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HP Luring SMB Partners With New Portal, Support Tools

HP is redoubling efforts to court SMB VARs and get them selling more HP products with the unveiling of a new partner portal and channel marketing tools.

Hewlett Packard unveiled a new partner portal Tuesday in a bid to connect, on a more meaningful level, with its legions of SMB-focused solution providers.

HP's new SMB Central portal gives channel partners guidance on current areas of channel opportunity and what they can do in the near term to make money with HP. Once they've signed up on SMB Central, which is free, VARs also get access to one-on-one sales support, market development funds and leads from HP, among other benefits.

SMB Central is designed to get partners thinking about a wide range of HP products when putting together deals, according to Meaghan Kelly, vice president of the SMB Strategy Group in HP’s Americas Solution Partner Organization. "The challenge is how to incent partners to sell across the entire portfolio and get the value of the entire solution, rather than just the dollar value of what they're selling," Kelly said in an interview.

SMB Central isn't meant to be a repository for static information, but a mechanism for sparking collaboration between HP partners and experts as well as peer-to-peer networking between VARs, said Kelly.

Using a newly developed tool from HP, SMB Central partners can select combinations of various HP products and see an immediate on-screen calculation of TCO and ROI that takes into account up front channel benefits and special offers. Once they've identified their desired combination, VARs then add the products to an online shopping basket that's connected on the back end to their distributor of choice, which fulfills the order.

Another SMB Central tool gives partners one-click access, via live video chat, with HP partner business planning representatives that can answer questions about how to get up to speed. Kelly says the "virtual representative" concept represents a new trend for HP and includes the hiring of dedicated staff.

Arlin Sorensen, founder of HTG and CEO of solution provider Heartland Technology Solutions, Harlan, Iowa, says HP's SMB channel initiatives have been a bit complex and sprawling in the past, but he's encouraged by the concentrated focus that SMB Central represents.

"This gives us one place to get information, program and product updates, and it creates a platform that makes it simpler and more efficient to do business with HP. The more the interaction is streamlined and refined, the better we are able to service SMB clients," said Sorensen.

Next: Marketing Subsidies And Other Benefits

SMB Central members also get access to HP's Marketing Subsidy Program, which gives partners access to up to $1,500 in funding each quarter and was previously limited to PartnerONE members, said Kelly. Given that marketing resources are an expensive luxury in the SMB channel, this can help small partners act and sell more like big ones.

Another program benefit, HP Solutions Showcase, is like an RSS feed that's continually updated by HP and designed to help VARs keep customers abreast of new HP products. VARs will also get access to credit and low interest rate offers from HP Financial Services to help them close deals, Kelly said.

HP estimates the SMB market opportunity in the U.S. at $57 billion, with an additional $5 billion in Canada. HP also says PartnerONE VARs whose overall business consists of 70 percent or more HP product are growing at three times the rate of partners that don't go all in with HP.

SMB Central is aimed at partners that don't yet meet the requirements of PartnerONE and whose customers are small businesses with between 10 and 500 employees. If HP can get SMB partners thinking along the same lines as larger ones that lead with HP, it stands a chance of capturing more of the gigantic SMB opportunity.

"This is a breeding ground for eventually getting into the PartnerONE program," said Kelly.

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