Belkin Integrates Linksys Products, Partners Into New Partner Program

Belkin Monday took the wraps off a new partner program it said will accelerate its push into the SMB market, while wrapping new partner incentives around the Linksys products it acquired from Cisco Systems last year.

The new program, called PartnerAdvantage, will house both legacy Belkin partners and those that joined the Belkin channel through its Linksys acquisition last March. Playa Vista, Calif.-based Belkin, which focuses largely on consumer and small-business networking products, acquired the Linksys line as part of Cisco's Home Networking Business for an undisclosed amount.

The new PartnerAdvantage program is part of Belkin's broader effort to attack the SMB market, and to reposition Linksys as the de facto networking brand in that space.

[Related: Belkin Readies SMB Portfolio, Partner Program Around Linksys Brand ]

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"We have no aspirations to be Cisco. That's not who we are, and it's not who we ever were," said Wayne Newton, director of B2B sales at Belkin. "We are all about what we think is a nice sweet spot that's above prosumer and below big companies that just want great-performing products, a rich set of tools and pricing that is value-oriented."

Newton said Belkin also is readying a series of new SMB-focused products under the Linksys brand. Those products, he said, will be rolled out in phases, the first of which include a new line of Power over Ethernet "smart" switches and 802.11ac access points.

"We are asking resellers and other partners to invest in Linksys," Newton continued. "We are trying to build loyalties to that brand, and we are trying to bring people back the Linksys they once knew."

The new PartnerAdvantage program, Newton said, will combine both the legacy Belkin Advantage Program, which houses about 4,000 solution providers in North America, and the legacy Linksys Consumer Channel Network (CCN) partner program, which includes some 8,000 North American partners.

The joint PartnerAdvantage program includes two tracks, including one for Belkin products and one for Linksys products. Partners can participate in either or both tracks.

"There still are Belkin components and Linksys components and, as a reseller, you can sign up for one or the other or both," Newton said. "You don't have to be a Belkin reseller and you don't have to be a Linksys reseller -- it's totally up to you."

Kevin Peterson, vendor relations manager at CS Business Systems, a Buffalo, N.Y.-based solution provider and Belkin partner, said he was glad to see the Belkin and Linksys lines coming together under one partner program, especially since each has such a strong brand in the SMB market.

"We have had a long-term relationship with Belkin, and it's a well-known name, so the combining of the two is pretty cool," Peterson said, noting that CS Business Systems has already joined both the Linksys and Belkin tracks of the new PartnerAdvantage program. "Even when you're pitched an incentive to sell a product line, if you don't have the brand recognition, it's not an easy sale."

Partners under the new program will fall into five tiers: Authorized Partner Basic, Authorized Partner Elite, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Partner incentives increase at each level, but all partners have access to resources, including online sales training, exclusive product alerts and deal registration, Newton said.

The partner tiers are based on annual sales volumes, and partners who participate in both the Belkin and Linksys tracks can combine their volumes from each to move up the tiers more quickly.

Newton declined to give exact partner discounts or margins, but said the required sales volumes are between $12,000 to $49,999 for Authorized Partner Elite; $50,000 to $99,999 for Silver; $100,000 to $249,999 for Gold; and $250,000 for Platinum. No sales volume is required for the lowest-level Authorized Partner Basic tier.

NEXT: New Belkin/Linksys SMB Products

Also fueling Belkin's SMB offensive is a new line of products that Newton said are being rolled out in three phases. The first phase includes a new line of Power over Ethernet switches, also unveiled Monday, that come in 8-, 18- and 26-port configurations. The switches are "smart," Belkin said, meaning they have built-in network management and Quality of Service (QoS) features.

The first phase of Belkin's SMB product rollout also includes two new 802.11ac wireless access points, also introduced Monday.

The second phase of products, Newton said, will focus on managed solutions that let partners remotely monitor and control end users' networks. One of these products will be the Linksys Business Cloud Solution, which lets solution providers manage multiple users' Wi-Fi deployments via a Linksys SmartBusiness mobile app. Those products are slated for availability the end of this year, Newton said.

The third phase of products, due out in late 2015, will target business office automation, including products that help partners remotely monitor and manage other aspects of their end users' environments, such as energy consumption. Those products will leverage components of Belkin's WeMo home automation and Linksys' Smart Wi-Fi technology.

Newton said this phased product rollout is meant to show Belkin and Linksys partners that the company plans to invest heavily in cloud and services opportunities for its channel.

"One of the stories we are telling as we start to re-engage with our distribution partners and our key resellers, is, 'Here are infrastructure products that we've talked about, but here is really where we are going,' so we can get them engaged with us and take them along on this journey."