Getting The Word Out To VARs

In June, Tiffani Bova joined Gateway as its director of channels. Her years of channel experience include stints with a Web hosting firm and various systems integrators including Inacom. She recently sat down with Senior Editor Joseph F. Kovar to talk about Gateway's channel expansion plans.

CRN: Is it a challenge when you look at where Gateway's channel is today?

Bova: Challenge as in, it's hard work? Challenge meaning something that you can't accomplish? I wouldn't say that. But I'd say challenge in the sense [of] rallying both internal and external forces and attention and raising awareness in the marketplace around Gateway's ability to service this market. And then internally, getting people to think about solution providers in such a way that it makes it into their line of thought when they talk about their product road maps or strategies or promotions or value-add, that the consideration of channel is always top of mind.

CRN: Where is Gateway's channel today?

Bova: Currently, we have a partner program called ProNet. ProNet was launched nine or 10 months ago. ProNet already has discounts for partners. We have a partner locator online. We have resellers that service both the public sector and the private sector. We also have pro-A/V resellers.

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The foundation is there, so now what we're really doing is building upon that foundation to grow it. Half of [Gateway's business] comes from the retail side, about $2 billion, and you've got about $2 billion of it from the commercial side. My team sits on the professional side of the house. And of that $2 billion, about 10 [percent] to 12 percent is currently being generated through the channel today.

CRN: How is the acquisition of eMachines going to affect Gateway's channel? I ask because eMachines has always sold direct to retail or online.

Bova: EMachines is definitely positioned as a retail brand. And it's very focused in that sub-$700 price range on the consumer side. [The acquisition] will give benefits to the channel. You've got quality that's improving. With the synergies of using the same chassis, you've got cost savings which can allow partners to make more revenue or margin.

Our program delivers between 9 [percent] and 12 percent margins, which is aggressive--probably more lucrative than others out there. We need to focus on not only raising brand awareness in the channel, but also on educating the channel on what kinds of products and services we offer. [For] our storage products on the high end, we partner with Hitachi [Data Systems]. For the services that we deliver behind the scenes, we partner with [IBM Global Services]. And some of our break-fix services as well. And on our server products, we're completely 'Intel inside.'

When we start talking about those kind of things, people are, like, 'We didn't know your storage products are Hitachi on the high end.' We've also gotten into a place where we can find the right price point and the right value for the products. You can get storage products that are 3 terabytes for under $10,000. It's really a great price point, a solid product, and it fits the needs of a medium business. And it's just not known in the channel, the depth and breadth of our product line.

We can give an end-to-end solution. We can go from the desktop all the way back. There's really a great opportunity to expand the awareness outside of desktops and notebooks for Gateway.

CRN: On the pro-A/V side, the consumer space, the convergence of the digital and analog worlds, where does the channel fit?

Bova: We're a PC company. [Although we're] getting back to basics and making sure we're focused and simplifying everything, the heart of it is the PC. So when we're looking at convergence products, we're looking at those that require the PC to make it run, or update themselves.

We've had a tremendous amount of uptick in our plasma [displays]. And it's pulling behind it servers and desktops, where you might think it'd be the reverse. Is our A/V portfolio going to be as robust as it has been in the past? Ah, no. How it fits within the channel is that as solution providers start to broaden their portfolios to include some of these A/V products, we're able to offer them [products] that are core.

CRN: Any changes to Gateway's channel programs?

Bova: We [currently] have a member level and a premier level. And the difference between those is the premier level member commits to $250,000 [in sales] per quarter and has an outside rep and an inside rep assigned to them. The member level is $50,000 per quarter, and they have an inside rep assigned to them. [We just launched] an associate member program for the smaller-size VARs who will have access to an online quoting and ordering system to order products from us. They won't necessarily have an outside rep or an inside rep assigned to them. [The target VAR is] someone quite small and wants to get just one desktop or notebook.