IBM is making a $100 million investment in the midmarket this year, and channel partners stand to gain much of the benefit.
That's the message Rich Michos, vice president of worldwide business partner strategy for IBM, delivered Thursday during the vendor's World Premier event at the XChange conference in Los Angeles.
IBM in 2008 will be investing $100 million in marketing, all in an effort to drive leads in the midmarket, the most rapidly growing sector of the IT space, Michos said.
"With some assistance from IBM.com, we're going to satisfy our midmarket objective almost uniquely through business partners," Michos said. "That's a profound shift."
Michos said solution providers that think IBM is too big or too difficult to work with should give the vendor a second look.
"If you're not working with us, now's the best time," Michos said.
That's because the vendor is ramping up several new initiatives aimed at boosting channel partners' sales and profitability, many of which are coming as a direct result of requests IBM has received from its solution providers, he said.
Solution providers attending the event said they have seen IBM increasing its channel focus over the past year.
"In the past year or so, I've seen IBM really stepping up to engage partners," said Ryan Yu, president of Daly, an IBM solution provider in Clarksburg, Md. "We're learning more how to do business with IBM."
Douglas Camin, director of technical services at Cyber City, an IBM partner in Binghamton, NY, said IBM's increased focus on the channel is helping Cyber City boost IBM sales.
"We've been moving sales of hardware more toward IBM," Camin said.
Michos said several efforts are underway to help partners sell IBM into the midmarket. For example, the vendor's new Lead Pass Decision Engine is a lead development tool that aims to provide better leads to a larger number of IBM partners, he said.
The tool funnels leads to partners based on a variety of factors, including their geographic location, their customer win rates and their level of IBM sales.
In addition, IBM using its $6 billion research and development budget in part to tailor products to suit midmarket customers.
"We are assuring that the products coming out of our labs are designed specifically for the midmarket," he said.
He pointed to IBM's BladeCenter S, where the "S" stands for SMB. "That footprint is the foundation that allows you to add storage, add services," he said. IBM currently is offering channel partners a 25 percent promotional rate on the BladeCenter S, he said.
"We're not Marines, but we're looking for a few good partners," Michos said. "We're not impossible to do business with."