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Cisco SMB Customers Get 'Buy Now' Button To Connect Directly To Cisco Partners

The Cisco Designed for Business SMB portfolio has been expanded with a new wireless management app, a line of Wi-Fi 6-enabled Meraki access points and new surveillance camera, and a "buy now" button on Cisco.com.

Cisco is simplifying IT buying for small business customers by connected them directly to solution providers.

The tech giant on Tuesday is launching a "buy now" button on Cisco.com that links SMB customers directly to a Cisco partner that can help them complete the sale.

"For the first time in the history of the company, Cisco.com will have a buy button that gives them access to technical and sales specialists in 15 minutes or less," explained Dhritiman "DD" Dasgupta, chief marketing officer of Cisco's small business segment. The reason for the button is to speed up transaction time and get equipment into the hands of customers faster, he added.

[Related: Chuck Robbins: Cisco SMB Portfolio No Longer An 'Enterprise Mini-Me Strategy' ]

"I think having the ‘buy now’ feature on Cisco's website is an excellent idea because many small businesses have never worked with large enterprise companies like Cisco really don't have an understanding of channel community. I've seen these companies almost be intimidated by the idea of a preferred partner," said Jason Lacey, regional sales director for Stratus Information Systems, a Cisco Meraki Premier Partner. "I think it will help make Cisco's SMB portfolio more accessible to these companies."

Partners are populated on Cisco's website and highlighted for certain products based on several factors, including having a joint marketing agreement with Cisco, the countries in which they operate, and those that have an agreement with Cisco to provide reporting for accurate tracking on click to buy referrals, among other factors, Cisco said.

SMB customers will also benefit from the new Cisco Business Wireless Mobile App which can be used by IT professionals to manage their small business networks. The app, available now on Google Play or the Apple App Store, lets businesses or individuals configure or manage their networks in any location, Cisco said.

"The app is pretty detailed -- it can tell the client what kind of traffic is going in and out of their small business, and you can do all that from your smartphone," Cisco’s Dasgupta said.

Cisco at its 2019 Partner Summit in November first unveiled its new brand to help channel partners go after more small to midsized business customers called Cisco Designed for Business. The cross-portfolio brand includes traditional products, such as Meraki and WebEx, and other offerings that have been specifically created and priced for small business customers.

The tech giant has expanded that portfolio to include a new line of cloud-managed, Wi-Fi 6-enabled Meraki access points, Cisco's first line of Wi-Fi 6 access points for SMB customers. Cisco has also added a new Meraki smart camera to the SMB portfolio for AI-powered surveillance, Dasgupta said.

Cisco has been offering Wi-Fi 6-enabled access points for enterprise customers through its Catalyst and Meraki portfolios since last April.

Stratus Information Systems, a San Francisco-based solution provider that caters to SMB customers with lean IT teams, uses the Meraki portfolio to satisfy 99 percent of its customers' core networking needs, Lacey said. IT directors are “geeking out” over the notion of a Wi-Fi 6-enabled Meraki access point for SMBs, he added.

“This absolutely fills a void, especially with rapidly-evolving [service provider] speeds and technology, this is a great way for SMB clients and beyond to lay a foundation for their network to scale and have something in place for the next five years,” Lacey said.

Built on customer and solution provider feedback, Cisco is introducing bundled offerings geared toward how SMB customers are buying IT. Specifically, Cisco is unveiling three bundles. The first is a buy three switches and get the fourth for free offering, a good fit for hospitality businesses that may need several switches across many floors, Dasgupta said. The second is the an "office in a box" bundle for companies expanding their office within their building or moving to a new location. The offering gives a free access point when a company buys a switch. The third bundle, which gives customers a mesh extender with the purchase of an access point, is designed for environments in which businesses can't drill holes or run cables for wireless access, like in many older buildings, Dasgupta said.

Dasgupta said that the bundles are aimed at small businesses going through a growth spurt. The bundles will be available through Cisco channel partners, but they won't be available through the "buy now" option on Cisco.com.

Clients that have relied on solution provider Stratus and the Meraki SMB portfolio, rather than building their own "Frankenstein" network cobbled together using various vendor offerings, have been able to grow their businesses faster, Lacey said.

Stratus has also been able to sell more Meraki bundled solutions to customers because of the deals and promotions that Cisco has extended through the channel, such as buy one get one free offerings, Lacey said. "These deals hype our clients up and excites our customers about expanding their Cisco footprint," he said.

Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins told CRN at the Partner Summit that Cisco's SMB strategy is different than its previous efforts because it developed a "holistic" strategy around small business needs, rather than retro-fit existing enterprise solutions.

"We used to joke that we had an enterprise mini-me strategy. We would take enterprise products and paint them a different color," Robbins said. "In this case, we have purpose-built solutions and our team has done a great job of segmenting our customers and working with our partners to define programs, sales strategies, and incentives that all line up with what's needed in that segment."

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