Pascal Houillon, CEO, Sage North America
|Sage Keynote Speaker Panel (L-R)
Rich Karlgaard, Publisher, Forbes
By Gail Perry, editor-in-chief
Peachtree, MAS, Accpac, Timberline, and others to become known as Sage.
Sage North America CEO Pascal Houillon delivered the keynote address Monday to Sage partners who have gathered at the Sage Summit conference in National Harbor, MD, and he described a rebranding vision that will be rolled out over the next 18 months. "We will be dropping the use of product brand names." Leading Sage brands include Peachtree, Timberline, Accpac and MAS, Simply Accounting, and ACT!.
While many of the more than 2,000 Sage partners in attendance at the conference expressed concern at the loss of familiar brand names, Houillon assured attendees that the rebranding would have a positive effect, and he warned that not rebranding would actually be detrimental. "As long as we continue to invest our emotions in product brands, we will never be a strong brand." Houillon and other Sage corporate executives who joined the CEO on the stage repeatedly referred to Sage in North America as a "weak brand," and Houillon reminded the audience of the strength of the single brand elsewhere. "In Europe, people are proud to be associated with Sage."
Dennis Frahmann, executive vice president of corporate marketing for Sage North America, acknowledged that, "It is a very emotional subject. I believe everyone in this room will come up to me and say they perceive Sage as a weak brand in North America." He described the challenge: First, Sage resellers have to explain who Sage is; only then can they describe how Sage will meet the needs of potential customers. "It's almost as if you have to sell twice."
While some audience members still balked at the cost of having to change information on their Web sites and take other rebranding measures, Frahmann quelled some concerns by explaining that an overall Sage brand will be cost effective in the long run. Currently resellers bear the cost of marketing Sage products. "There's an enormous cost in marketing for you. If we have a strong brand, people will come to us."
The keynote session also included information about the Sage Partner Marketing Platform, launched earlier this year to a limited group and now available to all partners. Tom Miller, channel management for Sage Business Solutions, explained that, "It connects to our partner marketing resource center, allows you to capture all the current content, utilize it as an e-marketing component or populate your Web site with content." The platform also enables partners to use social media for marketing. Miller described the test group's success with contacts and lead generation. Of 77,119 e-mails sent by the group of 150 partners, there were 5,079 click-thrus and 144 requests for additional information. Those who used Web panels to populate their Web site received 35,000 visits to the Web panels.
Miller also described Sage's effort with its "Firm of the Future" program. Sage is partnering with author and VeraSage Institute co-founder Ron Baker to promote the change from a service-based economic model to a knowledge-based economic model, learning how to "meet the needs of the new customer: the way they want to buy, the way they want to be served." Miller described Sage's Web Strategy workshops, two-day programs designed to help partners address the Firm of the Future issues in conjunction with their particular business model and develop a transition plan.
Houillon closed by telling partners to, "Take pride in the Sage brand. To succeed we must accelerate the trend to grow, build a strong Sage brand, leverage a way to online solutions and connected services, and improve our business model."