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IBM Outlines Its Midmarket Partner Strategy

By fostering better relationships with current partners and stepping up recruiting, IBM sets its sights on midsize companies. By Cecilia Galvin By Cecilia Galvin

IBM Outlines Its Midmarket Partner Strategy

By fostering better relationships with current partners and stepping up recruiting, IBM sets its sights on midsize companies.

By Cecilia Galvinalvin

IBM is realigning its PartnerWorld program to make it easier for VARs to work with the company and integrate its diverse products into midlevel solutions. Mike Gerentine, VP of channels and solution marketing, spoke with Executive Editor Cecilia Galvinalvin to discuss the changes.

Q: What can partners now expect from PartnerWorld?
Gerentine:
We are focusing our energy with both partners and programs in the midmarket. We have a variety of software, hardware, and service offerings to address the market, but we need to do a better job of working with our partners [to be successful].

One of the PartnerWorld programs we've introduced is Webcollage, which lets partners replicate the product content they want from our site onto their own. Historically, whenever we made an update to our site, partners would have to update their site using an HTML programmer. We eliminate that process, which can save partners a lot of money. Another area we are focusing on is recruitment.

Q: How many partners will you recruit, and in what markets?
Gerentine:
We are looking for a few thousand new partners worldwide, and in the U.S. it's in the hundreds, predominately in software with pockets in hardware. But I am not so much into the numbers; I am into quality over quantity. We are looking for partners that want a long-term strategic relationship with IBM and commit to and invest in us.

Q: Are there additional areas of focus?
Gerentine:
There is always a need for additional education, certification, and support. So we have increased our overall investment in classroom and online training. For support, we announced a concierge service as part of our Express Advantage program so partners can call an 800 support number and have a real-time conversation rather than [working through] texting or email.

We have also retained a third-party vendor to spoon-feed partners on how to enroll in the PartnerWorld program and take advantage of its offerings. We want to nurture partners through recruitment, activation, training and education, and support. Then once they are educated, we get into co-marketing and providing leads to motivate and start driving demand for them.

To help with cross-selling, we've made a simple tool partners can use to show them other products that are a logical fit with what they are currently selling. It also provides ROI analysis, tells you how many deals you have to do to be profitable, and provides a link to the education you need.

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