• September 17, 2008
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

Partners Bark Up the Right Tree

Many CRM and sales force automation systems focus on direct sales, and vendors who cater to the indirect channel with partner relationship management (PRM) products are far less common. TreeHouse Interactive, however, has a family of applications that travels the road not taken. Today the company is announcing the updates to the three applications that make up its software-as-a-service (SaaS) suite for what it calls channel sales force automation (CSFA).

According to Erich Flynn, chief executive officer of TreeHouse Interactive, PRM and CSFA development has lagged behind that of the more traditional enterprise applications because of the industry's fixation on direct sales -- and PRM's reputation, he says, has suffered as a result. "The problem is that companies that called themselves 'PRM vendors' only solved point problems within the PRM realm," Flynn says.

TreeHouse also has an one eye on the overseas channels. Each of the three applications in the company's CSFA suite -- TreeHouse Reseller View, TreeHouse Sales View, and TreeHouse Marketing View -- supports UTF-8 international characters, for easy localization in any language. Other new features of each application include:

Reseller View (PRM)

  • A module for lead distribution;
  • a module for special pricing approval;
  • automated marketing development fund (MDF) and co-op management module;
  • an integrated business-planning module; and
  • a module for training and certification.

Sales View (CSFA)

  • Auditable view of channel inventory and revenue recognition;
  • sales velocity and weeks of inventory by product; and
  • integration with Reseller View for automated management of MDF/Co-op activities, account sales, and business plans with partner portal.

Marketing View (marketing automation)

  • Campaign Maximizer, to test multiple creative launches for a campaign;
  • ContactXtend, to automatically import and populate custom contact data fields while preserving context;
  • improved form builders for surveys;
  • an improved Action Builder for scheduled marketing communications; and
  • lead nurturing.

According to Flynn, TreeHouse's applications are fully scalable, but the company's "sweet spot" is with midsize-to-large businesses, those with annual revenues in the range of $100 million to $1 billion. "We don't seek out the bigger companies -- their purchasing cycles are too long," Flynn says. "But we don't turn them away either. Some of our customers are very large."

TreeHouse Interactive's suite is not an all-encompassing CRM system, and isn't intended to be one; it uses Web services for integration with existing CRM and SFA systems, and uses a multitiered architecture to support multiple levels of partners. In fact, at next week's Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco, TreeHouse and Oracle will announce the integration of Reseller View with Oracle CRM On Demand.

Several industry experts have noted the growing trend of leveraging partner channels for increased market penetration and revenue. "To compete in today's marketplace, brand owners and their partners must have tools and processes that assist in driving revenues efficiently as well as [ones that] facilitate coordination and communication," said Pete Marston, research analyst for CRM at Forrester Research, in a statement.

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top; to contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com.

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