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NetGear's McHugh Looking To Drive Partner Recruitment, Brand Recognition In 2014

John McHugh, head of NetGear's commercial business unit, said partner recruitment and attacking the SMB market are major priorities for him this year.

Having sat at the helm of NetGear's commercial business for over six months now, John McHugh said he's plotting a course in 2014 for NetGear to grow its partner base, strengthen its brand and become the clear-cut industry leader in the SMB market.

"The primary thing that I want is to raise the awareness of NetGear as a credible supplier for people who take their networks seriously, take their storage seriously and, in all fairness, take their budgets seriously," McHugh said in a recent interview with CRN.

A familiar face to the channel, McHugh joined NetGear as the senior vice president and general manager of the company's commercial business in July 2013.

[Related: Review: NetGear WN203 Wins On Performance, Simplicity, Cost ]

Before joining NetGear, McHugh was chief marketing officer at Brocade. Prior to that, he was vice president and general manager of Nortel Networks' Enterprise Network Solutions business, where he handled the company's technology vision, R&D and business operations.

McHugh, however, is perhaps best known for his 26-year run at Hewlett-Packard, 10 years of which he spent heading up HP's ProCurve Networking business. When he left HP in 2008, McHugh was widely credited with having transformed the HP Networking brand from essentially a startup to a $1 billion-plus business.

Now, at San Jose, Calif.-based storage and networking vendor NetGear, McHugh said his biggest goal is to create more awareness of the NetGear brand, ensuring both customers and partners see NetGear as the de facto storage and networking vendor for vertical markets and SMB.

"The big challenge for me is channel awareness around what we stand for and what the economics are around NetGear solutions," McHugh said.

McHugh said NetGear continues to cater to smaller-sized customers by offering best-in-class warranties, free next-day and on-site technical support, and up to 30 percent cost savings compared to the larger networking vendors with which NetGear competes.

To continue to attack the SMB segment, McHugh said he is looking to recruit new partners and increase NetGear's North American channel footprint, especially through the addition of smaller, or "modest-sized," VARs.

McHugh said he is especially interested in on-boarding smaller solution providers who are either brand-new to the storage market, or have traditionally only partnered with larger, enterprise-focused storage vendors.

"We are looking for partners who, frankly, don't have a storage practice, or are pretty low in the ecosystem with storage from the big vendors," McHugh said.

NetGear in 2013 added roughly 200 solution providers to its North American channel, bringing its total number of partners to around 19,000, the company said.

David Vance, chief operating officer at 888VoIP, an Elma, N.Y.-based distributor of VoIP phone systems and networking gear, said his company signed NetGear as a vendor partner in mid-2013 as a way to broaden 888VoIP's switching portfolio.

So far, Vance said 888VoIP already has a "few thousand" resellers selling NetGear, growth he attributes to NetGear switches striking the balance between quality and price.

"We had a gap in the networking side of the house for our reseller partners, who wanted a good go-to switch," Vance said. "Partners were really looking for a high-quality, but affordable, SMB switch. There was almost immediate traction with our reseller base."

Vance said that, depending on the brand, a reseller can save anywhere from $800 to $1,400 when opting for a NetGear 48-port switch versus those from a competing vendor.

Eric Jeffers, IT project manager at 888VoIP, stressed that NetGear's competitive pricing doesn't come at the cost of quality, with NetGear switches including advanced QoS, power-saving and other enterprise-grade features.

"Even if they aren’t the big networking guys, they can set up these great features that are reliable with the warranty, and at the right cost," Jeffers said.

McHugh said other goals of his for 2014 include going after what he called "underserved" vertical markets -- such as retirement homes -- and, ultimately, revamping NetGear's partner program to reward partners not based on sales volume, but on their ability to bring in net new customers and on their level of commitment to NetGear.

"I do have an action item I am working on right now, which is kind of doing an inventory of our global channel program," McHugh said. "I have always seen a very strong value in partner programs that have been more biased toward passing margin to people who are out positioning and taking new accounts, over those who just sell bulk product."


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