Hewlett-Packard has beefed up its support for channel partners serving SMB customers. The Rio Rancho, N.M.-based SMB Exchange, which HP introduced this week, is a direct attempt to win SMB market share from Dell and other competitors, said the new operation's general manager.
John Hood, an HP vice president who will lead the SMB Exchange, flatly characterized the exchange as first and foremost a challenge to Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP's competition. "We're going after Dell, Cisco and Lexmark and anyone else out there," said Hood, speaking to Channelweb.com this week. He said a key initial focus would be on mid-sized customers, or "the 'M' in SMB," while also promising that HP channel partners' managed services offerings would be "front and center" in the SMB Exchange's go-to-market strategy.
The guts of the Rio Rancho operation are a call center, inside sales and channel sales teams, and its own online partner portal, according to Meaghan Kelly, acting vice president of marketing and strategy for HP's Solution Provider Organization (SPO).
The SMB Exchange is intended to help the computing giant and its partners capture more of what HP believes to be a $55 billion SMB market opportunity in the U.S., she said.
HP's SMB strategy stresses a balanced distribution model, Kelly said. She said different small business customers prefer different options for purchasing IT products and services.
"Some like to buy retail, some like to use the channel and there's a group that likes to do direct buying. Finally, there are those who do a mix of all those things," she said. Kelly said that there was a roughly 50-50 breakdown of SMBs who preferred to buy direct from a vendor versus those who liked to work with a reseller or buy at retail.
Hood claimed that HP's blend of direct and indirect distribution was a differentiator for the vendor.
"This is a really inclusive program. Our competitors are using a divide-and-conquer approach, either putting all burden of their SMB engagements on their channel, or else going totally direct," Hood said.
HP currently reaches about 20 percent of the available SMB market in the U.S., according to the company. The vendor has also dialed down its estimate of the overall size of that market by several tens of billions of dollars, Kelly acknowledged, positing the $55 billion figure based on its most current research into a recession-hit economy.
The exchange is the latest in a series of efforts by HP to boost its presence in the SMB market with the help of its channel, following on such initiatives as last year's introduction of an SMB Elite classification for partners and special financing offers for SMBs.
Kelly said HP and the SPO would continue to make such investments through its channel programs and financing arm in 2010.