Resellers are downplaying Telstra's SMB market push, insisting its new business centres and integration services won't win customer mindshare.
Principal at voice and data integrator Milnsbridge, Adrian Weir, said the telco's SMB campaign could have a negative short-term impact in the small business market but was confident resellers had the upper hand.
"There are always concerns when a player as big as Telstra wants to get involved in our market," he said. "But I don't see them as a major threat. They have a poor reputation in SMB and our customers in that space often try not to deal with them.
"They have a powerful and compelling marketing machine that will prompt businesses to have a look, but I would think the majority of those would be organizations without trusted advisors or who may be unhappy with their current provider."
CommSys managing director, Mal Smith, and Correct Solutions managing director, Ryan Spillane, welcomed Telstra's SMB integration message, and said it would drive up customer education about the benefits of linking phone, email and network technologies.
"I'm glad they are doing this - they will be putting their marketing money behind it but helping to validate what we do," Smith said. "The hardest thing when talking to SMBs is getting them to understand why they should integrate their PDAs and Exchange servers for mobile email. It's fantastic that Telstra's talking about the same thing."
Spillane claimed Telstra would ultimately need to partner with IT integrators to provide remote services and technology refreshes, paving the way for more opportunities in the market. "If they are focusing on pricing and services for SMBs and working with them, then it's good for the market," he said.
Telstra has opened its first SMB business centre in the Sydney suburb of Parramatta and plans to open 10 outlets in capital cities over the next 12 months. It has also skilled up SMB consultants focused on helping customers integrate their network, phone and IT capabilities. Telstra is also offering free "technology makeovers" to SMBs incorporating its Next G and Next IP network services. The offer is open to businesses with up to 100 users.
Smith and Weir said Telstra could force down pricing for integration services by subsidising costs with hardware sales but Smith pointed out the telco would face similar staffing costs to resellers. "We lost out at a micro [5-10 users] business level from Harvey Norman's SMB push. But we target above that because those people typically like the cheapest price for equipment and don't see the value in paying for consultants. Larger SMBs understand the need for specialists," Weir said.