IBM Outlines Midmarket Channel Strategy For 2010

The company also has created a cross-IBM team to develop "building block" systems, incorporating IBM hardware, software and storage technology, which solution providers can customize and sell to midmarket customers.

In the last year, IBM has been stepping up its efforts to grow sales to midsize businesses, a market IBM pegs at $152 billion, and the vendor is relying almost exclusively on its channel partners to make those sales.

"The midmarket is a business partner-led market. We will substantially increase our marketing investments with partners," vowed Rich Hume, general manager of IBM's Global Business Partners program, in an interview. He said the vendor is shifting "substantial" resources to the midmarket effort "and making the channel more self-sufficient."

The $130 million to be spent on marketing and demand-generation programs includes "a significant expansion" of co-marketing programs that will help channel partners design their own lead-generation programs " rather than relying on leads generated by IBM " and have more direct control over their marketing efforts, said Marc Dupaquier, general manager of IBM's Global Midmarket operations.

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"The additional emphasis on marketing services is helping us generate and manage our own leads, and ultimately close more business faster," said Clay Hales, president of InfoSystems, an IBM business partner, in a statement. "We have more end-to-end control of our marketing initiatives and opportunity pipeline with full support from IBM."

The new development team will create a suite of "integrated, cross-IBM solution building blocks," according to an IBM description of the effort, in such areas as data protection, business analytics and dynamic infrastructure targeting midmarket applications. Working with IBM's disparate product groups to develop solutions can be a challenge for resellers, Hume said, and the new effort marks the first time IBM has assembled such a group that spans the company's product lines.

Channel partners can order the blocks with add-on options and customize them for their customers, Dupaquier said. The blocks will also include financing options and implementation services.

The first solution block, the Comprehensive Data Protection Service, will include IBM's Tivoli Storage Manager, System x servers, and System Storage DS3200 devices, Dupaquier said. IBM plans to develop between four and six such blocks this year.

The new packages are in addition to the more than 20 packaged offerings IBM has developed in the past year targeting midmarket customers, such as the Cognos Express for business analytics, Lotus Live Engage and the SurePOS 500 point-of-sales system.

IBM is also offering channel partners more sales support through some 50 to 70 new Territory Business Partner Representatives -- roughly one in every major city and state. Dupaquier said the TBPRs would help channel partners work with IBM brands to develop and market solutions.