LAS VEGAS — Sage has been getting aggressive in the last few months helping its Canadian partners get comfortable with the rebranding of its Simply Accounting product line and was aiming to calm fears during its Simply Partnership event here this week.
Sage announced in July that it would be rebranding its major product line names to Sage products. Simply Accounting 2012, to be released in early October, will be the last version branded that way. By 2013, Sage’s various accounting products will have a streamlined numbering system, with higher numbers reflecting more functionality or more features. Simply Accounting’s separate versions-First Step, Pro, Premium, Enterprise and Accountants’ Edition-will keep their names along with the new number, which has not yet been decided.
“Initially when the word got out about the name change … the feedback was not fantastic,” said Jennifer Warawa, senior director of partner programs at Sage. So, she and her team began making calls, writing e-mails and having meetings to help partners understand what the rebrand meant. “It’s the uncertainty or the unknown that makes people anxious about change,” Warawa said.
The concerns actually had nothing to do with the name, she said, but were more around what it meant for the Simply business. There were concerns that Peachtree, Sage’s small business product in the U.S., might take over, for example. Sage’s Simply Accounting business is currently based in Vancouver and Richmond, B.C.
“It doesn’t mean any of that,” she said, and along with more face-to-face interactions, the rebranding message is now getting across. In October, Sage will also be holding a 13-city cross- Canada tour to explain more about the rebranding.
“I think that the most important thing when we’re talking about making any transition like this successful is around communication,” Warawa said. “And I think it needs to be an ongoing, two-way dialogue between us and our partners. They know what they need from their own business perspective to make it successful and they want to provide that feedback.”
“We know why the branding has to be done,” said Karen Brault, accounting services manager with Collins Barrow Red Deer LLP, a Simply Accounting partner. “I think there were concerns about the number. Simply will probably be the low number on the totem pole.”
But, that also means that partners can help clients determine whether Simply Accounting is right for them or refer them to other Sage partners who offering different solutions, she added.
“I think it’ll be great because they’ll all have the same name on the product,” so there will be no confusion about who owns it. Customers are using the product, not the brand name, said Philippe Prévost, president of Prévost, Parent et Associés Inc. in Beloeil, Que.
One of the small elements of the box design-a red maple leaf-will actually make a big different, Brault said. “I think they really hit the nail on the head,” by defining that product as Canadian.
“There’s going to need to be a lead-up educational process,” said Gary Olynik, a principal at Oakville, Ont.-based Simply partner AccountsPlus. “There’s less of a concern with the existing customer base.”
Rather, new customers will need to understand how the products are different and where Simply Accounting fits in. Marketing and building awareness through professional accounting and bookkeeping organizations along with educational institutions will probably be the most effective way to do this, he said. External advertising will also play a role, suggested Prévost.
In her keynote, Connie Certusi, Sage’s senior vice-president and general manager for small business accounting solutions, aimed to clarify the rebranding and explain why it has to happen. “Simply Accounting is our strategic solution and our strategic product in Canada and it will be going forward,” Certusi said.
But for Certusi, Simply Accounting can’t rest on being No. 1. Brand awareness will be about the overall experience. “Brand awareness has been growing … but not at the level that we want it to grow,” she said.
In the way that BMW created a brand around the driving experience, or Tim Horton’s around the coffee experience, Sage should look to do the same with customer service, she said. “They’ve taken a commodity and they have built that brand.”
“Intuit spends more marketing Quickbooks than the entire size of the Simply business,” she pointed out. “It really, really makes you think about what is the best way for Sage to compete in the future.”
Now, large companies such as American Express are targeted the SMB market, she said. “It really shows you how important a global brand is. We have to transition to Sage. Now we can focus our marketing efforts on Sage.”
Follow Harmeet Singh on Twitter: @HarmeetCDN.