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Norman focuses channel partner strategy on U.S., enterprise security

The Norway-based antivirus company Norman ASA hopes to fine-tune its channel strategy to finally get a foothold in the U.S. enterprise security market. That won't be easy, according to one independent analyst.

To keep up with U.S. endpoint security heavyweights like Symantec Corp. and McAfee Inc., Norway-based antivirus company Norman Security ASA will need to prove its worth in a crowded field of competitors. After years of struggling with U.S. security players, Norman will try to make its case by courting American enterprises, largely through improvements in its U.S. partner program.

Norman, which recently celebrated its 25th birthday, expanded from Oslo to other European markets, but has made little headway in the U.S. Norman's marketing in North America has mostly relied on smaller channel partners to address a tiny end of the SMB market, organizations that average only 25-40 seats. The arrangement between Norman and its U.S. partners previously was straightforward as well: partners would simply get margins based on their sales. Now, however, Norman will focus on rewarding partners that offer additional services and training, and show knowledge of the product line.

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"We're moving to the more value-added channel," said Norman's technology executive and manager of the United States business, Arvid Gomez. He said Norman is negotiating with higher-tier U.S. VARs on greater rewards, including commission rates, certifications and greater marketing services when partners install its tools, advise on its products and offer additional services beyond the sale.

"We are going to promote those partners that are being certified, that are offering more than just the product, as a product to be sold," said Gomez.

With its April launch of the Norman Network Protection appliance and software in the U.S., the security company hopes to make a strong move in the country's enterprise market. The tool, which offers malware scanning deployed at the network gateway, will be marketed for manufacturing and financial companies, market sectors that Norman is familiar with from its work in Europe.

The declaration of a new U.S.- focused enterprise security effort came on the heels of Norman's recent announcement of Torgny Gunnarsson, a former VP at Symantec Corp., as its new CEO and President.

Although Gomez said the company plans to boost its U.S. hiring, marketing and sales efforts with search engine advertising, trade shows and increased public relations, making an impact in a United States security market filled with well-known heavyweights will be difficult, said Jonathan Penn, a vice president at Forrester Research Inc.

"The hurdle they face is brand awareness and recognition," Penn said. "It's a very crowded field, and there are lots of opportunities for people to go with someone that they're familiar with."

Gomez expressed the importance of a broader set of products that go beyond AV and fit into large enterprise environments. "We need to go in there with patch and remediation products, vulnerability scanning, malware analysis and network security analysis," said Gomez. The channel will sell the majority of its products, including Norman Endpoint Protection, Norman Application and Device Control and Norman Patch and Remediation.

"If you don't treat the channel with respect, if you try to go a little bit direct and a little bit channel, the channel will lose its faith in you," said Gomez.

Before April, the sales focus in the U.S. was focused mainly on its SandBox malware analyzer product and its SMB software business, sold through the channel.

Although Penn acknowledged that the company is a pioneer in the sandbox space and that its products do have some broader capabilities like application control and device control, he said they will likely struggle against competitors that offer content-aware, outbound data protection, including DLP technologies and products that offer policy controls, like selective encryption, and are particularly appealing to an enterprise market.

"From a fine-grained controls perspective, compared to somebody like McAfee, Symantec or Sophos, it's going to be a lot harder for [Norman]," he said.

As companies broaden their endpoint security protection, it often becomes integrated in their systems management and compliance processes. A product switch then requires quite the overhaul, another challenge for a company trying to make waves in the United States.

A question Norman will likely have to answer to a U.S. customer base is one that Penn poses:

"What do they have that is unique and powerful enough for people to consider them, especially rather than the more established vendors?"

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