IBM Pledges $500 Million for SMB Initiative

IBM aims to help its 90,000 business partners snag a chunk of the $300 billion small-and-medium business marketplace.

IBM on Wednesday made a $500 million pledge to helps its 90,000 business partners snag a chunk of the $300 billion small-and-medium business marketplace.

Big Blue is putting the money into a broad initiative, called the IBM SMB (Small and Medium Business) Advantage, that will consist of channel-enablement activities, incentives, demand-generation tools and teaming opportunities, all provided under IBMs PartnerWorld program and all set to formally roll out at PartnerWorld 2003 in New Orleans in February.

IBM plans to launch other channel enablement initiatives at PartnerWorld 2003, including the IBM SMB Advantage Web Portal and SMB education via PartnerWorld University. These programs will offer materials to help partners deliver IBM offerings that are designed with SMBs in mind.

IBM also announced three new incentives geared to increase profit potential of sales to SMB customers. eServers and Storage is a set of incentives pertaining to eServer lines and storage products. The incentives allow business partners to target new, competitive and dormant accounts as well as existing customers. In addition, IBM in April will release a new Web-based tool to make it faster and easier to claim incentives from SMB sales.

Value Advantage is another new incentive program that revolves around software. Its designed to reward partners that deliver applications and services from solution providers. For customer-facing business partners, Value Advantage offers a new incentive called Value Advantage Plus, which rewards qualified participants when they sell applications and services together with IBM software to SMB customers. These incentives will be available globally in May.

Finally, Services incentives will feature a higher base discount for business partners in Europe, Middle East and Africa when they sell services with IBM hardware into the SMB market, starting July 1.

IBM has invested in tools to allow partners to leverage IBMs investment in demand generation. One tool, called Campaign Designer, has over 130 ready-to-use industry-specific marketing materials. IBM will also give partners access to prospect data in selected countries to assist in co-marketing campaigns, which also include teleprospecting offerings.

SMB Advantage is the latest of IBMs recent efforts to kindle the flame under those of its partners that cater to the SMB market. Other recently launched SMB offerings include WebSphere Application Server Express and WebSphere Portal Express, a line of eServers for SMBs that includes the new eServer iSeries integrated servers from IBM Global Services, which are packaged for business partners to resell and customize.

Another new program is Insight Exchange, a program announced last week that is designed to help business partners swap ideas and glean insights into industry knowledge and trends.