Optima ups channel push with new programs

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Local box-maker Optima outlined a new channel program, a chance for resellers to win a bigger slice of government deals and plans to get into data storage at its annual dealer conference in Sydney.

Michael Calculli, channel sales manager at Optima Technology Solutions, said at the Parramatta forum that the box-builder planned to “really focus” on the channel this year.

Optima was starting its first Business Partner channel program, he said.

“We want to have a Business Partner in every regional town around Australia, Calculli said. “We don't do distribution. We don't feel a distributor adds value. The key for distribution is time and place, and we do that anyway. Our product is built to order.”

The manufacturer had signed about 60 dealers so far but wanted 100 resellers -- mainly shop-front resellers and system integrators -- covering different regions by the end of 2004, he said.

Optima had worked previously with the channel and provided benefits to successful resellers but had not formalised a program.

The channel model had proven itself, with resellers such as Leading Edge doing particularly well for the company, he said.

Leading Edge has a chain of retail outlets in the regions and is moving into the business market, recruiting local system integrators and resellers.

Calculli said that Optima's program would have two different levels, resellers who wanted to simply buy Optima product as needed and those who wanted to commit to Optima as a brand, he said.

Optima's dealer network would be actively involved in the construction and ongoing changes to the new program, he said.

“Our top 15 resellers are on my 'board of directors'. They get an option to help formulate the program,” he said.

Optima had always been strong in education and government but now felt the regional dealers were capable of doing that as well. “We're now going to release [government] deals to the local dealers,” he said.

He said he did not know how much growth there could still be in the government market but believed it was still strong. “We're growing at about 30 percent, just our channel business, and our government [sales] I think it will still grow 30 percent,” he said.

Optima would still do most of its education sector business direct. Sales to NSW and Queensland schools were still growing at 40 percent a year, Calculli said.

He also said Optima was planning to enter the data storage market. “We'll be soon going into data storage as well,” he said. However, no time frame on that had yet been decided, Calculli said.

More generally, Optima had ramped up its marketing focus and added staff in the services and support area. Marketing funds and catalogue promotion every second month were among the benefits of the new Business Partner program.

“And we will be growing that to eight catalogues this year,” Calculli said.

SMB sales were growing strongly and Optima had bought advertising on television, radio and in print media targeting smaller business to boost that further. New products beefing up its desktop, notebooks and new consumer electronics ranges should also help, Calculli said.

“We are releasing different models, including AMD versions,” he said.

Wireless networking products -- helped along by a deal with Cisco -- were also expected to prove popular, he said.

Marie Evans, marketing manager at Optima Technology Solutions, said the manufacturer had worked to adopt suggestions and learn from feedback from resellers in the past year. The channel wanted more help with marketing, she said.

Optima had plans to offer more advertising and branding support this year through collateral and online offerings, Evans said.

“We will be doing lead generation campaigns at Christmas with the help of Intel and Athlon 64, into the SMB marketplace with AMD,” she said. “And more campaigns will be coming April next year.”

A marketing development fund of at least $250,000 would be made available top channel partners. To qualify, they would earn points from server, notebook and desktop sales. High achievers would go into the draw to win a ticket to Turkey, she added.

Deon Attard, MD at Mackay-based reseller Easy Internet Services, said Optima's foray into consumer electronics had potential for smaller, regional resellers like himself. “That was a well-kept secret and very exciting,” he said.

Easy Internet Services might use the new products to help push the traditional computer reseller into digital convergence, broadening its range outside PCs and notebooks, Attard said.

“The products look very impressive and built to high quality and they are going to be serviced in Australia by Optima,” he said.

The LCD and plasma screens were particularly likely to interest his clientele. Easy Internet Services would integrate the new products with each other and with its more traditional range, a service that built on what traditional retailers could offer, Attard said.

The Optima conference had also enabled him to meet representatives from major vendors such as Intel, Microsoft and AMD and see what other resellers with similar businesses were doing, Attard added.

Peter Smith, director at Sunshine Coast-based reseller Magellan Computer Resources, said he was impressed with Optima's change in direction and focus on new products. “[Consumer electronics] is exciting, and it's an Australian brand,” he said.

He said Magellan Computer Resources had been working with Optima for 14 years. The conference announcements seemed to herald some productive changes in its channel focus, Smith said.

Optima has just moved into bigger NSW premises at Homebush tipped to be capable of doing three shifts a day of 900 PCs each. The old Silverwater location did 400 a day in one shift.

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