Technology resellers must feel like the stereotypical geeky girls who, after years of being ignored by the guys (vendors like IBM and Oracle, in this belabored example), now have all of the attention they can handle after said guys realized that, hey, they had a pretty bitchin' rack -- if not an overly flashy exterior.
As an article on Redmond Channel Partner Online notes, many of the big vendors are trying to adopt a strategy successfully forged by Microsoft some years back -- building a strong network of channel partners to sell your stuff.
The article includes an incredibly blunt evaluation of the SMB market segment from a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner that earns 70 percent of its revenues from such businesses: "They're cheap and short-sighted," opines the company's CEO, who says that trips to Best Buy to purchase "whatever's on the shelf that day" can result in a "hodge-podge" of technology. (Guess it's safe to say he also doesn't think SMBs read tech pubs.)
Even companies like Dell, which clung to a direct sales model long after most industry observers agreed that it needed to revamp its strategy, are making a major partner recruitment push.
If there was a contest for most creative approach to winning SMB partners, the winner might be Lenovo, with its Club Lenovo, a loyalty program for SMB resellers that awards points to North American partners for completing Lenovo educational courses and other activities, as well as for making sales. According to a press release on TMCNet.com, Lenovo's North American SMB business has experienced strong growth this year.
Dell and many other major players -- including HP, IBM and Oracle -- earn mixed reviews from partners interviewed in the article. Microsoft on the other hand, notes the article in a perhaps not completely unbiased piece of reporting, "continues to maintain a deep stable of largely satisfied SMB partners."
The article touches several times upon the apparently common reseller fear of having a tech vendor steal its client base. Interestingly, these fears do not appear to apply to retailers like Best Buy and CompUSA, which -- the slam from the Microsoft Gold Certified Partner notwithstanding -- appear to be making some headway in their efforts to enlist reseller partners.
Best Buy hired a former Microsoft executive to woo such folks and recently rolled out an online marketplace that allows resellers to bid for SMB services business. CompUSA earlier this year launched a program in which it passes along service and installation leads to members of the Microsoft Small Business Specialist Community.