage’s future during his keynote event might be an understatement. Our resident blogger was treated to a Sage-produced music video featuring Sage employees lip-syncing “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” by McFadden & Whitehead. After that, Houillon took the stage and pointed out how important Sage Summit 2011 is as the first-ever conference for both partners and customers.
Propagating the Formula
Bringing both partners and customers together under one roof propagates the message regarding Sage’s future and brand, Houillion said. He noted 2010 was the first time since 2007 that Sage experienced organic growth, with revenue hitting $2.2 billion, attributing much of that success to the “passionate people selling and using Sage.” The technology, he said, was just a “fraction of the [success] story.”
Platitudes aside, continuing and accelerating that momentum means Sage needs to bring in new customers. But The VAR Guy knows all too well that’s tough to do if a company isn’t widely known — and it’s definitely an issue for Sage in North America, a fact Houillon readily admitted during his keynote. When he listed “CEO of Sage” as his title on a bank application, the bank employee offered Houillon materials on small-business banking, not realizing Sage’s presence and size. Likewise, he gets no recognition when he uses his corporate credit card.
The VAR Guy thinks Houillon might be a bit presumptuous, even if he did get his point across. But Houillon argued, “In Europe, people are proud to be associated with Sage,” where the Sage brand is better-known. For Houillon, re-creating that same brand recognition here in America is key to helping partners sell and grow, in addition to linking the brand to quality. “A brand is only as strong as an experience a customer has with it. If the experience doesn’t match the brand’s promise, we lose,” he said.
How does Sage plan on achieving this status? Within 12 to 18 months, Sage plans to drop its various brand names including Peachtree, Timberline and SalesLogix in favor of the Sage brand. “By 2013, we won’t promote the product brand, we will only promote the Sage brand. It’s vital to the future,” he said.
How Do Partners Deal?
During an executive Q&A panel discussion following the keynote, Sage played back video questions that partners had recorded at various kiosks throughout the convention center. The most powerful one, which received a round of applause, was from a partner who complained that changing the brand in the past had caused a lot of problems for resellers. Changing the brand again will be troublesome for partners who have just found a niche selling a Sage product under its existing brand, he said. How can this brand change really help partners, and will Sage help resellers deal with the costs to retool marketing materials, online sites and various other re-branding hurdles? he asked.
EVP Corporate Marketing for Sage North America Dennis Frahmann took the hot seat for that question, suggesting this re-branding was different and more important than any in the past and would actually lead to more sales because the existing brands were “weak brands.” With Sage focused on a single brand, its marketing department will have an easier and more focused job of disseminating the Sage message while promoting the product lines, he said, adding this would directly impact partners.
Frahmann also noted a united Sage brand could help cross-sales opportunities and customer stickiness, since customers will have a better understanding of what makes up the Sage ecosystem and how the different technologies could help them. Finally, Frahmann said rebranding will fix the problem of the “cost of sales,” the oft-cited issue in which partners are “selling Sage, and then the solution,” due to customer unfamiliarity.
The View from the Ground
From The VAR Guy’s perspective, Sage is making a bold move — sweeping top-down shifts can either make or break a company. But how will partners deal with the changes, especially amid existing trepidation? The VAR Guy will have his ear to the ground for partner sentiment — even if partners are likely to benefit from the rebranding, it could be a rough 12 to 18 months. How much time and effort will VARs have to spend mitigating confusion during the transition? More importantly, how much will Sage’s rebranding cost its partners out of pocket? And how does Sage plan to label its technologies? So many questions, not enough answers. The VAR Guy hopes Sage offers up some details, and soon …
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