IBM Creates Group to Build IT Bundles for Mid-sized Businesses

Big Blue plans to increase number of product suites it builds specifically for IT needs of mid-sized enterprises.

IBM Corp. has set up a small team of specialists to build multi-product solution bundles aimed at mid-market customers and consult with channel partners to develop effective sales and marketing strategies.

The move is part of a larger IBM strategy to increase the number of product collections the vendor builds specifically for the IT needs of mid-sized businesses.

IBM said that prior to the launch of its new package of data protection products—called the Comprehensive Data Protection Solution Express (CDPS)--it consulted with dozens of channel partners to test the bundle’s value proposition, configuration, price point, marketing message and customer reception.

“We have a team in place to put together solution bundles with the help of our partners,” said Ron Kline, marketing director, IBM general business. “We built out CDPS with channel partners—it was designed for them. We went out and asked if it was the right solution, the right package, the right value proposition and if it met their needs. The end result is something our partners feel is a compelling value for their customers.”

The CDPS package includes Tivoli Storage Manager FastBack Center software, a System x Express x3550 server and a System Storage DS3200. It carries a three-month introductory price of $9,500 and also is available through IBM Global Financing at about $300 per month over 36 months.

In developing the marketing plan for the CDPS bundle, Kline said that IBM had “face-to-face conversations with 30 to 40 partners. We tapped into our partners to validate our investment in bundled solutions. It’s not a common way to introduce a bundle but it’s the way forward.”

Kline added that with the CDPS rollout, IBM held a net seminar in July attended by about 100 channel partners and expects to do more.

IBM has long solicited input from channel partners prior to the launch of a single product but rarely for collections targeted at specific audiences. Kline said that the singular factor driving the new approach was IBM’s interest in locating a value proposition that would resonate with channel partners and customers.

Channel partner input

“What helps in selling bundled solutions is to have a value proposition that makes sense to channel partners and customers,” Kline said. “With this bundle, we went to the channel because we didn’t want to tell people just about the encryption technology but more about being able to restore critical application data. It’s a customer’s way of looking at it.”

Mark Wylie, chief executive at Flagship Solutions Group, a Boca Raton, Fla.-based Advanced IBM Business Partner involved in formulating the marketing message supporting the CDPS bundle, said that IBM incorporated his suggestions into the solution’s value proposition.

“We made the recommendation that IBM provide not just a final price but also a lease price with the bundle,” Wylie said. “They liked it and ended up using it.”

Kline said that based on channel partner input, IBM placed the CDPS solution bundle into its hardware ordering system, enabling resellers buying the package to avoid having to procure the software separately from the hardware as is often the case with multi-product collections.

“We want to make the bundle an easy-to-buy, compelling offer,” Kline said. “It’s a standardized solution that can be customized. We fully expect partners will have cross-sell, up-sell and expansion opportunities with it.”

Solution bundles have become central to IBM’s strategy to help its channel partners deliver differentiated remedies to mid-sized businesses. The company’s internal research indicates that a high percentage of its mid-market customers prefer to purchase solution bundles.

“We’ve had the pieces and parts before—knowing that the solution is integrated and tested and the pieces work together, partners haven’t had to do that on their own—but we haven’t involved partners with solution bundles to validate our point of view, our value proposition to customers,” Kline said.

Kline said that IBM’s approach to building solution bundles has changed for the better. “We’ve really turned our thinking around,” he said. “Now we have weekly meetings with the software group, the hardware team, the channel organization and general business to figure out how to make bundled solutions work.”

TAGS: server,IBM,channel partners,midmarket,Storage



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