HP E-Coupon Promo Worries Some Partners


An aggressive Hewlett-Packard promotion designed to steal small-business customers from rival Dell Computer has raised eyebrows among some HP solution provider partners.

HP recently offered desktops and notebooks to a select group of small businesses for 20 percent less than what solution providers normally pay for the same products, according to several channel sources.

The promotion came in the form of "e-coupons," which were offered April 25 and 26 to Dell customers on a list reportedly purchased by HP, the sources said.


'If anyone has concerns, I'd tell solution providers they have to trust me as a channel advocate.' -- HP's Kevin Gilroy

HP said the promotion was available to partners through Partner Direct, but a distribution source disputed that claim. "We heard about this, but I didn't see anything about this being available through Partner Direct," the source said.

The quick-hit promotion caught solution providers off-guard. Several HP solution provider advisory council members said they were not informed of the offer.

The promotion raised the ire of some solution providers, who worry that HP's direct-sales force didn't check with the company's channel executives to see if any of the targeted customers were already customers of HP solution providers. In addition, some end users not on the target list caught wind of the promotion and asked for the same discount, said solution providers.

One HP solution provider, who requested anonymity, said it seemed that the vendor's "left hand didn't know what its right hand was doing."

Other solution providers said they must adapt their own businesses to expect such offers in the future.

"I think this is going to be the norm from now on," said Bunty Lalchandani, president of MicroWorld, Newport Beach, Calif. "Rather than [concerning ourselves with this], we have to devise strategies to work for us."

Kevin Gilroy, vice president and general manager of commercial channels for the Americas at HP, said the promotion was created by HP's SMB group, headed by Robyn West. It was aimed at new customers, not HP's installed base, and was coordinated through all channels, Gilroy said.

"It was a fast attack plan. We did a merge and purge and stripped out the names of any channel customers," Gilroy said. "The SMB team doesn't do any of these without running it past the channel. If anyone has concerns, I'd tell solution providers they have to trust me as a channel advocate. We have rigors around the process and do this in a controlled manner."

Compaq Computer ran similar promotions under West prior to the HP merger, according to the distribution source. "This [April promotion] was the one with the most visibility," the source said.

West could not be reached for comment.