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March 1, 2001
Web Hosting on the Side Can Maximize Partner
By Becky Bracken
Telecommunications service providers that want to maximize their partner
sales channels may want to consider web hosting as a side project. The benefits
of such an endeavor are the management and control of branded content, and
empowered agents that have the tools to sell services online effectively.
The SoftAd Group Inc. (www.softad.com), a
software development firm, recently launched ChannelNet, a solution for large
enterprises that lets them host channel partners’ websites. These sites
incorporate a consultative online sales process that allows the enterprise to
control the content and the branding information specific to the products the
channel partner is selling on the provider’s behalf.
Stephen Wallmark, vice president of marketing for SoftAd, says the company
currently is negotiating with a large telecommunications firm to implement the
ChannelNet solution. He declined to name the firm.
According to Wallmark, hosting and maintaining partner sites allows agents to
have access to a sophisticated "consultative" online sales channel for
selling complicated or expensive products.
"The problem is [service providers] sell through resellers, and the
resellers have their own websites," Wallmark says. "Some of the sites
look like they had the stock boy develop them in their spare time."
SoftAd lets service providers offer their channel partners a way to build and
maintain a customized website that has all the carrier’s product information,
brand identity and product data integrity.
Currently Sprint Corp. (www.sprint.com)
is testing something similar, the "Co-branded Website Program," for
its sales partners.
The software Sprint uses was developed in-house. According to Arnie McKinnis,
manager of market development for the Sprint Distributor Marketing Group, the
program has enjoyed some early success.
The project to provide content and functionality to partner sites began as
McKinnis’ own pet project. It has developed into a full-blown Sprint initiative,
"We have to support our agents, even on the simplest level, which is to
provide web content," McKinnis says. "And we want to manage that and
provide it for [partners]."
The Co-branded Website Program was announced at Sprint’s partner conference
last October. McKinnis says about 15 people approached him after the
presentation and said they wanted to participate.
In the pilot program, Sprint has employed the Co-branded Website for about 20
percent of its sales partners. According to McKinnis, the initial agent response
is appreciation, because they don’t have to worry about appropriate placement
and branding of Sprint services.
But what SoftAd proposes with its ChannelNet is to establish a
"template" that is inclusive of the host enterprise’s specifications.
Then, it would host the site for the sales partner, while it allows room for
specific branding information.
Wallmark says the service providers also could choose to host the site for a
monthly fee, thereby creating alternative revenue opportunities.
Empowering channel partners to sell online more effectively, while
maintaining control over branded content, seems to be a win-win situation for
While managing the branding and the content integrity is the initial driver
for this service, McKinnis says that ultimately providing and incorporating
online sales and database functionalities to partner sites will be important.
Read more about:Agents
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