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Hoster Taking Microsoft Message to its Private-Label Resellers

Intermedia, the New York-based hosting giant with a network of 3,500 private-label resellers, is planning to pass on Microsoft's brand-new Microsoft Communication Services marketing campaign to its reseller partners.

The move by Intermedia shows that at least one major hoster has overcome initial doubts about the Microsoft-centric branding of the program and moved to use the resources to generate sales momentum within its network of reseller partners.

Microsoft Communication Services is a relatively new theme that Microsoft hopes will help it overcome the challenges of marketing hosted messaging and collaboration services to SMB customers.

A Microsoft Communication Services "Ready to Go" campaign formally launched last week provides sales tools to help hosters and their reseller partners sell hosted Exchange, SharePoint, Office Communications Server and other Microsoft services using terms that SMB customers respond to rather than abstract product names.

"It's essentially a marketing package in the best sense of the word 'marketing,'" said Robert E. Leibholz, Intermedia's vice president of sales and business development, during an interview at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in New Orleans last week.

Microsoft announced the addition of Intermedia, Apptix and U.K.-based Outsourcery to the Microsoft Communication Services program at WPC. Microsoft initially set the program up as a pilot with Comcast Corp. in November 2007. Comcast won a 2009 Microsoft Partner Award at the WPC for its efforts with the hosting campaign.

Leibholz said Intermedia initially had concerns about the Microsoft-centric messaging of the marketing collateral in the "Ready to Go" campaign, a concern other hosting companies with private-label resellers, such as groupSPARK, had expressed to RCP in an article describing the program in May.

But Microsoft ended up being flexible about where different companies' logos could appear on the marketing materials, which made a big difference for Intermedia, Leibholz said.

He expected the "Ready to Go" materials to make a big difference for the Intermedia reseller partners. "I think it's really going to professionalize and enhance the marketing capabilities of our private-label partners," Leibholz said. "Microsoft doesn't always hit home runs, but this looks like one."

The company, which in July reached the milestone of hosting more than 200,000 premium Exchange mailboxes, will offer some elements of the "Ready to Go" campaign to all of its reseller partners.

Posted by Scott Bekker on July 20, 2009